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1) You'll have to check over at the Elements forum.
2) After Effects is the better 3D program.
Is After Effects easy to pickup ?
To buy, yes. To learn, no not really. AE has one of the steepest learning curves of any media program I've ever seen. Very, very little is intuitive or translates from experience using an NLE.
Someone told me that the above effect that I wanted can be done using Ulead Cool 3D which is a cheaper software and easier to use but less powerful. Is that true ?
U happen to know what features can be done in Adobe Premiere but cannot do in Ulead Video Studio ?
I'm not at all familiar with the Ulead program. Sorry.
Cool3D can do the 3D letter effect that you describe quite easily. Be sure to get the Production Studio version for easier timeline control and keyframing.
Cool3D is a much more powerful program for creating the effects you described then After Effects. The 3D layers in AE have no depth: they are like postcards that you can move in 3D space. The objects (and words) that you create in Cool 3D are three-dimensional. They have depth and you can see their thickness when moving them through 3D space. Like in AE you can use multiple light sources of different colors and types. The program is easy to use if you limit yourself to the presets provided. The program has not been updated to make use of multiple processors so rendering takes a long time. But the results are superb. Just make sure that you render to "Uncompressed AVI with 32 bits" to get the alpha channel. (In Ulead lingo "Field Order A" is lower field first.)
Don't get me wrong. Cool 3D is very limited in its capability. It is not After Effects. But what it does it does very well.