What’s new and changed in the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update

The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update is now available. Karl Soule shows several of the new and changed features in this video.

For an overview of what’s new in all of the Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page. For details of the updates for all Adobe professional video and audio applications and services, see this page.

If you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber, you can download the new version by checking for updates through the Creative Cloud desktop application. For information about purchasing a Creative Cloud subscription, see this page about plans and this page with current promotional offers.

If you want to ask questions about these new and changed features, come on over to the After Effects user-to-user forum.  If you’d like to submit feature requests or bug reports, you can do so here.

Updated preview behaviors and Preview panel options

Since the release of After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the After Effects team listened closely to user feedback about the changes to preview behaviors and the Preview panel controls. Several changes were made in the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update to accommodate that feedback.

Previews can be nearly twice as long for same content (compared with previous versions)

We have optimized how frames are cached and how frames are transformed for screen display such that only about half as much memory is required for typical content. Though this change is primarily about memory efficiency, it also contributes to rendering and playback performance.

Improved caching behaviors and controls

The Preview Favors control has been removed. This option did not clearly express its intent of changing the caching behavior, and it received very little use. There is now a single caching behavior. The new caching behavior is a hybrid of the former Preview Favors Frame Rate and Preview Favors Length behaviors:

  • Like Preview Favors Frame Rate, After Effects renders and caches frames until the cache is full, and then caching stops. There is no longer an option for After Effects to extend a preview past the cached frames by discarding the oldest frames in the cache, as Preview Favors Length would have done.
  • Like Preview Favors Length, the new caching behavior only stores the screen display cache (a secondary cache used for transforming the frames for screen display) for a short duration ahead of the Preview Time Indicator. In After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the Preview Favors Frame Rate mode kept the screen display cache for all cached frames, which was inefficient and could result in an unexpectedly short preview duration.

A new Cache Before Playback option has been added. When this is enabled, After Effects caches frames before starting playback. This behavior is similar to how RAM Preview behaved in past versions of After Effects. However, note that frames are not displayed to the Composition, Layer, or Footage panel as they are cached. This option is not enabled by default for any of the preview shortcuts. If you Option-click (Mac OS) or Alt-click (Windows) the Reset button in the Preview panel, Cache Before Playback is enabled for Numpad-0.

Audio preview changes

The Audio Preview Duration control in Preferences > Previews is removed. This option conflicted with the Range option in the Preview panel. When audio must be rendered for a preview, it is now rendered for the duration defined by the Range control. The new Play Around Current Time range option is used to emulate the behavior of the Audio Preview Duration preference.

Regardless of the range, longer audio durations require more memory to store the rendered audio for playback. This could result in shorter overall preview durations and also a longer pre-preview delay to prepare the audio (the Info panel displays “Mixing audio for preview”).

The Composition > Preview > Audio Preview commands is removed. These menu commands, Audio Preview (Here Forward) and Audio Preview (Work Area) described behaviors that can now be modified in the Preview panel, now that the audio-only preview keyboard shortcuts can be configured in the Preview panel (see below). To reduce confusion, they have been removed. The remaining Composition > Preview > Play Current Preview command can still start an audio-only preview, if that is the current state of the Preview panel.

The Mute Audio button at the top of the Preview panel mutes or unmutes audio during playback. It also enables or disables the Include Audio button for the keyboard shortcut that you used to start that preview.

To change whether audio is played when you start a preview, use the new Include Audio button, described below.

New controls for determining what happens when you stop a preview

In previous versions of After Effects, including After Effects CC 2015 (13.5), the behaviors that occur when you stopped a preview were dependent on what type of caching was being used by the preview and what keyboard shortcut you used to stop the preview. These behaviors were not user-configurable.

With the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update, you can configure the stop behaviors for each keyboard shortcut using new controls at the bottom of the Preview panel. In the On (shortcut name) Stop section (for example, On (Spacebar) Stop), you can enable the following options:

  • If caching, play cached frames: When this option is enabled and you use this keyboard shortcut to stop a preview before caching has completed, only caching is stopped; playback of cached frames restarts from the beginning of the range. When this option is disabled, stopping a preview with this keyboard shortcut stops both caching and playback.
  • Move time to preview time: When this option is enabled and you use this keyboard shortcut to stop a preview, the current-time indicator moves to the position of the preview time (the last frame previewed). When this option is disabled, the current-time indicator stays at its previous position.

