Adobe has announced Adobe After Effects 6.0, the newest verison of its motion graphics and visual effects package.

After Effects 6.0 will be available for OS X, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. The new version introduces a number of enhancements for film, video, DVD and Web content creators, including: new support for OpenGL, Render Automation, much-improved text tools and a new integrated vector paint engine.

The company has also reduced the price of the product in order to "make it accessible to a wider market," said Adobe After Effects group product manager Stephen Kilisky. It is a substantial drop in price, from £1,335 to £865 for the Professional Edition. The Standard Edition costs £535 (prices exclude VAT). "We expect a large number of users to upgrade," said Kilisky. Standard upgrade is £199; Production Bundle upgrade, £235-£399.

Echoing the company's businesslike decision to A cease development of Premiere for Mac, Adobe has also dropped Mac OS 9 support in this version of After Effects.

Integration The company maintains its focus on integration, this version offers better integration with Photoshop and Illustrator. Adobe has also revised After Effect's user interface.

User interface enhancements include: The capacity to use the hand tool to pan beyond the visible pasteboard; the power to apply effects and masks directly to some Illustrator files.

Another highlight in a series of improvements is that "solids" now appear in the Project window with other footage items, so they can be shared across compositions, or be used as place-holders and used to replace other footage.

Text handling has been improved. After Effects 6.0 lets users type directly into the Composition window using the improved text tool. Creative users can mix and match fonts, and even animate separate characters individually. It supports kerning, tracking, baseline shift and other common text tool features.

Typed text can then be animated in real time. The company has added new Warp and Liquify tools to the text feature (similar to those in Photoshop and Illustrator). Other new text effects include one for producing animated scribbles. Users can animate characters, words or lines within a text layer, animate properties that move smoothly across a range of text, and can also animate the entire text layer. There is no limit to the number of differing text selections or animated properties that can be contained in each text layer.

Text also remains fully editable and formatting is preserved when importing layered Photoshop files into After Effects, and layers can be preserved when users import multiple Photoshop files as a sequences.

Vector paint engine The new integrated vector paint engine brings Photoshop-style brushes and cloning to the application for frame-by-frame touch-up and creative painting. Users can paint directly on any layer. The brush-based tools can be used to clean-up footage and or to create hand-drawn animations. Cloning tools let users clone an area of one frame onto another, useful to remove unwanted elements in a frame.

The application lets users specify to which media they want to output content - film, video, DVD or the Web (QuickTime is supported by the Mac version, Real by the Windows versions of After Effects).

The improved OpenGL support (most noticeable in the Windows version) means that on-screen rendering for both 2D and 3D composites will now be up to 35 times faster, the company claims. The application also offers better multiprocessor support.

The Professional edition of the product supports Render Animation for using scripts to handle output tasks. It also offers a new Motion Tracker, which the company claims "raises the bar for tracking speed and accuracy".

Additional features include a new Auto-trace feature that converts alpha channel information into vector-based masks. After Effects will also print directly from the Timeline, project, Flow Chart and Render Queue windows.

The product is expected to ship in the third quarter of 2003. Adobe recommends users employ a multi-processor Mac, OS X 10.2.4, at least 128MB RAM and a 24-bit colour display adaptor.