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

using Adobe Media Encoder to create H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV videos from After Effects

After Effects CC 2014 (13.0) does not include exporters for creating H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV videos directly from the render queue. To create videos in these formats, you should use Adobe Media Encoder.

You can still import videos in these formats into After Effects.

How do you create H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV videos using Adobe Media Encoder with After Effects?

You have two primary options for using Adobe Media Encoder with After Effects to create videos in H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV formats:

  • Render and export a losslessly encoded master file out of After Effects to a watch folder monitored by Adobe Media Encoder.
  • Send the composition directly to Adobe Media Encoder from After Effects (Composition > Add To Adobe Media Encoder Queue).

Here’s some more detail about these options, including pros and cons of each:

The fastest way to create videos in these formats using Adobe Media Encoder with After Effects is to use the After Effects render queue to export a losslessly encoded master file (e.g., using the PNG video codec in a QuickTime .mov container file) to a watch folder that Adobe Media Encoder monitors. You can assign encoding presets to a watch folder in Adobe Media Encoder so that it automatically encodes using whichever settings you have specified. One advantage of using this method is that it uses After Effects performance features for rendering (such as GPU acceleration and multiprocessing where applicable) and Adobe Media Encoder performance features for encoding (such as parallel encoding). The disadvantage of using this method is that it occupies the main After Effects application for the entire rendering operation, during which time you can’t use After Effects for anything else.

Another method to create videos in these formats using Adobe Media Encoder with After Effects is to directly add the composition from After Effects to the Adobe Media Encoder queue. This method has the advantage of allowing you to continue working in After Effects while the rendering and encoding takes place, since the rendering is performed by a background instance of After Effects. The rendering phase may be slower in some cases, compared with using the After Effects render queue, because the headless version of After Effects rendering in the background does not have access to GPU acceleration and multiprocessing features.

Why were these exporters removed from the After Effects render queue?

The reason that we removed the H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV exporters from the After Effects render queue is simple: Maintaining these exporters in After Effects took quite a lot of work, and fixing several significant bugs in these exporters would take even more work. We could have done this work, but it would have subtracted a lot from the resources that we had available to develop other features and fix other bugs. Since Adobe Media Encoder already had superior H.264, MPEG-2, and WMV exporting capabilities, it was more prudent to rely on Adobe Media Encoder for export of these formats. This allowed the After Effects team to focus our efforts on animation, motion graphics, compositing, and digital imaging features—our core areas.

One thing that makes Adobe Media Encoder so much better than After Effects for creation of files in final delivery formats is its Preset Browser and easy-to-use system for creating, saving, sharing, and applying encoding presets. Another is the assortment of features in the Effects tab with which you can automatically add watermarks, timecode overlays, et cetera.

What if I still need to create these kinds of videos from the After Effects render queue?

If you still need to be able to create videos in these formats from the After Effects render queue for some reason, you can still do so by leaving After Effects CC (12.2.1) installed alongside After Effects CC 2014 (13.0) and using the previous version for these specific output tasks.

What’s next?

We intend to continue working closely with the Adobe Media Encoder team to make the workflow between After Effects and Adobe Media Encoder better. Please, don’t hesitate to send in feature requests and bug reports to tell us what we need to improve in this area.

For a complete list of what’s new and changed in After Effects CC 2014 (13.0), see this page.

fixing permissions problem that impedes start of Adobe applications

I’ve noticed several cases of applications either failing to start or taking a long time to start because the permissions for the Adobe preferences folders have been set incorrectly.

In one case, this manifests as After Effects taking several minutes to start, eventually reporting that QuickTime is not installed. This is because After Effects is failing to establish communication with the component that it uses to communicate with QuickTime (Adobe QT32 Server) because this component is having a hard time starting due to a permissions issue. The same problem affects the Dynamic Link Manager component in much the same way.

So, what do you do? Simple. Set the entire Adobe preferences folder and its contents to be read/write, not just read-only. I’m referring to this folder:

  • Mac OS: [drive]/Users/[user_name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe/
  • Windows: [drive]\Users\[user_name]\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\

Note: Apple hides the Library folder by default. See this page for instructions for showing it.

