AFTEREFFECTS

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

what’s new and changed in the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update

The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update is now available.

For an overview of what’s new in all of the Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page. For details of the updates for all Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page.

If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can download the new version by checking for updates through the Creative Cloud desktop application. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

Please, if you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum. That’s the best place for questions. Questions left in comments on a blog post are much harder to work with; the blog comment system just isn’t set up for conversations. If you’d like to submit feature requests or bug reports, you can do so here.


summary of what’s new in the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update


  • improvements to default preview behaviors and additional customization options for previews
  • multi-touch gestures
  • stacked panels
  • workspace bar
  • improved color management, with new ICC profiles
  • Lumetri Color effect
  • new importers for HEVC (H.265), DNxHR, and Dolby Vision PQ codecs and formats
  • scripting improvements: access to text baseline and new method for random numbers
  • streamlined workflow for using assets from CC Libraries
  • video and graphics assets from Adobe Stock searchable and usable from Libraries panel
  • automatic replacement of watermarked assets with licensed assets when using Adobe Stock
  • new Cycore effects
  • updated OptiX library for ray-traced 3D renderer
  • improved Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, And Footage Panels option
  • … and many bug fixes

Karl Soule shows several of these new and changed features in this video.


updated preview behaviors and Preview panel options


Since the release of After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the After Effects team has been listening closely to user feedback about the changes to preview behaviors and the Preview panel controls. Several changes were made in the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update to accommodate that feedback.

previews can be nearly twice as long for same content (compared with previous versions)

We have optimized how frames are cached and how frames are transformed for screen display such that only about half as much memory is required for typical content. Though this change is primarily about memory efficiency, it also contributes to rendering and playback performance.

improved caching behaviors and controls

The Preview Favors control has been removed. This option did not clearly express its intent of changing the caching behavior, and it received very little use. There is now a single caching behavior. The new caching behavior is a hybrid of the former Preview Favors Frame Rate and Preview Favors Length behaviors:

  • Like Preview Favors Frame Rate, After Effects will render and cache frames until the cache is full, and then caching stops. There is no longer an option for After Effects to extend a preview past the cached frames by discarding the oldest frames in the cache, as Preview Favors Length would have done.
  • Like Preview Favors Length, the new caching behavior only stores the screen display cache (a secondary cache used for transforming the frames for screen display) for a short duration ahead of the Preview Time Indicator. In After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the Preview Favors Frame Rate mode kept the screen display cache for all cached frames, which was inefficient and could result in an unexpectedly short preview duration.

A new Cache Before Playback option has been added. When this is enabled, After Effects will cache frames before starting playback. This behavior is similar to how RAM Preview behaved in past versions of After Effects. However, note that frames are not displayed to the Composition, Layer, or Footage panel as they are cached. This option is not enabled by default for any of the preview shortcuts. If you Option-click (Mac OS) or Alt-click (Windows) the Reset button in the Preview panel, Cache Before Playback will be enabled for Numpad-0.

audio preview changes

The Audio Preview Duration control in Preferences > Previews has been removed. This option conflicted with the Range option in the Preview panel. When audio must be rendered for a preview, it is now rendered for the duration defined by the Range control. The new Play Around Current Time range option can be used to emulate the behavior of the Audio Preview Duration preference.

Regardless of the range, longer audio durations require more memory to store the rendered audio for playback. This could result in shorter overall preview durations and also a longer pre-preview delay to prepare the audio (the Info panel will display “Mixing audio for preview”).

The Composition > Preview > Audio Preview commands have been removed. These menu commands, Audio Preview (Here Forward) and Audio Preview (Work Area) described behaviors that can now be modified in the Preview panel, now that the audio-only preview keyboard shortcuts can be configured in the Preview panel (see below). To reduce confusion, they have been removed. The remaining Composition > Preview > Play Current Preview command can still start an audio-only preview, if that is the current state of the Preview panel.

The Mute Audio button at the top of the Preview panel mutes or unmutes audio during playback. It will also enable or disable the Include Audio button for the keyboard shortcut that you used to start that preview.

To change whether audio is played when you start a preview, use the new Include Audio button, described below.

new controls for determining what happens when you stop a preview

In previous versions of After Effects, including After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the behaviors that occur when you stopped a preview were dependent on what type of caching was being used by the preview and what keyboard shortcut you used to stop the preview. These behaviors were not user-configurable.

With the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update, you can configure the stop behaviors for each keyboard shortcut using new controls at the bottom of the Preview panel. In the On (shortcut name) Stop section (e.g., On (Spacebar) Stop), you can enable the following options:

  • If caching, play cached frames: When this option is enabled and you use this keyboard shortcut to stop a preview before caching has completed, only caching is stopped; playback of cached frames will restart from the beginning of the range. When this option is disabled, stopping a preview with this keyboard shortcut will stop both caching and playback.
  • Move time to preview time: When this option is enabled and you use this keyboard shortcut to stop a preview, the current-time indicator will move to the position of the preview time (the last frame previewed). When this option is disabled, the current-time indicator stays at its previous position.

