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Adobe After Effects CS 5.5 for Mac OS X review

Sections: Audio / Video, Mac Software, Reviews

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Provides: Video compositing/effects
Developer: Adobe
Minimum System Requirements: Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support, Mac OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6, 2GB of RAM, 4GB of available hard-disk space plus 2GB of space for optional content; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash-based storage devices), 1280×900 display with OpenGL 2.0–compatible graphics card, DVD-ROM drive, QuickTime 7.6.2 software required for QuickTime features, Broadband Internet connection required for online services
Review Computer: iMac 3.06 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 4 GB RAM, Final Cut Pro 7
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $999.00 (Full) $179-299 (Upgrade) $49/month (subscription)
Availability: Out now

My review of Adobe After Effects CS5 summed up the idea that Adobe’s app are essentially entering the world of magic, that the tools are getting advanced enough that they can guess what you’re trying to do, work on it automatically, and save you the trouble of fiddling with keyframes for two hours. With the CS 5.5, Adobe has added another tool to that “fire and forget” arsenal, as well as another effect that takes some fiddling but can produce amazing effects if you’re shooting without the ability to set focal length.

camera blur masks

First things first: Warp Stabilizer lets you smooth your video, taking out (or greatly reducing) the rocking of the camera as its moved. Since few independent (low to no budget) productions can afford a Steadicam, the ability to have a camera chase the action while still remaining focused on the action is useful.

This isn’t really a new trick in AE; motion tracking (getting the “frame” of the video to focus on one or more user-defined points and use that to settle the picture) has been a wonderful tool. What Warp Stabilizer does is automate the process. Here’s a video I shot with my iPhone while I was walking down the street.

In one pass Warp Stabilizer smoothed out the action. The footage hasn’t been slowed down any, it’s just been blown up so that what the software sees as the horizon stays more or less constant. There’s some artifacting because of the enhancement, but keep in mind this is an iPhone that I was holding in my hand with no attempt to stabilize the footage as I was shooting it.

The second major tool that 5.5 has is Camera Lens Blur. The problem with digital cameras, from an indie filmmaking perspective, is that they try to have everything in focus, whereas in cinematography, you want the ability to draw the viewer’s eye to certain points in the depth of field. Camera Lens Blur allows you to fake a depth of field in an interesting way.

camera blur effect

By applying masks to the effect, you can control where and how much Blur is applied to the video. So, if your actor is in the foreground, you can separate her from a man behind her (slightly blurry) and the forest behind them both (very blurry). The very cool part about that the Camera Lens Blur is that once you’ve defined the focal distance, you can keyframe it, allowing you to change the focus within the shot. And since it’s determined by masks, you could also keyframe their shape, giving you an amorphous focus, all with a standard digital camera shot.

AE 5.5 has other new features like source timecode support and the improved ability to work with sterographic projects (that’s 3D to you and me), as well as increased support for RED and XDCAM HD cameras. But these two new/enhanced effects are going to save a lot of time for smaller works and help filmmakers improve the look of their work.

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adobe after effects cs 5.5 review

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