Adobe After Effects CS5.5
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Full user review
"Worth the money and then some...one word: Rotobrush."
64bit, Cross Platform, Rotobrush, Improved Puppetry, Remarkable Stability, Interconnectivity All Adobe Programs, Relatively Cheap, Only 1 Version
After Effects has been one of the better compositing programs for the better part of two decades. I had been using AE since the mid 90's but switched to Discrete's (now Autodesk's) Combustion in 2000. After Effects was bulky, awkward, hard to control and SLOW to boot. I refused to switch back to After Effects until CS5 was released and I had a good chance to play with it.
After 11 years in the post production business I can say without a doubt that dollar for dollar there is no better program out there than AE CS5. Now before all you neigh sayers leave flaming bags of poop on my doorstep, allow me to explain.
We live in a multi-platform world, we compositors must be able to jump between systems and be able to work without ANY hitches. It is a fact that no software company in the world has a track record anywhere near that of Adobe's when it comes to developing unified cross platform products. Adobe was developing for Windows when Macintoshes were the ONLY art based computers.
That being said, I know that when I jump back and fourth between my MacBook Pro and my Windows 7 desktops, I can be 110% confident that I will not have any problems that slow me down or make me look like a jackass in front of my clients.
This beings up another point about rendering. I have been and always will be a Mac user, but there is one problem with every Mac: the price. Since I switched back to AE I no longer NEED to buy a Mac for my rendering. I recently put together a system that has a pair of 12 core server processors, 64GB RAM and a pair of top of the line graphics cards for under $4k. An equivalent Mac would have cost me nearly 5 times as much. But since AE is reliable on both platforms, and the little known fact that ADOBE ALLOWS YOU TO INSTALL AN UNLIMITED NUMBER OF UNREGISTERED COPIES OF AFTER EFFECTS FOR RENDERING PURPOSES, I can now trust the legendary stability of the Mac for doing my work, and leave the rendering to my monster Windows server.
All of this leads me to my next point, CS5 is now fully 64bit capable, which is a darn good because now my little 15" laptop is capable of doing some pretty beast effects in absolutely no time at all, AND I can take full advantage of all 24 beautiful cores and all 64 wondrous GB of RAM in my render box.
And if I haven't convinced you yet, I have one final point: Rotobrush. Perhaps the most incredible tool in the new version, it allows you paint a few strokes and it automatically rotoscopes a clip for you. In under 10 minutes you can do what used to take several hours.
Throw all of this in with a nice heaping side of complete interconnectivity with all of Adobe's other products and you've got one heck of a program. Don't get me wrong, it's not the best product on the market, but Final Cut Studio isn't cross platform and Autodesk's Flame may absolutely lay waste to After Effects, but I'm pretty sure there are Ferraris that cost less than Flame, I'd venture to say that dollar to dollar AE wins every time.