If, after setting the preferences folder to be read/write, you’re still getting messages about QuickTime not being installed, or After Effects is taking a long time to start, then go through the troubleshooting steps in these articles:

migrating settings and plug-ins for After Effects CC 2014 (13.0)

migrating preferences, keyboard shortcuts, and other settings

At the bottom of the General pane in the After Effects Preferences dialog box is a Migrate Previous Version Settings button. If you have After Effects CC (12.x) installed on the same computer, then clicking that button will give you a dialog box with an option to migrate settings from that version to After Effects CC 2014 (13.0). If you choose to migrate settings, then you need to restart After Effects for the new settings to be loaded.

The settings that are migrated include preferences, keyboard shortcuts, output module templates, composition settings, render settings, and interpretation rules.

plug-ins and scripts

Important: There have been few significant changes to the effect plug-in API for After Effects CC 2014 (13.0), so you should not need new versions of most plug-ins for After Effects CC 2014 (13.0), if you already have plug-ins that work for After Effects CS5, CS5.5, CS6, or CC.

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. This is needed in far fewer cases for this version than for previous versions, for reasons described below.

After Effects CC 2014 loads plug-ins from a couple of locations: the MediaCore folder and the After Effects Plug-ins folder.

The MediaCore folder is where the majority of the large third-party plug-in vendors install their plug-ins, in part because this is a common location from which After Effects and Premiere Pro both load plug-ins. We did not increment the version number on this folder between After Effects CC (12.x) and After Effects CC 2014 (13.0). This means that you do not need to reinstall most third-party effect plug-ins if you already had them installed for After Effects CC (12.x). Of course, test to see that this works for you, and follow instructions from your specific third-party effect plug-in vendor.

On the other hand, effect plug-ins installed in the After Effects Plug-ins folder do need to be installed again or copied or loaded with a shortcut/alias from the old folder. This is a very simple process, in general, because most effects that are installed in this folder are not the ones with specialized installers and other surrounding infrastructure. But, again, follow any specific instructions from the vendors of your third-party effects if they say otherwise.

Here are the locations on Mac OS and Windows for the After Effects Plug-ins folder:

  • (Mac OS) Applications/Adobe After Effects [version]
  • (Windows) Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects [version]\Support Files

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 the 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.

I do the same thing for my scripts folder: just put a shortcut/alias in the new scripts folder that points to the old scripts folder, and all of my old scripts are loaded by the new version of the application.

I’ll keep this list up to date with links to websites of plug-in vendors who have updates for After Effects CC 2014 (13.0):

A 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 2014 (13.0).

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.

Why a new major version, not just a minor version update?

One important technical fact about After Effects (and many other applications) is that the project file format needs to be incremented to a new version when we make certain kinds of changes to the data that is stored in it. For example, we needed to increment the project file format for After Effects CC 2014 (13.0) to accommodate the changes in the data model that effect mask and effect opacity compositing options features introduced. We tend to plan our feature work so that we do things that necessitate changing the project file format somewhat seldom, all at once.

Between minor versions (e.g., from After Effects 12.1 to After Effects 12.2), the project file format stays the same, and this allows people with any minor version of After Effects 12.x to open project files created by any other minor version of After Effects 12.x.

Similarly, we tend to plan changes to the plug-in API (the interface for creating plug-ins) so that folks creating plug-ins don’t need to make changes very often. In fact, as I mentioned above, we were able to keep the changes in this area to a minimum so that we didn’t even need to increment the number of the MediaCore folder, which is what allows the same plug-ins to be loaded from the same location for After Effects CC (12.x) and After Effects CC 2014 (13.0).

Another benefit of having a new major version that is installed alongside the old version is that it gives you a chance to try the new version out without needing to worry about whether there are any unwelcome changes. If there is something in the new version that you don’t like or need some time to get used to, you can bounce back to the old version to get some work done and then come back to the new version when you’re ready. If the new version just replaced/updated the old version, you couldn’t do that (at least not easily).

