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After Effects is a 2D/3D animation application. 

Tool Type

Editing Audio-Video

General Associations
2D (7), 3D (10), 3D animation (4), Graphics (12), animation (6), application (4), software (9)

Notes on License

Commercial. After Effects is licensed by Adobe Systems, Inc.


Free Trial, Educational and Volume Pricing Available.

Flash, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Aftereffects can be purchased as a package (CS4 Production or Master Collection), as of 06-24-09, from $1699 to $2499. 

View volume licensing prices here.


  • Innovate Visually: 

Experience creative control over virtually every element in a highly responsive 2D and 3D compositing and animation environment. With After Effects CS4, you can create whatever you envision.

  • 2D and 3D element combination:

Work in 2D or 3D, or freely combine 2D and 3D elements in the same composition without having to change modes or redo your work. Default cameras and lights mean you don’t have to set up additional elements just to add a dimension to a layer.

  • Streamlined user interface for designing 3D compositions 

Benefit from numerous changes that enhance the use of 3D space inside After Effects CS4, including the ability to keyframe x, y, and z values separately.

  • Unified camera tool

Take advantage of three-button mice for more intuitive 3D control with the unified camera tool.

  • Multiple, versatile 3D cameras for each composition

Cut between multiple cameras in the same composition. Define cameras by angle of view, lens length, image area size, aperture, depth-of-field blur, and a host of other keyframeable parameters. Save presets of your favorite camera setups, and animate them using a one- or two-point model, with the ability to auto-orient along the camera’s path.

  • Camera data

Import 3D camera and null animation data in the Alias Maya (MA) format — directly from Maya or from any 3D tracking software that can export MA files, such as 2d3’s boujou. You can also extract camera information from an RLA/RPF sequence, while third-party tools offer solutions for other 3D packages as well, including exporting camera data from After Effects.

  • Real-time design with OpenGL acceleration 

Take advantage of advanced OpenGL capabilities including support for blending modes as well as motion blur, anti-aliasing, track mattes, high-quality shadows and transparency, and accelerated rendering of common effects. New in Adobe Creative Suite® 4 software is OpenGL support for adaptive resolution, further accelerating previews when you view your work at less than 100%.

  • Parenting

Work with parent and child layers. A child layer inherits all transformations applied to the parent, including the parent’s anchor point, while maintaining its own local animation.

  • Adjustment layers

Create adjustment layers, similar to those in Adobe Photoshop® software, to apply effects to any layers that appear below them.

  • Stencil, Silhouette, and Preserve Transparency

Define individual layers to cut out all the layers below. Or have layers above honor the transparency of layers underneath.

  • Subpixel positioning

Enable the position of each object to be calculated to finer than 1/65,536th of a pixel for extremely smooth motion.

  • Adaptive motion blur

Adjust motion blur on a layer-by-layer basis to produce more realistic animations. You control how the motion blur is calculated to customize its look and enhance its smoothness.

  • Nested compositions

Use a complex composition as a single-layer source in another composition. Multiple comps can feed into one, or a single source comp can be used multiple times, allowing upstream changes to ripple throughout a project.

  • Collapse Transformations

Combine the transform properties of nested compositions with higher level comps to reduce the number of times the pixels of a layer are processed, preserving their fidelity.

  • Overlay and Ripple Insert Edit; Lift, Extract, and Trim Comp to Work Area

Using basic editing tools, easily add and extract content from the Timeline in your compositions without having to rebuild a comp from scratch.

  • Intuitive text creation and versatile text animation with per-character 3D text

Type, edit, and format characters, words, and paragraphs. Mix and match fonts and other attributes on a layer. Smart quotes and word spacing composers make your text look more professional. Animate text along any path, transform or displace words or lines of text over time, transform and blur individual or groups of characters or words, set intercharacter blending modes, randomize the order in which characters animate, wiggle your text, and more.