The spacebar shortcut now has “If caching, play cached frames” disabled by default. In After Effects CC (13.5), this behavior was enabled for the spacebar shortcut and caused confusion among some users.

new Include buttons for video, audio, and overlays and layer controls

Below the Shortcut control are three buttons that control whether any keyboard shortcut starts a preview that plays video, plays audio, or shows overlays and layer controls. You can now configure any preview shortcut to start a preview with or without video, audio, or overlays and layer controls.

  • Include Video is new with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update. When this option is enabled, the preview will play video. When disabled, the preview will not play video.
  • Include Audio replaces functionality that was previously assigned to the Mute Audio button. When this option is enabled, the preview will play audio. When disabled, the preview will not play audio.
  • Include Overlays & Layer Controls replaces the Layer Controls option in the Preview panel. When this option is enabled, the preview will show overlays (e.g., grids and guides) and layer controls for selected layers as defined in the View > View Options dialog. When disabled, the preview will not show overlays. Note that this can be enabled regardless of whether or not Include Video is enabled.

You can not disable all three of the Include buttons simultaneously, at least one button must remain enabled. If you try to disable the third button, one of the other buttons will become enabled.

new configurable keyboard shortcuts for previews

  • Audio-only preview shortcuts: The keyboard shortcuts for audio-only previews, Numpad-.(decimal) and Option/Alt+Numpad-.(decimal), are now configurable in the Preview panel.
  • Shift+Spacebar: A new keyboard shortcut, Shift+Spacebar, has been added to the Preview keyboard shortcuts. By default, Shift+Spacebar is configured similarly to Numpad-0, except that Play From is set to Current Time.

new range options, including option to play around current time

The Audio Preview Duration preference in the Previews preferences category has been removed. This option conflicted with the Range option in the Preview panel. When audio must be rendered for a preview, it is now rendered for the duration defined by the Range control. The new Play Around Current Time range option (see below) can be used to emulate the behavior of the Audio Preview Duration preference. Regardless of the range, longer audio durations require more memory to store the rendered audio for playback. This could result in shorter overall preview durations and also a longer delay before preview began, to prepare the audio (the Info panel will display “Mixing audio for preview”).

The Range control includes a new option, Play Around Current Time. This option behaves similarly to the Play Around command in Premiere Pro. When you start a preview with Play Around Current Time enabled, the preroll value is subtracted from the current time, the postroll value is added to the current time, and the frames in between are previewed.

To set the preroll and postroll values, choose Play Around Current Time from the Range menu. Set your desired preroll and postroll values in seconds, then click OK.

Play Around Current Time is enabled by default for the Numpad-.(decimal) audio-only preview keyboard shortcut, with a preroll value of 0 seconds and a postroll value of 30 seconds. This emulates the default cache duration defined by the Audio Preview Duration preference that was removed.

current-time indicator color change

The current-time indicator (CTI) now draws as blue through its entire length at all times, including when preview is stopped. This resolves a consistency issue between the CTI and the red preview-time indicator (PTI) that appears only during previews to show which frame is being previewed.


user interface improvements for touch screens, multi-touch devices, and small screens


As more and more people use After Effects on small laptops and tablet devices—many of which have touch screens and multi-touch input devices—it is increasingly important for After Effects to work well on such small screens and take full advantage of these touch input systems.

stacked panel groups

Stacked panel groups give you one-click access to panels while keeping your workspace clean and uncluttered. Stacked panel groups function similarly to the panels in Adobe Lightroom.

Panels in a stacked panel group are minimized to their panel tabs and stacked vertically. Clicking on a panel tab will expand that panel, and by default will solo that tab by simultaneously minimizing the other panels in the group.

Stacked panel groups are best used to quickly show and hide panels that typically appear along the right side of the After Effects workspace, such as the Character, Paragraph, Paint, Brushes, Tracker, and other panels that you do not use all the time.

To create a stacked panel group, click the panel menu on the tab of any panel in the panel group choose Stacked Panel Group from the Panel Group Settings menu.

To restore the stacked panel group to a non-stacked panel group, disable the Stacked Panel Group option.

You can reorder and resize panels within a stacked panel group.

When you click on a panel in a stacked panel group, other panels in that stacked panel group will minimize to their tabs (solo mode). To allow more than one panel in a stacked panel group to be expanded simultaneously, disable Solo Panels In Group in the Panel Group Settings menu for that panel group.

