After Effects CC (12.1): what’s new and changed in this October 2013 update
The After Effects CC (12.1) update is now available to all Creative Cloud members.
Among many other changes and fixes, this updates enables After Effects CC to run on Mac OS X v10.9 (Mavericks). This full update makes it unnecessary to install the previous After Effects CC (12.0.1) patch. Unlike the After Effects CC (12.0.1) patch, the After Effects CC (12.1) update can be used to update the trial version of After Effects CC (12.0).
You can install the update through the Creative Cloud desktop application, or you can check for new updates from within any Adobe application by choosing Help > Updates. One way to check for updates is by closing all Adobe applications other than Adobe Bridge, and choosing Help > Updates in Adobe Bridge; this ensures that all processes related to Adobe video applications have been quit and can be updated safely.
Ideally, you should install the updates automatically through the Creative Cloud desktop application or by choosing Help > Updates, but you can also directly download the update packages from the download page for Windows or Mac OS by choosing the “Adobe After Effects CC (12.1)” update for your operating system. (IMPORTANT: The After Effects CC updates are not at the top of the page; scroll down to find them.)
NOTE: See this post on how to migrate settings (workspaces, preferences, etc.) from After Effects CC (12.0) to After Effects CC (12.1).
We have also been working with several providers of plug-ins, codecs, and hardware devices to assist them in updating their software to fix some errors and crashes. Please take this opportunity to download and install updated codecs, plug-ins, and drivers from these providers, as relevant to your work.
For details of what was new in After Effects CC (12.0), see this page.
For details of all of the other updates for Adobe professional video and audio applications, see this page.
Please, if you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum. If you’d like to submit feature requests (or bug reports), you can do so here.
top new features in After Effects CC (12.1)
- mask tracker
- Detail-preserving Upscale effect
- improved performance for analysis phase for 3D Camera Tracker and Warp Stabilizer effects
- property linking
- HiDPI content viewers for Retina displays on Mac computers
- improved snapping behavior, including snapping beyond layer boundaries and to internal wireframes
- OptiX 3.0 library for GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer
- improved Cinema 4D integration
- Adobe Anywhere integration and an early preview of the Media Browser panel
resources for learning more about new features in After Effects CC (12.1)
videos by Steve Forde
- property linking and snapping improvements
- Detail-preserving Upscale effect
- mask tracker
- GPU and performance optimizations
- Chris & Trish Meyer’s overview of what’s new, including a free video about the mask tracker
- John Dickinson’s demonstration of several of the new features
(nearly) all new and changed features in After Effects CC (12.1)
Here is a virtually comprehensive list of changes, with detail beyond the summaries of the top items listed above. We’ll be posting a lot more detail over the coming weeks, and the outline below will be populated with links to in-depth articles and tutorials, so bookmark this page and check back.
The mask tracker transforms a mask so that it follows the motion of an object (or objects) in a movie. The tracked object must maintain the same shape throughout the movie, though it may change position, scale, and perspective and still be effectively tracked; this is why the mask tracker is sometimes called the “rigid mask tracker”.
When a mask is selected, the Tracker panel switches to mask tracking mode, showing the much simpler set of controls that are relevant to mask tracking: controls for tracking forward or backward either one frame at a time or to the end of the layer Method, with which you can choose to modify position, scale, rotation, skew, and perspective for the mask. If the Tracker panel isn’t shown, you can show it in mask tracker mode by choosing Animation > Track Mask with a mask selected, or context-click a mask and choose Track Mask from the context menu.
The result of using the mask tracker is the application of keyframes for the Mask Path property so that the mask shape matches the transformations tracked in the layer, depending on which Method setting is chosen.
You can select multiple masks before beginning the tracking operation, and keyframes will be added to the Mask Path property for each selected mask.
The layer being tracked must be a track matte, an adjustment layer, or a layer with a source that can contain motion; this includes layers based on video footage and precompositions, but not solid-color layers or still images.