  • Shape Layers

Easily create and animate vector graphics with Shape Layers. Add properties such as stroke, stroke type, fill, and gradients to shapes and animate those properties. Also apply vector effects directly. New in After Effects CS4 is support for a wider range of blending modes for intershape compositing.

  • Text conversion to shapes or masks

Convert text into editable paths so you can animate the individual vertices of each character. New in Creative Suite 4 is the ability to convert text to shape paths or mask paths.

  • Shape path operators

Modify and animate hand-drawn or parametric shapes by applying a series of specialized shape effects, including Merge Paths, Offset Paths, Pucker & Bloat, Repeater, Round Corners, Trim Paths, Twist, Wiggle Paths, Zig Zag, and the Repeater. New in After Effects CS4 is a Wiggle Transform operator that automatically randomizes the position, scale, rotation, and other transform properties of shapes.

  • Web-ready text animations

Export animated text as vector-based SWF files to create innovative, web-friendly animations.

  • Solid layers

Create simple solid shapes that can have effects applied and that can be masked and animated.

  • Continuous rasterization

Enable Adobe Illustrator® artwork, text, shapes, solid layers, and vector components of PDF and SWF files to be continuously rasterized, maintaining sharpness regardless of their scaling.

  • Support for Adobe Pixel Bender 

Easily apply custom filters and effects at runtime for real-time creative expression. Use Adobe Pixel Bender™ to create unique filters, blends, and fills — now portable to multiple applications — to produce compelling, on-demand visual effects for the Adobe Flash® Player runtime environment. Write a filter once, and then share it or apply it multiple times using ActionScript® 3.0.

  • Cartoon effect

Instantly give live footage the look of cel animation. Stylize video by reducing the color palette of a clip and by emphasizing edges.

  • Blur and Sharpen effects

Create numerous blur effects ranging from the utilitarian to the highly specialized and creative, including compound, lens simulation, and edge-preserving “smart” blurs. Effects also include Sharpen and Unsharp Mask.

  • Channel effects

Manipulate the individual color and alpha channel information of your images, including borrowing channels from other layers and performing advanced operations to combine channels or create grayscale images.

  • Color-correction effects

Manipulate color information with a wide variety of effects, including Color Finesse, Auto Color, Auto Contrast, and Auto Levels; simple and advanced tinting effects; broadcast colors and gamma/pedestal/gain; and the ability to target specific colors to discard or change.

  • Distortion effects

Warp and distort the full frame of your footage — as well as selected areas — in specific, realistic ways with effects like Bezier Warp, Wave Warp, Corner Pin, Reshape, and Displacement Map. Paint distortions directly onto imagery with Liquify. Precisely simulate the fish-eye lens distortion of images taken with a real camera using a wide-angle lens.

  • Stylize effects

Enhance existing imagery, ranging from subtle textures and hot-looking glows to stylized edges, brush strokes, and other effects.

  • Generation effects

Generate imagery from simple fills and gradients to realistic lightning bolts and electricity, as well as lens flares, strokes, grids, circles, scribbled lines, and animated graphics based on audio.

  • Noise and grain management effects

Specify the characteristics of grain on all three individual color channels for a perfect match, or remove it from a shot. Eliminate dust and scratches, or create natural phenomena such as clouds, lava, glowing water, and gas using the animated Fractal Noise effect.

  • Perspective effects

Add shadows, bevel the outline of a layer, and even create a single 3D image by combining a left and right 3D view.

  • Simulation effects

Use advanced plug-ins to generate realistic wave reflection and caustic effects as well as to break up 2D layers into 3D pieces, which can then be exploded or controlled.

  • Text effects

Easily generate numbers and timecode with text effects that supplement the powerful text engine already built into After Effects.

  • Time effects

Process footage based on other layers or adjacent frames using Time Difference and Displacement effects as well as Echo. The Timewarp effect is a user-controllable extension of the Pixel Motion frame-blending technology built into After Effects.