Regardless of the solo setting, you can simultaneously expand or minimize all panels in a stacked panel group by Command-clicking (Mac OS) or Ctrl-clicking (Windows) the tab of a panel in that group.

workspaces and the workspace bar

The new workspace bar gives you one-click access to default or custom workspaces. It functions similarly to the Workspaces panel in Premiere Pro CC 2015. Please read this article in Premiere Pro Help to learn how to modify, arrange, and choose workspaces in the workspace bar.

In previous versions of After Effects, workspaces were available through the Workspace menu on the right side of the Tools panel. This has been replaced by the workspace bar, which occupies the right side of the Tools panel. Workspaces that do not fit in the available space are displayed in the overflow menu (>>) on the right side of the workspace bar.

When the Tools panel is moved from its position at the top of the workspace, the workspace bar is replaced by the Workspace menu.

Workspaces and the new Edit Workspaces dialog box can also be accessed through the Window > Workspace menu.

New workspaces have been added to take advantage of stacked panel groups and the workspace bar, and the order of the workspaces has been rearranged. By default, the workspace bar shows three workspaces: Essentials, Standard, and Small Screen. Other workspaces are available in the workspace bar’s overflow menu.

  • Essentials is now the default workspace. The layout is similar to Standard, except that panels on the right side of the workspace are in a stacked panel group.
  • Standard is the same workspace as in previous versions of After Effects.
  • Small Screen is optimized for use on devices with small screens, including small laptops, projectors, and touch notebook computers.

Important: Due to the changes to workspaces, custom workspaces are not migrated from previous versions of After Effects.

other panel and tab improvements

Panel tabs can be set to a larger size for easier selection on a touch device. To enable this for all tabs in a panel group, click on the panel menu for any tab in the group, choose Panel Group Settings, then disable Small Tabs.

When you rearrange panels in a tabbed panel group, other panels now automatically move out of the way to make room for the dragged panel. This includes automatically scrolling hidden panels when you drag to the end of a full panel group.

The overflow menu for tabbed panel groups now shows all panels in that group.

multi-touch zoom, pan, and scroll gestures

When using a multi-touch input device—such as a touchscreen display (e.g., Microsoft Surface or Wacom Cintiq Touch) or multi-touch trackpad—you can zoom, pan, and scroll in the Composition, Layer, Footage, and Timeline panels using multi-touch gestures.

  • zoom: Using two fingers, pinch your fingers closer together to zoom out or move your fingers farther apart to zoom in. In viewer panels, this behaves very much like zooming in while holding the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key to zoom centered around the mouse pointer.
  • pan and scroll: drag with two fingers to pan or scroll up, down, left, or right in the panel’s current view. This gesture behaves very much like panning with the Hand tool.

improved color fidelity


Several changes were made with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update to extend the After Effects color management feature set and to improve the ability to bring in assets from many different sources while preserving color information at the highest possible fidelity. There’s more information about the improvements that we’re making across our applications for ultra-HD and high-dynamic-range (HDR) color on the Premiere Pro blog, here.

Among the small changes to color management, automatic interpretation of color data has been improved in a few ways: e.g., linear color pixel formats are now recognized automatically, and half-resolution HD footage is no longer tagged with SD color profiles.

Lumetri Color effect

The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update includes the Lumetri Color effect, which is being added so that color grading work performed in Premiere Pro can be preserved in After Effects when copying clips from Premiere Pro to After Effects, importing a Premiere Pro project into After Effects, or using the Replace With After Effects Composition command in Premiere Pro.

IMPORTANT: The intent of the Lumetri Color effect in After Effects is to preserve color adjustments on clips brought from Premiere Pro into After Effects. Refer to the Premiere Pro color workflows documentation for a description of the different controls. You can apply the Lumetri Color effect to any layer in After Effects, but note that not all controls are fully replicated.

For best results, set the project color depth to 32 bits per channel if you enable the High Dynamic Range option in the Lumetri Color effect.

additional ICC profiles for color management

The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update includes several new ICC profiles for correctly interpreting colors from a variety of sources—including ARRIRAW footage—as well as new profiles for simulating color output and for choosing a working color space for the project:

  • HDR profiles using the SMPTE 2084 PQ EOTF (Dolby Vision)
  • ARRI Log wide color gamut profiles
  • HDTV and UHDTV Display profiles, replacing the older 709 camera profile
  • DCDM and DCI P3 profiles, with more white points, replacing older inaccurate profiles
  • ACES and ACEScg working space profiles
  • SDTV Display profiles, recommended for use in place of the older Rec. 601 profiles

new importers for additional formats and codecs


The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update can natively import HEVC (H.265) footage, QuickTime (.mov) files encoded with the Avid DNxHR codec, and Dolby Vision PQ color data in MXF files encoded with the JPEG2000 codec.


streamlined workflow for using CC Libraries and Adobe Stock


Graphics and video assets can be dragged from the Libraries panel directly to the Composition and Timeline panels. The asset will automatically be imported into your project; you no longer have to import and add to the composition as separate steps.

