News, Information & Workflows from Users & the Adobe Ae Team

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scripting changes in After Effects CC (12.0-12.2)

This article describes the changes to the After Effects scripting interface implemented in After Effects CC (12.0). You can use this article together with the most recent full version of the After Effects scripting guide (for After Effects CS6), which you can find on the After Effects Developer Center page.

There were no significant changes in the scripting interface for After Effects CC (12.1) or After Effects CC (12.2).

ScriptUI Drover adpapter

ScriptUI is now based on the same controls as the main application.

The scripting reference for ScriptUI is in the Adobe Creative Cloud JavaScript Tools Guide (PDF).

access to effect’s internal version string

Added: Application effects object’s version attribute to get an effect’s internal version string. This value might be different than the version number the plug-in vendor decides to show in the effect’s about box.

ability to get and set preview mode

Added: ViewOptions fastPreview property to access the state of the Fast Previews menu with the scripting interface. This is a read/write attribute using an enumerated value:

Value Fast Previews menu option
FastPreviewType.FP_OFF Off (Final Quality)
FastPreviewType.FP_ADAPTIVE_RESOLUTION Adaptive Resolution
FastPreviewType.FP_DRAFT Draft
FastPreviewType.FP_FAST_DRAFT Fast Draft
FastPreviewType.FP_WIREFRAME Wireframe

If you try to get or set the attribute’s value in the Layer or Footage panel, you’ll get an error message.

The Draft preview mode is only available in ray-traced 3D compositions. If you try to use it in a Classic 3D composition, you’ll get an error: “Cannot set Draft fast preview mode in a Classic 3D composition.”

access to layer sampling method

Added: layer.samplingQuality and LayerSamplingQuality enum to set/get layer sampling method (bicubic or bilinear):

// Set layer to bicubic sampling

app.project.activeItem.layer(1).samplingQuality = LayerSamplingQuality.BICUBIC;

// Set layer to bilinear sampling

app.project.activeItem.layer(1).samplingQuality = LayerSamplingQuality.BILINEAR;

changed preference and settings methods

Preferences and settings methods now take a third argument to specify the target preferences file if Section/Key is not in “Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs.txt”. If the third argument is not passed, default value (PREFType.PREF_Type_MACHINE_SPECIFIC) is used and After Effects tries to save/get from the “Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs.txt” preferences file. The third argument is enum PREFType value.

You can now pass the preference type with a script with new PREFType enum:

    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-indep-general.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-indep-render.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-indep-output.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-indep-composition.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-text.txt
    Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-paint.txt

// Section ["Settings_test_section"] is saved in "Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs.txt" without third argument

app.settings.saveSetting("test_section", "test_key1", "test_key1_value");

if (app.settings.haveSetting("test_section", "test_key1"))
var current_set = app.settings.getSetting("test_section", "test_key1");

// Section ["Settings_test_section2"] is saved in "Adobe After Effects 12.x Prefs-indep-general.txt"

app.settings.saveSetting("test_section2", "test_key1", "test_key1_value", PREFType.PREF_Type_MACHINE_INDEPENDENT);

if (app.settings.haveSetting("test_section2", "test_key1", PREFType.PREF_Type_MACHINE_INDEPENDENT))
var current_set2 = app.settings.getSetting("test_section2", "test_key1", PREFType.PREF_Type_MACHINE_INDEPENDENT);

alert(app.preferences.getPrefAsString("Text Style Sheet", "Font Family Name", PREFType.PREF_Type_MACHINE_SPECIFIC_TEXT));

Maxon Cinema 4D importer plug-in updated, fixes “Unexpected FunctionBlock5 flags” error

Maxon has fixed a bug in their plug-in for exchange of data with After Effects CC that caused some errors when the plug-in was loaded.

To get the new plug-in, go to this page on the Maxon website and click the “Download” link next to the “Plugins for After Effects CC CINEMA 4D R14/R15 connection” heading.

With the previous version of the plug-in, you might see the following error messages when After Effects started and loaded the plug-in:

“After Effects error internal verification failure, sorry! {Unexpected FunctionBlock5 flags for FunctionBlock4} (5024 ::53)”

“AEGP Plugin SDK_IO: Could not register file type. (5027 :: 12).”

“AEGP Plugin SDK_IO: There was an error registering the plugin. (5027 :: 12).”

