Adobe After Effects 7 review

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After Effects has always been the jewel in Adobe’s video-editing crown. Whereas Premiere Pro is still an underdog in professional circles, After Effects has long held a place in the pro post-production arsenal, and is regularly used for TV title sequences and even Hollywood movie compositing. So it’s no surprise that some of the best enhancements in version 7 play to its higher-end audience.

Adobe After Effects 7 review

An improvement every user will appreciate is the even greater optimisation of the OpenGL rendering engine. This now takes better advantage of graphics hardware power for more responsive compositing and faster previews. After Effects 7 has also had a major facelift and been brought in line with the rest of Adobe’s apps. Gone are the free-floating palettes in favour of stitched-together windows that won’t end up overlapping. The changes should help Premiere Pro users feel less daunted by After Effects’ many complications. And if you prefer working the old way, you can still undock the palettes and move them about.

Probably the most essential new feature of all, however, is the Graph Editor. As well as the usual timeline view for parameter keyframes, you can toggle a graphical view of how parameter values vary over time, and even include more than one parameter in the view. You can then grab keyframes and move them about, plus manipulate Bezier handles to alter both ease-in and ease-out. This has been sorely lacking in After Effects, especially when mainstream editing software like Liquid Edition has offered graphs for a number of years.

Most of the benefit of the Dynamic Link, available when you purchase one of the Production Studio bundles, is in Premiere Pro’s favour, making After Effects projects easier to use with the latter. But a few features flow in the other direction; in particular, you can call Premiere Pro’s capture engine directly from After Effects’ file menu. This will load Premiere Pro, give you the chance to create a new project and then automatically take you to video capture. However, a built-in capture tool using Premiere Pro’s engine may have been quicker.

We found the beta version of After Effects 7 made available for this review was unstable with high-definition footage. Although Premiere Pro 2 is now very responsive with HDV, After Effects took a long time to import the same files, leading us to believe it had crashed on more than one occasion. Once we’d managed to import some HDV, dragging it to the composition window also led to a huge delay. We can’t advocate using After Effects for any compositing of HDV files in its current form.

As always, the Professional version of After Effects receives some of the best new abilities. For extremely fine HDR colour distinctions, After Effects Professional can work with 16 or even 32 bits per channel. The new Timewarp slow-motion filter goes well beyond the usual frame blending and includes Pixel Motion, which interpolates at the pixel level to create entirely new frames. The result is about the smoothest slow motion we’ve seen that wasn’t shot on a high-speed camera to begin with, although it does take ages to render. You can even vary the speed dynamically for those amusing slow-fast-slow routines.

Like version 6.5, After Effects 7 is an update with no spectacular headline feature, unless you’re a Premiere Pro user and will take advantage of Dynamic Link. The Adobe standard interface and enhanced performance aid workflow, but as usual the Professional edition gets the best new filter in the form of Timewarp. Still, this a worthwhile upgrade for existing users, whichever version you currently use.

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