Julieanne Kost also has an informative post about this topic on her blog, which tends to focus more on Photoshop and Lightroom.

After Effects and Mac OSX v10.10 (Yosemite)

[UPDATE 3: Now that Mac OSX v10.10 (Yosemite) has been released, we can report that After Effects is supported on this operating system. See this page for details.]

[UPDATE 2: Apple has released OS X 10.10 Developer Preview 3.1.0, which solves a launch problem with multiple versions of After Effects. See James Landy’s recent forum post for more detail.]

[UPDATE: See James Landy’s post on this thread for some more details.]

Apple made Mac OSX v10.10 (Yosemite) available as a developer preview build yesterday, and already we are seeing some reports that After Effects and other Adobe applications may have some issues with this operating system.

Now that we have access to the developer preview build, we can begin testing and developing with this new operating system. We can then communicate with Apple about any problems that may have been introduced and how we may go about fixing them.

Last year, when Apple released Mac OS X v10.9 (Mavericks), we released bug-fix updates for After Effects CS6 (11.0) and After Effects CC (12.0) that coincided with the public release of Mavericks.

If you encounter bugs with After Effects and Mac OS X v10.10 (Yosemite)—or any operating system—please let us know with a bug report.

details of video preview with Mercury Transmit in the 2014 update to After Effects CC

NOTE: This article is about new functionality in the 2014 update to After Effects CC, which is one of the many Creative Cloud updates announced today. For more details about this release of After Effects, read the complete list of what’s new and changed.

After Effects has for a long time had the ability to send frames to a video device for preview, for example on a broadcast monitor. In the 2014 update to After Effects CC, the underlying architecture for that functionality has been replaced with the same Mercury Transmit technology used by Premiere Pro.

This is an important change for After Effects because it removes a dependency on fragile, deprecated operating system components. Aside from that, Mercury Transmit allows for new functionality and enhancements with video preview:

  • Full-screen display on a monitor connected to your computer’s video card. This includes the HDMI port built into recent models of MacBook Pro.
  • 10-bit color output in 16-bpc and 32-bpc projects when using devices from AJA, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, and Matrox.
  • RAM preview frame rate performance is improved for memory-intensive compositions when video preview is enabled.
  • Simplified controls that no longer require you to specify the output video mode; After Effects and the device negotiate to set the video mode.

In addition to the above changes provided by Mercury Transmit, in the 2014 update to After Effects CC, the video preview image is color managed in the Rec. 709 color space.

Below are details about how video preview works in the 2014 update to After Effects CC, including known issues and limitations. If you have questions about these changes, please post to this thread in the After Effects user-to-user forum.


what is Mercury Transmit?

Mercury Transmit is a software interface that Adobe digital video applications use to send video frames to external video displays. Video device manufacturers AJA, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, and Matrox provide plug-ins that route the video frames from Mercury Transmit to their hardware. The same Mercury Transmit plug-ins work in Adobe Premiere Pro, Prelude, Speedgrade, and After Effects.

Mercury Transmit can also use monitors connected to your computer’s video card and FireWire-connected DV devices without an additional plug-in.

IMPORTANT: Mercury Transmit does not use GPU acceleration. It is a different technology from the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro.


how to set up video preview using Mercury Transmit in After Effects

To enable video preview with Mercury Transmit, open Preferences > Video Preview, choose Enable Mercury Transmit, and choose a video device from the list.

  • Devices named AJA Kona 3G, Blackmagic Playback, or similar represent a video device connected to your computer.
  • Adobe Monitor devices are the computer monitors connected to your video card.
  • Adobe DV requires a DV device connected to a FireWire port on your computer.

To change the options for your video device, click the “Setup” text next to the device name. More options may be available in the device’s control panel or management application.

To toggle external video preview on or off without opening the Preferences dialog box, press the forward slash (/) key on the numeric keypad. On a Mac keyboard without a numeric keypad, such as on a MacBook, use Control+Shift+/.


using color management with video preview

When you choose a color working space for the project, the image sent to the video preview monitor is transformed from the working color space to the Rec. 709 color space. The gamma curve of the image is linearized (gamma = 1.0) if the Linearize Working Space option is enabled.