  • Utility effects

Hand-tweak the Cineon file format conversion process, alter the color profiles assigned to a source, manage how high dynamic range (HDR) images are treated by other effects, and artificially grow images so you can process them beyond their normal boundaries.

  • 3D channel effects

Perform detailed post-processing without rerendering the original 3D file with effects that can extract 3D channels such as Object or ID Matte, normals, and other information from RLA and RPF files, plus Depth Matte, Depth of Field, and Fog 3D effects that work with RLA, RPF, ZPIC, and EIZ files.

  • Cycore effects

With this extensive package of over 60 bundled effects from Cycore, add smoke and sparks using Particle World, create blazing ray-of-light transitions using Light Burst and Light Sweep, and bend layers in unimagined ways.

  • Transition effects

Create classic video-style transitions and update them with the power, animation, and flexibility of After Effects.

  • Effects & Presets palette

Quickly sort, search for, and apply effects and animation presets. Save and share your own presets with the effects, settings, and animated properties you choose.

  • Placeholders for missing effects

Preserve information about the settings used by each missing effect.

  • Robust selection of third-party plug-ins and effects

Work with a wide range of plug-ins from third-party developers that contribute additional and specialized functionality to After Effects.

  • 32-bit floating-point pipeline

Freely push values above full white and recover detail at any stage of the pipeline so you can access the full range of color visible with the naked eye and conform it to your chosen output device or customize it for a given scene.

  • Flexible 8-, 16-, and 32-bit color modes

Start a composition in 8-bit color mode, and then finalize and output it to 16-bit or 32-bit color for optimal quality. Produce work that is film and HDTV ready using the broader range of colors available in 16- and 32-bit color modes.

  • Support for HDR image formats ENHANCED

Import and export HDR color images in OpenEXR, ProEXR, Camera Raw, Digital Negative, and TIFF formats.

  • Color Finesse

Perform your most demanding digital intermediate work within After Effects with Color Finesse™ from Synthetic Aperture, a full-featured color-correction environment that contains high-end telecine-style correction tools.

  • Color profiles on input

Assign a color profile to each source item so After Effects knows how to properly interpret its color, and combine it correctly with other sources. With Adobe Media Core and embedded profiles, many profiles are detected automatically.

  • Project working space

Choose a color space for your compositing to take place. Limit it to your planned output media, or open it to a wide universal space. Optionally employ floating-point color and linear blending modes for more realistic HDR compositing.

  • Output profiles

Convert your compositions to a new color space that matches your target media, be it video, film, or the web. Render to multiple formats and profiles simultaneously to save time.

  • Monitor compensation

Adjust the display of After Effects for your specific monitor. Also simulate the output of several formats you may not have at hand, such as film projection.

Easily handle a wide range of post-production tasks — from keying and motion tracking to color correction, rotoscoping, and more — using flexible tools in a user interface optimized to save you time.

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended 3D workflow and video layer support 

Define the planes of an image in Adobe Photoshop CS4 Extended software, export as a Vanishing Point file, and animate in 3D in After Effects, adding cameras and lights. After Effects CS4 also imports and renders Photoshop Extended 3D layers, allowing you to add animation to these objects.

  • Adobe Flash integration

Export After Effects compositions as layered rich media projects for Adobe Flash software. Import FLV files directly into After Effects, and work more efficiently to create and edit animations for playback in Adobe Flash Player. You can also preserve vectors from animations created in After Effects for lean and clean delivery, and encode FLV files more easily.

  • Adobe Device Central integration

With Adobe Device Central, browse, search, and sort mobile device profiles; directly compare multiple devices along several dimensions; and create custom sets of devices for quick project access. Easily preview and test the appearance, performance, and behavior of mobile content right on the desktop.

  • Adobe Photoshop CS4 HDR image and text support

Save 32-bit HDR and 16-bit color values in PSD files. Text remains editable, and layers, layer styles, blending modes, masks, and transparency are all preserved when PSD files are imported as compositions. Use Photoshop paths as masks or animation paths. Photoshop text can also be converted into masks or Shape Layers.

