top After Effects feature requests for the past year or so
We really appreciate it when you submit bug reports and feature requests. Thanks to all of you who have ever done so.
Here’s a quick summary of the most common feature requests that we’ve gotten over the past year or so, with some commentary on each. These aren’t necessarily listed in order of the number of requests; I listed them in order of how interesting they are and how much I wanted to talk about them.
If you have any questions about these or want to give feedback, the best thing to do is to talk with Steve Forde, the After Effects product manager. You can most easily contact him through his blog or Twitter account. For ways to communicate with the After Effects team, see this page.
- import of AAF files: We had to remove the AAF importer from After Effects CS5, and quite a few people let us know that they wanted this functionality back. Now that Automatic Duck Pro Import AE is free, you can use it to import AAF files into After Effects.
- keyboard shortcut editor: Currently, the most direct way to edit the keyboard shortcuts is to edit a text file. (Yuck!) The most convenient way is to get the KeyEd Up script from the Adobe website and use its relatively convenient interface. See this section of After Effects Help for a link to that script.
- Vector Paint effect: When we ported After Effects to be a 64-bit application, we had to rewrite large parts of just about every feature in the application. This meant that we had to look at each feature and consider whether it was worth the effort of bringing it forward into the next version. Of the relatively small number of features that got left behind, the UI for the Vector Paint effect has been the one that the most people have told us that we should have kept.
See this article for some more context.
So, here’s our question to you: Which parts of the Vector Paint effect do you miss? Is it just the ability to paint in the Composition panel? The ability to wiggle the stroke/path? If you’re going to submit a feature request asking for the functionality of the Vector Paint effect to be brought back, please let us know exactly which pieces are important to you. There are many, many parts of this effect that are redundant with the existing paint tools, shape layers, and other features, and we think that we may be able to satisfy this request by just adding back in the specific features that are still missing, without resurrecting the entire Vector Paint effect–which would be a huge amount of work and would displace much other feature work.
- grouping layers in the Timeline panel: I consider this feature request to be a sign of success.
A year ago, we were getting requests for grouping layers in the Timeline panel, but it wasn’t at all clear how people really wanted this to work: We didn’t know whether people wanted a) just the ability to collapse/hide/shy contiguous layers, or b) the ability to precompose layers but still be able to expand the precomposition within the containing composition. The former can be thought of as “layer folders”, and the latter we call “über-twirl” in our internal conversations.
Now, after trying to communicate this difference on various forums, and asking people to give feedback, it seems pretty clear that most people would be happy with just the relatively simple layer folders feature. See this post by Paul Conigliarno (and the comments) for a sketch of how such a feature might work. So, thanks to everyone for being patient with us and participating in this conversation so that we could better determine what you actually want.
In the meantime, consider that there are a couple of features built into After Effects and at least one inexpensive script that can be used for grouping, showing, and hiding sets of layers; see this article for more information.
By the way, the main reason that we added the features to more easily open and navigate compositions within a hierarchy of nested compositions was to mitigate the need for something like über-twirl.
- variable-width mask feather: We definitely hear you on this one. You can use variable-width feathering for masks brought in through mocha shape, and you can also use the reasonably priced PV Feather plug-in… but those methods aren’t as convenient as just having variable-width mask feathering built in. Feel free to submit more feature requests to let us know how much you want this. But we already know that it’s important.
- saving projects backward so that they can be opened by a previous version of After Effects: I’ve got to assume that people who are still requesting this didn’t notice that we added this feature in After Effects CS5.5. Or perhaps people want to be able to save further back than the current version allows. If you’re requesting this feature, be sure to let us know how far back (to which version) you need the feature to be able to save projects. Note that the further back we go, the more development and testing work it requires–which subtracts development and testing resources available for other features and fixes.
- scopes (waveform and vector): Many of the people who submitted this request mentioned that they are aware of the scopes in Color Finesse, which is included with After Effects, but they wanted the scopes to be built in–more like they are in Premiere Pro.
- better handling of image sequences: I collapsed three feature requests here, all of which get quite a few requests.
- ability to see each image sequence as a separate item, not as a gazillion files
- report showing exactly which frames are missing from an image sequence
- auto-creation of a folder to hold each exported image sequence
Yes, there’s some work that we need to do to make handling of image sequences more convenient. There are a lot of good reasons to use image sequences, but these inconveniences are getting in the way.
In the meantime, the Immigration script from Lloyd Alvarez takes a lot of this pain away.
- extrusion of vector graphics: It’s encouraging how many people don’t just write in feature requests like “Make After Effects a full 3D application!” but instead write in very specific and focused requests like “Give me the ability to extrude text and logos in 3D.”
To see proof that we are certainly thinking along these lines, see this article, which refers to some demonstrations of research that we’re doing into ray-traced 3D renderers and motion graphics.
In the meantime, see this article for various plug-ins, scripts, and workarounds to use extruded 3D items in After Effects now.
- GPU/CUDA acceleration: Premiere Pro has done a terrific job of using CUDA processing to speed up a lot of things. Clearly, people want After Effects to do the same.
- scaling: better algorithms and ability to choose: This is in a way related to the CUDA item above, in that the way that Premiere Pro was able to accomplish much higher-quality scaling was by performing scaling on the GPU using CUDA. See this article for how Premiere Pro is handling scaling. If you have Premiere Pro, you can use it to take advantage of its superior scaling algorithms. Or you could use a third-party plug-in like Instant HD, UpRez, or Resizer.
- nodal compositing: This one is tricky because most folks don’t say what aspects of nodal compositing they are referring to. The few folks who do make some good points, though–largely to do with the relative difficulty of reusing the same item (like a matte) for multiple layers or multiple purposes. We do want to get to the bottom of what people want here–so, please, if you are going to request nodal compositing in After Effects, give a specific example of what you’re trying to accomplish.
- custom zoom values: I’m hoping that we can treat this as a JDI (“just do it”) feature rather soon. Personally, I’m annoyed at having to choose between 100% and 200% for my zoom value, when 150% would do much better.
- import of 3D objects: After Effects can’t import 3D objects (such as .obj files), though there are some ways to do so indirectly, such as through 3D object layers from Photoshop or with certain third-party effects. When asking for the feature to import 3D models, please give details of what you want to be able to do with these 3D models in After Effects. Do you just want to be able to relight them? Scale and rotate them? Edit them?
Of course, After Effects can already import image files from 3D applications, as well as camera data, depth data, and more.
- After Effects for Linux: A lot of us on the After Effects team wish that this were more feasible, but the truth is that it just isn’t realistic in the foreseeable future. Porting an application to another operating system, and then testing, maintaining, and supporting it on that OS is a tremendous amount of work. We just haven’t been able to make a business case for being able to fund that tremendous amount of work given the size of the likely return on that investment. We are still looking into this, but we want to be honest and let you know that it isn’t likely to happen soon.
- bones and inverse kinematics within Puppet effect: This tutorial series from Daniel Gies does a great job of showing where we could make character animation a lot more convenient with bones and inverse kinematics. In the meantime, be sure to check out the resources that already exist–such as the Duik inverse kinematics script–to achieve these results.