If you use a monitor with a color profile other than Rec. 709, please tell us more about your workflow in this forum thread.


general notes about using video preview

In the Composition, Footage, and Layer panels:

  • Overlays such as safe margins, guides, mask paths, and effect controls are not sent to the video preview monitor.
  • Viewer settings such as magnification (zoom), color and alpha channel views, transparency grid (checkerboard), pixel aspect ratio correction, and exposure do not affect the video preview image.
  • When the region of interest is enabled, or when mask views are enabled in the Layer panel, the visible image will be scaled up to the size of the composition on the video preview monitor.
  • Fast Draft preview mode does not interactively update the video preview image. The video preview image will update when the mouse button is released.
  • Wireframe preview mode does not update the video preview image. Switch to a different preview mode to update the video preview image.

When rendering a composition using the render queue, After Effects will update the image on the video preview monitor. To disable this, turn off the Video Preview During Render Queue Output option in Preferences > Video Preview.

After Effects will stop sending the video preview image to the video preview monitor if you switch to a different application. To allow After Effects to continue to use the video preview monitor when it is not the frontmost application, turn off the Disable Video Output When In The Background option in Preferences > Video Preview. Note that After Effects will stop updating the image when it is not the frontmost application. RAM previews and render queue output will continue to render, but the image on the video preview monitor will not be updated until you return to After Effects.


performance of RAM preview playback when video preview is enabled

Video preview from After Effects requires additional processing power, which may cause RAM preview playback speeds to be less than real-time for memory-intensive compositions. This was true in previous versions of After Effects and remains true for video preview using Mercury Transmit, although Mercury Transmit provides better performance than the previous technology.

RAM preview frame rate performance is affected by a combination of your computer’s capabilities and the memory requirements of the composition. If you do not get real-time performance during RAM preview, try the following:

  • Reduce the resolution in the Composition or Preview panels.
  • Reduce the RAM preview frame rate in the Preview panel.
  • Reduce the project color depth to 16-bpc or 8-bpc, if applicable.
  • Disable color management (set the project’s working space to None).


notes about using video preview with AJA, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, and Matrox devices

Download the latest drivers and Mercury Transmit plug-ins for your device. While After Effects uses the same Mercury Transmit plug-ins as Premiere Pro, the plug-ins need to be updated for compatibility with After Effects.

AJA: The AJA Preview plug-in will conflict with Mercury Transmit for control of the monitor. Either disable Mercury Transmit (Preferences > Video Preview) or disable the AJA Preview plug-in (Window > AJA Preview).

Blackmagic Design: Blackmagic devices will not output compositions that do not match the device’s supported video modes. (ex. 720p59.94) Refer to the documentation for your Blackmagic device for a list of supported video modes.

Bluefish444: Check the Bluefish444 web site for up-to-date documentation.

Matrox: Uninstall previous drivers and install the latest drivers for your Matrox device. The driver installation will detect which versions of After Effects are installed on your computer and install the Mercury Transmit plug-in and/or the Matrox WYSIWYG plug-in that is appropriate for each version.


notes about using video preview with a computer monitor

The monitors connected to your video card appear as Adobe Monitor 1 or 2, etc. in the Video Preview preferences. These monitors will only be available when there is more than one monitor connected and the desktop is extended across these monitors. Desktop mirroring must be disabled.

Video preview using Mercury Transmit does not work on the same monitor that is being used by the After Effects application frame. Move or resize the application frame so it does not stretch across the monitor that you want to use for video preview. Panels can be undocked and placed on that monitor, but they will not be visible when Mercury Transmit is enabled.

The Full Screen option in the Preview panel is not compatible with Mercury Transmit. Disable it when using a monitor connected to your video card.

The video preview image is displayed full-screen on the computer monitor, with letterbox or pillar-box bars as appropriate, regardless of the size of the composition or the resolution of the monitor.

