Adobe After Effects 5.5 Production Bundle

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Adobe After Effects 5.5 Production Bundle

Adobe's latest revision of After Effects adds plenty of usability enhancements. We check out the Production Bundle to see if it's worth the £800 premium over the Standard version.
As well as its much trumpeted native support for Mac OS X (and full compatibility with Windows XP), V5.5 of After Effects does offer some attractive new features and improvements to justify the £93 upgrade cost - and the advances are more than skin deep.
When we reviewed After Effects 5, we found that it took over V4's place at the top of the video effects and motion graphics tree, even though challenged by the ever improving NLE applications that incorporate special and motion effects capabilities, such as Apple Final Cut Pro - which also supports plug-ins. So, it's good to see that, with V5.5, Adobe is refining the program's usability and adding features that speed up workflow by reducing the amount of commands the user needs to execute to get a task done.
To make moving up to the Production Bundle more tempting to users of the Standard version, a new 3D plug-in is provided - Zaxwerks' 3D elements Invigorator Classic, nominally worth US$475. This only comes with the full retail version or when upgrading from Standard to Production versions. So, it’s not included with the £93 upgrade from V5 to V5.5, although this does have a US$250 discount voucher for the retail version of Invigorator Classic or Pro.

What's new pussy cat?

The Production Bundle version of After Effects is aimed at advanced effects and motion graphics professionals - business users who may not worry about the price tag, or that it includes an £800-plus mark-up for the additional capabilities. While After Effects' minimum system requirements are merely a PowerMac or Pentium II computer - each with 128MByte of RAM - the recommended systems are multiprocessor machines with loads of RAM. The reason is not that the program is RAM hungry or badly written, it's more a result of the types of work done by the application. Playing back animated, multi-layered sequences at 25 frames per second ñ at full resolution - uses the host computer resources to the max.

The After Effects 5.5 Production Bundle adds more powerful tools specific to those working in film and broadcast. At £1,440, it's not cheap, even if it is aimed at specialists. But is it worth the extra £800 over the Standard version? Well, it's quite likely that some users will think that it's a bargain compared to a number of other, more expensive, visual effects applications. But, for many Computer Video readers, the Standard version may be all that's required - and even that's not exactly cheap.
What's easier to answer is whether to upgrade a V5 Production Bundle to V.5.5. The new version provides a lot of features - worth considerably more than the sub-£100 upgrade fee. Overall, the introduction of V5.5 ensures that After Effects will remain the program of choice. It’s not quite in a league of its own, but it will continue to be consistently favoured by many digital-effects gurus from Hollywood to Harlesden.

Steven Hood

For the full review, see the September/October 2002 issue of Computer Video.

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