Review: Adobe After Effects 6.0 Professional

Version 6 is like a 3D IMAX experience while 5.5 is like being forced (January 18th, 2004)

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Product Manufacturer: Adobe

Price: $699 Standard Full, $999 Pro Full

The Good

  • Fast, Fast...(did I mention FAST?), New tools bring enhanced workflow without changing familiar interface

The Bad

  • No backwards compatibility in projects, Occasional ambiguous error messages

I first started using After Effects with version 5.5. It was extremely functional and I loved using it, but there were a quite a few features that were either completely missing, or extremely antiquated (anyone who has used version 5.5 and below's text tool knows what I'm talking about). Adobe set out to remedy this with its recently released version 6.0. Click to enlarge

This version boasts fantastic new text animation tools, OpenGL acceleration, a shiny new motion tracker, and a slew of other enhancements that make this upgrade a must-have. The addition of OpenGL hardware support means you can move solids, lights, text...everything around in real time without having to revert to wireframe or draft mode. It's silky smooth and one of those features you wonder how you ever lived without.

This upgrade brings AE's text tools out of the stone age and up to present day standards. You can now add text directly to the canvas ( like Photoshop, Illustrator etc.) Control over individual characters, and improved support for expressions when animating text are huge time savers (and fun too!). Click to enlarge

Adobe has also vastly improved the vector paint tool. Painting and cloning has moved from the Comp window to the footage window, and each stroke can be animated! The addition of the RotoBezier tool makes tedious roto work easier and much faster. Fans of Photoshop's Liquefy tool will be pleased to know that it has been adapted for After Effects with this release.

A Note on Stability:

I frequently visit quite a number of online After Effects forums. Once people started getting their hands on this release, there was a deluge of complaints that it was extremely buggy. The most common complaint was about a random "Abnormal condition" errors that freeze the entire computer after it lets you try to save your project. I was worried about upgrading because at my job, I simply can't afford to crash often, much less a hard restart potentially loosing work. Click to enlarge I'm happy to report that in the few weeks I've been using this upgrade I've only seen After Effects crash once. It was an "Abnormal condition" error, but it let me save my project before freezing my computer so I was able to pick up where I left off, but its still annoying. It hasn't happened since. The only reason I note this is because version 5.5 never crashed on me ...ever.

In Conclusion

I've been using AE 6.0 for a few weeks now, and I already take it for granted. Yesterday, I had to get on a coworker's machine who only had version 5.5.1 installed. It's like being forced to watch silent movies when you're accustomed to the 3D IMAX experience.

Some things you should keep in mind before upgrading:

  • Make sure all your plug-ins have been updated by their respective developers.
  • Make sure everyone else you need to share after effects project files with has also upgraded, as 6.0 files are NOT backwards compatible with 5.5.1.
  • Make sure the benefits are worth the possibility of a few crashes and random errors.
  • After Effects 6 is a must have for desktop visual effects artists!

by Colin James


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