The spacebar shortcut now has “If caching, play cached frames” disabled by default. In After Effects CC (13.5), this behavior was enabled for the spacebar shortcut and caused confusion among some users.

New Include buttons for video, audio, and overlays and layer controls

Below the Shortcut control are three buttons that control whether any keyboard shortcut starts a preview that plays video, plays audio, or shows overlays and layer controls. You can now configure any preview shortcut to start a preview with or without video, audio, or overlays and layer controls.

  • Include Video is new with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update. When this option is enabled, the preview plays video. When disabled, the preview does not play video.
  • Include Audio replaces functionality that was previously assigned to the Mute Audio button. When this option is enabled, the preview plays audio. When disabled, the preview does not play audio.
  • Include Overlays & Layer Controls replaces the Layer Controls option in the Preview panel. When this option is enabled, the preview shows overlays (for example, grids and guides) and layer controls for selected layers as defined in the View > View Options dialog. When disabled, the preview does not show overlays. Note that this can be enabled regardless of whether or not Include Video is enabled.

You can not disable all three of the Include buttons simultaneously, at least one button must remain enabled. If you try to disable the third button, one of the other buttons become enabled.

New configurable keyboard shortcuts for previews

  • Audio-only preview shortcuts: The keyboard shortcuts for audio-only previews, Numpad-.(decimal) and Option/Alt+Numpad-.(decimal), are now configurable in the Preview panel.
  • Shift+Spacebar: A new keyboard shortcut, Shift+Spacebar, has been added to the Preview keyboard shortcuts. By default, Shift+Spacebar is configured similarly to Numpad-0, except that Play From is set to Current Time.
  • New range options, including option to play around current time

    The Audio Preview Duration preference in the Previews preferences category has been removed. This option conflicted with the Range option in the Preview panel. When audio must be rendered for a preview, it is now rendered for the duration defined by the Range control. The new Play Around Current Time range option (see below) can be used to emulate the behavior of the Audio Preview Duration preference. Regardless of the range, longer audio durations require more memory to store the rendered audio for playback. This could result in shorter overall preview durations and also a longer delay before preview began, to prepare the audio (the Info panel displays “Mixing audio for preview”).

    The Range control includes a new option, Play Around Current Time. This option behaves similarly to the Play Around command in Premiere Pro. When you start a preview with Play Around Current Time enabled, the preroll value is subtracted from the current time, the postroll value is added to the current time, and the frames in between are previewed.

    To set the preroll and postroll values, choose Play Around Current Time from the Range menu. Set your desired preroll and postroll values in seconds, then click OK.

    Play Around Current Time is enabled by default for the Numpad-.(decimal) audio-only preview keyboard shortcut, with a preroll value of 0 seconds and a postroll value of 30 seconds. This emulates the default cache duration defined by the Audio Preview Duration preference that was removed.

    Current-time indicator color change

    The current-time indicator (CTI) now draws as blue through its entire length at all times, including when preview is stopped. This resolves a consistency issue between the CTI and the red preview-time indicator (PTI) that appears only during previews to show which frame is being previewed.

    User interface improvements for touch screens, multi-touch devices, and small screens

    As more and more people use After Effects on small laptops and tablet devices—many of which have touch screens and multi-touch input devices—it is increasingly important for After Effects to work well on such small screens and take full advantage of these touch input systems.

    Stacked panel groups

    Stacked panel groups give you one-click access to panels while keeping your workspace clean and uncluttered. Stacked panel groups function similarly to the panels in Adobe Lightroom.

    Panels in a stacked panel group are minimized to their panel tabs and stacked vertically. Clicking on a panel tab expands that panel, and by default solos that tab by simultaneously minimizing the other panels in the group.

