One of the most important additional new features, which comes with the more expensive Production Bundle only, is support for full 16-bit images (making After Effects a more likely tool for feature film production). Other new features include parenting, which allows users to animate layers hierarchically; expressions, which involve the creation of live relationships between layer properties (allowing, for example, the creation of procedural-type animations without using keyframes); enhanced masking; faster previews; and intelligent caching. Not surprisingly, the latest version also offers better integration with Adobe's own Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere packages, as well as output to Macromedia Flash format for Web site animations.
After Effects comes in two packages. The standard version costs $649 and the Production Bundle, which includes all the features listed above, with the addition of vector paint tools, visual effects such as Radio Waves and Fractal Noise, and the 16-bit-per-channel color support, costs $1499.
Version 5.0 will run on Windows 98/2000/ME and Mac OS 9 and X operating systems. It requires a minimum of 64mb of RAM (128mb or more recommended), 120mb of hard-disk space for installation, and 500mb or more of hard-disk space for working with the program. After Effects is scheduled to begin shipping in the second quarter of this year. (Adobe Systems; www.adobe.com) -JD