The release of After Effects CS6 is proof that Adobe actually listens to customer requests and stays current with the needs of today’s filmmakers, editors, and motion graphics artists. Beyond this release’s impressive list of new features, there are much-needed and long-awaited performance improvements.
Adobe has implemented several structural developments like the new ray-traced 3D rendering engine and Global Performance Cache that it rebuilt from the ground up, providing not only faster performance, but increased professional capabilities. New tools such as the 3D Camera Tracker, Rolling Shutter Repair, and variable mask edge feathering are serious professional compositing tools. The enhanced integration between After Effects CS6 and other Adobe tools makes the workflow faster and more fluid than before.
The Global Performance Cache feature is the newfound power under the hood that makes After Effects CS6 perform better–even on older Macs. This is a set of technologies that work together: a global RAM cache, a persistent disk cache, and a new graphics pipeline.
The global RAM cache employs reusable frames recognized anywhere on the timeline–not just adjacent frames–as well as duplicated layers or sub-comps. Cached frames are restored after an Undo/Redo operation, when layers are hidden or revealed, or when timeline settings return to a previous state. The feature allows users to experiment or “nudge” elements without a performance penalty should they change their mind or accidentally hit something that would normally wipe out the RAM preview and force a re-render.
Previously available as a separate product from Automatic Duck, the new Pro Import After Effects is an integration tool that lets you easily import video into After Effects CS6 from other programs. It works with Avid Media Composer and Symphony AAF/OMF files, as well as with XML files from Apple Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier. Many of the translations of supported Avid and Apple files include position, scale, rotation, keyframes, composite mores, titles, speed changes, and more. Pro Import After Effects ships with After Effects CS6.
If you held out updating After Effects from CS5 or earlier, I urge you to consider this upgrade–or get left in the dust. That sounds like a strong statement, but I believe it’s justified. After Effects CS6 is the most important upgrade the program has received since the first major update in version 7. It’s not just a bunch of additional features and add-ons, but rather a truly rebuilt, reworked, and enhanced powerful compositing and motion graphics creation tool.
While I’d still like to see some basic primitive shape objects added to the new 3D ray-trace enviroment, and there’s definitely room for improvement with the Roto Brush tool that was introduced in CS5, the enhancements in CS6 have answered the needs of professionals in today’s film industry. And with the insanely affordable upgrade options–or the new Creative Cloud subscription–there’s no reason to pass up this opportunity.