I really like the Refine Edge Tool introduced in CC (12.0).
I explain it in this tutorial:
The great thing for me is that it makes a lot of the magic of rotobrush also available for more traditional rotoscoping workflows (like for example rotoscoping in mocha AE, as shown in the second half of the tutorial).
There are many both big and small, but the one I use all the time is the new Centre Anchor Point In Layer Content shortcut! A great time saver.
Detail-preserving Upscale effect - Although I wish it worked as an option for the scale property instead of a separate effect. When using it with things like pinning it doesn't seem to work well. It may work by precomping, but I had wanted to apply this effect after I had already completed pinning/tracking etc and it had an undesirable effect.
All the new property linking stuff - Love that I can create one layer to control multiple comps.
Improved snapping behavior - Snapping always has saved a lot of time for me.
But, if you're looking for something that would REALLY help, it's getting AE to start using the GPU (consumer grade GPUs!) more to speed up scrubbing/preview/rendering. I know it's all part of the infrastructure of the code itself, but that's what would help. I know premiere does a much better job with a dynamic link to an AE file for a lot of effects even, and I know AE isn't *meant* to be an editor, but sure would save time when you're doing straight animations and not using premiere at all.
Another thing that would save time for me is a copy/paste multiple keyframes. For example, you have 3 layers and you want to copy all keyframes, including effects keyframes from the :10 mark to the :12. Right now you have to do them one layer at a time natively. There's a plugin for this, but it would be great to just be integrated natively so that ctrl+c/ctrl+v would work.
I really like the Compositing Options.
It's very useful for me.
I work with clients quite a bit and the ability to have an external preview via Mercury Transmit has been a great way to skip rendering/importing to premiere to get a preview onto a client monitor. With the updated render system in cc 2015, I can see these 2 working well together in the future.
Copy with Relative Property Links is a wonderful addition to After Effects. It's so simple, I don't know why hadn't been added before! It brings some of the benefits of a nodal workflow into AE's timeline/layer-based system and it's so handy to use.
The expression handling changes in CC 2015 are fantastic too. I've talked about this feature ever since it was mentioned at NAB. Deleting a layer that 40 other layers reference used to pop up at least 40 errors before you could start working again. Heaven help you if you've linked more than one property on each layer to the non-missing one! With CC 2015, there are no workflow-stopping error messages flying in your face. So. Much. Better. And you can press undo and BAM, all the expressions are fixed - no need to painstakingly relink each one.
A small but very useful one: making sourceRectAtTime() expression-accessible has made automating the creation of things like lower thirds infinitely easier.
I'm also a big fan of the CC 2015 expression handling improvements.
The constantly looping preview whilst I edit values. In 2015.
It's broken in a lot of ways, and needs a general consideration of what should/could happen at the end of RAM, and with regards different in and out points, but it's showing enormous promise.
Plus it freaks out a lot, causes the UI to hunt and hunker down, a lot, too, especially the timelines. And is clearly nowhere near optimised and efficient when handling anything it's not ideally suited for.
// and there's a bug whereby it's attempting to "background" render cache cleaning when live preview is not even on that causes massive slowness in the UI.
BUT: The rapidity this permits in altering sensitive timings so as to get that ideal "feel" for an animation is a MASSIVE productivity booster.
I used to create prototypes of animations and ideas in Unity because it has this "live preview" feature when using a visual code editor called Antares Universe.
In one fell swoop, this feature has replaced the need to do that.
It's a stunning achievement.
And one I congratulate you on.
I'm putting up with the rest of the AE 2015 renderer being in an Alpha state just because I find this feature so incredibly productive. And great for experimentation.
In the last three weeks my animation work totally changed, it's great how immediate real-time feedback improves creativity, it's a dream come true.
it's a new technology and probably something very complicated, so I don't mind for the bugs, everything will be fixed and improved.
thank you to the AE team!
My top 3:
- expression handling improvements
- masking compositing improvements
- Watch folders in AME
Wait that is 4. Never mind...
Favorite changes :
- Compositing options for each effect (it has drastically reduced the number of layers in my comps...)
- Cineware (great workflow improvement, can't wait to use it with the new Take System, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2uWlLYY_dc. A versionning feature directly in AE would be fantastic.)
- Uninterrupted previews
Currently, I prefere updates based on workflow improvements and speed, more than new features (Character Animator, Face Tracker... There are many software and plugins for these tasks.)
I really like the last updates (CC, CC 2014)
Hard to say about CC 2015 : first impressed by uninterrupted previews, but unusable for production work... I have to try with 13.5.1...