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Adobe After Effects CS7 to include a live 3D pipeline with Cinema 4D Lite

The next version of the compositing software gains integration with Maxon's 3D software - and even includes a Lite version of the software for free.

Adobe has given us a sneak peek at the next version of its After Effects motion graphics, VFX and animation software, alongside upgrades to Premiere Pro, Prelude, Audition and SpeedGrade - as well as formally launching its network-based editing system Adobe Anywhere.

The headline feature is what Adobe's business development manager for video Niels Stevens describes as a 'live 3D pipeline' between After Effects CS7 * and Maxon's Cinema 4D. The traditional workflow with Cinema 4D and After Effects is that scenes created in Cinema 4D can be rendered out with multiple passes to bring some information into After Effects, but any changes in Cinema 4D require re-rendering and re-importing of renders into AE.

The new version of After Effects appears to let C4D scenes to sit 'live' within AE comps, allowing you edit them in AE by double-clicking on them. The new CineWare plug-in for AE gives you control over how the scene is brought into After Effects - including which camera, layers and renderer are used. It also allows control over multi-pass output and lets you extract scene data into AE's own 3D system.

You can also take 3D information from AE CS7 into Cinema 4D. Niels demoed running a 3D Camera Tracker - which was added in After Effects CS6 - on the video in the screenshots below, then taking data from some of the track points, right-clicking to Select Ground Plain & Origin, then using a Maxon Cinema 4D Exporter menu option to bring to plane into Cinema 4D. He then aligned a 'large American bumper' to the plane and showed how it would appear when brought into After Effects.

The live 3D pipeline will work with any version of Cinema 4D, but After Effects owners will get a new free version of the software called Cinema 4D Lite. Adobe isn't saying yet if it's going to be made available from with Creative Cloud - which would make it the first non-Adobe application to be offered through Creative Cloud.

While Adobe's demo of the workflow between After Effects CS7 and Cinema 4D showed them adding VFX to a scene, we expect that the primary purpose of the two softwares working together will be for motion graphics.

Cinema 4D Lite includes many of the 3D suite's core tools. It doesn't include:Motion Camera, Morph Camera or Camera CalibratorDisplacement, Collision, Camera, Smoothing, Spline Wrap and Shrinkwrap deformersThe Sculpt sculpting system (unsurprisingly as its found in the high-end Studio version of Cinema 4D)Sub-polygon displacement and sub-surface scatteringProjection paintingThe Terrain Mask shader; the Brick, Wood, Pavement, Weather and Normalizer Shaders - or the Sketch & Toon Art, Hatch and Spot (halftone) shaders (which is a shame as these would be ideal for motion graphics work)UV editingCausticsParticles and dynamicsMograph (though you do get the Fracture Object, Plain and Random effectors if you register the software with Maxon)Character animationHairAmbient occlusion, global illumination or the physical rendererRendering features including Sketch and Toon non-photorealistic; Pyrocluster volumetric particle rendering; Physical Sky or 3D Sound RenderingNetwork renderingIntegration with Nuke, Final Cut Pro and Motion, Eyeon Fusion, Shake, Autodesk's tools and outputting files in most common 3D formats

Niels also demoed the new Refine Edge feature - revealed by Adobe in a video last week - that aims to make capturing fine detail such as hair a lot easier when using the Roto Brush.

Also new is the Warp Stabilizer VFX plug-in, which allows you to stabilise parts of footage but not others for interesting - and soon-to-be-overused we bet - effect. Adobe has also improved the application's overall image sampling for better results from effects, especially with higher-resolution video such as 4K.

* While Adobe has released updates to tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator and Dreamweaver for free to subscribers to its Creative Cloud service, the company is talking about AE's new features in terms of the 'next version' of the software, and we have received information from a source that this is After Effects CS7 - so a paid-for upgrade available for non-Cloud members and free to those who are.


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