At the top of the Libraries panel is a new search field; from the drop-down menu you can choose to search either your libraries or Adobe Stock. When you search Adobe Stock, results will be displayed in the Libraries panel.

When you mouse over the results, buttons for Buy and Save Preview appear over the image or video. Buy will purchase a license for that asset and save it to your libraries, and Save Preview will add a watermarked preview of that asset to your libraries. From here you can add the assets to your After Effects project.

If you want to license a preview image or video after adding it to your libraries, right-click on the asset in your library, then choose Buy Image or Buy Video. The preview image or video will automatically be replaced with the non-watermarked, licensed version.

IMPORTANT: In After Effects CC 2015 (13.6), licensed still images do not automatically replace preview still images. This will be fixed in a future release. If you have used a preview still image in a composition for which you’ve purchased a license, you can work around this: Add the now-licensed image to your project, then hold the Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) key and drag the licensed image from the Project panel onto the preview image in the composition to replace it.

When you add an Adobe Stock video to your After Effects project, the video will initially appear as a placeholder (color bars) while the video file is downloaded. Once the download completes, the placeholder will be replaced with the video file. You can monitor download progress in the new Progress Panel (Window > Progress Panel). When you license a preview video that was used in your project, the licensed video will also need to download before the preview video is replaced.


scripting access to text baselines


You can read the baseline (x,y) locations for a text layer using scripting with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update. The new sourceText.value.baselineLocs attribute for TextDocument objects returns an array of floats indicating the starting position of each line of text’s baseline x and y value.

Line wraps in a paragraph text box are treated as multiple lines.

The array returns float values in the form of: line0.start_x, line0.start_y, line0.end_x, line0.end_y, line1.start_x, line1.start_y, line1.end_x, line1.end_y … lineN-1.start_x, lineN-1.start_y, lineN-1.end_x, lineN-1.end_y

Note: If a line has no characters, the x and y values for start and end will be the maximum float value (3.402823466e+38F).


new scripting method to generate random numbers


There is a new scripting method to generate random numbers, generateRandomNumber. We recommend that you use this function instead of Math.random when you want to generate random numbers that will be applied as values in a project (e.g., when using setValue).

This new method avoids a problem where Math.random would not return random values in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5.x) due to a concurrency issue with multiple CPU threads.

Sample use of the generateRandomNumber method:


// change the position X of all layers with random number

var myComp = app.project.activeItem;
var x = 0;

for(var i = 1; i <= myComp.numLayers; i++){

// If you use Math.random(), this does not work
// x = 400*(Math.random()) – 200;
// use new generateRandomNumber() instead

x = 400*(generateRandomNumber()) – 200;
currentPos = myComp.layer(i).property(“Position”).value;
myComp.layer(i).property(“Position”).setValue([currentPos[0]+x,currentPos[1]]);
}


CycoreFX HD 1.8.1 effect plug-ins


The CycoreFX HD 1.8.1 plug-in package includes the following new effects:

  • CC Vignette: Remove or add vignetting. Includes an option to preserve (pin) highlights for more realistic behavior.
  • CC HexTile: A honeycomb pattern generator. It repeats a hexagonal pattern, with several options including a unique “smear” control. It can be considered as an extension to the CC Kaleida effect, generating dynamic and exciting backgrounds and effects.

Adobe Media Encoder improvements


Though not in After Effects, per se, the improvements coming in the next version of Adobe Media Encoder include several that are of great interest to After Effects users, including the ability to use image sequences in watch folders, the ability to directly publish to Facebook (as well as Vimeo and YouTube), and the ability to export HEVC (H.265) video. See this page for details.


Character Animator (Preview 3) improvements


Character Animator (Preview 3) adds much new functionality and improves performance and usability in several areas. See this page for details.


miscellaneous new and changed features


  • The Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, and Footage Panels option in Preferences > Display is now enabled. This was disabled during the performance re-architecture work begun in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5).
  • The frame being rendered in the render queue is also displayed in the Composition panel. This was disabled during the performance re-architecture work begun in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5).
  • The OptiX library from Nvidia is being updated on Windows, which adds the ability for Maxwell-architecture GPUs (e.g., GTX 970, GTX 980) to be used for the ray-traced 3D renderer on Windows.
  • The Trim Comp To Work Area command now has a keyboard shortcut: Command+Shift+X (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Shift+X (Windows).
  • The New Comp From Selection command now has a keyboard shortcut: Option+\ (Mac OS) or Alt+\ (Windows).
  • The MXF OP1a format has been removed from the After Effects render queue. To export to MXF OP1a, use Adobe Media Encoder.
  • Files can now be dragged from the Finder (Mac OS) or Windows Explorer (Windows) directly to the Composition and Timeline panels. The file will automatically be imported into your project and a layer will be created based on the footage item; you no longer have to import the file and add a layer based on the footage as separate steps.
  • Current Time Indicator (CTI) now draws as blue through its entire length at all times, including when preview is stopped. This resolves a consistency issue between the CTI and the red Preview Time Indicator (PTI) that appears only during previews.
  • Roving keyframes use a new, easier-to-distinguish icon.
  • updated Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse plug-in (3.0.14) with several bug fixes

