16 Replies Latest reply on Feb 11, 2011 2:52 AM by Mylenium

    Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?

    palenoue

      I really like After Effects, but there's way too much information on the screen all the time.  It not only looks cluttered and takes longer to zero in on the info I need, but it leads to information overload.  I've tracked myself on the last few projects and found that roughly speaking, I only use 10% of the on-screen info 90% of the time, all of the rest is just there to confuse matters.  For example, I don't need to see all of the layer options at all times, and after I turn some of the options on or off I don't need to keep track of their status at all times.  It's like I turn on a light in the room and despite the lamp being on the light switch keeps flashing to tell me it is in the "on" position.  There's another 20% of info I only use once or twice, like when starting a project or finishing.

       

      I think the biggest problem is you make everything in the Creative Suite for professionals, people who have studied the programs for years, use them every day, and probably went to college to learn how to get the most out of them.  But then you market those highly advanced and technical programs to hobbyists, small businesses and casual users who love all the features but are intimidated by the user interface.  There's got to be some way to keep access to all the features but make the screen easier to follow and use.

       

      I'm hoping in CS6 you'll put forth the effort to streamline the user interface for After Effects so it doesn't overwhelm the user like it does now. 

        • 1. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
          Todd_Kopriva Level 8

          One way to simplify the interface somewhat is to use workspaces that are customized for your specific needs.

           

          If there are specific suggestions for how you'd like to see the interface simplified, please make a feature request (or more than one).

          • 2. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
            troychurch Adobe Employee

            palenoue,

            Thanks for your thoughts. I'm the interaction designer for After Effects and you bring up a good point - that of making the app more approachable for newer or occasional users. This is something I personaly would like us to improve. As Todd mentioned, please do submit any ideas or feedback (specifics help) on how we could reduce the complexity for you. As you can imagine we get a wide range of input on the UI (which is a good thing) but this also means we have to balance many possible priorities/changes/improvements. But know that we do listen and appreciate you very much helping us see the app from your perspective.

            • 3. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
              Dave LaRonde Level 6

              palenoue wrote:

               

              I think the biggest problem is you make everything in the Creative Suite for professionals... But then you market those highly advanced and technical programs to hobbyists, small businesses and casual users who love all the features but are intimidated by the user interface.... 

               

               

              There's a lot of truth in that. 

               

              I encounter the same hurdles when cutting in Final Cut Pro; when a rarely-used feature is just the thing, it takes ages to either search where it's located, or to look it up in the manual.  It's usually in some arcane, "We've always done it that way" location that power users know all about; there'd be a revolt among those folks if it was changed. 

               

              I haven't even mustered up the courage to tackle a different interface such as the one in Premiere.

               

              The more things a piece of software can do, the tougher it gets to organize things.  Redesigning a user interface isn't for the faint of heart, I bet.

              • 4. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                Mylenium Most Valuable Participant
                But then you market those highly advanced and technical programs to hobbyists, small businesses and casual users who love all the features but are intimidated by the user interface.

                 

                I  would strongly disagree with this statement. Nobody is marketing nor  creating professional tools for hobbyists, any such use is accidental.  Likewise, that "small businesses" is a lame excuse. When you make money  by providing your services, you need to know your tools, no matter the  size of your company. Half the commercials you see on TV are made by 5  man shops, so what would they say about it? And it simply isn't true the  other way around, either. Many big companies use AE for very specific  use cases like pepping up their PowerPoint stuff and the people doing  this may not know AE half as well as my mom. Company size doesn't mean  anything. As for occasional users - well, we all forget some things  occasionally, but to me the underlying question is, does someone only  using AE once a month really need it? It's the same like I can never  even remotely understand people who spend 1500 euros on a software and  never read the help... So for what it's worth, to me your statement  doesn't make sense on any level. We can agree that the AE interface is a  bit dated and cluttered since too much is done directly in the timeline  and we still need a ton of other panels to do some things, but complex  workflows usually require a similarly complex UI. Dumbing it down too  much might in fact hurt "professionals" and for all intents and purposes  this is still the primary target group for AE.

                 

                Mylenium

                • 5. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                  bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3

                  Troy, thanks for joining in and, since I get to talk directly to someone from the AE team, thanks for making such a cool product.