    Stacked panel groups are best used to quickly show and hide panels that typically appear along the right side of the After Effects workspace, such as the Character, Paragraph, Paint, Brushes, Tracker, and other panels that you do not use all the time.

    To create a stacked panel group, click the panel menu on the tab of any panel in the panel group choose Stacked Panel Group from the Panel Group Settings menu.

    To restore the stacked panel group to a non-stacked panel group, disable the Stacked Panel Group option.

    You can reorder and resize panels within a stacked panel group.

    When you click on a panel in a stacked panel group, other panels in that stacked panel group minimizes to their tabs (solo mode). To allow more than one panel in a stacked panel group to be expanded simultaneously, disable Solo Panels In Group in the Panel Group Settings menu for that panel group.

    Regardless of the solo setting, you can simultaneously expand or minimize all panels in a stacked panel group by Command-clicking (Mac OS) or Ctrl-clicking (Windows) the tab of a panel in that group.

    Workspaces and the workspace bar

    The new workspace bar gives you one-click access to default or custom workspaces. It functions similarly to the Workspaces panel in Premiere Pro CC 2015. Please read this article in Premiere Pro Help to learn how to modify, arrange, and choose workspaces in the workspace bar.

    In previous versions of After Effects, workspaces were available through the Workspace menu on the right side of the Tools panel. This has been replaced by the workspace bar, which occupies the right side of the Tools panel. Workspaces that do not fit in the available space are displayed in the overflow menu (>>) on the right side of the workspace bar.

    When the Tools panel is moved from its position at the top of the workspace, the workspace bar is replaced by the Workspace menu.

    Workspaces and the new Edit Workspaces dialog box can also be accessed through the Window > Workspace menu.

    New workspaces have been added to take advantage of stacked panel groups and the workspace bar, and the order of the workspaces has been rearranged. By default, the workspace bar shows three workspaces: Essentials, Standard, and Small Screen. Other workspaces are available in the workspace bar’s overflow menu.

    • Essentials is now the default workspace. The layout is similar to Standard, except that panels on the right side of the workspace are in a stacked panel group.
    • Standard is the same workspace as in previous versions of After Effects.
    • Small Screen is optimized for use on devices with small screens, including small laptops, projectors, and touch notebook computers.

    Due to the changes to workspaces, custom workspaces are not migrated from previous versions of After Effects.

    Other panel and tab improvements

    Panel tabs can be set to a larger size for easier selection on a touch device. To enable this for all tabs in a panel group, click on the panel menu for any tab in the group, choose Panel Group Settings, then disable Small Tabs.

    When you rearrange panels in a tabbed panel group, other panels now automatically move out of the way to make room for the dragged panel. This includes automatically scrolling hidden panels when you drag to the end of a full panel group.

    The overflow menu for tabbed panel groups now shows all panels in that group.

    Multi-touch zoom, pan, and scroll gestures

    When using a multi-touch input device—such as a touchscreen display (for example, Microsoft Surface or Wacom Cintiq Touch) or multi-touch trackpad—you can zoom, pan, and scroll in the Composition, Layer, Footage, and Timeline panels using multi-touch gestures.

    • zoom: Using two fingers, pinch your fingers closer together to zoom out or move your fingers farther apart to zoom in. In viewer panels, this behaves very much like zooming in while holding the Alt (Windows) or Option (Mac OS) key to zoom centered around the mouse pointer.
    • pan and scroll: drag with two fingers to pan or scroll up, down, left, or right in the panel’s current view. This gesture behaves very much like panning with the Hand tool.

    Improved color fidelity

    Several changes were made with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update to extend the After Effects color management feature set and to improve the ability to bring in assets from many different sources while preserving color information at the highest possible fidelity. There’s more information about the improvements that we’re making across our applications for ultra-HD and high-dynamic-range (HDR) color on the Premiere Pro blog, here.

    Among the small changes to color management, automatic interpretation of color data has been improved in a few ways: for example, linear color pixel formats are now recognized automatically, and half-resolution HD footage is no longer tagged with SD color profiles.