notable bug fixes


  • Audio tracks are no longer silent when you export from the Render Queue.
  • Tracking motion (2D motion tracker) no longer causes After Effects to crash under certain conditions, most commonly with large resolution frames (e.g., 4K).
  • ScriptUI panels now display and resize correctly on high-DPI displays on Windows.
  • Horizontal panning in the Timeline panel works again when the panel is on a secondary monitor arranged to the left of the primary monitor.
  • Dragging keyframes or layer in and out points in the Timeline panel should now not experience a delay on mouse up in complex compositions.
  • The render progress bar in the Composition and Layer panels is more responsive during long frame renders.
  • Changing the source text of a text layer no longer causes expressions to fail when the name of the text layer was referenced.
  • When a file in use by the open project becomes missing, After Effects now only warns the user once about the problem, not twice.
  • N-up views in the Composition panel now display focus triangles in blue instead of yellow.
  • Pan Behind tool can again grab 3D axes on a 3D layer.
  • Shape layer path direction buttons in the Timeline panel now have distinct highlighting and contrast, to enhance the difference between selected and unselected states.
  • Undo after using Edit Original on camera raw files no longer causes After Effects to crash.
  • DNG sequences created by Magic Lantern firmware for Canon cameras now update correctly when you edit the camera raw settings via the Interpret Footage dialog box.
  • Reloading a camera raw sequence after editing that sequence’s camera raw settings in another application (e.g., Photoshop) now loads the updated camera raw settings as expected.
  • Edit Original again works as expected for single (non-sequence) camera raw files.
  • Applying remembered Interpret Footage settings on a still image sequence that uses XMP sidecar files (i.e., camera raw formats) no longer fails to apply the settings to the first frame of the sequence.
  • A {no current context} error message is no longer displayed when you set a footage layer as a guide layer, if you had changed its Interpret Footage frame rate.
  • Applying an animation preset that contains the obsolete Lightning effect no longer causes After Effects to crash.
  • Replacing duplicated footage no longer displays the cache for the footage that was replaced.
  • Applying the Color Range effect to a nested composition for which Collapse Transformations is enabled and that contains a layer with scale set to 0% no longer causes After Effects to crash.
  • Applying the Color Range effect to an adjustment layer for which Continuously Rasterize is enabled no longer causes After Effects to crash.
  • The effect controls for the Levels, Extract, Linear Color Key and Color Range Key effects now update correctly during interactions.
  • Clone stamp strokes no longer offset in time unexpectedly.
  • Using the copyToComp scripting method no longer causes After Effects to crash when the layer has a parent.
  • The valueAtTime(time, false) scripting method now waits for time-intensive expressions, like sampleImage, to finish evaluating before it returns the result.
  • After Effects no longer crashes when you click OK or Cancel buttons in a scriptUI dialog with tabbed panels.
  • Symbolic links in the After Effects scripts folder on Mac OS no longer fail to load.
  • After Effects no longer fails to start if left or right double quotation characters are used instead of the non-directional double quotation character the Interpretation Rules.txt file. (Common occurrence when TextEdit is used to edit the file without disabling the Smart Quotes feature.)
  • Shadow Map Resolution is no longer reset to Comp Size after clicking OK in the Classic 3D Renderer Options dialog.
  • After Effects no longer crashes when the graph editor is displayed while processing an time remapping expression.
  • Export to QuickTime Photo-JPEG codec no longer introduces a color shift. A similar problem was solved for the QuickTime Motion JPEG A and B codecs. In both cases, the correct pixel format for the codec (i.e., YUV Rec.601 or Rec.709) is used.
  • Premultiplied alpha channels in Apple ProRes 4444 codec footage now render as expected.
  • Audio is no longer rendered when a preview is started with audio muted. You will no longer see “Mixing audio for preview” in the Info panel if audio is muted. If audio is unmuted during a preview, audio rendering will begin.
  • The cursors for adjusting the work area in and out points are no longer offset.
  • Fixed a problem where, when a plug-in causes After Effects to crash, the cause of the error is not reported and the user is not given an opportunity to save the project.
  • Non-square pixel aspect ratios in DPX files are now recognized.
  • Pasting mocha AE shape data applies the mocha shape effect as expected.
  • The tooltip on the Play/Stop button in the Preview panel now updates to Play/Stop Rendering/Stop Playback if the “If caching, play cached frames” option is enabled.
  • Half-res HD video footage is no longer automatically tagged with an SDTV color profile.
  • Improved performance of expressions on time-remapped layers. This also reduces rendering time for audio on time-remapped layers with expressions.
  • Duplicating items in the Project panel no longer causes compositions to render the wrong result.
  • Fixed a problem where previews slow-to-render frames could not be interrupted.
  • Improved the performance of applying the Exponential Scale keyframe assistant to multiple keyframes.
  • Mercury Transmit no longer fails to display on a second monitor when you switch to a different application and then back to After Effects on Mac OS X v10.11 (El Capitan).
  • Scrubbing time in the Footage panel no longer incorrectly attempts to downsample using adaptive resolution.

