AFTEREFFECTS

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Refine Edge tool, Refine Soft Matte effect, and related new features in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

For the basics of the Roto Brush tool in After Effects CS5 and later, see these resources.

Chris and Trish Meyer provide an excellent overview and series of video tutorials about Refine Edge and related features on the Pro Video Coalition website.


introduction to the Refine Edge tool and improved Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect

The Roto Brush effect has been replaced by the new Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect, and a new Refine Edge tool has been added under the Roto Brush tool.

The Refine Edge tool and the associated properties in the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect provide the ability to improve an existing matte by creating partial transparency for areas of fine detail at the edges of a matte, such as for hair. These new features and their user interface elements are closely related to the Refine Edge features in Photoshop.


basics of using the Refine Edge tool

As with the Roto Brush tool, you use the Refine Edge tool in the Layer panel.

To use the Refine Edge tool, you must already have an alpha channel defined for the layer. You are not restricted to using the Roto Brush tool to define the initial transparency for the layer; you can also use any other method, such as color keying or conventional rotoscoping by drawing masks.

If you are using the Roto Brush tool or conventional rotoscoping to define your initial matte, you should complete this phase of matte creation before using the Refine Edge tool. For example, you should typically not create a Roto Brush stroke and then immediately create a Refine Edge stroke on that same frame; rather, you should make your initial Roto Brush strokes and corrective strokes on your entire clip before going back and refining the edge with the Refine Edge tool.

When you draw strokes with the Refine Edge tool, you draw strokes across or along the edges of a matte. If you draw your first stroke in an area of complete opacity or complete transparency, After Effects will tell you to instead draw your first stroke across or along the edge of a matte. If you draw a stroke with Refine Edge tool on a layer that does not yet have the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect, the effect is added with Fine-tune Roto Brush Matte disabled, since it is presumed that you are using the tool to refine another kind of matte, such as one created with masks. If you draw a stroke with the Refine Edge tool on a layer on which the Roto Brush tool has already been used, then Fine-tune Roto Brush Matte is enabled.

The edge refinement algorithm relies on the color immediately outside of the stroke on one side being the background color and the color immediately on the other side of the stroke being the foreground color. If your stroke is too broad, such that it covers a range of colors, make it narrower.

You can draw subtractive Refine Edge strokes (named Erase Edge Refinement in the Timeline panel) by Alt-dragging (Windows) or Option-dragging (Mac OS) in the Layer panel; these strokes tell the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect what regions to not apply additional edge refinement to.


properties of Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect

The Refine Edge features are very closely related to the Refine Edge features in Photoshop, so we tried to make the user interface match that of Photoshop as closely as possible. One outcome of this is that the names and user interface strings for various pieces of the Roto Brush and Refine Matte features needed to change to match Photoshop.

Here is a summary of the changes to match Photoshop, from After Effects CS6 (11.0) to After Effects CC (12.0):

  • Smooth became Feather.
  • Feather became Contrast (values inverted; different default range).
  • Choke became Shift Edge (values inverted).

There are a few other changes in property names and user interface strings that distinguish Roto Brush properties from the new Refine Edge properties, such as the change from Propagation to Roto Brush Propagation and the change from Matte to Roto Brush Matte as the name of the property group in the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect.

Here are the new properties for Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect:

  • Reduce Chatter: Note that this property defaults to 50% in the standalone Refine Hard Matte effect, 0% in the Roto Brush Matte portion of the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect, 50% in the Fine-tune Refine Edge Matte portion of the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect, and 50% in the Refine Soft Matte effect.
  • Render Refine Edge: Enable this to see the result of the entire effect, or disable it to see the intermediate result from the Roto Brush portion of the effect without the Refine Edge portion.
  • Base Refine Edge Radius: Setting this value to something other than 0 adds a uniform band along the entire segmentation boundary that behaves as if you had drawn a stroke with the Refine Edge tool along the entire edge on the base frame. This region can be propagated, corrected, and erased just as if it had been drawn with the Refine Edge tool.
  • Fine-tune Roto Brush Matte and Fine-tune Refine Edge Matte: These options enable or disable the property groups for refining the Roto Brush matte and Refine Edge matte. You may, for example, only want to fine-tune the Refine Edge matte if you are using the Refine Edge tool on an edge that was created using masks or color keying, not the Roto Brush tool.
  • Smooth: This new property in the Refine Edge Matte group reduces detail & noise in the matte edge to create a smoother outline.

