Adobe After Effects is the premier, professional, industry standard for visual effects software. Used by countless professional editors, artists and composers to bring great VFX to the screen.
It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best VFX tools on the market: After Effects is a versatile, intuitive powerhouse for special effects.
when we are last rated Adobe’s video effects tool, the focus for improvement was on performance and time-saving features – something it delivered with confidence.
A lot of new tools have been added over the past two years, and over the course of this review, we’ll take a look at some of the tools that impressed us the most.
Mac users will be happy to discover that, as will Adobe’s Premiere ProAfter Effects 2022 (version 22.3) provides native support for Apple’s new M1 processor family.
It is extremely reassuring for those who prefer the Mac platform, which migrates their favorite software to the new architecture. Thanks to this support, users will experience shorter boot times, improved UI response, and faster rendering.
Perhaps one of the biggest improvements to After Effects (and Premiere Pro), is the inclusion of Frame.io. You must be logged in to your Creative cloud account to take advantage of these features, and Frame.io includes 100GB of storage in addition to your usual Creative Cloud credit.
You can share up to 5 projects with 2 users and an unlimited number of reviewers. It can be accessed through a web browser or directly in After Effects.
There is an upgraded version of this service (which you can try for free for 30 days), called the Frame.io Team Plan, which includes additional storage space and the ability to share an unlimited number of projects with up to 15 users.
As you can see from the offerings, this service allows you to share projects and get real-time timecode-accurate feedback about the work in progress. This is an ideal and extremely useful tool for discussing work with colleagues and clients, and for checking exactly what and where changes need to be made in a collaborative project.
Media replacement is another impressive new feature. The way it works is very simple: use After Effects to create a template, just like you normally would. Once you’re done, drag various elements into the Essential Graphics panel, select their editable properties, export it, and you’re pretty much done.
Keep in mind, though, that not all of an item’s properties can be manipulated and changed from within Premiere Pro, but the list is large enough to cover most, if not all, needs.
Objects such as text, images and video clips can be made interchangeable, making your templates very useful and versatile tools, with as many editing options as needed. Creating different versions (depending on your needs) is also possible, further expanding your options.
This is a great way to let a designer create a template while giving a Premiere Pro editor the flexibility they need to make changes without contacting the designer for any changes needed. It’s the kind of emphasis on efficient workflows that will undoubtedly increase productivity after production.
Working in 3D
To create 3D designs can be tricky, especially if it’s all done through a 2D interface, so Adobe’s designers have worked to make this process easier.
One of the recent improvements is the addition of an optional 3D Ground Plane. When activated, you get a horizontal plane that disappears to infinity that can be used as a reference frame when creating your scene.
This is something that can be quickly turned on or off so that it is never in the way and is only there when you need it. The more complex a creation, the easier it is to get lost in it, so this is a very welcome addition to help you find your way around.
Another great new feature is Draft Preview. Before that, you had access to a ‘quick draft’ by scrolling through a number of menus. Now it’s a button in the toolbar. Switching is very useful if you have an older computer or if your project is getting very complex.
Depending on the ability of your video editing computer, and the complexity of your work, when activated, is likely to decrease in quality. But you can manipulate objects faster and easier, saving you a lot of time, and going back to full quality is just a click away.
Under the hood improvements
But it’s not all great tent pole features. After Effects has seen many subtle changes designed to improve your workflow.
For example, a lot of work has been done to optimize the software for visual effects. After Effects now uses multiple cores in your computer or laptop for video editing when previewing and rendering, taking control at the expense of other processes and other running software.
This functionality may not be enabled by default, but you can find it in the After Effects preferences. You’ll also find that you can choose how much of your computer’s CPUs are reserved for other apps (the default is 10%).
Working with the HEVC video format also uses new hardware-accelerated decoding to improve playback and editing, especially with 10-bit files, whether you’re on a Mac or PC.
One of the great benefits of the Adobe suite is the cross-fertilization of features from one app to another, and this is perfectly showcased with their new Universal Text Engine.
We raved about this feature in our Premiere Pro review. It allows you to work with multiple languages much more easily, without having to constantly travel to the preferences to switch from one to the other.
There is support for multiple languages, the latest addition being Cantonese, with left-to-right and right-to-left settings accessible directly from the Essential Graphics panel. You can even apply different scripts within the same graphical element. How’s that for flexibility?
All this is really just the surface of what’s improved since we last looked at Adobe After Effects.
AE version 22.3 is very impressive. It builds on a strong foundation and offers a wealth of new features designed to make VFX faster and easier. It’s no wonder After Effects is considered the best video composer.
And Adobe is far from resting on their laurels, regularly offering new features, which indeed makes their subscription model attractive if you’re a professional designer and editor.