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April 11, 2011 /Region of Interest /

After Effects CS5.5: What’s new and changed

(See this page for what’s new and changed in After Effects CS6.)

Chris and Trish Meyer provide a detailed set of movies on Adobe TV that cover what’s new and changed in After Effects CS5.5.

Video2Brain provides a comprehensive set of movies that covers every new and changed feature in After Effects CS5.5.

Mark Christiansen reviews After Effects CS5.5 on the ProVideo Coalition website.

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.

top new features in After Effects CS5.5, with links to more information

other new and changed features in After Effects CS5.5, with links to more information

Here is a virtually comprehensive list of changes beyond the top ten listed above.

projects and compositions

  • Settings for time display style have been changed in several ways. Whether timecode is shown as dropframe or non-dropframe is no longer a project setting. Each composition can be set to use either dropframe or non-dropframe timecode, in the Composition Settings dialog box.
  • The upper-left corner of the Timeline panel now shows a dual-time display (top line being the current time display such as timecode, and the bottom smaller line showing the alternate display such as frames). The bottom line also shows the current composition frame rate.
  • Added Pre-compose menu command to a layer’s context menu.
  • After Effects CS5.5 can open and import projects created in After Effects 6.5 and later.

importing and managing footage items

  • The Indeterminate Media NTSC preference specifies how imported items are interpreted if it is not clear from the contents of the file whether they use dropframe or non-dropframe timecode.
  • Added columns in the Project panel for showing In point, Out point, and duration for trimmed footage items in the Project panel. This is in addition to columns added for media start, media end, media duration, and tape name, which were added as part of the expansion of support for source timecode.
  • To sort columns in the Project panel in ascending or descending order, click the column heading.
  • Moved the Interpretation Rules.txt file to the After Effects preferences folder. The file is created when the application starts.
  • The trial version of After Effects CS5.5 includes all codecs included with the full version, so users of the trial version will be able to import any file that can be imported using in the full version.

layers, properties, cameras, and lights

  • Drag with the Selection tool in the Composition panel to select multiple layers. (See this video for a demonstration of this feature.)
  • Removed discrepancies in behaviors of Track Z Camera tool and Track XY Camera tool depending on whether they were activated directly from the Tools panel or by using the mouse buttons with the Unified Camera tool. In After Effects CS5, the behaviors differed with regard to the point of itnerest and zoom.
  • Command-drag (Mac OS) or Ctrl-drag (Windows) an anchor point with the Pan Behind tool to snap the anchor point to the edge of a layer, to the center of a layer, or to a line extending from the edge of a layer. (See this video for a demonstration of this feature.)
  • new camera commands for automating common tasks: Create Orbit Null, Link Focus Distance To Point Of Interest, Link Focus Distance To Layer, Set Focus Distance To Layer

views and previews

  • Making changes in a dialog box with a Preview checkbox now updates the active panel, including Layer and Footage panels if appropriate (e.g., if editing settings in the Interpret Footage dialog box).

animation, keyframes, and expressions

  • The Warp Stabilizer effect replaced the point tracker (used for stabilization in After Effects CS5 and earlier) in most contexts, including when choosing Stabilize Motion in the Tracker panel. The point tracker is still available, though, by choosing Stabilize in the Track Type menu in the Tracker panel.
  • You can now use expressions to link together properties that aren’t represented with simple numbers or strings (sometimes referred to as “arbitrary data” or “custom data” properties). An example of such a property is the Curves property of the Curves effect. (See this video for a demonstration of this feature.)
  • Added 3D Point Control effect in Expression Controls category.
  • Added Layer Sub-objects method sourceTime(t = time), which returns the source time corresponding to time t.
  • Added ntscDropFrame method to Comp and Footage objects to return true if the item uses NTSC dropframe format for timecode.
  • Added optional ntscDropFrame argument to the timeToCurrentFormat method. Default: ntscDropFrame = thisComp.ntscDropFrame

effects and animation presets

  • In addition to improvements made for reading timecode from a layer’s source, the Timecode effect has been given better controls for color, opacity, and blending with the original layer.
  • Added Display Comp Time animation preset in Animation Presets > Text > Expressions category.
  • Bilateral Blur effect changes in default values: Radius, 25.0; Threshold, 3.0; and Colorize, On.
  • (Mac OS only) Levels effect keyboard shortcuts added: Ctrl+0 (RGB), Ctrl+1 (R), Ctrl+2 (G), Ctrl+3 (B), and Ctrl+4 (A) shortcuts.
  • With the Effect Controls panel active, any shortcuts for an effect will be sent to the selected effects, or the first effect if none are selected.
  • Reshape effect: Changed default Interpolation Method from Linear to Discrete.

memory, storage, and performance

  • The caching system is now much smarter about determining what frames to add to the disk cache, and the default size of the disk cache is much larger (20GB).
  • RAM and disk cache indicators (green and blue bars) can now be shown for individual layers, as well as for an entire composition. These layer cache indicators are off by default.
  • The default Memory & Multiprocessing preference settings are now much more likely to provide good performance for common scenarios than were the defaults for After Effects CS5. We used feedback from users regarding these suggested settings to help us to determine the best settings.

plug-ins and scripts

  • Keylight, Color Finesse, and mocha-AE (mocha for After Effects) have been updated for After Effects CS5.5.
  • Keylight is available with the trial version of After Effects CS5.5.
  • Color Finesse no longer requires a separate serial number, but you should enter a name and organization in the registration dialog box, or else the plug-in will run in trial mode.
  • There are quite a few scripting changes. See this page for details.

rendering and exporting

keyboard shortcuts and miscellaneous user interface

  • The Use System Shortcut Keys preference is now on by default. Hovering the mouse pointer over the checkbox for this preference shows the system and After Effects shortcuts affected.
  • The search fields in the Project, Timeline, and Effects & Presets panels remember previously entered search terms.You can save terms that you use often, using a menu that opens when you click the search icon in the field. The search fields also now accepts a comma (,) as a logical “or” operator. (See this video for details.)
  • It’s now easier to set up multiple Composition viewers in an edit-this-look-at-that (ETLAT) configuration. If you are viewing a composition in a hieararchy, lock the current Composition viewer, and then select another composition button upstream or downstream from it in either the Composition Navigator or Composition Mini-Flowchart. (See this video for details.)
  • The Welcome And Tip Of The Day dialog box no longer opens if you start After Effects by double-clicking a project, opening a project from Bridge, or using Edit Original in Premiere Pro.
  • (Windows only) Progress dialog box no longer moves the application to the front. This allows you to work in another application during scripted operations.
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