In the standalone Refine Soft Matte effect and in the Refine Edge Matte property group of the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect, you can choose one of three Chatter Reduction options: Off (the default), More Detailed, or Smoother (Slower).

Keep in mind that the Roto Brush Matte property group and Refine Edge Matte property group affect different regions of the matte on the layer to which the effect is applied. The Refine Edge Matte refinements affect only the area defined by Refine Edge strokes; the Roto Brush Matte refinements affect only the area not defined by Refine Edge strokes.


Refine Soft Matte and Refine Hard Matte effects

The new Refine Soft Matte effect performs the same edge refinements as performed by the new Refine Edge Matte properties in the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect. The difference is that the Refine Soft Matte effect applies the edge refinements to the entire matte, at a constant width around the entire matte, whereas the edge refinements performed by the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect are performed within the regions defined by the Refine Edge strokes, which may be of varying widths and along only some parts of the matte edge. Also, since the Refine Soft Matte effect is simply drawing a uniform-width region around the alpha boundary (matte edge) rather than tracking and propagating strokes across time, it can be much faster than using the Refine Edge tool.

The effect that has been called Refine Matte in previous versions of After Effects is now called Refine Hard Matte. The Refine Hard Matte effect performs the same edge refinements as performed by the Fine-tune Roto Brush properties in the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect.

The properties of the Refine Soft Matte effect are very similar to the properties of the Refine Hard Matte effect, though the underlying algorithms for some identically named things are actually different between the two effects. Specifically, the Reduce Chatter property functions differently between these two effects.

The Refine Soft Matte effect has a few additional properties beyond those in the Refine Hard Matte effect:

  • Calculate Edge Details: Computes semi-transparent edges, pulling out fine details within the edge region.
  • Additional Edge Radius: The distance in pixels on either side of the matte edge to include in the edge region for finding fine detail and creating semi-transparency.
  • View Edge Region: Shows edge region as a yellow band.

behavior with Refine Edge, Roto Brush, and Refine Matte features across versions of After Effects

When using the Save A Copy As CS6 command, the following occurs:

  • Instances of the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect are dropped; i.e., they aren’t saved in the project.
  • Instances of the new Refine Hard Matte effect show as missing when the project is opened in After Effects CS6.
  • Instances of the Refine Soft Matte effect show as missing when the project is opened in After Effects CS6.

Projects created in previous versions of After Effects (CS5-CS6) with the Roto Brush effect are upgraded to use the new effect when opened in After Effects 12.0.

Projects created in previous versions of After Effects (CS5-CS6) with the Refine Matte effect will retain the old version of the Refine Matte effect, with the old property names and values, when opened in After Effects 12.0. If you apply a new instance of the Refine Hard Matte effect in After Effects 12.0, that instance of the effect will use the new property names and values.

When a project saved from After Effects CS5-CS6 is opened in After Effects 12.0, expressions referring to an instance of the Roto Brush effect are broken. Animation presets and scripts may also need to be updated.


changes in behavior of Feather properties

Refine Hard Matte: For existing After Effects CS6 and earlier instances, no change (because it’s still using v1.0). For existing After Effects 12.0 instances (i.e., projects saved in earlier prerelease builds), it gets reset to 2.0; if you want to use an equivalent feather, multiply the previous value by 2.71. new instances still default to 2.0.

Refine Soft Matte: For existing After Effects 12.0 instances, it gets reset to 0.0; if you want to use an equivalent feather, multiply the previous value by 2.71. New instances still default to 0.0.