                   

                  This conversation is moving towards suggesting an After Effects Elements application. I would not want to be on the focus team that determined what to drop in order to create a simplified or less comprehensive motion graphics and special effects program but it might end up being a good product for Adobe.

                   

                  AE's interface is hopelessly cluttered by tons of stuff and I cannot really imagine managing my projects without all of it.

                   

                  bogiesan

                  • 6. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                    Todd_Kopriva Level 8

                    > ...since I get to talk directly to someone from the AE team...

                     

                     

                    Hey! What do you think you've been doing when talking with me all these years?

                    • 7. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                      palenoue Level 1

                      To clear up some conflict, I'm not suggesting an "either-or" stance here, nor should Adobe dumb down AE.  Why can't Adobe have a couple of options for how the info is displayed.  They could have a "Pro" option that's the same as it is now, but also add a "clean" option that only displays what is on or active.  All of the effects, options and information are still there, it isn't a stripped down "lite" version, it just keeps most of the usual interface info off screen until the user needs it.  For instance, you put an effect on a layer and instead of getting thirty lines of data there's nothing but the name of the effect.  You right click on it and get categories like "Cannon," "Grid," "Layer Exploder" and so on.  You can choose to open "Cannon" to see all of the options or you could cursor over it and choose which options you want to activate while the others remain hidden.  You choose which ones you want to fiddle with and those are the only ones that stay up because most of the time those are the only ones you're interested in.  Or you could choose to have it show all options then after you start fiddling with it choose to have only those elements you've changed displayed.  I like to use particle effects but there can be hundreds of options in the list at any given time even though I'm only tweaking ten.  All of those unused options are just making it harder to see and it would sure improve my work if only the options I want to change are up there instead of everything and _two_ kitchen sinks. 

                       

                      Workspaces are okay but they still add more clutter that isn't always needed.  There are several workspaces that I have to cycle through because I use one or two options each, but there's no way to put just those options into a new, empty workspace and ignore the rest.

                       

                      Mylenium, Adobe is indeed marketing to casual users.  They have their CS5 ads playing on hundreds of websites that aren't in any way associated with professional art/design/video markets.  They've got AE ads on youtube!  How could they possibly get any more casual than that?  And then there's cross-app confusion when people who are experts in Photoshop finds themselves having to use After Effects for a project.  I know several professionals who have CS4 or CS5 but only use two or three programs because when they open others they are overwhelmed by a cluttered screen overflowing with numbers and symbols that they rarely use.

                      • 8. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                        bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3

                        Todd, I hope my appreciation has been appropriately expressed in our offline conversations.

                         

                        bogiesan

                        • 9. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                          bogiesan-gyyClL Level 3

                          > They could have a "Pro" option that's the same as it is now, but also add a "clean" option that only displays what is on or active.  <

                           

                          There are similar options in some third party effects packages and hidden options in some CC effects. Funny thing, the switches that hide or enable the more complex functions and features are themselves confusing and cluttering.

                           

                          bogiesan

                          • 10. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                            Felix Dames Level 1

                            @palenoue

                             

                            There is only one clear direction for After Effects -> for professional users!

                             

                            After Effects compared to other compositing applications (fusion, shake, nuke, composite, flame, combustion...) is by far the easiest to learn, uncluttered and logically designed user interface on the market!

                             

                            For a compositing application there is no need for an easy mode because compositing and motion graphics is not easy and will never be!

                            So if you feel uncomfortable with it start reading the manual learn how to simplify the user interface (it is possible) learn all the functionality and you will see the reason for everything and why it is like it is! And all that is needed as it is!

                            And the web is full of very usefull video tutorials for AE and they show and prove how elegant the workflow and the interface is.

                            Me as a professional user have the feeling after effects should be even more orientated for professional use. If you compare Nuke and After Effects you recognize that After Effects is way less complex and lack a lot of functionality.

                            After Effects is not a node based system but it's interface design and the strong commitment to the timeline orientated workflow make it a fast swiss army knife for motion graphics and the best application for it on the market.

                            So please if your knowledge is not up to really make suggestions then maybe use something like Microsoft Movie Maker or iMovie or ask Adobe for developing an After Effects Elements version. But I think and hope this will never happen.

                            The alternative is start learning it. But please don't complain about it or make a feature request about an easy mode.

                             

                            This easy mode is actually more cluttering and creates a less logical application.

