11 Replies Latest reply on Feb 22, 2011 11:29 AM by Ramaraz0r

    Another question regarding CS5 format constraints


      .AVI output in CS5 seems to be artificially limited to 32 pixels minimum for height. As part of our workflow, we require the ability to render animations in .AVI format in numerous odd aspect ratios and sizes. In all previous versions of After effects we have used, .AVI output was fully unconstrained. We are rendering to Uncompressed or None (WRAW) so there is no codec causing interference. These .AVI files must be rendered to exact pixel dimensions for playback on LED display boards, and cannot be constrained in height or width for any reason. This problem only occurs in CS5.


      I have read other users discussing creating output modules to fool After Effects into ignoring its constraints, but this does not seem to be helpful at all in this instance, since even creating a module at the specified sizes and formats, once added to the render queue, the settings mismatch icon is lit.


      There is also no warning whatsoever that there is a constraint or mismatch when the item is added to the render queue, resulting in the past two weeks we have had files delivered at the wrong specifications to our clients, that get displayed garbled because CS5 decided to add black pixels above and below.


      Is there any way to manually bypass the constraints? We have literally hundreds of unique aspect ratios that we render to, and constantly fighting this or having to find workarounds is really hampering our workflow. Again, this issue only applies to CS5. Previously we had been using CS3, AE7, 6.5, and 6 with absolutely no issues. However, we are starting to receive assets in more recent versions than CS3 necessitating our change to CS5.


      Please, if there is any way to bypass this issue within After Effects, let me know.


      We need to be able to render directly to .AVI in any size from 8x8 up to 30,000 x 10,000 pixels for these LED applications. So far, CS5 is the only version of After Effects that has not allowed us to do this, do to the forced "format constraints."


      The AVI container does not have any constraints, nor does the WRAW uncompressed method for storing frames within .AVI


      Thanks for any help you might be able to give.

        • 1. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
          Mylenium Most Valuable Participant

          Actually this might be a two-sided problem. It's quite possible that this is also caused by updated code in Windows' own media resources on 64bit systems. If it's a problem for you, then file a bug. I don't think there is a short term solution here, so I guess you will have to use 32bit versions for a while longer...



          • 2. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
            Ramaraz0r Level 1

            So this is a 64bit vs 32bit problem? That seems an unlikely explanation to me, as Cinema 4d 64bit (which by the way cannot render to quicktime due to 32bit limitations) has absolutely no problems rendering to a pixel height and width of less than 32 pixels in the .AVI container using WRAW (None), and Windows Media player 64bit has no problem playing them back.


            Moreover, Quicktime in CS5, which is 32bit can definitely handle the sizes - the quicktime container seems to be free of the arbitrary 32 pixel constraint.


            What exactly was the point of hard-coding constraints into After Effects CS5? It seems that it is arbitrary and other users have had problems with the constraints and the inability to bypass them.


            This problem combined with the complete inability to export custom sized .bmp images from After Effects now (even Adobe Media Encoder can't handle some custom sized .bmp files) is really hampering our workflow. We have 7 designers that do an average of 10-20 projects a day using After Effects, and this is severely impacting our productivity.

            • 3. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
              Ramaraz0r Level 1

              Thanks for pointing me to the bug report page, I posted my problem to them. Hopefully Adobe will actually listen to this problem.

              • 4. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                Tim Kurkoski Adobe Employee

                Hi Ramaraz0r,


                My name is Tim Kurkoski, I am a Quality Engineer on the After Effects team.  I was one of the QE that tested the After Effects CS5 exporters, including the format constraints.  I'd like to try to answer your questions.


                The export format constraint warnings aren't actually the problem (nor are they arbitrary).  Todd Kopriva wrote a very good blog post about why they exist and why you want them to be there.  I highly recommend you read it.