Roto Brush & Refine Edge: For existing After Effects CS6 or After Effects 12.0 instances, the existing value gets upgraded automatically (multiplied by 2.71). For new instances, the Roto Brush Matte effect’s Feather property has a new default of 5.0 (approx. the old default of 2.0 times 2.71), and the Refine Matte effect’s Feather property still defaults to 0.0.

Aside from the standalone Refine Hard Matte and Refine Soft Matte effects (that get reset), you shouldn’t see any visually identifiable change in the result. If so, please submit a bug report.


tips and notes for using the Refine Edge tool and related features

When you draw a Refine Edge stroke, the Layer panel automatically switches to Refine Edge X-ray view mode. To turn Refine Edge X-ray view mode on or off, press Alt+X (Windows) or Option+X (Mac OS). This view mode is mutually exclusive with other Show Channels choices. You can also choose Refine Edge X-ray in the Show Channel and Color Management Settings menu at the bottom of the Layer panel.

Note: The Adjust Exposure control in a viewer panel is ignored when using the Refine Edge X-ray view mode.

To avoid unexpected propagation when resolution decreases temporarily, drawing Roto Brush or Refine Edge strokes will turn off Fast Previews adaptive resolution mode.

Drawing Roto Brush or Refine Edge strokes on time-reversed layers (time-reversed or negatively stretched) now draws a banner that says “Roto Brush & Refine Edge strokes can’t be added to a time-reversed layer.”

Note that the edge refinement features of the Roto Brush & Refine Edge effect and Refine Edge effect rely on color information being present even in areas of complete transparency. Most methods of creating transparency in After Effects preserve the color values even when the alpha channel is 0. One exception is the Keylight effect, which obliterates color information in areas of complete transparency. In such cases, you can use the Set Channels effect after the Keylight effect (or similarly behaving effect) to bring the color information back; just use the current layer as the source layer within the effect and set each color source to itself. You could also use Keylight alone if you set its View property to Intermediate Result instead of Final Result.

new commands for finding missing footage, missing effects, and missing fonts in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

There are three new commands for finding missing items:

  • File > Dependencies > Find Missing Effects
  • File > Dependencies > Find Missing Fonts
  • File > Dependencies > Find Missing Footage

Note: Other commands from the File menu have also been moved into the new File > Dependencies submenu: Collect Files, Consolidate Footage, Remove Unused Footage, Reduce Project.

You can also type any of the following into the search field in the Project panel to search for missing items:

  • Missing Effects
  • Missing Fonts
  • Missing Footage

When you have isolated a composition that contains references to a missing item, such as missing effects, simply double-click that composition in the Project panel to open the composition in the Timeline panel and automatically execute the search for the missing effects. This filters the layers in the Timeline panel to show only instances of missing effects.

Note that the search for missing footage doesn’t currently distinguish between missing footage and footage for which the importer plug-in is unavailable.

The search for missing fonts works in cases in which a text layer depends on multiple fonts, even if only a subset of them are missing.

snapping of layer features in the Composition panel, new in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

Beginning in After Effects CC (12.0), you can snap layer features to one another while dragging in the Composition panel.

Josh Weiss has a great video demonstrating the new snapping features on the reTooled website.

To snap features to one other, Ctrl+drag (Windows) or Command+drag (Mac OS) the layer in the Composition panel.

When you begin the drag operation, the layer feature nearest the mouse pointer at the time of the initial click becomes the snapping feature. For 2D layers, this feature can be the anchor point, the center of the layer, a layer corner, the layer handle at the midpoint of a layer edge, or any point on a mask path (not just mask vertices). For 3D layers, the snapping feature can also be the center of any face or the center of the 3D volume.