You can tell whether you have the current version of the plug-in by looking at its modification date in the file system, which is February 28, 2014 for the new version.

Nvidia CUDA driver update fixes crashes for After Effects and other applications

We are seeing reports that the Nvidia CUDA 5.5.47 update released today addresses crashing problems introduced by the CUDA 5.5.43 update.

So, if you have an Nvidia GPU, please update your drivers to use the most recent version of the CUDA driver.

IMPORTANT: DO NOT install CUDA drivers on computer systems that do not have an Nvidia GPU! If you have done so, then you must uninstall the CUDA framework from your system. If you have CUDA software installed on a computer that does not have Nvidia CUDA-capable hardware, bad things happen, including crashes.

On Mac OS, you can update your version of the CUDA driver from the CUDA panel, available from the Mac OS System Preferences. For CUDA downloads, see the Nvidia website.

Feel free to let us know on this forum thread whether or not this update is working for you.

Also, make sure that you have installed the most recent updates for your Adobe video applications.

After Effects CC (12.2.1) bug-fix update

The After Effects CC (12.2.1) bug-fix update is now available.

You can install the update through the Creative Cloud desktop application, or you can check for new updates from within any Adobe application by choosing Help > Updates. One way to check for updates is by closing all Adobe applications other than Adobe Bridge, and choosing Help > Updates in Adobe Bridge; this ensures that all processes related to Adobe video applications have been quit and can be updated safely.

Ideally, you should install the updates automatically through the Creative Cloud desktop application or by choosing Help > Updates, but you can also directly download the update packages from the download page for Windows or Mac OS by choosing the “Adobe After Effects CC (12.2.1)” update for your operating system.

We have also been working with several providers of plug-ins, codecs, and hardware devices to assist them in updating their software to fix some errors and crashes. Please take this opportunity to download and install updated codecs, plug-ins, and drivers from these providers, as relevant to your work.

Updates are cumulative, so this update includes all of the features and bug fixes in the After Effects CC (12.2) and After Effects CC (12.1) updates.

For details of all of the other updates for Adobe professional video and audio applications, see this page.

Please, if you want to ask questions about this update, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum. If you’d like to submit feature requests (or bug reports), you can do so here.

summary of what’s fixed in After Effects CC (12.2.1)

  • Dragging a folder of source items into the Project panel did not import the source items. This is now fixed.
  • The output audio sample rate was reset to the lowest value (often 8kHz) in the Output Module Settings dialog box. This is now fixed.
  • QuickTime output files had extra frames at the end when exporting with audio to certain codecs, including ProRes. This is now fixed.
  • Purging of the disk cache using the commands in After Effects did not function on systems that use comma as decimal separator. This is now fixed.
  • After Effects crashed when attempting to read temporal XMP metadata from files created by Illustrator 17.1 (as well as files from other applications based on those Illustrator files). This is now fixed for After Effects CC (12.2.1), but the same badly formed files can cause problems in previous versions of After Effects; see this page for details of a workaround for previous versions of After Effects.
  • We also fixed several bugs related to output file name and location templates.

We previously published a list of these known issues and workarounds for them here.

IMPORTANT: Additionally, the new version of the Creative Cloud desktop application fixes a major issue regarding the setting of permissions for folders during installation that caused many applications to crash or behave incorrectly. Be sure to follow the instructions here to update the Creative Cloud desktop application, since this patch fixes several issues related to After Effects, too.

known issues and workarounds for After Effects CC (12.2)

[UPDATE: These issues are addressed in the After Effects CC (12.2.1) bug-fix update. ]

Since we released After Effects CC (12.2), we have found some bugs. We are working on fixing these bugs, of course, and we’ll be releasing a bug-fix update soon (within a couple of weeks if all goes well) that addresses many of them. Stay tuned to this blog for details of the upcoming bug-fix update. In the meantime, we wanted to make sure that you knew of these issues and how to work around them.

Dragging a folder of source items into the Project panel does not import the source items.

The After Effects CC (12.2) update broke the ability to import a folder of source files into a project by dragging the folder into the Project panel.

We’re testing a fix for this bug right now. In the meantime, you can still import files using the File > Import commands and by double-clicking in an empty area of the Project panel.

Output audio sample rate is reset to lowest value (often 8kHz) in Output Module Settings dialog box.

