Spin the wheel, get an app! The Adobe wheel of icons, as realized (CC-BY) Charles Williams.

When Adobe announced 64-bit After Effects in the fall, they listed a number of benefits users would reap from the transition:

  • Performance for high-resolution formats, like working with 4K images from the RED camera. (They even went so far as to describe SD as a “legacy delivery format,” which I think is probably fair.)
  • Heavier comps, with additional layers.
  • Longer RAM previews, more intermediate renders in your cache.

The future of After Effects is 64-bit native

There’s no question both Mac and Windows machines are ready for the move. Windows Vista and 7 can do it, and really, if you’re doing high-end rendering work, you deserve a new machine – and there’s absolutely, positively, no reason whatsoever to be running XP on that machine. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is certifiably nuts.) Intel Macs running 10.5 or later are ready, too. If you don’t need the bleeding edge, it seems like you’d stick with an older version of After Effects and be reasonably happy.

But I’m interested – partly as technological-cultural phenomenon as much as an After Effects story per se – in posts like this one:

What 64 bit really means for After Effects, and your workstation…

Writer Sebastien Perier rants on about the difficult transition to 64-bit. It’s clear from an edit that he was under the mistaken impression that Mac OS X 10.6 was required to run 64-bit apps; it’s not. (And since you need a 64-bit Intel chip anyway, upgrading to 10.6 probably isn’t a bad idea when you upgrade to the next After Effects.)

The other point he makes, though, is relative to plug-ins:

If you’re like me, you probably won’t be able to make serious work without some Trapcode plugs, and some « insert your favorite plug here» plugs. The good news is that plugin developers are working on 64bit version of their plugs, and Michael Coleman assures us that a lot will be available during the AE 64 launch window.

This raises 2 questions: will the plug upgrades be free ? will all the plugs be converted to 64 bit ?

Simple answer: probably no and definitly no.

This is a familiar story to those of us in the music world. Ironically, in music land, the transition has been far easier. Take Cakewalk’s SONAR, for instance: you can easily “bridge” 32-bit audio plug-ins to 64-bit computing and run the lot in your 64-bit host. Given this is at the computational level, and pixels and audio bytes aren’t really different, I’m surprised Adobe hasn’t offered a similar bridge.

But to me, the point is actually deeper: people become dependent on commercial, proprietary software, without considering the costs, consequences, and future upgrade path.

It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it’s a trap the creative community needs to learn to spring. I’m not saying dump all your Adobe software and switch to open source. I’m saying people could become more aware of the choices they make.

Can you identify all the tools you’re using, on which you depend? How many of them are essential?

What happens if a future version path does break? Are you prepared to maintain a “legacy” machine to continue to support those tools?

Add up the amount of money and time you’re investing in tools. Could you better maximize that time and money by reducing dependence on plug-ins? Is there a place for open source software in your workflow?

I don’t doubt that the 64-bit transition to After Effects will yield both pain and pleasure. But I have to observe, as the fatigue with these kinds of transitions appears to grow, are we really doing the calculus? Are users really taking an active role in their toolchain, or are they allowing themselves to become dependent on someone else, becoming reactive rather than proactive?

Ironically, I think if you do the calculus, you might determine that it’s worth paying to upgrade a set of plug-ins, or using a commercial tool. But it’s long past time for users to begin doing the math themselves rather than letting someone else do it for them.

  • Hi Peter,
    very nice article and thanks for linking to my blog post. Honestly I'm really looking forward AE 64, and already upgraded my PC specs, my Windows 7 accordingly. The ranting wasn't really for me 🙂
    I just wanted to point out some traps, such as the need of a 64bit OS as and the pluging dependency. A lot of people I talk to are creatives freelancers, not computer geeks, and they don't see what 64bit really means and all want to upgrade to 64bit AE while running WinXP 32bit because "Vista sucked and I don't need 7". So I wanted to make it clear for everyone that it's indeed a very good step forward for AE, but it means a lot of changes if you are not prepared to it, including upgrading to a 64bit flavor of Win 7 (or Vista) or to OS 10.5/10.6 (if your hardware supports it of course).
    You say it particularly well:  "I’m saying people could become more aware of the choices they make." That's exactly what I tried to say, but in uglier english 🙂



  • Peter Kirn

    Absolutely – that's a fair assessment!
    Also, I think the confusion over 64-bit and Mac OS has been widespread. Apple hasn't done a great job of communicating what's required, what benefits you get, which OS has what (especially since they started advertising "64-bit" each time they added any component to the OS that was).
    Of course, Microsoft had similar problems when they first started their x64 push years ago – explaining 64-bit is tricky!

