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Adobe After Effects 6.5 review

Verdict

Not as big an upgrade as After Effects 6, but there are still enough extra features and filters to make this a worthy new version.

Review Date: 22 Jun 2004

Reviewed By: James Morris

Price when reviewed: Standard, £489 (£575 inc VAT); Professional, £795 (£934 inc VAT); Upgrade to Standard, £69 (£81 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

In comparison with After Effects 6 (AE6), this 'dot' release doesn't have any new headline features, but expands on the big themes of the last version.

OpenGL support was one of the most significant additions to the last release, and now this can be invoked during scrubbing, RAM Previews and even final rendering, although the latter two should only be used for test output.

Many of AE6.5's areas of improvement are parallel to those in Premiere Pro 1.5. Keyframe sets can be saved and loaded as presets, although only stock presets for text animation are actually supplied. They appear in the Effects and Presets palette, and can be dropped onto clips like any other effect - a handy way of reusing animations. Aside from the stock presets, the text engine has been improved to allow animation of characters in random order, and text animations can also be exported as vector SWF files.

Another new addition to AE that's in line with Premiere Pro is the colour-correction toolset adapted from Photoshop. Auto Color, Auto Levels and Auto Contrast offer one-click fixing of footage to improve overall colour and contrast ranges. Shadow/Highlight is there too, to bring out detail in murky areas of video. As a hardcore compositing tool, Synthetic Aperture's well-respected Color Finesse is included as well. This takes care of the soft clipping of illegal colours to make your composition broadcast legal, and provides complete control of HSL, CMY and YCbCr colour spaces.

A couple of new native filters are included - Preserve Edges and Photo Filter. The former helps remove the stair-stepping artefacts caused by field-based video, and the latter mimics the effect of a camera lens colour filter. There are 61 new effects from Cycore (CC) included in the bundle as well. Some of these, such as Blur effects, are just better versions of what was already available, but there are plenty of special effects included as well, such as making the video into blobs or adding bubbles. You also get a handy CC wire-removal filter for use when keying.

The professional version includes grain management, which uses the Grain Surgery Intelligent Noise Manipulation engine from Visual Infinity. You can remove, add and even match grain, including film grain, video noise and halftones. This is useful if you need to consolidate footage that's been shot on different equipment, or blend in computer-generated assets.

Motion tracking can now track individual dimensions as well as scale, so an object can reduce in height but remain the same width, for example. But this is still restricted to the professional version, so Discreet's Combustion remains the cheapest route to motion tracking. The Paint and Cloning tools, which were introduced in AE6, have been enhanced with a visual overlay mode, which allows onion skinning. This can be used to remove elements from a shot where the camera is static, or shift them in time.

You can now cut and paste with Premiere Pro 1.5, preserving any common settings and effects. After Effects has always had strong Photoshop integration, but now you can import Photoshop CS menus from Encore DVD and animate them in After Effects.

Although none of these enhancements is as big as the OpenGL engine added with AE6, there's still plenty in this new version to make it an essential upgrade for current users, and as with the other applications the upgrade price is minimal. After Effects remains the jewel in Adobe's Digital Video Collection.

Author: James Morris

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