Beginning in After Effects CC (12.2), when you interact with the Output Module Settings dialog box, the audio sample rate is changed to the lowest value acceptable for the format and the codec selected. For example, with QuickTime the lowest value is 8kHz, and for MXF OP1a the only acceptable value is 48kHz. This causes some outputs to mistakenly be created with the wrong audio sample rate.

See this article by Chris and Trish Meyer and this forum thread with Tim Kurkoski for more details and a simple workaround.

QuickTime output files have extra frames at the end when exporting with audio to some codecs.

Some QuickTime movies created by After Effects using certain video codecs (e.g., ProRes, DVCPROHD) contain extra frames at the end if the output includes audio.

See this forum post by Tim Kurkoski for details about this bug and how to work around it for now.

Purging of the disk cache using the commands in After Effects does not function on systems that use comma as decimal separator.

If the computer system’s locale settings specifies that the decimal separator is a comma (,)–as is common in many locales–then the commands in After Effects for purging the disk cache fail.

To work around this bug, you can either manually delete the cache files or switch your locale settings in your OS to use the dot (.) as the decimal separator.

For more information, see this forum thread with Will Lockwood.

In some cases, output file name and location templates are not used on the first try.

In some cases, when you attempt to use an output file name and location template, the change is not applied on the first try. The workaround is simple: If the output file name and location template that you want to use is not applied when you choose it, just choose it again.

After Effects crashes when attempting to read temporal XMP metadata from files created by Illustrator 17.1 and Photoshop 14.2.

(This isn’t actually an issue specific to After Effects CC (12.2); it affects every version of After Effects.)

The new version of Adobe Illustrator (17.1) creates files (.ai, .eps, .pdf files) that contain XMP metadata in a format that caused After Effects to crash when reading that metadata. The same problem exists for some files created by Photoshop 14.2, including JPEG and PNG files, though this may be limited to Photoshop files created with assets originating from Illustrator 17.1.

To avoid this problem, disable the Create Layer Markers From Footage XMP Metadata preference, which prevents After Effects from scanning the imported file for temporal XMP metadata when its footage item is added to a composition.

For more information, see this post on the After Effects team blog.

After Effects fails to start on Mac OS with warning message about not being about to rename or move a file.

(This, too, isn’t actually an issue specific to After Effects CC (12.2); it affects every version of After Effects and a lot of other applications.)

In some cases, After Effects fails to start, giving a warning message like this:
“After Effects warning: Could not rename the file ‘/Users/USERNAME/Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/12.2/Workspaces.numbers.xml’ to ‘workspaces.xml’.”

The warning might be about something somewhat different, but any message that says that a file can’t be written, overwritten, or renamed is likely caused by the same root issue:

This happens because Mac OS has incorrectly set the permissions for some files, preventing After Effects from writing and moving the files that it needs to operate.

One common cause of this problem is that when you upgrade a Mac OS (as opposed to installing the new version fresh), Mac OS will often set permissions of folders and files incorrectly.

To fix this in the case of After Effects, go to the preferences folder and set the entire preferences folder ( Users/USERNAME/Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/12.2/ ) and all of its contents to be writable, not read-only.

Note that Apple hides the Library folder by default, so you’ll need to show the Library folder. See this page on the Apple website for instructions on setting permissions.

opening After Effects projects from previous versions and saving back to previous versions

opening and importing projects from previous versions of After Effects

Each version of After Effects can open and import projects made with that version and several other versions, but only going back a limited number of versions:

  • After Effects CC 2014 (13) can open projects from After Effects 7 through After Effects CC 2014 (13).
  • After Effects CC (12) can open projects from After Effects 7 through After Effects CC (12).
  • After Effects CS6 (11) can open projects from After Effects 7 through After Effects CS6 (11).
  • After Effects CS5.5 (10.5) can open projects from After Effects 6.5 through After Effects CS5.5 (10.5).
  • After Effects CS5 (10) can open projects from After Effects 6 through After Effects CS5 (10).
  • After Effects CS4 (9) can open projects from After Effects 5 through After Effects CS4 (9).
  • After Effects CS3 (8) can open projects from After Effects 4 through After Effects CS3 (8).
  • After Effects 7 can open projects from After Effects 3.0 through After Effects 7.

There are two main reasons for us incrementing the oldest version that can be imported or opened from one version to the next: 1) this limits the amount of testing that we need to do and 2) sometimes there are conversions from one project format to another that are very difficult or buggy or otherwise problematic.

