AFTEREFFECTS

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

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

favorite features in CC versions of After Effects: improved scaling with bicubic sampling and Detail-preserving Upscale effect

One important area of focus for us over the past couple of years has been improving how images are scaled in After Effects, especially since so many of our users need to be able to upscale images from SD (standard-definition) sizes to HD (high-definition) or digital cinema sizes.

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. In After Effects CC (12.1), we extended this functionality to the Transform effect, so that this effect now has the ability to use bicubic sampling for all of its transformations.

upscale

Also in After Effects CC (12.1), we added the Detail-preserving Upscale effect, which is capable of scaling images up by large amounts while preserving details in the image, so that sharp lines and curves stay sharp. Scaling up from SD frame sizes to HD frames sizes or even digital cinema frame sizes is well within the range in which this effect is intended to operate with good results. This is closely related to the Preserve Details option in Photoshop.

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: new layer created above selected layers

Beginning in After Effects CC (12.1), most commands that create a new layer create the layer immediately above the topmost selected layer. If no layer is selected, then the new layer is created at the top of the layer stack. In previous versions of After Effects, most commands that created a new layer would create the new layer at the top of the layer stack, regardless of whether any layers were selected. This new behavior should make many workflows more convenient—such as creating a new layer to be a track matte or adjustment layer above the selected layer—preventing you from needing to scroll to the top of the layer stack and drag a new layer down to the needed place.

This is one of those tweaks that seem small but make a huge difference for those of us using After Effects hours a day, every day. So much less needless scrolling, so much less repetitive stress injury.

layer_above_selected

Here is a list of commands to which the new behavior applies:

  • Layer > New > Text
  • Layer > New > Solid
  • Layer > New > Light
  • Layer > New > Camera
  • Layer > New > Null Object
  • Layer > New > Shape Layer
  • Layer > New > Adjustment Layer
  • Layer > New > Adobe Photoshop File
  • Layer > New > MAXON CINEMA 4D File

The new behavior also applies to the respective keyboard shortcuts for these same commands.

The behavior of scripting and AEGP plug-in commands that create new layers has not changed; they still create layers at the top of the layer stack. This is to prevent breaking existing scripts and AEGP plug-ins. (Of course, if your script is using the app.executeCommand(app.findMenuCommandId(...)) pattern to call the menu command, the behavior will be the new behavior of creating the layer above the topmost selected layer.)

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: automatically trim precomposition duration

On the After Effects team, we have a rotating role known as “product owner”. The product owner’s job is to set the priorities for a specific version of the application. When I became product owner in the middle of 2013, my stated goal was to have the next few versions of After Effects remove the little pain points that irritate After Effects users every day, often dozens or hundreds of times per day.

One of the improvements that came in After Effects CC (12.1) is a change of which I’m especially proud because I worked as a quality engineer on it in addition to lobbying for its implementation: option when precomposing to trim precomposition duration to duration of selected layers.

When you precompose, you have a new option: Adjust Composition Duration To The Time Span Of The Selected Layers. Choose this to create a new composition that has a duration that is the same as that spanned by the selected layers. If you deselect this option, then the duration of the newly created composition is the same as the duration of the original composition, without regard for the duration of the layers being precomposed; this has been the only option in previous versions of After Effects.

trim_precomposition_layer

This feature saves you the hassle of needing to trim the precomposition after creating it—something that countless After Effects users had to do many times per day.

Thanks to Stefan Wiegand for doing the programming work.

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.

What is your favorite change (feature, fix, tweak) in After Effects from version 12.0 or later?

What is your favorite change (whether a new feature, a tweaked behavior, or a bug fix) in After Effects CC (12.0) or later? Please answer here, not in the comments on this blog post.

Since we moved to the Creative Cloud model, we’ve been more able to focus on tweaks to make workflows more efficient, under-the-hood infrastructure changes, and smaller user-requested features, as opposed to focusing on big, glitzy features to try to catch your eye and compel you to put down a lot of money at once on an expensive upgrade.

One of the problems of doing several small releases in the past few years, though, is that a lot of the small but useful changes have gone unnoticed by many people. I’m going to try to address that over the next few months by posting some articles about my favorite changes in After Effects from the past few years.

To inform these articles, I’d like for all of you to help by telling me what you favorite changes are. Also, if you know of any resources (tutorials, articles, and such) that explain your favorite changes very well, then list those, too. Again, please answer here, not in the comments on this blog post.

To refresh your memory, here are the pages with all of the details of what’s new and changed in each version of After Effects from After Effects CC (12.0) forward:

Of course, if you want to make feature requests and bug reports, you can do so here.

Join us tomorrow for a Character Animator design discussion

Join us tomorrow, July 29th, for a Character Animator design discussion.

The Character Animator engineers and designers will be holding two one-hour design meetings—one at at 9:30AM and one at 4:30PM—to hear your ideas for Character Animator. (Times are in US Pacific Time, since we’re mostly in Seattle and San Francisco.)

We’ll start with a brief demonstration of what’s new in Preview 2—which you should try out if you haven’t already—and then open the doors to any and all suggestions. Tell us what you love, what you hate, and what we should do next.

You can participate using the chat feature in our web conference system, Adobe Connect.

To attend the meeting, just go here during one (or both!) of the meeting times.

We hope to see you there!