                The new behavior that limits AVI output to 32x32 pixels is related to a different change in After Effects CS5, the use of Adobe Media Encoder to write AVI files.  Previous versions of After Effects used a legacy AVI writer which wasn't 64-bit.  In After Effects CS5, an embedded version of the 64-bit Adobe Media Encoder now writes all of the video format files.  With all of the 64-bit goodness we got with Adobe Media Encoder, however, we had to take the bad: it imposes a minimum frame size of 32x32 for AVI.  (The minimum size varies by format.  For example, QuickTime is 16x16 and Windows Media is 4x4.)  To my understanding, this limitation has nothing to do with being 32-bit vs. 64-bit, it's just a limitation inside of Adobe Media Encoder.


                This was a concern for us, and you're right to call us out on it.  We very much appreciate that you filed a bug.  To put it in context: changing the minimum size in CS5 would have required work that took away from other features, and I think our impression was that 32x32 is such a small size for video work that few if  any people would be affected by it.


                What will help us for future releases is to learn more about your workflow. Could you provide more detail about your workflow with After Effects with these sizes?  Your previous post mentioned that you could go as small as 8x8 and as large as 30,000x10,000, and that you have "hundreds" of aspect ratios.  How common are the small sizes?  Are some sizes more common than others?  Are you delivering AVI format or is that just an intermediate step?  What kind of systems are the files being run on?


                To address some other concerns from your posts:


                It's not possible to intentionally bypass the format constraints.  If  there is a way it would be a bug, and I'm not aware of any that will  affect the AVI constraints.  (Regarding the Output Module template  workaround for the WMV and FLV frame rate constraints which were talked about in the other forum thread that you referenced: that workaround is a bug.   Actually, the bug is that the WMV and FLV frame rates are supposed to  not be constrained, but they are.  The template workaround just happens to bypass the  code that is causing them to be constrained and thus defeats the bug.  In any case, the behavior is very specific to those formats and won't help with the AVI constraints.)


                As currently implemented in After Effects CS5, the  constraint warning only appears inside the Output Module Settings dialog  when you open it from the Render Queue.  No warning icon will appear in  the Render Queue panel itself.  We intended to have a warning icon in  the Render Queue UI, and actually had a version of it in testing, but it  was causing problems and couldn't be fixed before CS5 was released.  We  hope to re-implement this feature for a future release.  Feel free to  file a feature request about how, when, and where you'd like to see the  warning.


                For what it's worth, here are the full constraints on the AVI format (apart from codec-specific constraints, such as the DV codecs):

                • Minimum output size is 32x32 pixels.
                • Maximum output size is 30,000 x 30,000 pixels. (You'll likely run into memory errors by 24,000 x 24,000 pixels or any equivalent rectangle.  Although 64-bit memory addressing allows After Effects CS5 to address virtually unlimited amounts of RAM, there remain some per-frame memory constraints.)
                • Pixel Aspect Ratio is unconstrained.
                • Frame rate is unconstrained.  (The max frame rate After Effects can output to any format is 99fps.)


                You also mentioned encoding to BMP files, more specifically that After Effects CS5 can't do it and Adobe Media Encoder can't write the file sizes you need.  This is another case where we had to make a tough choice about whether or not to upgrade old functionality to 64-bit.  We did seek some private feedback from a few After Effects users we know about whether exporting to BMP files was useful.  The feedback we got was that the alternatives (TIFF, PNG, etc.) were either preferred or acceptable.  There are some technical reasons why we didn't just replace the legacy BMP writer with the BMP writer from Adobe Media Encoder; it's something we hope to do in the future.  For the case of Adobe Media Encoder limiting the minimum size of BMP files (16x16 pixels), that's similar to the AVI problem: it's a limitation built into Adobe Media Encoder.  Please file a separate feature request if you'd like to see this changed.


                Just so this whole post isn't me making excuses (explanations?), I'd like to at least point you at some possible workarounds.  My understanding is that you want to export your work from After Effects in high quality with no loss to compression, and to deliver in AVI at the required sizes.  For that, the best workaround I can conceive right now is for you to export from After Effects CS5 as a still image sequence, TIFF or PNG, then import that sequence into an older version of After Effects where you can render it to AVI in the required size.  If there's a reason why that wouldn't work for you, let me know and I'll try to brainstorm some other ideas.  As stated above it will definitely help to know more about your workflow and delivery requirements.