When you drag the layer near other layers, various features on the other layers will become highlighted, indicating that the snapping feature will snap to the highlighted feature of the other layer if you release the mouse button. The feature snapped to can be the anchor point, the center of the layer, a layer corner, the layer handle at the midpoint of a layer edge, or any point on a mask path (not just mask vertices). For 3D layers, the feature snapped to can also be the center of any face or the center of the 3D volume. Note that the feature snapped to can be a feature of a sublayer within a nested composition or text layer with per-character 3D enabled.

The determination of what features of other layers are nearest to the snapping point is made in screen space (i.e., according to the current view), but the snapping itself occurs in composition space. This means that the snapping of one 3D layer to another can cause a drastic shift in layer position.

By default, invoking this snapping behavior requires holding the Command (Mac OS) or Ctrl (Windows) key while dragging. To make the snapping behavior occur without the modifier key, select the Snapping option in the Tools panel. With this option selected, holding the Command (Mac OS) or Ctrl (Windows) key while dragging temporarily disables auto-snapping.

Layers must be visible to be snapped to.

3D layers can be snapped to 3D layers. 2D layers can be snapped to 2D layers.

You can also snap the anchor point of a layer to features of that same layer using the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool.

additions to Warp Stabilizer VFX effect in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

For the basics of the Warp Stabilizer effect in After Effects CS5.5 and later, see these resources.

In After Effects CC (12.0), we have made several improvements to the Warp Stabilizer effect, which is why it has the new name Warp Stabilizer VFX to distinguish it from the previous version and the version in Premiere Pro. The improvements include the ability to delete track points to isolate the tracking to relevant image data, the ability to preserve scale during stabilization, and the ability to apply effects to the image such that they follow the motion in the scene.


Preserve Scale

In the previous version of the Warp Stabilizer, the effect could become confused by point-of-view shots and would attempt to correct for movement of the camera forward or backward by changing the scale. This was especially bad for aerial fly-throughs. If you enable the Preserve Scale option, then the Warp Stabilizer will not attempt to correct with scale adjustments.


Auto-delete Points Across Time

Steve Forde demonstrates this aspect of the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect in this video.

In the Advanced section of the effect properties, there is a new option: Auto-delete Points Across Time. This functions very much like the same feature in the 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects CC (12.0).

If this option is on, when you delete track points in the Composition panel, corresponding track points (i.e., track points on the same feature/object) are deleted at other times on the layer, so you don’t need to delete the track points frame by frame to improve the quality of the track. For example, you can delete track points on a person running through the scene, whose motion should not be considered for the determination of how to stabilize the shot.

You can delete selected track points with the Delete key or by context-clicking and choosing Delete Selected Points.

Note: Even with the new Auto-delete Points Across Time feature, you may instead or additionally define an alpha channel for the layer to prevent the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect from considering a specific part of the image for the purpose of stabilizing the shot.


Objective

There are three primary ways to use Warp Stabilizer: for stabilizing a shot, for temporarily stabilizing to do visual effects work, and compositing a layer into a shaky scene. Each of these goals has a corresponding entry in the new Objective menu in the Advanced properties of the Warp Stabilizer:

  • Stabilize: This is the normal operation and default value for Objective.
  • Reversible Stabilization and Reverse Stabilization: To apply an effect to a region (including a moving object) in the scene: Use one instance of the Warp Stabilizer effect set to Reversible Stabilization to hold the subject steady, apply an effect (e.g., Paint, Liquify) following this instance of the Warp Stabilizer effect, and then duplicate the Warp Stabilizer effect and place it on the bottom of the effect stack, choosing Reverse Stabilization for this second instance of the Warp Stabilizer effect. (If you applied the Warp Stabilizer effect again rather than duplicating, the analysis would need to be repeated.) The end result will be an unstabilized clip with tracked effects.
  • Apply Motion to Target / Apply Motion to Target Over Original: To composite a layer into a shaky scene, use a single instance of the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect set to one of these two objectives and choose a layer in the Target Layer menu. Use the No Motion option. If you don’t use the Over Original option, the original shaky layer is not rendered; this is useful if you were only using the original shaky layer as a reference for the motion of the new layer.

