So Adobe just announced the CS6 Production Premium suite bringing some major changes to After Effects, Premiere, and other products. Here are some of the key new features in the new After Effects CS6.
Full Ray-Traced Extrusion
After Effects now has the feature to fully extrude text and shape layers through it’s new ray-traced 3D renderer! With this feature Adobe also added Environment layers, the ability to use a layer and wrap it around in a 3D virtual world possibly for reflections, etc. This really does bring more power and possibilities to After Effects’ take on 3D, it’s no longer a 2.5D engine. Interestingly enough, you have the option to switch between the normal 2.5D renderer or the new ray-traced 3D renderer, your call.
Of course with this new 3D capability, material options are crucial and Adobe has added some material options for these 3D extruded objects. Currently, the whole system isn’t too deadly complex, you have basic beveling options (straight chisel or scooped), basic material settings, and basic reflection settings. One cool feature is the handling of Transparency, where we now have control over the Index of Refraction to adjust reflections for realism.
John Dickinson over at Motionworks did an amazing job at explaining the 3D material setup and really showed what’s possible now with After Effects CS6.
Also check his “New 3D Features AE CS6” video, where he shows some more awesome 3D possibilities with the new After Effects. In this video, John explores some of the new 3D ray-trace rendering features that will help you get started (or hooked) in CS6. He will also discuss other parameters included such as bevels. Just check out that amazing 3D text created 100% in After Effects! The project files will be released by Adobe in a couple of weeks.
Eran Stern also covered some features in CS6, including the new CC Environment and Environment Layer features, shapes from vectors, and the new mask feather tool. You can watch all three tutorials here.
Mask Feather Tool
Before, we had very basic controls over mask feathering, everything was very linear and uniformed. We now have the ability to change the size of the feather around certain parts of the mask, add feather points, tension of feathering, additional options for radius, and other great stuff. Mask feathering is no longer strictly constrained around the original mask linearly anymore.
There are also some tool rearrangement in CS6, one being that the Pen and Mask Feather tools are now bundled together in the tool menu list.
3D Camera Tracker
If you’re getting started with visual effects and don’t have a 3D camera tracker, you’re in luck. After Effects now has a built in 3D camera tracker, a highly awesome (and automated) feature that will track multiple points to simulate the original camera’s angle of view. The Foundry’s Camera Tracker is still a lot more advanced compared to the built in 3D camera tracker, so have no fear for all of you who bought Camera Tracker. Apparently you cannot open Mocha directly anymore, though AE does make it easy to move over to Mocha for tracking, etc.
You can also now “catch” shadows using a white solid. This means you can now easily cast shadows on objects in the original 2D environment with 3D layers, no more fuss and tricks.
Global Performance Cache
Adobe has worked real hard under the hood. One of the main features I’m really excited about is the change in cache handling. Whenever you RAM preview something, AE transfers all the data into RAM cache (indicated by the green bar above the timeline). If you ever accidentally turned off a layer, effect, or trimmed your timeline, you probably are bummed that it wiped out all your RAM cache and you now have to re-RAM preview again. In CS6, all these wiped out caches are still retained and stored in memory. Pretty much if you ever revert back to a scene by undoing or revert back to a previous condition, you won’t have to re-RAM preview again.
The same is true for closing After Effects projects. You can save your project now with all your RAM caches saved to the disk, meaning less previewing time when you come back to your projects the next morning. Time for that upgraded SSD you’ve been wanting!
Rolling Shutter Repair
AE CS6 also includes an advanced Rolling Shutter Repair feature that will fix all those jello-skewed shots due to the CMOS sensors (mostly in DSLRs). This is a great and handy feature to have, no more 3rd party plugin required.
We already talked about CC Environment, but there are also some new effects and enhancements in AE CS6. The CycoreFX effects have been upgraded to the CycoreFX HD Suite edition, meaning we’re going to have support for 16 and 32 bits per channel. This bundle will also include new effects such as Cross Blur, Color Neutralizer, Line Sweep, and many more from the CycoreFX suite. According to Adobe, there will be over 80 new and updated built-in effects.
Aside from Mocha, After Effects CS6 will also have better integration with Illustrator and Premiere. You will be able to create shapes from vector layers and have fine control over your AI and EPS files (meaning you can edit and modify it all within After Effects). Workflow has been improved that will allow you to import Avid Media Composer files, Symphony AAF/OMF, XML from Final Cut, and other applications easier.
Other Cool Stuff
AE CS6 has been re-engineered for better OpenGL support, real time interactive draft rendering, finer control over composition objects, bouncing box controls, scripting improvements, ARRIRAW footage support, native SpeedGrade support, and many more.
Expect to have much better graphical support that will hopefully increase your productivity and workflow.
These are just some of the main top features included in After Effects CS6. There will be plenty of more new features, but I just decided to write about a few that really caught my eye. For a more in-depth look at AE CS6 with preview images, check this post out by Chris and Trish Meyer. All in all, I’m very excited for this release and can’t wait to try things out. I’m more excited for this release than with the CS4/CS5 release. Stay tuned for more news and updates on After Effects CS6.