Note that we haven’t incremented the oldest version that can be opened or imported in the past several versions. This is in part because our automated testing has improved, so the testing burden is less of a problem, and it’s in part because we haven’t had any technical limitations that would cause the conversion to be too tricky. We’re trying to keep the backward support as long as possible so that you can still easily use your old projects as needed.

saving backward

In After Effects CS5.5, we added the ability to save a copy of a project backward so that it could be opened by the previous major version.

  • After Effects CS5.5 (10) has the command Save > Save As > Save A Copy As CS5.
  • After Effects CS6 (11) has the command Save > Save As > Save A Copy As CS5.5.
  • After Effects CC (12) has the command Save > Save As > Save A Copy As CS6.
  • After Effects CC 2014 (13) has the command Save > Save As > Save A Copy As CC (12).

If you need to save back from, say, After Effects CC (12.2) to After Effects CS5 (10), you’ll need to go through a multi-step process, saving back one version at a time.

Or, if you don’t mind spending a few dollars on a very handy script, pt_OpenSesame, you can save to a text-based format that preserves much (though not all) of a project’s information and can be opened in any version of After Effects from CS3 (8) onward. This script is also terrific for automated workflows when you want to be able to edit a project file without opening After Effects to do so, such as when just replacing a little bit of text.

preventing crash in After Effects when using Illustrator files

The new version of Adobe Illustrator (17.1) creates files (.ai, .eps, .pdf files) that contain XMP metadata in a format that causes After Effects to crash when reading that metadata. The crash occurs when you add a footage item from Illustrator to a composition.

We have released a bug-fix update for After Effects CC (12) to prevent this crash, but the crash still affects After Effects CS6 (11.0) and earlier.

The workaround is rather simple: You can prevent After Effects from reading the XMP metadata from the file from Illustrator by turning off the preference Create Layer Markers from Footage XMP Metadata in the Media & Disk Cache preferences category. This will only prevent temporal metadata in footage items from being converted to markers in After Effects, which is not a feature that you would be using with files from Illustrator, anyway.

By the way, thank you to all folks who submit crash reports. Those crash reports are how we found this problem only days after the new version of Illustrator that creates these files was released.

avoiding crashes and other problems with Red Giant software and After Effects

The folks at Red Giant have recently been releasing updates that help with crashes and other problems.

We strongly recommend that any users of Red Giant software go to this page and download and install the most recent versions of their software.

While you’re at it, this would be a good time to check for and install the most recent updates for your Adobe software, too.

If you continue to have problems, be sure to submit bug reports and crash reports so that we can isolate and fix these issues.

top After Effects feature requests of 2013, plus a peek at what we’re thinking about for the near future

I want to thank everyone who submitted a feature request (or bug report) this year. We put a lot of stock in the feedback that comes in through this channel. I think that a lot of you have gotten that message, since the number of feature requests and the amount of specific detail in the requests have both gone up quite a lot over the past year. Thank you.

I just finished going back through all of the feature requests that we received in 2013, as well as reviewing the list of top requests from last year, 2012. I thought that it might be useful to reflect on what we accomplished in 2013 based on these feature requests and then also share some of what we’re thinking about for the near future.

Please, do not start a conversation or add feature requests in the comments on this blog post. It is very cumbersome to track requests and conversations with several people in a comment thread on a blog article. The best thing to do is to use the feature-request form to add your own requests. If you want to have a conversation, let’s do it on the After Effects forum; start a thread there, and we’ll see it.

You can also talk with Steve Forde, the After Effects product manager. You can most easily contact him through his Twitter account. For ways to communicate with the After Effects team, see this page.

For complete lists of what is new and changed in After Effects CC, see these pages:

top feature requests from 2013 that we were able to address in After Effects CC (12.0, 12.1, 12.2) in 2013

Note that last year, I did a summary of feature requests from 2011 that we were able to address in 2012. This year, because of our greater ability to respond quickly through Adobe Creative Cloud, I am listing top requests from 2013 that we were able to address in the same year.

  • Make it faster: We don’t get all that many feature requests that use the exact words “Make it faster”, but a large number of requests do ask for essentially this in more specific terms.

    In After Effects CC (12.0), we improved performance when working with imported OpenEXR image sequences, improved the automatic defaults for memory settings (Memory & Multiprocessing preferences), and made it easier to manage the disk cache.