Note that these new options benefit greatly from the new ability to delete track points and thereby focus the tracker/stabilizer on a specific region or object in the scene. For example, if you want to attach a layer or effect to a person’s face in the foreground, deleting track points in the background can improve the results.

plug-ins for After Effects CC (12.0)

Important: There have been few significant changes to the effect plug-in API for After Effects CC (12.0), so you shouldn’t need new versions of most plug-ins for After Effects CC (12.0), if you already have plug-ins that work for After Effects CS5, CS5.5, or CS6.

Separate from the issue of updates to the effect plug-ins themselves, there is the issue of their installers: Some plug-ins come with installers, and these installers may need to be updated to install plug-ins into the correct location.

One thing that I do that works for most plug-ins is to create a shortcut/alias in the new plug-in folder that points to old plug-in folder, so the new version of the application loads plug-ins from the old location. If you do this, you need to be careful to put the alias/shortcut at the right, lower level–i.e., not at the top level of the plug-ins folder–so that you’re only loading specific plug-ins from the old location; otherwise, you’ll get warnings about duplicate plug-ins.

Check the websites of the vendors of your plug-ins to see if you need an update for any reason.

Here are links to updates for several popular plug-ins:

See this page for a list of companies that provide plug-ins for After Effects: Adobe After Effects CC: In depth: Plug-ins

In addition to listing the plug-ins provided by each company, this page provides links to the companies’ websites, so that you can purchase these plug-ins or find how to contact them for technical support or customer service.

Another great place for information about plug-ins for Premiere Pro and After Effects is the Toolfarm website, which provides an online store as well as tutorials, a forum, and other supporting resources for using plug-ins. Toolfarm has been updating a list of plug-ins that have updates for After Effects CC (12.0).

The aescripts + aeplugins website also provides many plug-ins (and scripts) for After Effects.

If you want to develop plug-ins yourself, see the After Effects Developer Center, where you can download the After Effects SDK and supporting documentation.

improvements in 3D Camera Tracker in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

For the basics of the 3D Camera Tracker effect in After Effects CS6 and later, see Brian Maffitt’s video tutorial and my (Todd Kopriva’s) video tutorial.

In After Effects CC (12.0), we have made a couple of small but very useful improvements to the 3D Camera Tracker effect: the ability to delete track points to isolate the tracking to relevant image data and the ability to set a ground plane and origin.


ground plane and origin in 3D Camera Tracker effect

You can now define a ground plane (reference plane) and origin–i.e., the (0,0,0) point of the coordinate system–within the 3D Camera Tracker effect.

Use the 3D Camera Tracker effect as usual to analyze a scene, and then select a set of tracking points, which causes the bullseye target to appear, showing the plane defined by the selected tracking points. You can optionally drag the target by its center to reposition it along the plane; when the center is where you want the origin to be, right-click the target and choose Set Ground Plane And Origin. This will not have any visible result, but the reference plane and origin of the coordinate system will have been saved for this scene. After this, any items that you create from within this instance of the 3D Camera Tracker effect will be created using this plane and origin as their basis. This is especially useful when exporting the scene to Cinema 4D.

If you choose Set Ground Plane And Origin again, you’ll get a warning telling you that objects already created using a different ground plane and origin will not be updated to use the new ground plane and origin.


Auto-delete Points Across Time

In the Advanced section of the effect properties, there is a new option: Auto-delete Points Across Time.

If this option is on, when you delete track points in the Composition panel, corresponding track points (i.e., track points on the same feature/object) are deleted at other times on the layer, so you don’t need to delete the track points frame by frame to improve the quality of the track. For example, you can delete track points on a person running through the scene, whose motion should not be considered for the determination of how the camera was moving in the shot. This works for both 2D Source and 3D Solved track points.

You can delete selected track points with the Delete key or by context-clicking and choosing Delete Selected Points.