The search region for the mask tracking analysis is the region encompassed by the mask, considering its Mask Expansion property.
improved performance for analysis phase for 3D Camera Tracker and Warp Stabilizer effects
The background process that analyzes footage for the 3D Camera Tracker and Warp Stabilizer effects is now much faster, largely because of being converted to use multiple threads simultaneously. The increase in speed for the analysis (tracking) phase for the 3D Camera Tracker and Warp Stabilizer has been measured at 60-300%, depending on details of the footage, et cetera.
Detail-preserving Upscale effect
The Detail-Preserving Upscale effect 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 from HD frame sizes to digital cinema frame sizes is well within the range in which this effect is intended to operate with good results. This effect is very closely related to the Preserve Details resampling option in the Image Size dialog box in Photoshop.
The controls for the effect are relatively simple:
- Fit to Comp Width: sets Scale percentage so that the layer’s width matches the composition’s width, with pixel aspect ratio taken into account
- Fit to Comp Height: sets Scale percentage so that the layer’s height matches the compositions’s height, pixel aspect ratio taken into account
- Scale: Note that the minimum value is 100%, since this is just for scaling up.
- Reduce Noise: Increase this value to apply noise reduction before the scaling calculations, so that noise is not mistakenly treated as detail to preserve.
- Detail: The higher this value, the greater the sharpness/contract of edges, at the risk of introducing ringing/halo artifacts. Lower values are more smooth and natural.
- Alpha: You can choose to process the alpha channel differently than the color channels, for performance reasons. The default is to use bicubic sampling.
This effect is slower than other scaling alternatives, such as using the layer’s native bilinear or bicubic scaling in the Transform property group.
bicubic sampling option in Transform effect
The Transform effect now has the ability to use bicubic sampling for all of its transformations.
Choose Bicubic from the new Sampling menu at the bottom of the Transform effect’s properties in the Effect Controls panel. Bilinear is still the default.
OptiX 3.0 library for GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer
After Effects CC (12.0) used the OptiX 2 library from Nvidia for the GPU acceleration of the ray-traced 3D renderer. After Effects CC (12.1) uses the new OptiX 3 library.
The new OptiX library has many advantages, with the most important being the following:
- fixes a crash on Mac OSX v10.9 (Mavericks)
- improved performance, including improvements with multiple GPUs
The new OptiX library requires CUDA 5.0 or higher.
OpenGL features enabled for all Intel GPUs
In previous versions of After Effects, the OpenGL features were enabled on Intel GPUs only if those GPUs were listed in a “whitelist” file (intel_ogl_supported_cards.txt). This was because early generations of Intel GPUs and their drivers had problems with OpenGL features, so we needed to test each individually and only allow specific known-good configurations to work. Recent Intel GPUs and drivers have been of high enough quality that we have removed this check, and there is no longer an intel_ogl_supported_cards.txt file.
For details of the OpenGL features relevant to this change, see this page: GPU (CUDA, OpenGL) features in After Effects
preference for bypassing whitelist for GPU acceleration of ray-traced 3D renderer
In After Effects CS6 (11.0) and CC (12.0), the GPU Information dialog box has a Ray-tracing menu from which the user can choose GPU or CPU. If the installed hardware is not on the list of tested and supported GPUs, the GPU menu item is disabled (grayed out) and below the menu is this text: “GPU not available – incompatible device or display driver”.
In After Effects CC (12.1), we have added a checkbox: “Enable untested, unsupported GPU for CUDA acceleration of ray-traced 3D renderer.”
Enabling this checkbox will do a couple of things:
- After Effects will use the GPU-accelerated ray-traced 3D renderer with any GPU that meets minimum requirements (which include 1GB of VRAM and CUDA 5.0).
- The text “GPU not available – incompatible device or display driver” will change to “Unsupported GPU enabled for CUDA acceleration” if the GPU meets the minimum requirements but is not on the whitelist. If the GPU doesn’t meet the minimum requirements, the text remains as the original.
