Another Year, another Mess…

I’m fast running out of post titles to describe my frustration with After Effects and its current development direction, having ranted and bitched about it for years now, but every time I think things will get better, another bit of depressing news arrives. Like so many times already, the pre-announcement announcement for the latest CC update looks anything but promising.

It’s funny how clearly visible the influence of the current product manager Victoria Nece and her work at some former infographics agency shows up in that one and I don’t mean that in a good sense. Importing JSON files? C’mon, don’t we have other problems and can’t leave that to the script writers? There was a time when some other ex-AE product managers would have wiped the suggestion off their desks with an angry grin. The whole concept is just puzzling, even more so since AE‘s limited capabilities doing stuff in realtime and actually being able to use such data prevent it from being more useful as a full news graphics production system or whatever, anyway.

The casual mention of motion blur and some other GPU features doesn’t improve on that, either, as none of that doesn’t do you much good if you can’t use it. You guessed it – forums everywhere are already full of “Why don’t I have GPU acceleration?” and “My comp window looks weird.” posts and I don’t see how pushing things further into that direction before sorting out all those existing bugs and glitches is of any use to anyone.

Along those lines I’m also not too jazzed about the new type panel with font previews. Who needs this, anyway? YouTube kids who can’t keep their thousands of stolen fonts straight by name? If you feel so inclined, you might also get some kicks out of researching how many times font previews alone crash Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and so on. If you ask me, this is going to be another permanent black hole that you just can’t plug.

On a more positive note, if only ever so slightly, after like 25 years they now have managed to implement a native keyboard shortcut editor and we get access to masks and shape paths using expressions. Yay! Erm, not really. There was a time when I would have nerded out on this, but considering that there’s already scripts and plug-ins for this now, it seems like an afterthought. Don’t get me wrong – in the long-term this could open up some interesting opportunities for tracking (if they ever get around to really writing a completely new full-featured hybrid 3D and 2D tracker) and all workflows based thereon so you don’t always have to delve into mocha, but it just feels lame. I also fear that the limitations of the expressions engine and the potentially clunky syntax (if the one used in scripts is any indication) will make this less powerful than one might think.

Finally, the VR features are of course inevitable, albeit rather obvious in a trendwhore-ish way. At least Adobe got some good return value by shoving a few millions to Mettle. To me, however, the fate of VR remains questionable, at least this particular kind. I find those panoramic videos on Facebook and wherever highly unsatisfying and my impression is that people get carried away with the technicalities and otherwise don’t have any good ideas what to do with the technology and how to actually use it for telling great stories. I mean there’s only so many “Inside the MOMA” videos you can do before it gets boring, if you get my drift…

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