                            I am sure if you once understand the concept behind the interface you get to the point where everything is very logical and self explanatory and uncluttered.

                             

                            Please don't understand this post wrong but I really don't want to see After Effects future moving in the wrong direction.

                             

                            Edit: I forgot something:

                             

                            your feature request with the effects... first just seeing the effect then right click to see more..... is nonsense for fast workflow!

                            If I add an effect - I need it and mostly I want to use nearly all parameters and please with one mouse click!

                            Always right clicking to get to the desired parameters is nothing more then counting useless mouseclicks and is a big slow down in workflow!

                            Professionals hate that

                            ...by the way most effects have categories/groups which you can collapse to focus on the important stuff!

                             

                            • 11. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                              Dave LaRonde Level 6

                              Mylenium wrote:

                              Nobody is marketing nor  creating professional tools for hobbyists, any such use is accidental.

                              I must disagree with with the marketing portion of that.  When I see animated banner ads for CS5 on my television station's web site, I am convinced that the Adobe marketing department is indeed reaching out to the casual user.  However, virtually every application is complicated to use.  I have no idea how the marketing people think such a strategy will help in the long run.

                               

                              Please note: I make the distinction between marketing and software development.  I admire the people who create the software; they have a daunting task before them, and part of that task is to keep the user interface efficient, logical and uncluttered.

                               

                              But when the marketing people place Adobe CS5 ads on the same web site with ads for Rock-Hard-Abs, you have to ask yourself, "What in the world are these people THINKING?"

                              • 12. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                                Felix Dames Level 1

                                I believe it is not Adobe placing the adds there it more likely 'google adds' who tracks your surfing and your interests.

                                This add is shown only to you because google already know you are intersted in!

                                Clear your browsers coockies and you get new fresh advertising not related to your profile...

                                • 13. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                                  Felix Dames Level 1

                                  I believe it is not Adobe placing the adds there it more likely 'google adds' who tracks your surfing and your interests.

                                  This add is shown only to you because google already know you are intersted in!

                                  Clear your browsers coockies and you get new fresh advertising not related to your profile...

                                  • 14. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                                    palenoue Level 1

                                    Again you believe I am calling for a castration of After Effects, that "professionals" should be forced to adapt to my standards, much like you insist everybody else adapt to the cluttered standard.  Also you repeatedly assume I don't have much experience with After Effects, as if I never read "the manual" or watched a tutorial.  In order to take my suggestions seriously (instead of as an attack on your "professional" familiarity with the clutter) do you want me to list every AE book I have in my bookcase?  How about a detailed account of all the video tutorials I've studied?  How about a link to all the videos I've made?  References to all the people I've tutored?  Statements from all the "professionals" I've worked with?

                                     

                                    On the internet it's a bad idea to denigrate someone just because you don't like or understand what they're saying.  You never know if they might have better credentials than you.

                                     

                                    Now that we're done flapping our "professionalism" in public, let's get to specifics.

                                     

                                    As I've said before, I'm not calling for a completely different user interface forced on all users nor am I nailing a thesis to the doors of Adobe HQ demanding After Effects be given a lobotomy.  I'm just asking if it's possible for Adobe to consider offering the option for a "clean" interface for those creative people who don't need hundreds of options on the screen at all times.  I've worked with many professionals who are slowed down because they have to visually sort through all of the clutter to find the few options they need, and teaching people which icons to ignore is very frustrating.  Offering a "clean" version of the interface WHILE RETAINING THE ORIGINAL CLUTTERED VERSION would make After Effects much more accessible to people who delve more on the creative rather than the technical side, and attract more "non-professional" users who want to work in advanced video beyond what they get with more limited cheaper software.  Speaking for myself I find all of that data clutter distracting, it draws my focus away from the video.  Thanks to Adobe's marketing and the increasing impressiveness of fan videos on youtube, more amateurs are buying After Effects (and other CS5 programs) and asking me to help them make sense of the numerous icons and data points that confront them every time they launch the program.

                                     

                                    Which inevitably leads to this exchange:

                                     

                                    Them: Why is Adobe making this so difficult?

                                     

                                    Me: Because they know you pirated a copy of Photoshop in college and want to punish you.