    In After Effects CC (12.1), we greatly improved the performance of the Warp Stabilizer and 3D Camera Tracker effects, extended OpenGL functionality to all Intel GPUs, integrated the new OptiX 3.0 library for better GPU performance with the ray-traced 3D renderer, added 21 entries to the CUDA whitelists for tested and supported GPUs for the ray-traced 3D renderer, opened the GPU acceleration to untested and unsupported GPUs, and improved performance when importing DPX image sequences.

    One common category of requests asks that we test and support a specific GPU for CUDA acceleration of the ray-traced 3D renderer. The four most commonly requested GPUs in 2013 were the GTX TITAN, GTX 680, GTX 675MX, and GTX 680MX. We tested and added all of them (and many more) for After Effects CC (12.1), as well as adding a mechanism for you to try untested and unsupported GPUs at your own risk if you wish to do so.

    There’s more commentary regarding “making it faster” in the section below about plans for the near future.

  • import of 3D objects and better integration with Cinema 4D: Now that After Effects includes Cinema 4D and can import .c4d files, importing 3D objects into After Effects is as easy as importing them into Cinema 4D and bringing the .c4d scene files into After Effects. With each incremental update to After Effects CC, the integration with Cinema 4D is getting tighter and better.
  • conversion of parametric shape paths to Bezier shape paths: You can convert a parametric path to a Bezier path after the parametric path has already been created by context-clicking the property group for the parametric path and choosing the Convert To Bezier Path command from the context menu. See the “command for converting a parametric shape layer path to a Bezier path” entry on this page for details. This request was likely so common because people didn’t realize that they could create shapes as Bezier paths to begin with (by holding the Alt or Option key), so we also made that much more obvious by adding a Bezier Path checkbox in the Tools panel.
  • option when precomposing to trim precomposition duration to duration of selected layers: When you precompose, you have a new option: Adjust Composition Duration To The Time Span Of The Selected Layers. Choose this to create a new composition that has a duration that is the same as that spanned by the selected layers. This was added in After Effects CC (12.1).
  • shortcut for showing only properties with keyframes: The U keyboard shortcut now only shows properties with keyframes, not properties that have expressions but no keyframes. See the “improvements to keyboard shortcuts for showing properties with keyframes, expressions” entry on this page for details.
  • ability to send composition directly to Adobe Media Encoder from After Effects: See the “commands for sending composition to Adobe Media Encoder (AME) encoding queue” entry on this page for details of the closer integration between Adobe Media Encoder and After Effects.
  • better scaling: We made two big strides forward in this area, with bicubic scaling in After Effects CC (12.0) and then with the Detail-Preserving Upscale effect in After Effects CC (12.1).
  • report of which images are missing when importing image sequence: If you had missing frames in an image sequence, previous versions of After Effects would say something like this “After Effects warning: The sequence has 3 missing frames.” In After Effects CC (12.0), the message was made much more useful: “After Effects warning: Animal[1-6].psd is missing 3 frames (2, 4-5).” Also, there is now a preference, Report Missing Frames, that allows you to turn this warning off if it is annoying.
  • user-defined location for Auto-save, plus turning Auto-save on by default: In the Auto-save category in the Preferences dialog box, you can choose to either save the auto-saved projects next to the original project (the behavior in previous versions when Auto-save is enabled) or in a custom location. This was added in After Effects CC (12.1).

    In After Effects CC (12.2), due to popular demand, we made the default settings such that Auto-save is turned on.

    Note: An even better approach than relying on auto-save is to use the File > Increment And Save command regularly and habitually. The Increment And Save command has a couple of advantages: it allows you to determine exactly when to save, and it does not overwrite previous saved versions. Once you have developed that habit of using Increment And Save, you may choose to turn off auto-save. That’s what I do.

