On Thursday Adobe hosted another webinar in their CS6 series, this one on After Effects and featuring After Effects Product Manager Steve Forde. Steve focused on four primary areas in the demo: the Global Performance Cache, 3D Camera Tracker, SpeedGrade and 3D modeling. He also talked a bit about graphics cards and answered other questions from the audience.
Global Performance Cache
Adobe has made significant changes to the way After Effects caches rendering. The Global Performance Cache (which has it’s own tab in the timeline panel) is about “understanding how something was rendered, when it was rendered, and do we ever have to do it again.”
Pointing out that in past releases – and in many other video applications – if you changed the top layer of the composition, everything has to be re-rendered. Steve said that in this release they wanted to minimize that need for re-rendering. “A lot of information [doesn’t have to be] thrown away, so by using it, we can improve performance.” They accomplished this by putting a unique identifier on ever layer and every frame, and then re-render only when they have to.
Interestingly, the cache is associated with the media, not the project. Quitting a project that you didn’t save, doesn’t mean that After Effects will remove what was rendered from its cache. You do allocate space to the persistent disk cache, and once that becomes full, After Effects will start deleting from the oldest date. Cache from Premiere Pro will also come across to After Effects.
As an aside, Steve was demoing using a machine with an internal SSD, and he had a separate SSD as his scratch drive. He said that many customers are using Thunderbolt or Firewire RAID’s to allocate to the persistent disk cache
3D Camera Tracker
The Warp Stabilizer continues to be improved, this time with the new 3D Camera Tracker, which will analyze and assign a 3D point cloud over a 2D image. This makes it much easier to select different “3D planes” in the 2D footage. Steve demoed selecting the monitor of a computer while also quickly rotoscoping other parts of the image. He said that “this is the beginning of the road for this,” and they are looking to expand it’s functionality in the future.
See also: Adobe After Effects | 3D Camera Tracker
Steve briefly demoed some of the SpeedGrade functionality. He also made a pitch for taking part in the Adobe usage tracking, which provides Adobe with information about what people are doing with their applications. He said that the reason they acquired SpeedGrade was because users were spending so much time doing color adjustments; “we wanted to get very serious about how we were interpreting color.” He demoed applying a Color LUT from SpeedGrade to footage within After Effects by importing LUT files, adding “we were able to get some basic color workflow in CS6, but it’s the beginning of the road for that too.”
In response to requests from users, this release improves feathering. The Mask Feather tool lets you create variable width feathering.
According to Steve, “AE has always been a 2.5D application,” but now they wanted to turn it into a full 3D environment. However, he was careful to add “AE is not, and never will be a 3D modeler… but we noticed a lot of people using AE to do simple extrusion by stacking layers quite heavily, which can be a nasty workflow!”
Demoing extruding Adobe Illustrator files into shape layers, Steve also showed the new renderer Ray-trace 3D and a draft renderer called Fast Draft. The previous renderer is now called Classic 3D. The new renderer can leverage the GPU , and while it will work on any machine, if you have a Nvidia GPU you’ll see orders of magnitude improvement.
After Effects CS6 now uses the GPU to render every pixel of the interface on the screen; “You’re going to have a more interactive experience, no more beach balls on the Mac or Windows.” Steve also noted that the Cycore HD Suite has now been added. They were previously all 8 bit, but are now 16 and 32 bit.
Which Graphics Card?
When asked about what GPU to get, Steve said that it really depends on the type of work you are doing. He acknowledged that “if you just look at raw performance, you’re not going to see dramatic differences” between the gaming GeForce cards and the Pro graphics Quadros cards. He said that it really comes down to how are you going to use and abuse the cards. “For lightweight work, the GeForce GTX cards are very good. If you have significant renders, using it heavily, I recommend the Quadros as they have been architected to deal with cooling and robustness. But [with the cheaper card] you will see heating, and power consumption issues.”
Unfortunately, Mac users don’t have so many options as Nvidea only makes a Quadro card for the Mac (and yes, Adobe has now added limited OpenCL support for some MacBook Pro video cards.)
Adobe After Effects CS6 Tech Specs [Lists supported cards]
nVIDIA GeForce GTX 580 SC 1536 MB GDDR5 Graphics Display Card [$529.50]
nVIDIA Quadro 4000 for Mac Display Card [810.00]
If you are using Lion 10.7 Steve said to make sure you update to 10.7.4 as it increases compatibility with GPUs, particularly for Premiere Pro. When asked about the Creative Cloud Steve said that as a person who is constantly installing new software on machines he personally was very excited about the Creative Cloud for one particular reason “the installation is really, really nice.”
Adobe : How to Optimize After Effects CS6 for High Performance [A short video with Steve demoing the Global Performance Cache]
Adobe Webinars: "Ask A Video Pro" Webinar Series [other upcoming Adobe webinars]
Adobe Creative Suite 6: Production Premium Road Show [Adobe is running a Road Show through June]