- In the CUDA section at the bottom of the GPU Information dialog box, “(unsupported)” is added to the Devices entry if the installed hardware isn’t on the whitelist but is enabled.
When the user enables this preference, a dialog box appears that tells the user that using an untested and unsupported GPU is something that they do at their own risk and that technical support is only provided for supported configurations.
cards added to CUDA whitelist for Optix (for GPU acceleration of ray-traced 3D renderer)
- GTX TITAN (Windows)
- GTX 780 (Windows)
- GTX 770 (Windows)
- GTX 760 (Windows)
- GTX 680MX (Mac OS and Windows)
- GTX 680 (added for Mac OS; was already on Windows list)
- GTX 675MX (Mac OS and Windows)
- GT 650M (added for Windows; was already on Mac OS list)
- GTX 590 (Windows)
- Quadro K6000 (Windows)
- Quadro K4000 (Windows)
- Quadro K2000 (Windows)
- Quadro K5000M (Windows)
- Quadro K4000M (Windows)
- Quadro K3000M (Windows)
- Quadro K5100M (Windows)
- Quadro K4100M (Windows)
- Quadro K3100M (Windows)
- Quadro K2100M (Windows)
Let us know what other GPUs you want us to test and support with a feature request here.
You can select any property or set of properties and choose Edit > Copy With Property Links and then paste those properties on any layer in any composition. The result is that the pasted properties remain connected to the layer from which the properties were copied, such that any change made to the original property is reflected in all of the instances of the pasted property links.
One use case is to create one master effect controller and then paste property links to any number of controlled instances, so that changes can be made once and affect all controlled instances.
You can even copy an entire layer with property links and paste it to create duplicates that follow the changes made to the original.
The property links are established and maintained through expressions, but there is no need to write (or even see) the expressions that are created.
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.
layers created immediately above topmost selected layer
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.
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. This new behavior should make many workflows more convenient, preventing you from needing to scroll to the top of the layer stack and drag a new layer down to the needed place.
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.)
user-defined location for Auto-save
In the Auto-save category in the Preferences dialog box, you can choose to either save the auto-saved projects next to the original project (the behavior in previous versions when Auto-save is enabled) or in a custom location.
improvements to keyboard shortcuts for showing properties with keyframes, expressions
The U keyboard shortcut now only shows properties with keyframes, not properties that have expressions but no keyframes. If a property has both keyframes and expressions, the U keyboard shortcut shows the property but leaves the expression field collapsed so that the expression itself is not shown. There is a new command in the Animation menu for this behavior: Reveal Properties With Keyframes.
The old behavior, of showing properties with keyframes and properties with expressions, is still available in the Animation menu as Reveal Properties With Animation. You can reassign the U keyboard shortcut to that command if you’d like to go back to the way things were before.
The UU keyboard shortcut for showing all modified properties is unchanged.
The EE (and Shift+EE) shortcut for showing properties with expressions is essentially unchanged.
command for moving anchor point to center of content
You can set the anchor point to be in the center of the layer content using the new command Layer > Transform > Center Anchor Point In Layer Content.
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
- setting the anchor point of a layer to then center of the visible area within a masked region
mask path drawn using color that differs from region in which first click to draw mask is made
In the Appearance category of the Preferences dialog box, there is a new preference: Use Contrasting Color For Mask Path. This preference relies on the Cycle Mask Colors preference being enabled, since the new feature is still cycling through the same label colors. If the Use Contrasting Color For Mask Path preference is on, After Effects analyzes the colors near the point where you first click to draw a mask and chooses a label color that is as different from the colors in that region as possible, while also avoiding the color of the last mask drawn.
improved Cinema 4D integration, with updated Cineware functionality
This version of After Effects comes with a new version of the Cineware effect. All features from After Effects CC (12.0) should behave the same, and several bugs have been fixed. This version also adds some new functionality.
