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Sneak peek: After Effects’ new VR and motion graphics tools

Monday, September 18th, 2017 | Posted by Jim Thacker

Adobe has announced the new features due in its next update to After Effects, including integrated toolsets for editing 360-degree VR footage and creating data-driven animation, plus improved GPU support.

The release – which will be either After Effects CC 2018 or CC 2017.3 if Adobe sticks to its current naming convention – is on show at IBC 2017, alongside updates to Premiere Pro and Character Animator.


New integrated toolset for editing 360-degree VR footage
For VFX artists, the key feature in the update will probably be the new toolset for editing 360-degree VR footage based on Mettle’s SkyBox Suite of plugins, which Adobe bought earlier this year.

Now “deeply integrated” into After Effects, the toolset enables users to undistort and edit stitched 360-degree videos, and apply effects, titles and motion graphics.

In the former camp, the new VR Comp Editor converts stitched equirectangular footage to a flat image within After Effects, enabling users to edit from the same perspective as the video will be played back.

In the latter, the VR Extract Cubemap option converts the footage to a cubemap, designed to simplify the process of motion tracking and object removal.

There is also a new Create VR Environment option – you can see it at 01:00 in the video above – which looks to be geared towards designing stylised, non-photo-based 360-degree environments for motion graphics.

In addition, the new VR Converter converts footage between a range of common 360-degree formats, including equirectangular, the native cube map formats of Facebook and Gear VR, fisheye and spherical.


Data-driven animation tools for creating graphs and infographics
There are also new tools for data-driven animation, intended for creating animated graphs and infographics.

The toolset enables users to import JSON files generated by data visualisation tools as assets and reference their values in expressions. When the data is updated, any graphics generated from it update automatically.

Although the functionality seems most likely to appeal to motion graphics artists, suggested use cases also include visualising motion capture and sensor data for visual effects work.

There is also a new Create Nulls from Paths panel for linking points on a path together without coding: in the video above, you can see it in use to create an animated line graph.


GPU support for motion blur, layer transforms, and third-party plugins
The ongoing process of rolling out GPU support throughout After Effects also continues in the update, which adds GPU support for the Directional Blur and Transform effects, plus the new VR effects.

Any third-party plugins that use Adobe’s Mercury SDK are also now automatically GPU-accelerated as well.

Other new features: updates to Cinema 4D Lite, font menu and Team Projects
Cinema 4D Lite, the free cut-down version of Cinema 4D bundled with After Effects, has also been updated, adding support for the software’s Take System, used for generating automatic variants of scenes.

The Lite edition also now supports the Parallax Shader, Vertex Color, and the new BodyPaint OpenGL painting engine introduced in Cinema 4D R19, along with the ability to import FBX 2017 and Alembic 1.6 files.

Other changes include a new visual map for keyboard shortcuts; ligature support and live font previews in the font menu; and an Auto Save option for the Team Projects system rolled out in After Effects CC 2017.

Pricing and availability
Adobe hasn’t announced a release date for the next version of After Effects, but if it follows its previous release schedule, the update will probably roll out some time in November.

After Effects CC is available on a rental-only basis. New subscriptions for After Effects alone cost $19.99/month, while subscriptions to all of Adobe’s creative tools start at $49.99/month.

Read more about the new features in After Effects CC 2018* on Adobe’s blog

*Or whatever the release ends up being called.

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One Response to “Sneak peek: After Effects’ new VR and motion graphics tools”

  1. RJA said:

    Sounds very nice. However, 180- or 220-degree is the way to go in immersive film. 360-degree is useless and this is apparent to anyone who has tried to create a story driven 360 experience / film. With 180/220, you can direct the scene like traditionally and you can be sure the audience will have their eyeballs somewhat there where they should be. Furthermore, with 360 the viewer has an urge to go exploring the scene freely, interact with the scene.. Also, with 180-degree videos, you can have all the pixels used to what you see in front, therefore the quality is very good and immersive. 360 videos are poor quality. This is a problem that will not be solved very soon.

    As a premise: 360 freedom should be left to games / interactive, free to explore experiences, 180/220 should be left to passive and more traditional story driven experiences.

    So, tools to 180-/220-degree videos, pretty please and with puppy hug. 🙂

    12:21 pm on Tuesday, September 19, 2017

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