                                     

                                    But hey, if just suggesting such a thing causes this much consternation among pros who spent their careers mastering the standard layout, maybe an "Elements" version is the way to go.  iMovie and the like has the casual/hobbyist crowd covered while After Effects and Final Cut Pro serve the high end, something in the middle might really catch on, especially if it could handle plug-ins or add-ons so users could focus on their specific interests.  As an example I know several people who would use an "Elements" version for mostly green screen with a bit of motion tracking and little else, while another group I've worked with are all about text effects and virtual camera movements through a 3D space yet never once did a green screen.  Both camps would be quite happy with a mid-level Elements type of After Effects but they'd probably want to buy plug-ins that expand the areas they are most interested in.

                                    • 15. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                                      Felix Dames Level 1

                                      Close all the windows you don't need, collapse all categories in effects you don't need, use in the timeline shortkeys like t,r,p,m,mm,u,uu,e and so on.. search for filters by name.... search for layers in timeline....create your personal workspaces....to just see what you want! It's all there to get a clean uncluttered user interface! But if you don't know how to use it.....

                                       

                                      I don't know your work and whatever you did with AE but the way you complain about it let me thought you simply just don't know essential things about AE - maybe I am wrong..

                                      But your feature request for the effects does not make sense to me.

                                      I don't wanted to blame on you or wanted to judge your professionalism in any way but my opinion about the interface totally differs from yours.

                                      All I wanted to do with this post is to point out my personal opinion about the future direction of after effects and that I don't want or need simplicity in the way you requested it.

                                      Maybe that's not your cup of tee but it's mine.

                                      your opinion - my opinion - that's it.

                                       

                                      peace and chill

                                      • 16. Re: Is Adobe ever going to simplify the After Effects user interface?
                                        Mylenium Most Valuable Participant

                                        Mylenium, Adobe is indeed marketing to casual users.  They have their CS5 ads playing on hundreds of websites that aren't in any way associated with professional art/design/video markets.

                                         

                                        And? So do banners for car retailers, electronics stores, Amazon etc.. That's not really a conclusive argument, especially since the advertisers rarely ever have actually anything to do with the agencies placing the banners...

                                         

                                        They've got AE ads on youtube!

                                         

                                        They could never have intended for those clips to be seen by non-professionals. Very much a matter of debate and personal interpretation.

                                         

                                        And then there's cross-app confusion when people who are experts in Photoshop finds themselves having to use After Effects for a project.  I know several professionals who have CS4 or CS5 but only use two or three programs because when they open others they are overwhelmed by a cluttered screen overflowing with numbers and symbols that they rarely use.

                                         

                                        But that, too, can be twisted and turned upside down. Is not the PS interface just as unfamiliar and clutetred to someone who thus far only has used AE? Is not Flash a big golden turd in the sun, UI wise? I think you are thinking too much in absolutes, not giving thought to how different workflows may require different interfaces. If AE functioned like PS, it would be totally useless to me, I'm afraid as it would be to many otehr people coming from video and animation as opposed to someone having started out with stuill images. Also consider, that these apps are developed by different teams and historically have started out as separate tools, many of them, including Photoshop and AE having been bought by Adobe at some point. So no, I still don't agree on any of that.

                                         

                                        All of the effects, options and information are still there, it isn't a stripped down "lite" version, it just keeps most of the usual interface info off screen until the user needs it.  For instance, you put an effect on a layer and instead of getting thirty lines of data there's nothing but the name of the effect.

                                         

                                        That would require more than UI cosmetics. If your model were solely handled at the UI level, there is no way to deal with default values of unused properties. Since in many effects those aren't zero (and thus inactive), what you propose would just achieve the opposite - it would confuse the hell out of less experienced users. Imagine some Particle Playground user not using the Cannon because the relevant UI part isn't active, yet seeing it spew out particles. He'd go "WTF?" all the time. I'm afraid it's not that simple. And more modularity conversely doesn't solve the UI problem in AE's current environment. What you propose is essentially a nodal app with custom attribute mapping and custom channels and that's not gonna appear in AE for the next 10 years, I dare predict. Whether it is even desirable is anotehr question. Nodal apps require an abstract, structured thinking. Your point about beginners and occasional users then again crumbles, because those users would have an even steeper learning curve, if they have no such previous experience. See where this all is going? You realyl need to think much broader here ratehr than just your own immediate concerns....

                                         

                                        Mylenium