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CC 2015 – Forum Gold

A slightly frustrated user just posted this on the Adobe forums:

Hi, I hate the live preview! Is there a way to use the old method, where you wait a bit and then play it without any lags, if you don’t have a powerful machine?

Another user also requested the return of the “alternate preview” and the ping-pong preview. I think both illustrate nicely the actual problem with the new-fangled preview in After Effects CC 2015: It’s built on certain assumptions that for now don’t work. Here’s why.

On the best of days Adobe is like a child with ADHS. All the latest toys are only interesting for five minutes, or in this case a release cycle, and then they jump onto the next. Inevitably, as a result with all those distractions you end up forgetting your original direction. So it happens, that five years were wasted on Raytrace 3D features that were already outdated when they were new, shape layers were never properly “finalized” and until today we don’t have a holistic approach to fundamentals like keying, tracking and painting and instead are stuck with either legacy tools or isolated, but very specific solutions to some problems. I’m not saying that Rotobrush, Refine Edges, Spill Removal, Warp Stabilizer, Detail Preserving Upscale or even the Face Tracker can’t be useful, but the fact remains – they are fancy tech bling-bling on an old car.

At some point last year they began to realize that and like the mentioned child once again jumped the other way like crazy. Of course users wanted better performance, but, and we’re getting near a point, once again it seems they completely misunderstood a simple request and turned it on its head. From years of roaming forums my understanding of the top requests in this department has always been:

  • better threading in effects
  • faster building of RAM previews
  • realtime playback of some stuff
  • realtime audio support
  • a means of canceling operations that take to long

In my book it does not mean:

  • realtime playback for everything
  • non-synchronous scrubbing
  • scrapping conventional RAM previews

As it turns out, they saw it completely differently and then they started this space race where their goal essentially seems to be to create a hybrid of Premiere Pro and Apple‘s Motion, where everything is realtime. Now that in itself wouldn’t be so bad, actually, if only it worked! I can’t shake the feeling that they completely underestimated how arthritic their own old APIs and infrastructure is, so we essentially got a tech demo sold as a final product.

This situation is exacerbated by what I call the “shiny Mac syndrome”. During my time on many Betas I was always amazed how casually people spend money on new hardware where I could barely manage to get myself a new mid-range computer every few years. The mere mention of a Titan X on the recent Element 3D Beta made me wanna cry! And this kinda makes my point: In a world of infinite resources, bugs slip because they are covered up by performance and nobody bothers looking on lesser systems, which seems to have happened here.

Another point that also often stuck with me is how much “lab testing” is done based on clean operating system installs. But that’s not the reality, is it? Production systems have all sorts of software already installed and they interact in the weirdest, unpredictable ways when the new neighbor comes knocking. That, too, seems to be one of the things that went completely wrong. Apparently it not only explains why the actual installs are so twitchy, but also things like the ominous crashes due to version conflicts with MSVC runtimes or, specifically to After Effects, audio crashes. It’s one thing to test audio previews on a clean system, but a completely different thing when your latest favorite game has bent the audio driver to its liking.

Finally, of course everyone just seemed massively unprepared. Despite claims to the contrary, many third-party plug-ins still don’t work right with this new version even if you get the updated versions from the vendors. This strikes me as the typical “not ready until the last minute” that has become standard over the last few years. Does anyone even remember the times when you could simply copy over plug-ins and scripts from version to version and they would actually work without hoopla?

So where does this leave us? A lot of features have been ripped out for nothing while the new ones don’t work reliably. In my opinion it would have made much more sense if they just had left things alone for one more year and worked on it quietly instead of beating about the bush when they couldn’t deliver the goods. Funnily I still think just seeing your favorite slow effect suddenly use all cores on your system would have much more of a “Wow!” effect than all those artificially cooked up demos where they slap on some ugly library stuff onto already ugly projects while it plays

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One comment on “CC 2015 – Forum Gold

  1. Love the blog—excellent points all!

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