  • Photoshop layer style support

After Effects supports all layer styles available in PSD files as a separate layer property, yielding greatly enhanced shadows, bevels, shading, and other treatments, which may also be animated.

  • Adobe Illustrator CS4 integration

Copy vectors from Illustrator to use as After Effects masks, shape layer paths, and motion paths. Illustrator layers and blend modes are preserved, and vector shapes can be continuously rasterized (and output as compact SWF files), preserving smooth edge detail. Copy and paste paths and shapes between Illustrator and After Effects masks or shapes.

  • Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 integration

Preserve bins, edits, markers, keyframed effects, nested sequences, transitions, and more from Adobe Premiere® Pro CS4 software. Drag and drop or copy and paste clips from one application to another. Export an After Effects project as an Adobe Premiere Pro project.

  • Enhanced Adobe Premiere Pro integration with Dynamic Link

From within Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, edit an After Effects composition and have your changes appear automatically in Adobe Premiere Pro without rendering thanks to Adobe Dynamic Link. New in Creative Suite 4 is the ability to edit a timeline in Adobe Premiere Pro and have After Effects update without rendering.

  • Adobe Encore CS4 integration

Create elements such as motion menus and interactive buttons for your DVDs. Export AVI and MPEG-2 movies from After Effects with markers that Adobe Encore® CS4 software reads as chapters. From within Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, Adobe Dynamic Link lets you edit compositions in After Effects and have your changes appear immediately in Encore without rendering.

  • Adobe Bridge CS4

Organize preview, and employ your assets across the range of Adobe applications using Adobe Bridge CS4, a centralized media management utility. Bridge Home offers one location for easy access to product information such as training videos, the latest news, and community links to help you get more out of Encore.

  • Adobe Clip Notes

Render your work into a PDF file that enables anyone with Adobe Reader® software to make timecode-specific comments; when you import the comments into After Effects, they appear as markers on the Timeline.

  • Familiar Adobe look and feel

Leverage your knowledge of other Adobe products. After Effects uses standard Adobe tools, palettes, menus, and keyboard shortcuts, so you can get up to speed quickly.

  • Adobe Community Help

Get answers fast online. The Adobe Community Help service offers powerful search features that work across multiple Adobe products.

  • Online LiveDocs

Use web search tools to find the answers you need on Adobe’s website and others. The Help files for all Adobe products are available online, where they are constantly updated by Adobe and its large user base.

  • Searchable timelines and projects and easier nested comp navigation

Get to the parts of a project you want to refine more quickly with new tools. Use QuickSearch to instantly locate any element or even all used or missing footage in a comp or project; navigate quickly between nested comps.

  • Custom workspaces

Arrange workspace panels and frames to suit a particular task or your own style.

  • Grids, guides, and safe areas

Define a variety of grid patterns or hand-position guides, which can be used to more accurately place layers. Safe areas have programmable safe zone margins. New in After Effects CS4 is the display of 4:3 center cut safe areas inset in widescreen compositions.

  • User-modifiable interface

Easily rearrange the panels in the workspace to the layout that makes the most sense to you. User interface brightness may be adjusted and label colors may be changed to suit your taste.

  • Multiple views

Create multiple views for the same composition to see how layers interact in space, and manipulate them with confidence. Lock views so you can edit a nested composition while seeing the results downstream.

  • Quick arrangement of multiple layers

Quickly arrange multiple layers in time with handy keyboard shortcuts plus the Sequence Layers keyframe assistant, and arrange layers in space using the built-in Align tools.

  • Targetable Layer panel

View individual sources in context or on their own with View and Render switches, which allow you to see a layer before or after masks or at any point in the effect chain.

  • Guide Layers

Specify layers, which render only in a local composition without being rendered downstream. Perfect for scratch audio tracks, guide overlays, temporary graphics, and so on.