If you’d like to let us know what you’d like to see addressed in a future update, let us know with a bug report or feature request here. You can also talk with us on the After Effects user-to-user forum. Please, do not leave comments on this blog post, since the blog comment system is not set up well for bug reports or conversations.

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: file name and location templates, plus automatic creation of folders for image sequences

In the After Effects CC (12.2) update, we extended the output file name templates feature to include output paths. As part of setting up an output module, you can specify a folder in which to place the output file(s), and this can be a folder that After Effects will automatically create at output time.

This helps to keep your outputs organized, and it really helps to prevent you from doing something like accidentally dumping an image sequence onto your desktop because you forgot to point the output to a specific folder. (Yes, we’ve all done that a few too many times.)

There is a new preset output file name and location template, called ‘Comp Folder and Comp Name’.

There is a new projectFolder element in the Add Property menu in the File Name And Location Template dialog box. Adding the projectFolder element to a file name and location template specifies that that output file should be placed in the same folder as the one in which the project is saved.

For example, the following template specifies that the output file file should be placed in a folder named ‘output’ inside the project folder, and that the name of the output file should begin with ‘final_’ and end with the composition name followed by a dot and the file-name extension:

[projectFolder]/output/final_[compName].[fileextension]

You can also use the .. operator to go up one level in a path. For example, the following template specifies that the output file file should be placed in a folder named ‘output’ that is next to the project folder, and that the name of the output file should begin with the composition name, followed by ‘_matte’, followed by a dot and the file-name extension:

[projectFolder]/../output/[compName]_matte.[fileextension]

Also, when you are specifying an output file name and location through the Output Movie To dialog box, you can choose the Save In Subfolder option to create a new subfolder at output time.

Image sequences and movie files have different defaults for output file name and location templates, with the primary difference being that image sequences will be placed into subfolders. When you choose an image sequence output module template, if your current file name and location template is the default, then After Effects will switch to using the ‘Comp Folder and Comp Name’ template, which will create a new folder for the image sequence.


Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.


favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: expression access to dynamic layer bounds, including text layers

In the After Effects CC 2014 (13.2) update, we added several scripting and expression enhancements to make working with text easier.

My favorite of these enhancements is the addition of an expression method with which you can read the rectangle bounds of a layer’s content, including the corrected bounds of a text layer, for any time in a composition. The sourceRectAtTime method from the After Effects scripting API is now accessible in expressions as a read-only layer object attribute. The values returned are calculated before effects and layer styles are applied.

When I asked folks recently who was using this new method and how, I got a lot of responses from folks who are now able to create lower thirds, credit scrolls, and other text animations much more easily because they are able to have various graphical elements laid out according to the width and height of a block of text, even when that block of text is changing. One example is Victoria Nece’s new script, which uses this expression method to automatically lay out credit scrolls.

Here’s Evan Abrams showing how to use this in a video on YouTube:

Here are the technical bits:

layer.sourceRectAtTime(t = time, includeExtents = false)

  • t: the time index, in seconds. A floating-point value.
  • includeExtents: true to include the extents, false otherwise. Extents apply to shape layers only, increasing the size of the layer bounds as necessary.

Returns a JavaScript object with four attributes: [top, left, width, height]

Example usage for a text layer named myTextLayer:

// Returns width value at the current time as a number
var textLayerWidth =  myTextLayer.sourceRectAtTime().width;


Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.


favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: property links

We have talked for a long time on the After Effects team about adding a feature for “instancing” of effects, meaning that you would be able to drive multiple instances of an effect from one master controller. The more we talked about this, the more we realized that the right thing to do for maximum flexibility and power would be to not limit such a feature to just whole effects, but to create a system whereby any set of properties could be linked across layers and compositions. This is how “property links” were born.

The property links are established and maintained through expressions, but there is no need to write (or even see) the expressions that are created.

You can select any property or set of properties and choose Edit > Copy With Property Links or Edit > Copy With Relative 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.

You can even copy an entire layer with property links and paste it to create duplicates that follow the changes made to the original.

