Content-Aware Fill in After Effects Is a Long-Awaited Timesaver
With the latest release of Adobe Creative Cloud, the video applications are finally getting one of the most anticipated features to make its way over from Photoshop. That’s right — today is the day content-aware fill for video, the feature formerly known as Project Cloak, goes live.
Content-aware fill works in Adobe After Effects CC the same way it does in Photoshop — you mask out the part of a picture you’d like to remove, and then with one click the software analyzes the image — or, in this case, every frame of a video — to determine the best way to fill the resulting gap.
Demonstrating the new feature at a pre-NAB press briefing, Adobe After Effects Senior Product Manager Victoria Nece said the feature is meant to work as well for a VFX artist who needs to clean up a live-action plate as it does for a wedding videographer who needs to remove an unwanted figure walking through the frame.
The demonstrations have been very impressive, although your mileage will vary with real-world footage. Adobe admits as much. “It isn’t always totally 100% magic,” Nece conceded, “but if it gets me 90 to 95% of the way there, it has saved me what would have been days of work doing this by hand, one day at a time.” It will likely be most reliable for minor tweaks, like removing shadows or bits of gear that show up in the frame, and a little more hit-and-miss for major image surgery.
Another new feature is less enticing to more casual users but tantalizing for After Effects aficionados — AE now includes a completely rebuilt Expression editor with the kind of productivity features that are familiar to coders — autocomplete, inline error messages, color-coding and highlighting. “This is a full, rich code editor,” Nece said. “It makes it so much easier to visualize the structure of what you’ve written, how it’s built, and what you need to have in place to make it work and power very complex compositions.”
In a minor but welcome tweak, Adobe has reworked motion blur in AE so that blur is reflected in the composition viewer as soon as the switch is flipped to turn it on — you no longer have to render to see the results.
In Adobe Premiere Pro CC, editors now have a new way to look at their project panel — Freeform View. Aimed at visual thinkers, the new view allows everything in the media bin to be precisely organized on screen, sorted into a given order, arranged in groups, or stacked in piles. Adobe Premiere Pro Product Manager Francis Crossman suggested that editors working in different roles might prefer different visual representations of their project, and Freeform View will allow, say, the assistant editor to have a different vantage on the bin than the lead editor.
“The assembly can begin in the bin as clips are put in order,” Crossman said, showing off Premiere’s ability to set in and out points in clips while hover-scrubbing over them. (The familiar J-K-L key layout works too, of course.) The feature was suggested by pro Hollywood editors, Crossman noted, but said Adobe expects beginners to embrace it, as well. “What is more simple, when you’re learning the craft of editing, than simply arranging images in a row?”
Premiere Pro has gotten a lot of attention this time around as far as the little thing are concerned. One top user request — the ability to use Photoshop-style rulers and guides in the program monitor — has finally been added, along with a complement of new buttons that can be used to show or hide them and turn snapping on and off. Customized guide set-ups can be saved for re-use, and AE artists can export guides for import into Premiere Pro, which means a set of guides can be shared across a collaborative team to dictate placement of bugs, logos, and lower thirds. Guides can also be used to show a 4×3 center cut, or to guide composition of a square image for social media delivery.
In the Essential Graphics Panel, artists can now add as many as 10 strokes to a single graphic, giving it a bulbous and chunky look that’s in vogue for Japanese commercial design. Text layers can now be connected to background fill layers as appearance attributes, meaning you can easily create a background that changes size and shape to match the text. “If you want to create simple lower-thirds, that’s a quick way to do it,” Crossman noted. Again borrowing a well-loved and relied-upon paradigm from Photoshop, designers will also be able, for the first time, to create groups of layers in the Essential Graphics Panel.
Adobe Audition CC is getting a new punch-and-roll recording mode that allows voice performers to correct errors or simply re-record takes without losing the flow of their performance. Also, the utility of Audition’s auto-ducking has been extended so that it now works with environmental, ambient and natural sounds. The auto-ducking is persistent across both Audition and Premiere Pro, allowing nondestructive workflow that incorporates both applications.
Adobe Audition Project Manager Durin Gleaves said the company has been working on keyboard-driven workflow, adding the ability to move clips without grabbing the mouse, using ALT-arrow key combinations instead. Another keyboard shortcut zooms to just clips that are currently selected, making them take up the entirety of the timeline view. And keyframe values including volume, pan and other effect parameters can now be edited manually by right-clicking on the keyframe and typing in a specific value.
And Character Animator has some new tricks, including a dynamic link to After Effects. A new visual tagging system allows elements of a character to be quickly and easily logged — head, eyes, arms, etc. — as they are imported from Photoshop — and Twitch integration gives users who want to stream live via Twitch new character triggers that enable paid audience interactions.