  • Project management tools

Resolve duplicate sources, delete unused sources, and collect your project and sources into a new folder for easy backup or transport using simple menu commands.

  • Interpretation rules

Define a set of rules that allows specific media types to be given predetermined default frame rates, aspect ratios, alpha channel types, and color profiles.

  • Ease of use

Convenient, now-searchable Tool Tips; context-sensitive menus; the Adobe website; numerous third-party books and training videos; and an active user community all help make you an expert.

  • Multiprocessor and multicore support

In addition to taking advantage of multiple processors to calculate complex effects, After Effects can manage multiple instances of itself so that frames are rendered in parallel simultaneously.

  • Network rendering

Install reader-only versions (free with the normal package) on multiple computers and harness them to render frames in large projects using a centralized “Watch” folder.

  • Real-time, high-fidelity OpenGL support

Take advantage of advanced OpenGL capabilities including support for blending modes as well as motion blur, anti-aliasing, track mattes, high-quality shadows and transparency, and accelerated rendering of common effects. New in After Effects CS4 is OpenGL support for adaptive resolution, further accelerating previews when you view your work at less than 100%.

  • RAM previews

Preview compositions in real time and benefit from intelligent caching, dynamic previews, and the ability to define a region of interest for faster and longer RAM previews.

  • Disk caching

Dramatically enhance previewing and interactivity on large projects with highly efficient disk caching.

  • Layer and Composition proxies

Pre-render time-consuming compositions and assign them as proxies without changing the structure of your project. Temporarily replace large sources with lower resolution versions to speed up work.

  • Keylight

Use the Academy Award–winning Keylight from The Foundry to create subtle, elegant mattes of reflections; semitransparent areas; and hair. Spill suppression, color correction, and edge refinement tools help perfect the result.

  • Unlimited masks

Control which parts of a 2D or 3D layer are visible by adding and animating an unlimited number of masks on any layer. Individually control their feather and transparency.

  • Imported masks

Copy paths in Photoshop and Illustrator and paste them as masks in After Effects.

  • Mask animations

Animate the shape of masks over time as well as their parameters, such as feather and opacity.

  • Combined masks

Combine masks using Add, Subtract, Intersect, and Difference modes.

  • Auto-trace

Automatically produce animated vector masks from any layer’s pixel data, including alpha channels.

  • RotoBezier masks

Create RotoBezier masks from scratch or convert them from Bezier masks.

  • Mask interpolation

Take control of mask transitions when mask points don’t transition properly to replicate natural motion.

  • Track mattes

Use any layer’s pixel data (alpha channel or luminance) to determine the visibility of an adjacent layer.

  • Color Difference Key

Replicate the method used to key color footage on many landmark films. The Color Difference Key weights the dominant color being keyed against the other two primary colors.

  • Numerous other specialized keying effects

Employ Difference, Color Range, Color Key, Linear Color Key, Extract, and Luma Key effects as needed by a specific job.

  • Inner/Outer Key

Derive the key from border pixels that you select by creating a rough mask around the edges of the object.

  • Spill Suppressor

Remove unwanted color spill from any footage quickly and easily.

  • Matte Choker and Simple Choker

Spread or choke the selection area of any alpha channel with a subpixel level of control.

  • Mocha for Adobe After Effects from Imagineer Systems for 2.5D planar motion tracking

Use this powerful 2.5D planar tracking application from Imagineer Systems to track the motion of elements — even in challenging shots where elements move offscreen or where there is motion blur or excessive grain.

  • Ability to keyframe x, y, and z values independently, plus other 3D compositing improvements

Composite in 3D space more easily: Keyframe x, y, and z values separately for finer control of layer positions, and use the new unified camera, which makes the After Effects camera tool work more like those standard in 3D modeling applications.

  • Puppet tool

Use the Puppet tool to animate still images and objects such as text without setting up time-consuming linked structures between multiple layers, yielding an organic rather than a mechanical result.