Note: Even with the new Auto-delete Points Across Time feature, you may instead or additionally define an alpha channel for the layer to prevent the 3D Camera Tracker effect from considering a specific part of the image for the purpose of determining a camera.

This feature is essentially identical to the feature of the same name in the Warp Stabilizer VFX effect.

Pixel Motion Blur effect, new in After Effects CC (12.0)

(For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.)

One of the new features in After Effects CC (12.0) isn’t really new at all. The new Pixel Motion Blur effect is a simpler way of using technology built into the Timewarp effect to “fake” motion blur.

The Pixel Motion Blur effect analyzes a movie to determine what parts are in motion, creates a set of motion vectors, and then uses that information to add motion blur within the image.

Chris and Trish Meyer have a great overview video on the Provideo Coalition website that shows what this effect can do.

The controls of the Pixel Motion Blur effect are a subset of those in the Timewarp effect:

  • Shutter Control: Choose Manual to set Shutter Angle and Shutter Samples for the effect independently. Choose Honor Layer Switch & Composition Settings to use the values set for the layer and composition.
  • Shutter Angle: Determines the intensity of motion blur. The shutter angle is measured in degrees, simulating the exposure caused by a rotating shutter. Simulated exposure time is determined by dividing the shutter angle by the frame rate times 360°. For example, a shutter angle of 90° causes an exposure of 1/96 of a second per frame: 90° / (360° * 24 fps).
  • Shutter Samples: Controls the quality of the motion blur. A higher value results in a smoother motion blur but longer rendering time.
  • Vector Detail: Determines how many motion vectors are used during interpolation. The more vectors used, the longer the rendering time. A value of 100 produces one vector per pixel. Note that increasing this value doesn’t necessarily produce better results in all cases; sometimes, a lower value may look better.

One common use for an effect like this that fakes motion blur is to add motion blur to a rendered result from a 3D program, rather than process the motion blur in the 3D program. The Pixel Motion Blur effect can add motion blur much faster than rendering the motion blur in the 3D program, but sometimes at the expense of quality, since motion blur that is created from the actual source of the motion is always the most accurate.

new OpenEXR and DPX importers for After Effects CC (12.0): better performance and additional functionality

Two big areas of new and changed features in After Effects CC (12.0) are DPX and OpenEXR improvements.


improved performance with OpenEXR files, especially those with many channels

After Effects CC (12.0) includes version 1.8 of the OpenEXR importer plug-in from fnordware and version 1.8 of the ProEXR plug-ins, EXtractoR and IDentifier. (For details about how to use the ProEXR plug-ins to use 3D channels and other data in OpenEXR files in After Effects, see this section of After Effects Help.)

Among the improvements in these plug-ins is a new channel caching feature. You can enable this feature by opening the Interpret Footage dialog box for an EXR file, clicking the More Options button, and choosing Channel Cache. If you have an EXR file with many channels that you are extracting, you will want to turn this on. The more channels you have, the more things will speed up.

Brendan Bolles, the creator of the ProEXR plug-ins, has much more detail about the channel cache and how it speeds things up on his blog.

By the way, you can also use the new version 1.8 plug-ins with After Effects CS6. They’re forward- and backward-compatible.


improved performance with DPX files, and ability to import additional information from DPX files

The DPX importer in previous versions of After Effects only worked with 10-bpc color.

The DPX importer in this version can import 8-, 10-, 12-, and 16-bpc DPX files, including DPX files with an alpha channel and timecode.


workaround for known bug when exporting DPX files from a composition with under-range or over-range values

If you’re exporting DPX files from a composition that has under-range or over-range values (i.e., values outside the range 0.0-1.0) in a 32-bpc project, you may get bad image data. The workaround is to nest the composition into a new composition, and apply the Levels effect to the precomposition layer, with Clip To Output Black and Clip To Output White both set to On.

bicubic sampling for improved scaling and other transformations in After Effects

In our list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC (12.0), we mentioned the addition of bicubic sampling for layer transformations, including scaling. Here’s more detail about this new feature.