  • effect instances: This is an example of where we took a somewhat narrow feature request (for effect instances) and created a much more powerful and general solution: copying properties with property links. You can select any property or set of properties (including effects, of course) and choose Edit > Copy With Property Links and then paste those properties on any layer in any composition. The result is that the pasted properties remain connected to the layer from which the properties were copied, such that any change made to the original property is reflected in all of the instances of the pasted property links. There’s more detail in the “property linking” entry here.
  • preference to create new layer above selected layers, not at top of layer stack: In versions of After Effects before After Effects CC (12.1), most commands that created a new layer would create the new layer at the top of the layer stack, regardless of whether any layers were selected. In After Effects CC (12.1), most commands that create a new layer create the layer immediately above the topmost selected layer. If no layer is selected, then the new layer is created at the top of the layer stack. The original request asked for a preference to do this, but we realized that we should just change the behavior without a preference because the new behavior was nearly always the right one. There’s more detail in the “layers created immediately above topmost selected layer” entry here.
  • creation of a containing folder upon output of image sequence: This is another example of a narrow feature request that we decided to implement as part of a much broader, more general, and more powerful feature. We extended the output file name template feature to allow you to specify output file locations in a general fashion, including (optionally) automatically creating new folders for output. See the “file name and location templates, plus automatic creation of folders for image sequences” entry on this page for details.
  • ability to find where effects are missing: In After Effects CC (12.0), we added new commands for finding where there are instances of missing footage, missing effects, and missing fonts.
  • features for collaboration with other After Effects users: We get a lot of feature requests in this area, sometimes phrased as asking for Dynamic Link between instances of After Effects. I’m listing this among the features that we implemented in 2013 entirely because of the collaboration features made possible by the After Effects integration with the Adobe Anywhere platform. This is in its early days, though. Stay tuned.
  • option to center anchor point in shape layer: The requests for this only ever mentioned shape layers, but we decided to make this a bit more general, so that you can set the anchor point to be in the center of the visible layer content (e.g., to the center of the masked area) for other kinds of layers, too. See the “command for moving anchor point to center of content” entry on this page for details, including the keyboard shortcuts.
  • HiDPI for Mac computers with Retina displays: After Effects will now take advantage of a Retina display on a Mac computer to show each pixel of content in a viewer as a single pixel on the display. This affects the contents of the Footage panel, Layer panel, and Composition panel, including both your video content and some UI overlays and widgets within the content area. For more details, see the “HiDPI content viewers for Retina displays on Mac computers” entry on this page.
  • creation of shapes from multiple selected vector layers: The Create Shapes From Vector Layer command works on multiple selected layers, beginning with After Effects CC (12.1).

top feature requests for After Effects in 2013 that we have not yet implemented

First, a very important disclaimer: This blog post is not a promise, and I can’t see into the future. If I suggest here that we are considering working on something in the near future, it means just that: we are considering it, and we may be working on it. This does not mean that we will certainly release any specific feature at any specific time. (I had to say that, lest someone yell at me a year from now when something mentioned here didn’t happen the way that I guessed that it might.)

Also, the following is by no means a complete list of things that we’re thinking about for the future. It’s just a list of the top requests. We are cooking up some very big things that are outside of the incremental improvements that common feature requests tend to encompass. Progress is both incremental improvement and surprising innovative leaps. I’ll leave it to our product manager, Steve Forde, to talk about the surprising innovative leaps when the time is right.

