After Effects CS5.5 review

Adobe has changed its upgrade cycle: now the milestone releases are every two years with mid-cycle updates designed to respond to the rapidly changing nature of digital media. Hence the recently improved 3D workflow in After Effects: creating 3D movies has always been possible but with the Create Stereo 3D Rig the process is automated, furnishing you with extra controls.

The flagship feature of this update, though, has to be the Warp Stabilizer that’s designed to stabilise shaky footage. It’s remarkably effective. Import the wobbly footage and apply the filter, which works in two passes in the background to analyse and then apply the correction. There’s a lot of calculation going on and a RAM preview is still required, so a hefty Mac is needed for speed. The effect’s controls define how it deals with a clip’s edges using a technology similar to Context Aware deletion on Photoshop. It can even compensate for rolling shutter artefacts. It may have been more useful to implement this effect in Premiere Pro 5.5, but a dynamic link can be created.

Another new feature is the Camera Lens Blur where, rather than simply blurring the clip, the effect aims to mimic the artefacts created by the lens elements in the brighter areas when applied to a video clip. Mattes can be used to control where the effect operates. These new settings can also be controlled in the After Effects camera for enhanced Depth of Field effects.

At last, After Effects 3D lights now behave as lights do in reality, in that they fall off over distance; this can either be a specific linear amount or the more natural inverse square. As well as efficiency tweaks under the hood, and improved importing of RED media Adobe has added improved timecode support.

Warp Stabilizer applies the correction in the background

OUR VERDICT

With the increasing use of DSLRs to capture video footage, the Warp Stabilizer could be a compelling reason to update, and the 3D improvements will speed up your workflow. However, if these are not major concerns for you it might be best to wait until the next main update.

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