With Photoshop, Adobe eventually dipped a toe into the waters of 3D, and now it's After Effects' turn to follow suit. There are new features to address that, such as the 3D Camera Tracker. This takes regular 2D footage and extracts the position of the camera that captured it as well as the characteristics of the lens used. It does this in order to create a virtual 3D camera to match it, then adds 3D tracking points to the 2D footage. This allows you to then add your CGI element as a new 3D layer, lock it into place in the scene and then rotate the 3D camera. As the footage turns and moves, so does the view of the 3D object.
From the marked-up footage you can define areas to add lights and a shadow catcher so the 3D objects cast shadows onto the 2D footage. The analysing of the 2D footage can be done in the background (not particularly quick), or you can do it manually and enter specific details to give more precise results. Tracking points can be edited once created.
The other 3D area deals with vector shapes so that Illustrator and EPS files can be imported and turned into shape layers, which can be edited and animated. Working with logos in motion graphics projects has never been easier.
Also vector objects, including text, can now be extruded with a range of bevel and extrusion effects and displayed using a new raytraced engine - assuming you have an Nvidia graphics card that supports its OptiX technology - to give them a more professional finish.
There are general workflow enhancements throughout, especially in the use of disk and memory cacheing so AE can reuse something cached in RAM rather than re-rendering it. The rolling shutter effect, the bane of capture from digital SLRs, has a new repair tool to remove artefacts.
Footage from Avid's Media Composer and Symphony and XML files from Final Cut Pro 7 or earlier can now be used, Imagineer's mocha AE can be launched directly from within AE to allow instant access to its advanced masking tools.
In AE itself the other main feature upgrade is in compositing layers where you're keying out colours or areas. There are more mask feathering options, including refining and softening the edge, as well as the standard tools for painting on the alpha channel for a better looking composite.
Finally, the video effects that helped establish After Effects in the first place have been given a sizeable boost. The CycoreFX HD Suite now has 73 HD plug-ins that support 16-bit colour, rather than AE 5.5's 8-bit version. Over 80 plug-in effects are new or updated, including some weather options like rain and snow.
After Effects CS6 is part of CS6 Production Premium and the Master Collection - plus Creative Cloud.
CS6 Production Premium costs £1,509, or from £298 as an upgrade. CS6 Master Collection costs £2,223, or from £397 as an upgrade.
Creative Cloud costs £38.11 per month with an annual contract. Current owners of CS3 or later suites or products can get this for £22.23 per month. On a month-by-month basis, Creative Cloud costs 57.17.
All prices exclude VAT. Adobe says CS6 will be out before May 22.