  • I can tell you from personal experience, plugins will be there, and AE CS5 will be worth if for performance gains alone. As someone now working at a company doing this for a living, and formerly supporting AE for a living, this is good for everyone. Its not a big deal.

  • David Eastman

    For those of us who have yet to make the jump to Vista or Windows 7, I'd love to see a future article on ways to ease the transition. For example, is there a way to run either Windows 7 or my current XP installation in a virtualized environment?

  • Peter Kirn

    @David: It's possible to virtualize XP within 7; there's even a compatibility layer. But it's very, very unlikely you'd actually want to use that. 😉 The transition from XP to 7 is really going to be about which computer you have. Newer machines are going to work better on 7 than XP, and older machines better on XP than 7. If you have a relatively recent machine, upgrading to 7 is pretty painless, unless you have an unusual software/hardware combination.
    I'm generally with vade – 64-bit is a good thing. It is too bad there's no 32-bit bridge, though, as we've gotten with audio. But since the main reason you're upgrading is adding performance – and because it's more important *for the plug-in* in video than audio – it's not a deal-breaker.<span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>

  • kerich

    Remember, all future versions of Premiere (Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and Adobe After Effects CS5 or CS “Next”) are 64-bit only OSX 10.6 or 64-bit edition of Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7. By running in parallel, the CPU can take over tasks where the GPU isn’t used.
    Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 – Mercury Playback Engine Sneak Peek

  • rs

    It's a shame there isn't 32-bit-plug-in support, which shouldn't be hard to implement. There are quite a few companies that are out of the market, so there is no chance to use tools under 64-bit anymore…
    And btw, there is also a solid XP 64-bit for many years, overall 64-bit is truely the future!

  • We have spoken with most of the AE plug-in developers and almost all of them are preparing updates that will run on 64-bit After Effects. Most will be available around the same time as After Effects. We've been actively working with them to make it as easy as possible to do the updates.
    We are always looking for ways to improve performance in After Effects and 64-bit significantly raises the bar. It's also good to remember that plug-ins will also benefit from being 64-bit. Maintaining support for 32-bit plug-ins would likely slow the transition to 64-bit and create constraints to performance improvements. In the history of After Effects, we've never forced this kind of transition, and we made this decision very carefully. In the case of 64-bit, it is clear that making this transition quickly brings the most benefits to After Effects customers.
    Michael Coleman
    After Effects Product Manager

  • Pingback: Create Digital Motion » Adobe on the 64-bit Transition: Plugs Will Be Ready, You’ll Be Happy()

  • Im not pleased hearing non stop promos for Corporate branding.

  • Peter Kirn

    Fight the power, grigori.
    I'm still mostly using Processing Creative Suite, myself. 😉

  • David Prouty

    I have hardware that doesn't make the transition, to bad I have to rebuild my home studio for this. I think I will just hang out on XP until I cant find parts and get good at the stuff I already have. I did this with the Amiga way back when and the platform died but I think for XP there are enough parts for a 7 year run …. that is If they don't all get recycled by over zealous upgraders.
    One other thing to keep in mind, its not the hardware or software that matters, its the collection of what you produce ….. I am still using sample collections I made on an Amiga computer. 🙂

  • Peter, Im glad to hear it, really!!!

    I love the work you doing in establishing a platform towards generating greater interest towards Visual Creation with the use of Tools and Methods, yet I think it would suit a better purpose if we apply greater percentage towards tools that are freely available for everyone to use and in turn develop strong base of such users that will accelerate the further progress of the visual medium forward. 

    Coprorate software has its place in some circles, yet after years being sucked into some of it I realise the drawbacks and enslavement to such systems. Yes, I said – enslavement. Sure enough, great deal of effort goes into those, but Im finding that its not the way to go for a free thinkign artists and creatives who would like further control and understanding on what they doing and working with.
    I'll be happy to contribute news tips, as I have in the past, but on this closing note would like to see more of general openess towards software and less exploration towards consumption and more emphasis on sharing and collaboarion based on open tools and methods of sharing. 

    I can see it changing our industry in a new light as far as hardware as well as software. 

    And thank you!!!!

  • Daniel

    Of course Windows 7 is better but what about those who already have rock solid XP x64? At least one 64-bit native release should be supported on XP 64? Is this because Adobe doesn't have 64-bit XP development/test machines? Everyone knows 64-bit XP doesn't get supported from Microsoft properly and third party drivers. Why Adobe too? I think one release of native 64-bit should have been supported by Adobe on XP x64.