For example, the following looping animation consists of a master shape layer on the left and three copies made by choosing Copy With Property Links and then pasting three times, then selectively disabling the links for a few properties by disabling the expressions on those properties. I could have accomplished the same thing by selectively using Copy With Property Links on specific properties.

Comp-1_1

The command Copy With Relative Property Links, works like the command Copy With Property Links, except that the former creates expressions that do not reference the source composition by name. This maintains a relative link between the layer with the expression and the composition containing that layer. This can be useful when, for example, you want to move expression-rigged layers from one composition to another but let the layers reference a control layer only in the same composition. The expressions created using the Copy With Relative Property Links command are identical to those created using the expression pickwhip.

The result of copying a layer’s Position property with the Copy With Relative Property Links command is this:
thisComp.layer("control_layer").transform.position

The result of copying a layer’s Position property with the Copy With Property Links command is this, which specifically references the layer’s source composition in the expression:
comp("source_comp").layer("control_layer").transform.position

Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: expression error handling

One of my favorite changes to After Effects recently isn’t a flashy feature at all, but it’s a change that has already saved me thousands of clicks when dealing with expression errors.

Beginning in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), there are two major changes in what occurs when an expression fails to evaluate:

  • Expression errors appear in a warning banner at the bottom of the Composition and Layer panels instead of in a dialog box.
  • A failing expression is not disabled. The expression will continue to evaluate and will display the warning banner until the problem with the expression is fixed or manually disabled.

This means that when you have multiple expressions that fail, you no longer need to click through a potentially enormous number of error dialog boxes. Also, when you fix the cause of an expression’s failure, you no longer have to click to re-enable the expression. In some cases, fixing an expression may simply be a matter of undoing the change that caused the expression to fail.

expression_error_banner_small

On the right side of the expression error warning banner are control buttons:

  • The Left or Right arrow buttons display the previous or next expression error when multiple expressions fail to evaluate.
  • The Reveal Expression (magnifying glass) button will expose the property with the failing expression in the Timeline panel. If the expression is in a different composition, that composition will open.
  • The Expand Warning button increases the height of the warning banner to display the error text. Click the button again to reduce the height to a single row.
  • The expression error text is clipped to the width of the Composition panel. To see the full expression error in a dialog box, click on the yellow error triangle icon next to the expression in the Timeline panel.

The expression error text is one line only, and is clipped to the width of the Composition panel. To see the full expression error text in the old-style dialog box, click on the yellow error triangle icon next to the expression in the Timeline panel.

To hide the expression error warning banner, open Preferences > General and disable Show Warning Banner When Project Contains Expressions Errors. Note that when this option is disabled, the warning banner will not appear in After Effects, even when new expression errors occur. Re-enable this option to view expression errors.

Also worth mentioning in this context is a feature that is not new, but has existed in After Effects for many versions: the Reveal Expression Errors command, available the in the context menu when you right-click on a layer, will expose properties of the selected layers that have expressions that fail to evaluate.

Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: command for moving anchor point to center of content

Every once in a while, we have a “JDI” (“Just Do It”) day on the After Effects team. During these days, members of the After Effects team compete to see who can make the best change to the application within a single day, where “best” is defined by greatest benefit to the population of After Effects users, as determined by a team vote. The changes must be fully designed, implemented, and tested within the single day, in time for demonstrations and voting to occur. There are prizes.

During a JDI day for After Effects CC (12.1), James (Jim) Acquavella and I won for the addition of a command to set the anchor point to be in the center of the layer content: Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point In Layer Content. I urged Jim to implement this feature because I had seen many people struggle with animation of shape layers because their anchor points were not located in the center of the shapes.

anchor

The keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+Alt+Home on Windows and Command+Option+Home on Mac OS.

You can also Ctrl+double-click (Windows) or Command+double-click the Pan Behind (Anchor Point) tool to invoke this command.

A few great uses for this new command:

  • setting the anchor point of a shape layer to the center of a single shape or to the centroid of a group of shapes in a shape layer
  • setting the anchor point for a text layer to the center of the text content
  • setting the anchor point of a layer to then center of the visible area within a masked region

Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects

In After Effects CC 2014 (13.0), we added a couple of new effects for cleaning up mattes created with color keying effects:

The Key Cleaner effect recovers detail from a scene keyed by a typical keying effect, including recovering detail from a keyed scene with compression artifacts.

The Advanced Spill Suppressor effect removes color spill on a foreground subject from a colored background used for color keying.

The Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects are intended to be used along with any keying effect that can provide the original RGB data as input (e.g., as the Keylight effect can using its Intermediate Result setting).

Brian Maffitt demonstrates the use of the Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects in this video on the Adobe website.

The Advanced Spill Suppressor effect has two methods for spill suppression: Standard and Ultra. The Ultra method is based on the spill suppression in the Ultra Key effect in Premiere Pro. The Standard method is simpler and requires less user input. In the majority of cases in our testing, the Standard method provides the better results, but the Ultra method can be useful for scenes in which the screen color is refracted through an object. If Standard doesn’t work for you, then try Ultra.

