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I upgraded from 6.5 to CS3 and am very happy with the upgrade!
My favorite new feature - the ability to link mask paths to other paths, shape paths, or paint paths via expressions (pickwhip it). It's SO useful. And with that, you can now "edit" paint effect strokes.
1) I'm awaiting a new fresh, clean system. My current one still has 6.5 on it. When opening old projects, I'd get frequent crashes. Restart AE, and then it'd be fine. Work on it, save it, open a new one - crash. Repeat. I also get fairly frequent crashes, much more than 6.5. Again, I'll let you know with my new system.
2) I'm hit and miss with the puppet tool. Some stuff it's worked better than expected. Other stuff, it horribly distorts it and is way to hard and imprecise to control it, even with LOTS of triangles added to mesh. I'd like to use it on more stuff, but more often than not, we draw new frames of animation instead.
3) I think performance is better than ever. I'm undecided on multiprocessing in CS3. I will have a better idea when I receive my new machine with more cores and ram.
4) I'm finding more and more uses for Shape layers. They have a nice way of grouping objects and controlling the groups. Layer Effects importing from PS is nce and useful. There's a couple of UI enhancements that are really useful - locating the current comp in the project window. Stepping up to the parent comp (like alt dbl click to go parent->child comp, theres an icon to go child->parent).
I still haven't had a chance to try out importing Vanishing Point from PS, I don't do text animation so I haven't tried 3d text, and I never tried Brainstorm..
I think AE is better than ever.
Thanks for the feedback, David. Sounds about what I expected with the Puppet tool... Keep me posted, please.
Anyone else have anything to add?
The things you'll appreciate about AE CS3 will depend heavily on what sorts of things you do with AE. I work with a lot of motion graphics and scripting these days, so shape layers, 3D Text, and some of the under-the-hood improvements to the scripting language mean a lot to me. Multiprocessing is great, too, when it works properly. And a lot of little workflow improvements help, like the ability to jump from a comp straight to any comp in which it is nested, or the return of the "toggle switches/modes" feature which was removed in AE7.
There have been a couple of gotchas in converting old projects to CS3: Illustrator layers that extend beyond the artboard will crop at the artboard even if they are set to use layer dimensions. 2D nulls no longer split 3D space the way a 2D solid or adjustment layer does.
Stability is way better than in AE7, but - and that's a big but - the new MediaCore can be a stinker and really ruin your day. So for the life of it make sure to have all the latest versions in case you are using some dedicated capture CoDecs that use 10bit or higher. Another potential pitfall is the installer as it is very sensitive in terms of what otehr Adobe software has been installed in your system in which order.
The color management is more straightforward, but still not easy as pie. 32bpc rendering is considerably faster and a few more effects support it, which for you as an 3D afficionado certainly will be of some importance, especially if you paln on using OpenEXR files in combination with FNord's OpenEXR plugin. I'm not realyl sure about the Puppet Tool. For me it simply lacks control in terms of refining the mesh once it has been created. But then, just like you, as someone with a long-standing background in 3D I'm spoiled. Shape layers are certainly a highlight as is the native support for Photoshop layer styles. Another feature that will make 3D-integration easier for you is the improved adaptive motion blur - no longer ugly stepping and trailing.
If you can afford it without starving for a month, I can only recommend the CS3 update.
Interesting... Well, so far, it just seems like Puppet and Shape Layers are the only relevant things for me. I'll have to look into Shape Layers to see what they can do for me.
Right now, (unless the stability is considerable) it seems like it's not worth the upgrade (and the risk of compatibility and install issues).
I'm still curious to hear any further opinions and stories...
I find that AE CS3 is more stable than AE 7 (on XP, I never used AE 7 on OS X.)
Favorite CS3 features:
# sampleImage() expression
i http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/exchange/index.cfm?event=extensionDetail&loc=en_us&extid=124 2019
# Variable motion blur steps and default to -90
# VPE import
# Shape Layers
# Multi-processing / speed improvements
# Parent Composition Button
# Exposure in Comp window to "slam levels"
# MPEG/HDV handling
# Linking mask shapes
- Jonas Hummelstrand