  • Multiple keyframe interpolation types

Quickly adjust your motion or parameter changes to move in sudden steps, linear paths, or in a smooth and elegant “eased” fashion. You can hand-enter the initial velocity and amount of ease per keyframe.

  • Roving keyframes

Separate the Position path from the time it takes to move from one point to another.

  • Frame blending modes

Choose between traditional Frame Mix and intelligent Pixel Motion modes to create new intermediate frames in speed-shifted footage.

  • Timewarp

Slow down and speed up footage with smooth, crisp results and minimal artifacts. Timewarp analyzes pixel motion to create more accurate in-between frames with user-adjustable parameters.

  • Time remapping

Keyframe time itself — produce effects such as variable slow motion, freeze frames, and backward playback.

  • Motion Sketch and Smoother

Quickly draw an animation path for any layer and set its velocity with Motion Sketch. Then fine-tune the shape and speed of the path with the Smoother. These functions are also built into the Puppet tool.

  • Motion Tracker

Use as many points as you like or standard one-, two-, and four-point settings to track x and y value, rotation, and scale.

  • Motion Stabilizer

Eliminate unwanted motion using the Motion Stabilizer.

  • Wiggler

Apply smooth or jagged changes to color, motion, or other effects over time with the Wiggler.

  • Exponential Scale

Create natural-looking zoom effects by making linear changes of scale exponential.

  • Auto-orientation

Specify an auto-orientation option for each layer. Layers and cameras can easily auto-orient along 2D or 3D motion paths. 3D layers can also auto-orient toward the camera.

  • Audio-to-keyframe conversion

Convert audio in a composition into a stream of keyframes that can be used directly or by expressions.

  • Time Displacement

Use the luminance of one layer to control the timing of individual pixels in another layer.

  • Expressions 

Tie together individual parameters, effects, and layers in a wide variety of ways (even across compositions). Use the simple Pick Whip tool, or script more complex animations using a standard JavaScript command with a built-in Expression Language menu.

  • Value and Speed graphs

Edit Value and Speed graphs in the Graph Editor, or let After Effects choose the one most appropriate for the animated property.

  • Value graphs for spatial properties

See spatial properties such as Position represented with value graphs on individual channels, each with a unique color.

  • Selected properties display

Choose one or all of three display modes for comparing animation curves — all selected properties, all animated properties of a selected layer, or a Graph Editor Set containing marked properties only.

  • One-button eases

Add ease in and out of curves with a single click.

  • Free transform

Scale and offset keyframes in the Graph Editor with free-transform features, just as you would scale or offset vertices on a mask.

  • Snapping keyframes

Snap keyframes to interesting points as you drag them horizontally or vertically around the Graph Editor.

  • Scalable view

Freely zoom and pan around the Graph Editor with the Zoom tool, Hand tool, or your mouse scroll wheel, using modifier keys for additional controls. Automatically fit all graphs to the current view with a single click.

  • Integrated Expression editor

Edit expressions applied to individual properties without leaving the Graph Editor. See graphs before and after the expressions have been applied.

  • Customizable brushes

Customize brushes to control size, spacing, and angle, and save them for ongoing use.

  • Advanced Clone tool

Remove unwanted distractions like dust and scratches, or replicate elements for a desired effect, such as filling a stadium with people. The Clone tool offers multiple presets and onion skinning of the source frame.

  • Animated paint strokes

Animate individual paint strokes over time to change their size, position, or shape and to create write-on and write-off effects.

Usage Scenarios

. (last updated July 10, 2009)

A Teaching Usage Scenario

  • Teaching digital animation

. (last updated July 10, 2009)

Version and Plans

As of 2009-05-29, Current Version is CS4 (9.0.2).

Interface Languages
English (416)


. (last updated July 2, 2009)

CNet: Various authors, various dates 


Discussion Forums / User Groups

Adobe’s official forum

Third-party forum 


Adobe’s AfterEffects tips

Wondertouch Tutorials