                • 5. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                  Ramaraz0r Level 1

                  Thank you for your detailed and explanatory response.


                  I work for a company that installs custom outdoor LED signs in Stadiums and Venues around the country. These signs are driven by systems that require uncompressed AVI files for animations and uncompressed BMP files for stills. The majority of the aspect ratios we work with are between 16 and 64 pixels in height, and anywhere from a few dozen pixels wide all the way up to 27000+ pixels. All animations are created at the actual pixel dimensions of these LED boards, and the systems driving the boards are windows based with proprietary software designed to push massive amounts of uncompressed pixels to these boards.


                  Currently, we have about 50 full time client venues that each have custom board sizes, and as many as 12 different physical dimensions per venue. We also do occasional work for another 75 venues that each have custom board sizes as well.


                  8x8 is the absolute smallest size I've ever created, a piece of test content for a sample LED board for a client demo. Most of the time, board sizes don't go below 16 pixels in either dimension. However, sizes of less than 32 pixels height comprise approximately 1/3 of the boards we do content for, usually 16, 24, 27, 28, or 30 pixels high by a few hundred to several thousand pixels wide.


                  We have a design department consisting of 7 full time designers plus seasonal freelancers. In a typical day each of us creates anywhere from 5 to 30 separate projects, most of which are created for multiple sized boards for the client venue. These all have to be rendered as .AVI for animations and .BMP for stills, as a final delivery format. In CS3, we were able to do this directly from After effects for all board sizes with no problems. Because of the sheer number of projects, and the fast turn around time required for this workflow, adding any additional steps or intermediate steps to the process is severely limiting our productivity.


                  The proprietery software used to run these boards does not accept any other formats. We have talked to the technology people, and future versions of the software are expected to support more formats, but most venues are not willing to spend the thousands of dollars it would cost to implement new systems to run their old boards. Because each board is different sized, most of the software is highly customized, and requires significant investment to modify as you might well imagine.


                  If the 32x32 limitation were dropped to 16x16 that would be hugely beneficial. I'm curious why you were able to have Quicktime and WMV at different dimensions than AVI.


                  To give you an example of how much this could affect our workflow, today I had a project for Stubhub that required me to build the same exact set of animations and stills for 14 different venues, and a total of 39 distinct board sizes. of those 39 sizes, 14 were below 32 pixels height.  This was just one of the 7 projects that I was assigned today. I've spent more than twice as long dealing with formats and conversions as it took actually resizing the animations, which was a matter of simply moving a few layers around using a null object, and scaleing some text layers.


                  Had I been using CS3, I would have saved easily an hour or two of transferring projects between formats, as I could have rendered all directly to AVI. Multiply this by 7 designers, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, and you can see how much this tiny limit complicates the work of our department.


                  .BMP and .AVI will be required by us for at least another 10 years until those venues replace their technology, and as a legacy requirement for an indefinite period after that. (most venues update their board technology on a decadal basis in my experience).


                  We did the switch from CS3 to CS5 because we often receive projects and assets from our client venues that we have to adapt or reference, and we started receiving these assets in versious after CS3, so to maintain compatability we did a full department upgrade to CS5, new design machines, etc. We never imagined that we would encounter a problem like this, in fact it took us a couple of weeks before we realized there was a problem, because none of us thought to check to see if the files we were producing were being resized silently in the render queue. You can imagine that with the turnaround time we're required to maintain, something like that is very easy to miss.


                  As it is right now, I have all designers render boards for less than 32 pixels to Quicktime uncompressed, then convert to AVI uncompressed, render stills to PNG then convert to BMP, but the extra steps are complicating the process, because sometimes quicktime settings are off, due to the fact that most projects get proofed in the quicktime format using some type of compression, and we cannot use any type of compression on the final products, because any compression artifacts in the animations are magnified 1000% by the brightness of the LED boards.

