This week DMALA hosted ADOBE, MAXON, and VIDEO COPILOT at an event in Hollywood to demonstrate the latest in motion graphics from these vendors. Adobe’s Steven Forde was up first, taking questions about the updates to the forthcoming Adobe Creative Cloud Suite, and humbly dodging lasers from the crowd about the new pricing. Answering one subscription model question, Mr. Forde made some very good points about why Adobe abandoned the virtual license model altogether.
He pointed out that the After Effects development team has had some new features ready to go since last summer, but those much requested features have been sitting around collecting dust for almost a year because, with the old virtual license model where you own the software outright, they must wait for the next yearly release to deliver new features. Under the old model, the dev team is also not allowed to talk about their future development road map.
He talked a bit about the accounting issues involved in shipping a product declared to be complete, and then nullifying that statement that it was complete by adding features to it later. I suspect the bigger issue was that Adobe, like all software vendors, were making their money enticing us to upgrade yearly. There was an incentive to hold features for the next update to ensure that yearly rush of purchases. The subscription model removes that game.
With this new subscription model, not only can they push out new features as soon as they’re complete, but they can talk freely about future plans because there’s no more games of upgrade cat and mouse. As a subscriber, you always will have access to the latest if you want it.
The other issue he described was they way they prioritize updates. Under the previous model, there was an incentive for them to do the flashiest features first to sell boxes. While at the same time, there are usability and speed improvements that have gone ignored for a decade because marketing couldn’t sell boxes with those improvements, according to Mr. Forde. One example is the way After Effects handles image magnification. The software has used the bilinear method for at least a decade, perhaps longer. This method is processor efficient, but the image quality is mediocre. Users have been begging for bicubic magnification for years, and with the move to Creative Cloud, his team has had the breathing room to finally make it happen. And he promised that other under-the-hood changes are coming later this year that will make After Effects more efficient in many other areas as well.
In fact, now that he could talk about their future plans, Mr. Forde revealed that there will be this big new release in June, followed by another in August, and yet another release in late fall of this year. And then again next April, 2014. So we are getting 4 versions of After Effects in the next 12 months, confirmed!
Next up was Maxon to demo the new integration with After Effects CC. There wasn’t much we had not seen at NAB or MAX. But it’s worth noting that there appears to be fine grain render control within after effects, and while the interface is a little sluggish, its an admirable achievement that they were able to remove the step of pre-rendering 3D comps.
Maxon’s Mathias Omotola demoed an impressive sequence featuring a skateboarder on a halfpipe. With Adobe’s new 3D tracker, he was able to create some quick tracking points, and then import a 3D animated Truss to ad a CG set extension to the real world halfpipe. The tracking was rock solid. He was even able to have the truss “fly in” to position. And everything he did was created using Cinema 4D lite, which ships with After Effects CC at no additional cost.
Finally we had a visit from Andrew Kramer, the mad scientist designer/animator/instructor/entrepreneur from Video Co Pilot, who showed off the end title sequence he created in Element 3D for Star Trek Into Darkness. Using planets, smoke, and flames modeled in Cinema 4D and 3D Studio Max, Mr. Kramer built the entire sequence in Element 3D within Adobe After Effects, at IMAX resolution, and in 3D. He mentioned that he used After Effects’ built in motion blur at 24 samples to get it to that realistic feature film quality, and begged the attending artists to start thinking about upping there sample rates too, which got big laughs.
Most interesting was how he used a rounded, bumpy 3D object, with an animated texture such as a flame or smoke, then essentially turned it into a particle with hundreds of instances in his shot, to create those gorgeous smoky cosmos or burning sun shots. It was all very 2.5 D, but created very convincing 3D sequence, which held up even in stereoscopic 3D presentation.
What an awesome event! Now more than ever I can’t wait to get my grubby hands on Adobe Creative Cloud Suite in just a few weeks!