    Lumetri Color effect

    The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update includes the Lumetri Color effect, which is being added so that color grading work performed in Premiere Pro can be preserved in After Effects when copying clips from Premiere Pro to After Effects, importing a Premiere Pro project into After Effects, or using the Replace With After Effects Composition command in Premiere Pro.

    IMPORTANT: The intent of the Lumetri Color effect in After Effects is to preserve color adjustments on clips brought from Premiere Pro into After Effects. Refer to the Premiere Pro color workflows documentation for a description of the different controls. You can apply the Lumetri Color effect to any layer in After Effects, but note that not all controls are fully replicated.

    For best results, set the project color depth to 32 bits per channel if you enable the High Dynamic Range option in the Lumetri Color effect.

    Additional ICC profiles for color management

    The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update includes several new ICC profiles for correctly interpreting colors from a variety of sources—including ARRIRAW footage—as well as new profiles for simulating color output and for choosing a working color space for the project:

    • ARRI Log wide color gamut profiles
    • HDTV and UHDTV Display profiles, replacing the older 709 camera profile
    • DCDM and DCI P3 profiles, with more white points, replacing older inaccurate profiles
    • ACES and ACEScg working space profiles
    • SDTV Display profiles, recommended for use in place of the older Rec. 601 profiles

    New importers for additional formats and codecs

    The After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update can natively import HEVC (H.265) footage, and QuickTime (.mov) files encoded with the Avid DNxHR codec.

    Streamlined workflow for using CC Libraries and Adobe Stock

    Graphics and video assets can be dragged from the Libraries panel directly to the Composition and Timeline panels. The asset automatically is imported into your project; you no longer have to import and add to the composition as separate steps.

    At the top of the Libraries panel is a new search field; from the drop-down menu you can choose to search either your libraries or Adobe Stock. When you search Adobe Stock, results are displayed in the Libraries panel.

    When you mouse over the results, buttons for Buy and Save Preview appear over the image or video. Buy purchases a license for that asset and save it to your libraries, and Save Preview adds a watermarked preview of that asset to your libraries. From here you can add the assets to your After Effects project.

    If you want to license a preview image or video after adding it to your libraries, right-click on the asset in your library, then choose Buy Image or Buy Video. The preview image or video is automatically replaced with the non-watermarked, licensed version.

    IMPORTANT: In After Effects CC 2015 (13.6), licensed still images do not automatically replace preview still images. This will be fixed in a future release. If you have used a preview still image in a composition for which you’ve purchased a license, you can work around this: Add the now-licensed image to your project, then hold the Option (Mac OS) or Alt (Windows) key and drag the licensed image from the Project panel onto the preview image in the composition to replace it.

    When you add an Adobe Stock video to your After Effects project, the video initially appears as a placeholder (color bars) while the video file is downloaded. Once the download completes, the placeholder is replaced with the video file. You can monitor download progress in the new Progress Panel (Window > Progress Panel). When you license a preview video that was used in your project, the licensed video also needs to download before the preview video is replaced.

    Scripting access to text baselines

    You can read the baseline (x,y) locations for a text layer using scripting with the After Effects CC 2015 (13.6) update. The new sourceText.value.baselineLocs attribute for TextDocument objects returns an array of floats indicating the starting position of each line of text’s baseline x and y value.

    Line wraps in a paragraph text box are treated as multiple lines.

    The array returns float values in the form of: line0.start_x, line0.start_y, line0.end_x, line0.end_y, line1.start_x, line1.start_y, line1.end_x, line1.end_y … lineN-1.start_x, lineN-1.start_y, lineN-1.end_x, lineN-1.end_y

    Note: If a line has no characters, the x and y values for start and end will be the maximum float value (3.402823466e+38F).

    New scripting method to generate random numbers

    There is a new scripting method to generate random numbers, generateRandomNumber. We recommend that you use this function instead of Math.random when you want to generate random numbers that are applied as values in a project (for example, when using setValue).

    This new method avoids a problem where Math.random would not return random values in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5.x) due to a concurrency issue with multiple CPU threads.