                  • 6. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                    Tim Kurkoski Adobe Employee

                    Thanks for the great detail about your workflow.  This helps very much to show how you use After Effects and the pain this (assumedly little) change is causing.  I will advocate for changing the file dimension limits in future releases of After Effects and Adobe Media Encoder, but for the time being I'm afraid it's not possible to overcome the limits.  Feel free to write up as many bug reports and feature requests for both applications as you see fit.  I assure you that they do get looked at, and the more noise is made about an issue the more likely it is to get changed.


                    As far as working around the problem, I see that the issue is not so much the method of the workaround as it is the time and the hassle.  Though I expect you've already at least thought about these ideas, I'd like to propose a couple of suggestions that could help ease the pain.


                    Assuming that you stick with the CS5 > uncompressed QuickTime > CS3 > AVI method:

                    1. For the uncompressed QuickTime exports, create an Output Module template with the appropriate settings.

                    2. Write a script for After Effects CS3 that opens one or more files in a target location, comps it, then renders it out to uncompressed AVI.

                    3. In addition, or possibly alternate, to #2: run CS3 on a machine in Watch Folder mode into which you (or the script) can drop the CS3 projects from the QuickTime intermediates.


                    This sort of automation should help a little bit, or at least make the niggly part of picking through the settings invisible to you.

                    • 7. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints

                      Hello All...


                      Is there any update or better work-around for this issue as of now?  I guess I am late to the party, but I too, work in a sports arena with oddly shaped LED boards.and it was driving me crazy why we couldn't get things to render out 2160x27.


                      I never noticed having issues with CS4, is there a particular reason that we have to go all the way back to CS3?


                      Fortunately we do not work at a production house that services several different teams/venues, we only create content for the 5 different displays in our own arena...but we create every single piece of content for all of those displays in-house...which means a lot of headache between 4 different animators.

                      I spoke with tech support this morning and they said the issue is being worked on...I would love to hear any updates to the problem.


                      Thank you

                      • 8. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                        Tim Kurkoski Adobe Employee



                        It's not necessary to go back to After Effects CS3.  CS4 will be sufficient, it behaves the same as CS3 in this regard.  (The reason CS3 entered the conversation is because Ramaraz0r doesn't have CS4.)


                        At this point there are no updates to share, sorry.  The blunt, unfortunate answer is that this behavior can't be changed in After Effects CS5, so I recommend you stick with the workarounds.  I do want to reassure everyone that this issue is on our radar, and I have put it very high on my personal priority list.



                        • 9. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                          kelly_hanson Level 1

                          It's not ideal, but we've been using the process below to make it work. It adds a couple extra steps, but as of now, it's the fastest way we've found to get around the issue.


                          In After Effects:

                          Render any comps smaller than 32x32 as an MOV.  .mov files will render in sizes smaller than 32x32 without adding the black bars at the top & bottom


                          Drag the rendered .mov files into Photoshop. Set yourself up an action to export the files back out of Photoshop as an uncompressed avi. Give it a function key (F3 or something for a tiny bit of added speed - especially if you are doing a LOT of files like we do) and it'll export the file, with the original file name but in .avi format.


                          Again, it's not ideal - but that's how we've been getting around it.


                          Hope it helps!

                          • 10. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                            Todd_Kopriva Level 8

                            Thanks for the workaround, Kelly.

                            • 11. Re: Another question regarding CS5 format constraints
                              Ramaraz0r Level 1

                              Thanks, I started playing with this method. The only problem I have now is Photoshop refuses to remember the settings for AVI, so I have to manually change them back to uncompressed millions from cinepak thousands. If there were a way to avoid this, I'd just put a droplet in the render folder and save tons of time. As it is, I have to keep CS3 and CS5 installed concurrently, and I drag my renders from CS5 into CS3 and render them out. Takes a bit longer than a droplet for conversion, but I get my uncompressed Millions of colors without having to change the settings every time.


                              The photoshop method is good for those who have no CS3 - even though you have to specify the AVI settings each time.