There are two new settings in the Cineware effect’s Options dialog box, with which you can specify which instance of Cinema 4D to use with After Effects:
- Cinema 4D Render Path: Choose which version of Cinema 4D (R14 or R15) for rendering while working in After Effects. For example, you can choose to use Cinema 4D Studio, Broadcast, Prime, or Visualize if you have it installed. The default is CineRender, which is installed by After Effects.
- Cinema 4D Executable Path: Choose which version of Cinema 4D to use when opening a .c4d file with Edit Original or when creating a new Cinema 4D file from After Effects. The default is an installed full-featured edition of Cinema 4D (Studio, Broadcast, Prime, or Visualize), or Cinema 4D Lite if no other edition of Cinema 4D has been installed.
You must restart After Effects after changing these settings for the new settings to be used, and you should purge all memory and disk cache data (Edit > Purge > All Memory & Disk Cache) after changing the Cinema 4D rendering application. In some cases, you may need to reset your After Effects preferences after switching from one Cinema 4D rendering application to another Cinema 4D rendering application.
When you choose to use an edition of Cinema 4D other than Cinema 4D Lite, you can use new rendering capabilities within Cineware beyond the default renderer, including the Physical renderer and Sketch & Toon. You choose which renderer to use in Cinema 4D and save the .c4d file with those settings. Whichever renderer is specified in Cinema 4D is the one that will be used by the Cineware effect when the Renderer setting in the effect is Standard (Final). Most effects, including third-party plug-ins, should work within the Cineware effect when you choose to use Cinema 4D R15 (not R14 or the default CineRender) as the renderer for Cineware.
The versions of Cinema 4D that are compatible with this version of the Cineware effect are as follows:
- R14.042 or above (Use the Cinema 4D online updater to install the current version.)
- R15.037 or above
HiDPI content viewers for Retina displays on Mac computers
After Effects will now take advantage of a Retina display on a Mac computer to show each pixel of content in a viewer as a single pixel on the display. This affects the contents of the Footage panel, Layer panel, and Composition panel, including both your video content and some UI overlays and widgets within the content area.
Note that for a given piece of content to appear the same on a Retina/HiDPI display as on a non-HiDPI display, the zoom value for the former needs to be twice that of the latter, since the points are half the size. If you drag a panel from a Retina/HiDPI display to a non-HiDPI display, you’ll see the zoom value change, while the content occupies the same space on the screen.
This does not affects pointers, buttons, other panels, and various other aspects of the After Effects user interface. These are targeted at a later release, since HiDPI content viewers were deemed to be a higher priority.
snapping beyond layer edges, to align layers in 2D and 3D space along lines defined by layer features
There are two new options next to the Snapping checkbox in the Tools panel:
- Snap Along Edges Extending Beyond Layer Boundaries: Enables snapping to lines outside of a layer’s boundaries (e.g., to the line defined by the extension of a layer’s edge in 3D space). This makes aligning layers in 3D space much easier.
- Snap To Features Inside Collapsed Compositions And Text Layers: Turns on internal wireframes for layers inside of compositions with collapsed transformations and for individual characters in per-character 3D text layers. This can be useful, for example, for snapping a layer’s anchor point to the baseline of a specific text character.
rectified audio waveforms
By default, audio waveforms are shown as “rectified” audio waveforms, as in recent versions of Premiere Pro. This means that the magnitude of the audio is shown only in one direction from the horizontal axis, and the magnitude is shown on a logarithmic scale that makes it easier to see how loud a sound will be perceived to be. You can switch back to the old method of showing audio waveforms by deselecting Rectified Audio Waveforms in the panel menu of the Timeline panel.
added iris and highlight properties for camera layers to the expression language menu
new (additional) folder from which scripts are loaded, so that users without administrator privileges can install scripts
There is a new (additional) folder from which After Effects will load scripts, and it’s in the same location as preferences files:
- Windows: Users[user_name]AppDataRoamingAdobeAfter Effects12.1Scripts
- Mac OS: /Users/[user_name]/Library/Preferences/Adobe/After Effects/12.1/Scripts
These are in a folder that regular users have permissions to alter, so there is no longer a need for administrator permissions to install scripts.