    Sample use of the generateRandomNumber method:

    // change the position X of all layers with random number

    var myComp = app.project.activeItem;
    var x = 0;

    for(var i = 1; i <= myComp.numLayers; i++){

    // If you use Math.random(), this does not work
    // x = 400*(Math.random()) – 200;
    // use new generateRandomNumber() instead

    x = 400*(generateRandomNumber()) – 200;
    currentPos = myComp.layer(i).property(“Position”).value;

    CycoreFX HD 1.8.1 effect plug-ins

    The CycoreFX HD 1.8.1 plug-in package includes the following new effects:

    • CC Vignette: Remove or add vignetting. Includes an option to preserve (pin) highlights for more realistic behavior.
    • CC HexTile: A honeycomb pattern generator. It repeats a hexagonal pattern, with several options including a unique “smear” control. It can be considered as an extension to the CC Kaleida effect, generating dynamic and exciting backgrounds and effects.

    Adobe Media Encoder improvements

    The improvements coming in the next version of Adobe Media Encoder include several that are of great interest to After Effects users, including the ability to use image sequences in watch folders, the ability to directly publish to Facebook (as well as Vimeo and YouTube), and the ability to export HEVC (H.265) video. See this page for details.

    Character Animator (Preview 3) improvements

    Character Animator (Preview 3) adds much new functionality and improves performance and usability in several areas. See this page for details.

    Miscellaneous new and changed features

    • The Hardware Accelerate Composition, Layer, and Footage Panels option in Preferences > Display is now enabled. This was disabled during the performance re-architecture work begun in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5).
    • The frame being rendered in the render queue is also displayed in the Composition panel. This was disabled during the performance re-architecture work begun in After Effects CC 2015 (13.5).
    • The OptiX library from Nvidia is being updated on Windows, which adds the ability for Maxwell-architecture GPUs (for example, GTX 970, GTX 980) to be used for the ray-traced 3D renderer on Windows.
    • The Trim Comp To Work Area command now has a keyboard shortcut: Command+Shift+X (Mac OS) or Ctrl+Shift+X (Windows).
    • The New Comp From Selection command now has a keyboard shortcut: Option+\ (Mac OS) or Alt+\ (Windows).
    • The MXF OP1a format has been removed from the After Effects render queue. To export to MXF OP1a, use Adobe Media Encoder.
    • Files can now be dragged from the Finder (Mac OS) or Windows Explorer (Windows) directly to the Composition and Timeline panels. The file is automatically imported into your project and a layer is created based on the footage item; you no longer have to import the file and add a layer based on the footage as separate steps.
    • Current Time Indicator (CTI) now draws as blue through its entire length at all times, including when preview is stopped. This resolves a consistency issue between the CTI and the red Preview Time Indicator (PTI) that appears only during previews.
    • Roving keyframes use a new, easier-to-distinguish icon.
    • updated Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse plug-in (3.0.14) with several bug fixes