  • onion skinning: For those of you who aren’t aware, “onion skinning” refers to a feature that overlays a previous or subsequent frame’s imagery onto the screen so that you can use it for reference when drawing the current frame. This is a terrific feature of many animation programs, and it’s clearly a feature that would benefit many After Effects users. We’re currently thinking that we’d like to tackle this in the near future, while we’re working on some other features that are especially useful to character animators. This was a feature within the Vector Paint effect, which has been missed by many folks, but the requests for onion skinning go far beyond that and into all manner of animation workflows.
  • ability to access individual vertices of masks and shapes with expressions: I’m pleasantly surprised by how many people have been requesting this. If you could attach layers (e.g., a null object layer) to the vertices of a mask or shape path, then you could do so many interesting things with motion tracking, linked animations, programmatic animations… The possibilities are endless. We are considering a lot of improvements to how you use and control masks and shapes. If you want this feature sooner rather than later, be sure to submit a feature request and tell us exactly how you’d use it. Do you want/need to be able to control the mask or shape path with a linked item, or is it enough to be able to “read” the vertex positions from these paths and use them to drive the animations of other items?
  • ability to open a precomposition in the Timeline panel of the containing composition: Our internal jargon for this feature is übertwirl, referring to the ability to “twirl” a precomposition layer open in the Timeline panel and gain access to the layers within the nested composition, without leaving the Timeline panel of the composition in which it’s nested. This is a feature that we’ve been wrestling with for years, since it is a) obviously useful and b) really hard to do well. Compounding the difficulty is the fact that this feature is one of two rather different solutions to the same problem. The other solution is…
  • layer folders: A lot of folks ask for the ability to add layers to folders to tidy up their Timeline panels. We get it. So why haven’t we done it? Because we know that merely doing this would be a half-solution. As soon as we create a feature that allows you to put layers into folders in the Timeline panel, many people are going to want/expect to be able to apply, say, effects to just the layers in a folder. That starts to sound like a precomposition, right? So the conversation nearly always ends up getting back to the previous request, übertwirl. Similarly, once you’ve got folders, people will want/expect to be able to put non-adjacent layers into folders. Now this starts to sound like labeling/tagging. I’m not sure how we’re going to solve this, but I think that 1) we will solve this and 2) it’s not just going to be with simple layer folders. We get more requests to implement übertwirl, and it seems to us to be the more robust and useful solution. Personally, I use Zorro to manage my layers, and I strongly recommend that you try it yourself. Also, you can get rather far toward tidying up your Timeline panel and managing layer sets by using label colors and using the commands to select label color groups.
  • GPU acceleration of rendering other than ray-traced 3D renderer: Premiere Pro has done an excellent job over the past few years of showing how powerful the GPU can be for improving performance throughout an image-processing pipeline, and folks are reasonably asking us when After Effects is going to follow suit. We already use the GPU for some things, but not for many of the core image-processing tasks in After Effects. One thing that we are very wary of is creating a dependency on specific hardware for basic tasks when many of our users may not have access to that specific hardware. We are currently attacking this problem from a few different angles, and I hope to be able to share details with you next year. I think that you’re going to like what you see.

    A related request is that we add OpenCL acceleration for the ray-traced 3D renderer. That’s not going to happen. The ray-traced 3D renderer in After Effects is built using the OptiX library from Nvidia, which depends on Nvidia’s CUDA technology. However, this should not be interpreted to mean that we are opposed to OpenCL. Quite the opposite. When we on the After Effects team look at how we can improve performance, we look at technologies that can be used on a broad array of hardware, including OpenCL and OpenGL. There is just this one narrow, current instance in which we are dependent on a third party (Nvidia) for one feature, the ray-traced 3D renderer. Keep in mind that the ray-traced 3D renderer has a rather limited feature set compared with the 3D capabilities of Cinema 4D (now included with After Effects), which does not depend on any specific GPU technology at all.