automatically opening and closing folders in Project panel when dragging
If you pause with the pointer over a folder during a drag operation in the Project panel, the folder will open so that you can drop the items into a folder deeper within a hierarchy of folders.
default number of Undo operations available increased from 32 to 99, and preference removed from user interface
We have increased the default number of Undo operations available to 99 and removed the preference from the Preferences dialog box. The lower setting was needed in the past when computers typically had far less RAM.
commands for turning logging on and off and for revealing log files
To enable logging by the After Effects application, so that it records details of the session to a set of text files, choose Help > Enable Logging.
You’ll need to restart the application for logging to begin.
Logging has some negative effects on performance, so After Effects will disable logging after 24 hours if logging was enabled through this menu command.
To see the log files, choose Help > Reveal Logging File.
new Enable QuickTime Video Preview preference in Video Preview preferences category on Mac OS
We have isolated the recent problems with QuickTime files to a conflict with a QuickTime component distributed with the Apple video applications (Final Cut Pro, Motion, Compressor). Specifically, the problematic component is the Apple DVCPROHDVideoOutput QuickTime component, which is used for previews to an external video monitor. This problem with this QuickTime component makes the QT32 Server component crash when After Effects probes the computer system for QuickTime video preview devices. The QT32 Server component is needed for all QuickTime features in After Effects, so having it crash causes failures in QuickTime features in After Effects.
To prevent this crash of QT32 Server, we have disabled the automatic probing of the system for QuickTime video preview devices. To re-enable this feature, you can turn on the Enable QuickTime Video Preview preference in the Video Preview preferences category. Turning this preference on will allow After Effects to use QuickTime video previews to external devices, but it may also cause the crash in QT32 Server This preference is a temporary measure, meant to protect users from the failures in importing and exporting QuickTime movies while we work on replacing the QuickTime video preview system with a system based on Mercury Transmit that doesn’t have these problems. We are working toward having a better system in place in the near future.
better error message for duplicate plug-ins
In previous versions of After Effects, if there were duplicate plug-ins (with the same match names) installed, After Effects would show multiple error messages – one for each duplicate – but it didn’t identify where the duplicates were located on disk.
In After Effects CC (12.1), there is one consolidated error message for all duplicate plug-ins, and it shows the file path for each duplicate.
better expression error messages
The error messages that appear when an expression is disabled because an item (e.g., layer, composition, effect) is missing are now consolidated and more user-friendly.
removal of extraneous warnings regarding missing custom effects
If you used an animation preset based on a custom effect (such as those defined in PresetEffects.xml), you could get a warning that an effect was missing, even though nothing needed for the animation preset was missing.
This has been fixed, but it requires a specific action on the part of the person creating the animation preset: The matchname must be 31 characters or less and begin with the string “Pseudo/” or with another string that has been defined by After Effects. (At this time, other matchname strings are “Prolost_Burns”, “Prolost_Boardo”, “Prolost_Fader”, “Prolost_Oscillate”, “Vignette_Controls”, “Beautify”, “Typist”, “Wiggly”, “Mikey’s_Split”, “Mikey’s_Distress”, “Mikey’s_Flare”, “Mikey’s_Control”, “Mikey’s_Burn”.)
Be sure to increment your matchname any time that you make a change, or else you won’t be able to use both versions within one project.
Adobe Anywhere integration
After Effects CC (12.1) includes the first phase of After Effects integration with Adobe Anywhere.
miscellaneous new and changed features
- The preference Write XMP IDs To Files On Import (in the Media & Disk Cache preferences category) is now disabled by default.
- The Color Key effect and Luma Key effect are now in the Obsolete category. (In most cases, you should be using superior effects such as Keylight and the Extract effect.)
