Adobe is developing a version of After Effects that is capable of grid computing – sharing tasks across groups of computers for better performance in operations.

The company plans to bundle a plug-in from start-up company GridIron Software with the next version of After Effects Professional, which is used to add special effects to video and other motion-graphics. This will make it easy for users to run a single computing job on two or more computers linked over a network, reducing the time it takes to preview and render effects, said Gord Watts, GridIron's vice president of marketing.

If Adobe's efforts are successful, others selling desktop software for compute-intensive tasks such as video editing are likely to offer similar capabilities with their products, said Ahmar Abbas, an analyst with market research company Grid Technology Partners.

GridIron's software takes care of the configuration and management tasks required to run a computing job across a group of computers – work that would be too complex for most end-users to handle themselves, Abbas said. That ability, combined with today's network speeds, could help to make grid computing accessible to everyday desktop users, he said.

Development of the Adobe-GridIron software is still in progress, and Adobe was reluctant to say for certain that a grid-enabled version of its software is forthcoming. However, prototypes and test results look promising and it is Adobe's intention to bundle GridIron's plug-in with the next version of After Effects Professional, said Steve Kilisky, Adobe's group product manager for digital video.

Adobe has made changes to the API (application programming interface) of its application to allow it to implement GridIron's plug-in, although it has yet to see the products operating together fully, he said. GridIron has demonstrated its software speeding the rendering functions of After Effects Professional, but not its preview capabilities, according to Watts.

"The potential of using the grid to do rendering as a background process is very compelling. It would allow our users to take jobs they are having to allocate hours to – even overnight – and, by putting more computers to work through the grid, get the work done a lot faster," Kilisky said.


Adobe has signed a licensing agreement with GridIron to use its software pending the successful outcome of the development work, Watts said.

The performance improvement for users with desktops linked over a Gigabit Ethernet LAN will be almost linear, according to Watts, meaning two computers will run the application twice as fast, three computers will run it three times as fast, and so on. The performance gains will taper off more quickly over slower networks, he said.

GridIron's software will likely be bundled for no additional charge with After Effects Professional, Adobe's Kilisky said.

On a single licence, users will be allowed to run the application and plug-in on two processors besides their main workstation – which could be two single-chip computers or a dual-processor machine, he said. Running the software on additional machines will cost extra, he said. The company's site confirms the plug-in supports Mac OS X.

Gridiron's plug-in, called XLR8, uses peer-to-peer technology to find other PCs on a user's LAN that have its software installed, then automatically divides up computing jobs and distributes the work to the other computers. No configuration or ongoing management is required by the user, according to GridIron.

Kilisky wouldn't disclose the release date or pricing for the next version of After Effects Professional, citing Adobe's policy of not preannouncing products.

GridIron's software will be coming to other desktop applications shortly, according to Watts. The company has been able to encode MPEG-4 video using its software, which means XLR8 could potentially find its way into products such as Apple's iMovie, he said, although he declined to comment on any specific upcoming partnerships.

"This is the first of a number of significant customer announcements we'll make over next 60 to 90 days," he said.