Beginning in After Effects CC (12.0), you can choose between bicubic and bilinear sampling for selected layers, which determines how pixels are sampled for transformations such as scaling.

This per-layer setting is in the Layer > Quality menu, and it is only relevant for layers with quality set to Best.

The default keyboard shortcuts for setting the sampling method for selected layers are Alt+B (Windows) and Option+B (Mac OS) for Best/Bilinear and Alt+Shift+B (Windows) and Option+Shift+B (Mac OS) for Best/Bicubic.

You can also switch to Draft, Best/Bilinear, and Best/Bicubic for selected layers by clicking the Quality switch in the Switches column of the Timeline panel. When the layer is set to Best quality, the icon shown in the Quality column indicates whether the resampling method is set to bilinear or bicubic.

The bicubic sampling in After Effects should perform better than the related option in Photoshop; the After Effects algorithm preserves over-range and under-range values more consistently and works better (with fewer quantization errors) at extreme scales.

Note that textures in the ray-traced 3D renderer do not use the new bicubic sampling; they always use bilinear sampling. Transformations within effects also still use bilinear sampling, unless the effect specifically implements another method (as with a dedicated scaling plug-in effect or distortion effect).

Bicubic sampling is somewhat more processor-intensive than bilinear sampling, and bicubic sampling is not the highest-quality choice in all cases, so don’t think that you should set it for every layer. It’s rather easy to see artifacts with bicubic sampling in some circumstances, such as ringing and overshoots at a hard transition from one color to another. Bicubic sampling tends to be the best option in cases where transitions from one color to another are more gradual, as is the case with nearly all real-world photographic images, but not necessarily for sharp-edged graphics. Bicubic sampling helps more for scaling up than it does for scaling down.

Here are some examples that show the difference, including one photorealistic example for which bicubic sampling is better and a couple of graphics examples with abrupt color transitions for which bilinear sampling is better:



bicubic sampling, scaled to 800%; better detail and fewer artifacts in pearls and skin



bilinear sampling, scaled to 800%; lost details and worse artifacts in pearls and skin



bicubic sampling of grid layer, camera viewing it edge-on from very close; overshoot artifacts at intersections



bilinear sampling of grid layer, camera viewing it edge-on from very close; with less severe artifacts at intersections



bicubic sampling of grid layer scaled to 1600%; with more severe ringing and overshoot artifacts



bilinear sampling of grid layer scaled to 1600%; with less severe artifacts

request for feedback about a change to a keyboard shortcut in After Effects

[Please, respond to this request for feedback on this forum thread. Don't respond in the comments on this blog.]

One of the top feature requests for After Effects is a keyboard shortcut for showing only properties with keyframes. The keyboard shortcut U shows all animated properties, which means properties with keyframes and/or expressions. There isn’t a shortcut for showing only properties with keyframes.

We’re working on improving this for a future version of After Effects, and we want your input. The After Effects keyboard is already very crowded, so we need to either find a keyboard shortcut that is not currently in use or reassign one. For reference, here’s the list of keyboard shortcuts that show properties in the Timeline panel.

One idea that we had is to change the U key to show only properties with keyframes, not properties with expressions but no keyframes. (You would still be able to show properties with expressions by pressing EE.)

Another idea that we had is to expand the use of the U key to three levels:

  • U: Show properties with keyframes (new behavior).
  • UU: Show properties with keyframes and/or expressions (currently assigned to U).
  • UUU: Show all modified properties (currently assigned to UU).

The problem with either of these approaches is that they change how an existing feature in After Effects works, which means you may need to retrain yourself on how to use the keyboard shortcuts. It also will make some training materials and tutorials obsolete.

Please tell us what you think on this forum thread (not in the comments on this blog post). Do you like either of these ideas? Is there another keyboard shortcut that you want it to use? A single key or a key with modifiers? (ie., Shift, Control/Command, Opt/Alt)