The video preview image may not display correctly if you plug in the monitor cable while After Effects is running. Quit and restart After Effects to get a correct preview.

Creating a visual experience for Fatboy Slim at Coachella

Production company creates immersive experience for well-known DJ artist at art and music festival using Adobe Creative Cloud

Plastic Reality is a production company known for branding and other video work for big corporate clients such as BP and Unilever. But unlike most corporate video companies, Plastic Reality has a wild side, called The Happiness Labs, focused on producing experiential content and graphics for live events and installations.

read more…

Seamless visual effects for “The Wolf of Wall Street” created with help from Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC

Paul and Christina Graff of Crazy Horse Effects (CHE) are visual effects aficionados, with projects to their credit such as There Will Be Blood and Life of Pi. They also work with a team of some of the best matte painters and designers in the visual effects industry, and are recognized for their award-winning compositing. They recently created some seamless visual effects for The Wolf of Wall Street, directed by Martin Scorsese, with Oscar-winning VFX supervisor Rob Legato overseeing the shots.

Adobe: How did you become involved with The Wolf of Wall Street?
Paul: I actually met Rob at a panel presenting outstanding work in VFX done in After Effects. We went to have a drink afterwards and he asked me about our new office in New York. We had worked on The Aviator andShutter Island with him and he thought we could help with some of the shots in The Wolf of Wall Street. We were stoked to make the reunion with Rob, and excited to work on the project, although we joined the team late in the game when most of the effects were already well underway.

Adobe: What type of work did he send your way?
Christina: We didn’t do any of the normal set extension work that we usually do. Instead, we focused on a lot of last minute fixes and designed several sequences. We worked on a lot of quirky shots! We contributed to several corporate identity “videos,” a few driving scenes, and a longer sequence with the real Jordan Belford at the end of the movie. Our work is really scattered throughout the movie.

read more…

Setting the stage for “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues”

Video Playback and Graphics team uses Adobe Creative Cloud and plugins from FxFactory to create period-specific news content

To make the set of GNN, the 24-hour news channel featured in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues as realistic as possible required one essential element: content. It was the job of the video playback and graphics team to fill the dozens of screens throughout the fictional studio with realistic, period-specific news.

Rather than filling the screens in post production and using archived news reports, the team produced nearly all original content and fed it to the screens in real time. News reports were shot and composited together with stock footage using an Adobe Creative Cloud video workflow and plugins from FxFactory, which offers a broad range of VFX tools for editors and compositors.

read more…

The 2014 update to After Effects CC is available!

As David Wadhwani has just announced, today we have released the next major update to Creative Cloud applications, including After Effects CC.

The After Effects CC 2014 update (version 13.0) is available to all Adobe Creative Cloud members. Just go to the Creative Cloud download center or open the Creative Cloud desktop application to download the new updates for After Effects and many other applications.

For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, go here. For more information about Creative Cloud, see this overview video and the Creative Cloud FAQ list.

I’m really proud of what our team has developed for this release. Actually, I’m really proud of what multiple teams put into this release. This is because multiple teams focused heavily on creating workflows that allow technology from After Effects to be more directly accessible inside Premiere Pro, and vice versa. For the first time, you can now manipulate templates created in After Effects, directly in the Effect Controls panel in Premiere Pro.

Obviously that’s not all. There is a lot more for you to discover in this update.

I look forward to hearing from you about how much easier it is to limit the area of an effect’s result using the new effect masks–especially since you can import these masks from Premiere Pro. I also know that you’re going to see a lot of value out of the new Key Cleaner and Advanced Spill Suppressor effects, which will allow you to pull good keys from green screen and blue screen footage that you previously would have thrown away and reshot because of noise, artifacts, etc. And, of course, being able to use your external video monitor or second computer monitor for full-screen video previews through Mercury Transmit is huge. All that, plus new Sony RAW import, an improved OpenEXR importer, a better Curves effect, scripting control over render settings and output modules, and more…

My colleague, Todd Kopriva, has put together a detailed post on what’s new and changed in this version of After Effects.