    Notable bug fixes

    • Audio tracks are no longer silent when you export from the Render Queue.
    • Tracking motion (2D motion tracker) no longer causes After Effects to crash under certain conditions, most commonly with large resolution frames (for example, 4K).
    • ScriptUI panels now display and resize correctly on high-DPI displays on Windows.
    • Horizontal panning in the Timeline panel works again when the panel is on a secondary monitor arranged to the left of the primary monitor.
    • Dragging keyframes or layer in and out points in the Timeline panel should now not experience a delay on mouse up in complex compositions.
    • The render progress bar in the Composition and Layer panels is more responsive during long frame renders.
    • Changing the source text of a text layer no longer causes expressions to fail when the name of the text layer was referenced.
    • When a file in use by the open project becomes missing, After Effects now only warns the user once about the problem, not twice.
    • N-up views in the Composition panel now display focus triangles in blue instead of yellow.
    • Pan Behind tool can again grab 3D axes on a 3D layer.
    • Shape layer path direction buttons in the Timeline panel now have distinct highlighting and contrast, to enhance the difference between selected and unselected states.
    • Undo after using Edit Original on camera raw files no longer causes After Effects to crash.
    • DNG sequences created by Magic Lantern firmware for Canon cameras now update correctly when you edit the camera raw settings via the Interpret Footage dialog box.
    • Reloading a camera raw sequence after editing that sequence’s camera raw settings in another application (for example, Photoshop) now loads the updated camera raw settings as expected.
    • Edit Original again works as expected for single (non-sequence) camera raw files.
    • Applying remembered Interpret Footage settings on a still image sequence that uses XMP sidecar files (i.e., camera raw formats) no longer fails to apply the settings to the first frame of the sequence.
    • A {no current context} error message is no longer displayed when you set a footage layer as a guide layer, if you had changed its Interpret Footage frame rate.
    • Applying an animation preset that contains the obsolete Lightning effect no longer causes After Effects to crash.
    • Replacing duplicated footage no longer displays the cache for the footage that was replaced.
    • Applying the Color Range effect to a nested composition for which Collapse Transformations is enabled and that contains a layer with scale set to 0% no longer causes After Effects to crash.
    • Applying the Color Range effect to an adjustment layer for which Continuously Rasterize is enabled no longer causes After Effects to crash.
    • The effect controls for the Levels, Extract, Linear Color Key and Color Range Key effects now update correctly during interactions.
    • Clone stamp strokes no longer offset in time unexpectedly.
    • Using the copyToComp scripting method no longer causes After Effects to crash when the layer has a parent.
    • The valueAtTime(time, false) scripting method now waits for time-intensive expressions, like sampleImage, to finish evaluating before it returns the result.
    • After Effects no longer crashes when you click OK or Cancel buttons in a scriptUI dialog with tabbed panels.
    • Symbolic links in the After Effects scripts folder on Mac OS no longer fail to load.
    • After Effects no longer fails to start if left or right double quotation characters are used instead of the non-directional double quotation character the Interpretation Rules.txt file. (Common occurrence when TextEdit is used to edit the file without disabling the Smart Quotes feature.)
    • Shadow Map Resolution is no longer reset to Comp Size after clicking OK in the Classic 3D Renderer Options dialog.
    • After Effects no longer crashes when the graph editor is displayed while processing an time remapping expression.
    • Export to QuickTime Photo-JPEG codec no longer introduces a color shift. A similar problem was solved for the QuickTime Motion JPEG A and B codecs. In both cases, the correct pixel format for the codec (i.e., YUV Rec.601 or Rec.709) is used.
    • Premultiplied alpha channels in Apple ProRes 4444 codec footage now render as expected.
    • Audio is no longer rendered when a preview is started with audio muted. You no longer see “Mixing audio for preview” in the Info panel if audio is muted. If audio is unmuted during a preview, audio rendering begins.
    • The cursors for adjusting the work area in and out points are no longer offset.
    • Fixed a problem where, when a plug-in causes After Effects to crash, the cause of the error is not reported and the user is not given an opportunity to save the project.
    • Non-square pixel aspect ratios in DPX files are now recognized.
    • Pasting mocha AE shape data applies the mocha shape effect as expected.
    • The tooltip on the Play/Stop button in the Preview panel now updates to Play/Stop Rendering/Stop Playback if the “If caching, play cached frames” option is enabled.
    • Half-res HD video footage is no longer automatically tagged with an SDTV color profile.
    • Improved performance of expressions on time-remapped layers. This also reduces rendering time for audio on time-remapped layers with expressions.
    • Duplicating items in the Project panel no longer causes compositions to render the wrong result.
    • Fixed a problem where previews slow-to-render frames could not be interrupted.
    • Improved the performance of applying the Exponential Scale keyframe assistant to multiple keyframes.
    • Mercury Transmit no longer fails to display on a second monitor when you switch to a different application and then back to After Effects on Mac OS X v10.11 (El Capitan).
    • Scrubbing time in the Footage panel no longer incorrectly attempts to downsample using adaptive resolution.
    If you’d like to let us know what you’d like to see addressed in a future update, let us know with a bug report or feature request here. You can also talk with us on the After Effects user-to-user forum
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