- The Create Shapes From Vector Layer command works on multiple selected layers.
- The Cycle Mask Colors preference is enabled by default.
- The Viewer Quality preferences are set to More Accurate Except RAM Preview by default, rather than Faster (which wasn’t all that much faster and looked bad).
- The kerning option in the Character panel persists so that you no longer need to set the kerning option in the Character panel to Optical every time you want to use this option.
- In previous versions of After Effects, if you made a change to the composition while the composition view was not centered (e.g., because you used the Hand tool to look at another part of the composition), the composition view would become centered after the change. This forced you to drag again with the Hand tool to get back to the part of the composition that you were looking at. This is fixed. Of course, if the change made to the composition affects the size or aspect ratio of the composition, it will still be re-centered.
- Freezing the segmentation for the Roto Brush & Refine Matte effect operates on all spans withing the entire composition duration, instead of only within the work area.
- Wireframes for cameras and lights are shown by default, even when these layers not selected.
- After Effects now gives a better message and an alert sound when you try to open a layer in the Layer panel that can’t be opened there (e.g., precomposition layer with collapsed transformations, continuously rasterized layer, shape layer).
- Indexed-color PNG files and grayscale PNG files with transparency can be imported.
- Photoshop Large Document (.psb) files can be imported.
- CMYK JPEG files can be imported.
- Dashes and gaps are now explicitly numbered (Dash 2, Gap 2, …) when adding multiple dashes and gaps to a shape layer stroke. (This makes referring to them with expressions easier.)
- The Brightness & Contrast effect has been improved and now matches the filter in Photoshop. You can still choose to use the legacy algorithm, which allows HDR results.
- You can now open a dialog box for editing values for 3D Point Control effect (by context-clicking and choosing Edit Value).
- There are significant performance improvements in propagation for Roto Brush and Refine Matte effects.
- The layer index number is now shown in the menu for choosing a target for motion tracking data (opened with Edit Target button in the Tracker panel).
- The correct name of the 3D renderer is shown for third-party renderers (e.g., AtomKraft).
- Added Center property for shape layer Twist path operation.
- There is now an improved error message telling people to update their CUDA drivers.
- When converting a layer based on an Illustrator file to a shape layer, the Video (eyeball) switch of the original layer is turned off only if the conversion is successful.
- Improvements to Shift-parenting behavior when the target layer already has a parent layer.
- Improved performance with imported DPX image sequence read over network.
- Ability to use the RED Rocket-X and EPIC Dragon footage.
a few choice bug fixes
We fixed a lot of bugs in this update. Here are a few that I think are especially worth calling out:
- Between clicking a menu to open it and the menu actually opening, several seconds could elapse on some computers. The same problem occurred for keyboard shortcuts. This is fixed.
- Crashes using Timecode effect, Basic Text effect, and Numbers effect. These are fixed.
- Crash with message “After Effects error: CT bad param: TrueType or CFF font expected (83 :: 2)”. This is fixed.
- Custom output modules were ignored by aerender and lost when the full After Effects application was started. This is fixed.
- Crash because of missing interface font, with message saying unable to load or unable to create font (Verdana or Arial). This is fixed.
- Exported DPX files had wrong results when negative color values present in composition. This is fixed.
- Performance with DPX files being read across a network was poor. This is fixed.
- CC Force Motion Blur and CC Wide Time caused very long delays, making the application appear to hang. These are fixed.
- Crash using Timewarp effect on Mac OSX v10.9 (Mavericks). This is fixed.
- Error “Unable to invert matrix (17::45)” when using the snapping features. This is fixed.
- scripting: The
onClosecallback wasn’t called when closing an embedded panel using the close (x) button on the panel’s tab. It works now.
- scripting: Scrollbars in ScriptUI panels were drawn in the wrong place under some circumstances. This is fixed.
- Many other causes of crashes and other errors and misbehaviors were fixed.