Adobe After Effects 7

Adobe After Effects 7

The new interface looks cool and creates a color-neutral environment so you can focus on your project's visuals without distraction.


The latest version of Adobe After Effects includes a redesigned interface, big keyframing improvements, and top-tier color rendering options that give even the pickiest effects artists more reason to consider After Effects for the job.


If you've used After Effects before, you'll do a double-take when you launch version 7 for the first time - it has a new, streamlined look. Functionally, all of After Effects' windows and palettes are now docked panels in a single resizable window, so there's no unused space in your work environment. You can adjust the panels to your liking; if you want to make the Timeline larger, for example, you drag its border to a new position, and After Effects shrinks the other windows to make room. You can also undock any panel and turn it into a floating one (great for moving it to a second display) or combine and separate panels by dragging them into or out of each other.


Adobe also overhauled the Timeline's keyframe graph editor. Keyframes still work as they always have, but the new and improved graph editor makes it easier to edit those keyframes. Back in the old days (version 6.5), you could work with keyframes in a graph view, but After Effects displayed each animated parameter on its own keyframe graph that you could reveal and hide at will. This worked fine when you only wanted to futz with a single parameter, but to tweak many parameters at once, you'd have to fill up your screen with multiple graphs - making it hard to find the one you wanted - and cross-reference one parameter with another. After Effects now displays the keyframes for multiple parameters on a single graph and uses a different colored curve to represent each parameter you choose to display. You can easily toggle this graph view on and off from the Timeline, and the graph editor itself features all the keyframing controls you'll need built right into the interface.


Version 7 is also noticeably faster in applying, previewing, and rendering effects, thanks to Open GL 2.0 support (provided After Effects supports your Mac's video card; check Adobe's Web site for more info) - unfortunately, After Effects is not yet a Universal application, so expect slower performance if you have an Intel-based Mac.


If you're springing for the $999 Professional Edition, you'll get two bonus features. For starters, After Effects will render up to 32 bits per channel. Working with 32-bit imagery in the old version's 16-bit mode meant losing flexibility for color corrections and other tweaks; it also risked ugly banding. With full 32-bit support, After Effects 7 now qualifies for more-professional compositing work. The only catch is you'll have to update your third-party filters.


The Pro edition ships with a plug-in called Timewarp, which lets you smoothly speed up or slow down the playback speed of footage and add motion-blur effects. It's a popular feature these days - it made its way into Autodesk's Combustion 4, an After Effects competitor. Adobe's rendition is straightforward and competent, and some of its basic elements also appear in the standard edition of After Effects.


Both editions also sport plenty of smaller touches: the ability to export to Flash video (FLV), more animation and behavioral presets, HDV support, integration with Adobe Bridge, and - oh yes - a product-activation "feature" that keeps you from installing the app on more than two Macs at once.


The bottom line. With a clean and customizable interface, speed improvements, and a better feature set, Adobe After Effect 7 is an impressive upgrade.

CONTACT: 800-833-6687,
PRICE: $699 (Standard), $999 (Professional), $199 (upgrade)
REQUIREMENTS: Mac OS 10.3.9 or later, 512MB RAM, 500MB disk space, Open GL-compatible graphics card
Efficient and customizable new interface. Improved keyframe graph editor. Faster.
Internet-based product activation. Upgrade is a little pricey given the new features.





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