Tip: You can use an effect mask on the Key Cleaner effect to restrict the result of a wider Additional Edge Radius value (e.g., hair) without causing unwanted semi-transparent regions in sharper regions (e.g., shoulders/arms).

You can control the contrast in the alpha channel in semitransparent regions (along edges) with the Alpha Contrast property in the Key Cleaner effect.

The easiest way to apply these three effects is with the Keylight + Key Cleaner + Advanced Spill Suppressor animation preset:

1. Apply the Keylight + Key Cleaner + Advanced Spill Suppressor animation preset, which is in the Animation Presets > Image – Utilities category in the Effects & Presets panel. This adds the Keylight, Key Cleaner, and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects to the layer. The Advanced Spill Suppressor effect is turned off by default to allow you to sample the key color in the Keylight effect.

2. Use the Keylight effect’s Screen Colour eyedropper to sample the key color from the layer in the Composition panel. Adjust other Keylight effect settings as you normally would to get the best results.

3. Turn on the effect switch for the Advanced Spill Suppressor effect to remove color spill from the scene.

Note: If you use the Keylight + Key Cleaner + Advanced Spill Suppressor animation preset, the Key Color property is already linked with an expression to the Keylight effect’s Screen Colour property, so you don’t need to change it unless you want to use a different color for the despill process. If so, just disable or remove the expression.

To use a keying effect other than the Keylight effect, do the following:

1. Apply the keying effect to the layer.

2. Set the effect to the equivalent of the Keylight effect’s Intermediate Result setting, so that the keying effect gives the full RGB result without attempting to perform its own spill suppression.

3. Apply the Key Cleaner effect after the keying effect.

4. Apply the Advanced Spill Suppressor effect after the Key Cleaner effect.

Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: compositing options for each effect, including effect masks

In After Effects CC 2014 (13.0), we added a Compositing Options property group in the Timeline panel for every effect, which includes a couple of very powerful compositing controls:

By default, the Compositing Options property group includes an Effect Opacity property, which can be thought of as providing the same functionality as the Blend With Original control found in a few effects in previous versions of After Effects.

You can also add any number of mask references to an effect to constrain the area within which the effect’s operations are applied. For example, you can draw and track masks around a subject’s eyes and constrain the Change To Color effect to only operate within those two masks to change the eye color, leaving colors outside the masks unaffected. Another simple and common usage is to use a blur effect or the Mosaic effect on a tracked rectangular or elliptical mask to obscure a license plate, logo, or face, as in the example below:

To add a mask reference to an effect, click the plus sign next to the Compositing Options heading and choose a mask from the Mask Reference menu.

You can only choose a mask on the same layer as the effect. You can add as many mask references as you like. Note that you can use different masks for various effects on the same layer. Feathering, mask tracking, and mask expansion properties of the mask are honored in the constraints of the effect area.

When a mask is used as an effect mask, it is not also used as a layer mask – i.e., when a mask is used to constrain the area of an effect, the mask is not also used to modify the alpha channel of the layer. A mask that is used as an effect mask has a blue fx icon to the left of its name in the Timeline panel; clicking this icon expands the effect(s) for which the mask is used as an effect mask. Similarly, when an effect is constrained by a mask, the entry for the effect in the Effect Controls panel has a blue circle icon to the left of the effect name; clicking this icon expands and selects the mask(s) in the Timeline panel.

Brian Maffitt demonstrates the new effect masks and compositing options in a video on the Adobe website.

John Dickinson’s video overview of the new features does an excellent job showing the effect mask feature.

Go ahead and try this out now in the current version. If you’re not already a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can try the free 30-day trial. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to let us know what your favorite changes in After Effects have been since After Effects CC (12.0), come and tell us here, whether your favorite change is a new feature, a bug fix, or a little tweak in behavior.

tip: adding a keyboard shortcut for the Time Reverse Keyframes command

Here’s a tip from David Simons, one of the original creators of After Effects:

To change Command+Shift+R (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Shift+R (Windows) to run the Time Reverse Keyframes command instead of opening the fairly useless Rotate dialog box (which goes back to After Effects 1.0), do this:

1) Run After Effects
2) Open the Preferences dialog box to the General category.
3) Click the Reveal In Finder or Reveal In Explorer button.
4) Quit After Effects.
5) In Finder or Explorer, open the file with the name that ends with Shortcuts.txt .
6) Change the text that says RotateAll to be TimeReverseKeyframes .
7) Save the document and quit the text editor.
8) Run After Effects.
9) Select some keyframes and press Command+Shift+R (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Shift+R (Windows).
10) Enjoy.

time-reverse keyframes change2