AE CS4: Leopard vs Vista

Being a Mac guy who works with After Effects, this news really bothers me. Keven Schmidt at Creative Mac benchmarked renders in After Effects CS4 on Mac OS X and Windows. The result? AE still renders faster in Windows, by roughly 1.2x. Now, AE has traditionally rendered faster in Windows, but now that we’re on v9 and OS X has been around for 8 years, you’d think there would be significant improvements. Kevin about sums it up:

Either Adobe isn’t tuning After Effects on the Mac at all, or tuning the buhjeezus out of the Windows versions. Hell, even single process rendering on Vista generally spanks multiple processes on Leopard, for the love of Pete.

This, coupled with the continued sub-par performance of Flash on the Mac really makes me doubt Adobe’s commitment to the Mac platform.  Are they still bitter about Final Cut Pro eating into Premiere sales back in 1998 & 1999?

As a side note, the other takeaway from the post is that enabling multiprocessing in AE doesn’t save much time in either platform. For longer renders, it may help, but for those intermediate small batches, you may be better of sticking to single processes. This is something I’ve suspected for a long time, and I’m glad to see some numbers on this.

Is apprenticeship dead?

For some reason, I’ve spent a lot of time perusing the Pro-App discussion forums on Apple as well as the AE forum on Creative COW. Many people on these boards are very, very helpful. When I get the chance, I try to pitch in as well to help someone through a problem.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed two possibly (probably) related trends, mainly on Apple:

  1. Senior users responding with the air of “why are you wasting my time?” or “your wrong/that was stupid”
  2. Novice users posting questions along the lines of “I was hired to cut this commercial and I don’t know anything about broadcast!”

I’m guessing after seeing too many of #2, you get the attitude of #1. But no one is forcing that person to post or respond. As far as #2 is concerned, I’ve gotten in over my head, too; however, there seem to be more and more of these posts.

While this seems to be a relatively new trend for video, it’s old news for designers and audio engineers. Got a copy of Photoshop? You’re a designer! Pro Tools? Hey, now you’re an audio engineer! Have FCP? You’re now an editor. Gonna by that new Scarlet for $2,500. That makes you a DP!

I made a similar observation on Slashdot back when Apple lowered the price of Shake in June, 2006 ((And I’ll also note that some people called me out on it. If you go up two levels, I did make a rather snide remark which made me sound like an elitist prick.)):

When powerful software gets into the hands of the untrained, the trend seems to be that it lowers the value of the services of people who do know what they are doing. […] I’m not saying the price drop in Shake is entirely bad, just that it will bring in more people who think they know what they’re doing, when really they have no idea.

Recently, I discovered this thread on FCP-L. The general consensus is that apprenticeship seems to be dead, at least in the video/indie-film world.

I don’t knock people for wanting to get into the biz, and learning a few things the hard way. I did too. But there is, more and more, a trend of people NOT starting out as assistants or apprentices…learning the craft while on the job and watching how it is done. People will just buy the equipment and without any knowledge go off and shoot something. […] What gets me is when these people now go “I have a client and am making a commercial for broadcast…how do I do this[?]”


I know many, many people (especially some with me in film school) who just decided since they had a camera and computer, that made them a DP/editor/director. I’ve seen sophomores at UWM drop of their “DP” reels expecting to get jobs shooting commercials. Now learning something along the way is one thing. You fall. You get back up and try again, learning something along the way. Only these don’t appear to be falls, but rather willfully walking off a cliff and asking for a parachute on the way down.

Though, those of us who have run the gauntlet ((I’ll fully admit, I’m still in that process. I’m pretty sure it never ends.)) really should try and help those who need it. And especially those who ask for it. Mark Raudonis later notes that apprenticeship is not dead in his shop:

We make it a point to teach, encourage, and give people an chance to contribute to the team effort. The first mistake they make would be my fault… I didn’t teach them. The second mistake is their fault… they didn’t learn. The third mistake is their last one… at our shop.

If you come across those that seem to have gotten in over their head, be willing to help out. It may be our only chance to keep apprenticeship alive. Just be weary of those that get into these situations who then refuse to think or learn, but instead wish to have others do the work for them. They won’t learn. They don’t want to.

If you can’t afford Particular

Andrew Kramer posted another tutorial in the Meteor Crash series. The best piece of advise from the tutorial:

Now, if you don’t have Particular, what you can do is go in your back yard, and get a pile of dirt together. Put it in your hand, along with a grenade… No, along with like, a small firecracker. And then… light it. And when your hand blows off, what you can do is sue the company that makes the fireworks. Take the money from the settlement, and then buy Particular… so we can do this tutorial together.

Really, he doesn’t get into Particular until part 2, though.

It is up to us to build amazing things

As you may or may not have heard, Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 was released this week. Some new features in After Effects and Photoshop have my curiosity piqued, but it is doubtfull I’ll take the plunge into this latest incarnation anytime soon. (That is, not until the post houses and clients I work with begin to use After Effects CS4. Hell, I still have After Effects 6 installed just in case someone still uses that version.)

Of all the posts I’ve read on the web regarding the new version, Andrew Cramer at has the most solid advise I’ve seen:

If you look at the big picture, After Effects 6.5 has enough capability to create things that would stop time and newer versions regard this as well.  After effects is a compositing application and it is up to us to build amazing things. No new feature is going to do that for us…

Though I’m waiting to see that in the feature list of CS5: “Amazing Builder™ — No designer needed!” Actually, scratch that.

We tend to get caught up in the latest featuresets and plugins ((Don’t get me started on Trapcode plugins. Yes, I do use them. But for the love of God, Particular, 3D Stroke, and now Form do not instantly make your animations and designs ‘teh awesomes.’)) and can forget that they are just tools. And without us and our imaginations, they just sit idle.

Now I’m tempted to fire up that copy of After Effects 6.5… just because.