5 new and changed features in After Effects CC (12.2) that resulted from visiting users in Vancouver, BC
As often as possible, the After Effects team visits artists at their work site. Talking face-to-face not only gains us direct feedback and criticism about After Effects but also allows us to observe how they work in a way not possible from our offices.
One such recent trip to Vancouver, British Columbia resulted in 5 small but significant changes that were made to After Effects CC (12.2), which was released on December 13th. These features make After Effects more approachable and take some of the everyday frustrations out of working with After Effects.
After Effects team members Amir Stone, Seth Monger, Steve Forde, Todd Kopriva, and Tim Kurkoski (me) traveled north to visit with artists at Vancouver Film School and Blink Media Works in November 2013. We opened the trip by inviting After Effects users to talk shop over beers in Vancouver’s Gastown district. More people showed up than we could keep track of and we enjoyed chatting with as many of you as we could. We apologize sincerely to those we couldn’t say hello to because we left early for a hockey game.
The next morning the After Effects team visited the Digital Design program at Vancouver Film School. Big thanks to Lizzie Hudson, Kyle Norby, and Myron Campbell for hosting us there. The students and instructors at VFS all asked great questions and gave us valuable perspective on both how they use After Effects and their workflows with Cinema 4D and Premiere Pro.
We made the following three changes in After Effects CC (12.2) based on what we learned at VFS:
- Auto-save is enabled by default. After watching students work for 20 minutes, we noticed that none of them had saved their project yet, and none had auto-save enabled. This made the point to us that auto-save is only useful when it is turned on, so in After Effects CC (12.2) we have turned it on by default. If you prefer not to use auto-save or use an alternate workflow such as Increment And Save, you can disable auto-save in the Auto-save section of the Preferences dialog box.
- The region of interest (ROI) area has a minimum initial size of 25×25 pixels. Kyle told us that he has helped multiple students who got confused after they accidentally enabled the ROI and then clicked in the Composition panel, causing the contents of their composition to disappear behind a tiny, near-invisible, 1×1-pixel ROI. In After Effects CC (12.2), the minimum initial ROI size is 25×25 pixels, no matter how small of a box you drag with your initial click, so that it is still visible and obvious that the ROI is enabled.
- A new toolbar option to create shape layer paths as Bezier paths and a new command to convert parametric shape paths to Bezier paths. We asked one student why she was using masked solid layers instead of (more efficient) shape layers to create her character animation. Her response was that she needed custom paths, which (at that time) she didn’t know was possible with shape layers. We talked about this with Kyle, an experienced After Effects user and instructor, and he was also unaware that shapes can be created as Bezier paths. It was now apparent to us that we needed to expose this functionality better, so in After Effects CC (12.2) you can now do the following:
A. Draw a shape as a customizable Bezier path by enabling the new Bezier Path checkbox in the toolbar options for the shape tools (rectangle, ellipse, etc.).
B. Convert a parametric shape to a Bezier path: in the Timeline panel, twirl open the shape layer properties and right-click on the shape’s path to choose Convert To Bezier Path. (See the important caveats about this feature here.)
After saying goodbye to VFS, the After Effects team walked over to Blink Media Works where we had a long, fruitful conversation with Peter Quinn, Nigel Williamson, Robyn Haddow, and their crew. In particular, Peter walked us through a long list of frustrations he’d recently had in After Effects. We addressed two of his complaints with the following changes in After Effects CC (12.2):
- The hex code field is highlighted when you open the color picker. Peter works very quickly and often has his color values memorized, so moving his hand to click into the color picker’s hex code field slows him down. We agreed that this is annoying, so now when you enter the color picker in After Effects CC (12.2) you can start typing a hex value immediately and then hit Enter to accept the entry and close the dialog box without needing to click anything. This also makes copying and pasting color values from one place to another easy even if you aren’t the sort to memorize the hex values.
- The Reload Footage command attempts to reload items that were previously missing. Blink has several network storage servers; when Peter opens a project, the footage may be on a volume that he hasn’t mounted yet. Peter rightly pointed out that After Effects doesn’t make it easy to relink the missing files; the Reload Footage command only looks for non-missing files that have changed, not missing items. So we fixed it: in After Effects CC (12.2), the Reload Footage command will check again for a missing item’s presence and will load it and any other items missing from the same volume.
These five new changes in After Effects CC (12.2) came from a long list of good ideas that we compiled from users during our trip to Vancouver. We hope to implement even more features and fixes based on this feedback in future versions of After Effects. These are the sort of daily annoyances that we only hear about when users take the time to tell us, and we need to hear from you, too.
Please let us know when something bothers you in After Effects, no matter how small the problem, by filling out this form. I promise that every submission is read by a human being on the After Effects team. And let us know if you’d like to have the After Effects team come to visit you. We always have a lot of fun talking with users and learning more about how you use After Effects.
One last thing: I need to give a shout-out to the new Vancouver Motion user group. Peter Quinn and some of the other artists we met on our trip to Vancouver are banding together to share their experiences and ideas about motion graphics and digital design. If you’re a motion graphics designer or other kind of digital artist in the Vancouver area, join their Facebook group, sign up for their newsletter, and mark your calendar for their next meet-up.