  • painting in the Composition panel: This one is rather self-explanatory. It certainly would be useful to be able to paint on a layer in context in the Composition panel, where you can see all of the other layers in the composition, as opposed to the current state in which you must paint on a layer in the Layer panel without such context. If all goes according to plan, I think that we’ll be able to add this in the near future.
  • keyboard shortcut editor: Yes, we need a keyboard shortcut editor that is more user-friendly than the current solution of directly editing the keyboard shortcuts text file. That said, I do want to make sure that everyone is aware that that solution does exist. It’s a little cumbersome, but it does work. The easiest way to find the keyboard shortcuts file is to open the Preferences dialog box and click the button at the bottom to Reveal Preferences In Finder/Explorer. The keyboard shortcuts file is named something like “Adobe After Effects 12.2 Win en_US Shortcuts.txt”, depending on your version, language, and operating system. Creating a more user-friendly means of editing keyboard shortcuts is on our prioritized list for the near future, along with several other features regarding a more approachable user interface, including…
  • resizable user interface text: As people use After Effects on larger and larger monitors, on which the size of each pixel is smaller and smaller, the single size for the user interface text becomes a problem. We’re looking into a variety of user interface “skin” improvements for the near future, and this one is near the top of the priority list.
  • animated Camera Raw effect: You’ve been able to import camera raw files using the Camera Raw importer plug-in in After Effects for many versions, but it has always been tedious to try to animate the values for the adjustments. The best that you’ve been able to do is to import the same image with multiple static adjustments and then blend and fade between them. The Photoshop and Lightroom teams have been doing some good work in this area lately, and I am hopeful that we will soon be able to incorporate the Camera Raw adjustments as an effect in After Effects.
  • color coding and grouping of keyframes and markers: This feature is another that is rather self-explanatory. It would surely be useful to be able to select a group of layers with a single command to make manipulating them as a unit easier. We’re looking into this for the near future.
  • import of Motion 5 projects: For After Effects CS6, we added the ability to import Motion projects through the Pro Import After Effects command (integrated from Automatic Duck). Since then, Apple has released Motion 5, and we have received some requests for the ability to import Motion 5 projects. This is not a trivial amount of work, since Apple has significantly changed the Motion project format, but we are investigating this.
  • ability for an effect to refer to a layer with the results of its effects, without precomposing: When an effect (e.g., the Set Matte effect) uses a layer as an input, it is the original layer that is used as input, not the layer with the results of the effects on it. If you want the Set Matte effect to use the layer with the results of its effects, then you need to precompose the layer and point the effect at the new precomposition layer. This creates a hierarchy of nested compositions that may be more difficult to work with and decipher. A request that we often get is for an effect like the Set Matte effect to be able to use the layer with all of its effects without the need to precompose. This would keep composition hierarchies cleaner and clearer. This is something that is high on our priority list, and I am hoping that we can implement it in the near future.
  • per-mask transformation property group: If each mask had its own property group, then you could move a mask within a layer without moving the layer. This would make many tasks easier and reduce the need to use a track matte for such simple tasks as animating a mask. This, along with several other mask improvements, is high on our priority list for the near future.
  • ability to lock a specific property: When you’re working on one aspect of a layer, you often want to prevent accidental changes to another aspect. For this, people often request the ability to lock a specific property or set of properties. We’re looking into this possibility.
  • crop tool: The current means of cropping in After Effects is roundabout and imprecise. A dedicated crop tool with the ability to precisely set cropping marks would be most welcome. A question for all of you: Which application do you think does this best? Answer with a feature request telling us how you want a crop tool in After Effects to work.
  • inverse kinematics with the Puppet tools: As mentioned above, we have some character animation work brewing, and I think that we might be able to integrate some improvements to the Puppet tools as part of that work, including bones and inverse kinematics.
  • arrowhead line ends for shape layers: When I saw that this was one of the top feature requests for this year, I went and talked to the software engineer who does a lot of work on shape layers. He suggested that he should be able to do this without too much difficulty, but he wondered what parameters for arrowheads you would want to specify. Answer with a feature request telling us what properties of arrowheads you want/need to control.
  • resizable interface for the Curves effect: We’re looking at various improvements to the Curves effect. This one, having the ability to resize the interface for the effect to be larger, is currently the most commonly requested improvement. The second most common request regarding improvements to the Curves effect is for histogram overlay, like in Photoshop. Agree? Disagree? Let us know with a feature request.
  • keyboard shortcuts to show shape layer properties: We get this request a lot, but not with any specifics. Tell us exactly what you mean by this.
  • per-effect masks: Instead of needing to add an adjustment layer with an effect and then draw a mask on the adjustment layer, many folks want to be able to draw a mask on a layer but only use that mask to constrain the result of a specific effect. That would be much tidier, doing away with the need for an adjustment layer for each such isolation of an effect. This may fit very well with the various masking improvements mentioned above that we’re considering for the near future.
  • wiggly and variable-width strokes: One of the limitations of shape layer stokes is that they have a constant width, so you can’t make them taper or have irregular, variable width. Illustrator has some nice features in this area. We’re looking into what we can borrow from them to improve this area.
  • color swatch panel: The main problem with this feature is that as soon as we start talking with folks about it, the conversation explodes into a huge variety of feature requests regarding saving, loading, selecting, matching, harmonizing, and suggesting colors. We know that we want to address the common need to load and save sets of colors, but we’re not sure what subset would satisfy your needs in the near term (while we tackle the larger sets of features in the long term). Please, help us out with a feature request that describes the minimal set of features in this area that you need and want us to add. We promise not to stop at the minimal set, but we need to start somewhere.

Of course, we got many more requests than this. These are just several of the most-requested items. If you made a request but you don’t see it on this list, that just means that not as many other folks requested the same thing that you did. If you think that we need to add or change something, submit bug reports and feature requests and let us know. Don’t hesitate to enlist your friends and colleagues to do the same; we very strongly consider how many requests we get for a change when deciding what to work on next.

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.)


(L to R) Steve Forde, Tim Kurkoski, Todd Kopriva, Peter Quinn, Seth Monger, Amir Stone, Nigel Williamson

The After Effects team visited Blink Media Works in November 2013.

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.


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