General Specialist


Opening After Effects Projects in an Earlier Version

So you want to open a project saved in After Effects CS3 in an earlier version like After Effects 7.0? Wish there was a way to avoid redoing your entire project just because a client hasn't upgraded yet? Wish that Adobe would let you do a Save to XML just like in Final Cut Pro?

Sorry about the rant, but currently your only hope of opening a project saved in a newer version of After Effects is a manual process that involves a lot of copying and pasting.
  1. Firstly, you'll need both versions installed on the same computer. This usually doesn't cause any problems, I always have at least 2-3 versions of After Effects installed at the same time.
  2. Next step is to manually recreate your project in the earlier version. This involves importing all the sources, creating all the comps and changing all the settings to match the original project. It's a pain, I know...
  3. Open the original project in the newer version and highlight the top layer in your composition and hit UU on the keyboard to reveal all properties that has have non-default values. Great shortcut, huh? Here's a bonus tip: just hitting U will show just the properties with keyframes!
  4. Select all keyframes on the layer by click-dragging the mouse over the names of the properties.
  5. Copy and paste into a text editor (not a word processor, instead use something like Notepad++ for Windows or Smultron for OS X) and changing the first line that says:
    Adobe After Effects 8.0 Keyframe Data
    ... into ...
    Adobe After Effects 7.0 Keyframe Data
    If you are converting the animation into even older versions of After Effects, you'll have to change the number to match the version you are using (only use the whole increments such as 6.0 even if you are using version 6.5.)
  6. Select all text in the text editor, copy and then paste onto the corresponding layer in the older version of After Effects.
Not exactly great, but just a tad bit better than redoing every keyframe. I haven't tested this on earlier versions than 6.5, but if you really need to down-convert to a five year old software, you're in trouble anyway... :)

- Jonas

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Planar Tracking for After Effects

There's a lot of things you can do with After Effects' pixel-based tracker, but they require good footage and a willingness to experiment and tweak the tracks to get usable results.

The biggest drawback is that if any of the points become distorted (by motion blur, grain or perspective shift) or move off screen, you must resort to keyframing every frame. Enter the planar tracking technique, such as in Mocha.

Here's the reasons you want to use a planar tracker:
Mocha video tutorial by Imagineer Systems
Mocha AE video tutorial by Aharon Rabinowitz

The Mocha AE costs around $300, which is drastically cheaper than the full version of Mocha which goes for a cool $2.800. However, please note that it is a stand-alone app and not a plugin, and that it only does tracking and that the rotoscoping features from the "full" Mocha are disabled. Why the same name if the features aren't the same? You tell me...

You can fake something similar in After Effects if you are willing to put in a bit more effort, but you'll still not get away from AE's pixel-based tracker and it's quirks.

Oh, there's a great course on how to use these tracking tools over at fxphd.

- Jonas

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Cinema 4D Resources

After years as a casual and frustrated user of Maya and 3ds max, I finally realized that being good at a "lower-end" software is way better than being a newbie of a prestigious vfx tool like Maya. The price, the cross-platform availability and the reported integration with AE made me turn to Cinema 4D.

I thought I'd share some resources I've found while trying to dig deeper into Cinema 4D, so here's a list of stuff I've bookmarked lately:

Ko Maruyama shows the flicker tool which is part of the free CSTools.'s basic training to get you up to speed on Cinema 4D. Maxon's own online training.

JHT's C4D tutorials and great planet textures. Free textures and shaders.

Water drops on a surface.

C4D at

Tim "" Claphams' C4D images, animations and tutorials.'s MoGraph introduction

the c4d base

C4D Portal

Please post your own tips in a comment!

- Jonas

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3D Lens for Refocusing Still Photos

Here's an interesting demo of the possibilities of specialized lenses combined with software, which in the future might allow you to not only refocus shots, but also to adjust the camera position somewhat.

While this light field lens probably won't show up on your pocket camera, this technology combined with high-resolution high-end cameras such as those from RED might allow for some amazing post-processes.

How this works is best explained by Stanford researchers in a short WMV movie (see also their site and paper) or via Popular Science's article.

- Jonas

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Best VFX, Graphics and Animation Training Starts New Term

So you think you already know everything you need to do your work? Think again... has been a big success and when it now enters the fifth term of training, there's even more cutting-edge courses for anyone in the video / animation / graphics / broadcasting / film business. I've been a member from the start, and believe me; you won't get as much value for your money anywhere else!

As an example: last term we got an hours worth of vfx breakdown of the Pirates of the Caribbean by the legendary John Knoll himself. Priceless...

You can join anytime during the term (it starts on October 8th) and this time around you can get both advanced courses by After Effects gurus such as Mark Christiansen (blog / book) and Stu Maschwitz (blog / book) as well as exclusive training in the RED production and workflow.
Here's a complete list of available courses.

If you want to know more about fxphd, take a look at the fxphd Tour Movie

UPDATE: Here's a torrent link to the brand new Orientation Week movie that covers all the upcoming classes.

Oh, if you enter humlan in the Referring Member field on the signup page, I'll get an extra class, which would be really nice. Thanks in advance!

One last tip: don't miss the HD versions of the excellent fxguidetv from the same guys that bring you fxphd!

- Jonas

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