Wednesday, September 13th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Adobe unveils new ‘true 3D’ workspace in After Effects

Adobe has unveiled two significant new features in After Effects, its compositing software: a new “true 3D” workspace, and an update to the AI-trained Roto Brush.

Both features, unveiled ahead of IBC 2023, are available via a new public beta build of the software, separate to the stable release.

The latest in a series of updates to 3D compositing in After Effects
Adobe has been overhauling 3D compositing workflow in After Effects for some time now, beginning by introducing new 3D gizmos and camera controls in 2020.

Last year, the firm released a beta build that made it possible to import 3D models in OBJ, glTF and GLB format directly into the software.

Although that functionality remains in beta, the beta has now been expanded.

New Advanced 3D renderer brings final-quality 3D rendering to After Effects
The key feature of the new “true 3D workspace” is the Advanced 3D renderer, a new hardware-agnostic GPU-based render engine.

Also referred to in the online documentation as the Mercury 3D renderer, it is a final-quality renderer, unlike the existing 3D Draft preview mode.

As well as 3D models, it can render other 3D layers such as extruded text, and 2.5D plane layers; and supports PBR materials via the Adobe Standard Material.

According to Adobe, it should let motion graphics and visualization artists render less demanding shots directly inside After Effects without having to round-trip shots to DCC applications like Cinema 4D, a version of which is included with After Effects.

Also supports image-based lighting and stylized effects
The Advanced 3D renderer brings with other new features of the true 3D workspace: image-based lighting for photorealistic work, and 2D/3D workflows for stylized work.

The former makes it possible to light objects in the workspace with a HDRI environment map, imported in .hdr format.

The latter makes it possible to use a rendered frame from a 3D model layer as a source, in order to apply 2D effects to portions of 3D scenes.

According to Adobe, users can create “highly stylized renders using effects that reference another layer, such as Displacement Map, Vector Blur [and] Calculations”.

However, the renderer is a work in progress, and currently has several known limitations, including lack of support for DoF and motion blur, and issues with shadows and lighting.

Another update to the AI-trained Roto Brush
The new beta also features an improved version of the Roto Brush, After Effects’ rotoscoping tool.

It enables users to create roto masks by roughly painting out the part of the frame to be isolated, with the software automatically generating the full mask and propagating it through the other frames of the video being rotoscoped.

On paper, the new version isn’t as major an update as 2020’s Roto Brush 2.0, which applied machine learning to generate masks faster and more accurately.

However, Adobe still describes it as a “major advance”, improving speed, quality of the masks generated, and stability, particularly in shots where the object being masked is occluded by foreground objects.

Price, system requirements and release date
The true 3D workspace and improved roto brush are available via a separate beta build of After Effects. Adobe hasn’t announced a final release date for them.

The current stable release, After Effects 23.6, is available for Windows 10+ and macOS 11.0+ on a rental-only basis.

Subscriptions to After Effects cost $31.49/month or $239.88/year, while All Apps subscriptions, which provide access to over 20 of Adobe’s creative tools, cost $82.49/month or $599.88/year.

Read more about the new 3D workspace in After Effects on Adobe’s blog

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