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Null Object 2.0

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Carlos ZapaterNull Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 10:51:58 am

This post is more a suggestion than asking for a solution.

I often come to a situation where my compositions begin to be full of layers. Yes, I can precompose to make it all tidy but most of the times this solution requires A LOT of time. Mainly because when I precompose because a higher number of layers I have to "clone" all the movements of the camera in the new composition in order to keep the 3D depth movement between the layers that weren't previously precomposed. And when I have to move elements or change the camera movements it becomes a nightmare. Specially with more than one precomp in the same situation.

The other solution would be parenting to a null but then it wouldn't reduce the number of visible layers (the shy button should be handy but for the entire compo, not for a selected group of layers) and you cannot drop an effect that affects only parented layers (parenting an adjustment layer doesn't solve the problem since the effect would affect all the unparented layers layers below)

In few words, null has the advantages that precomp hasn't and all the disadvantages as well, and viceversa.

This could be easily solved using an evolved null object or a new grouping element. As I see it, it would be like a null object, you could animate its properties and drop effects on it and that would affect the parented layers only. In addition it would have te hability to collapse all parented layers making them disappear from composition and those layers wouldn't have to be positioned in order (as you do when parenting to a null).

This would be a powerful and easy way to keep layers in the same 3D space and making large compositions easy to manage with an element that would unite the advantages of null objects, precomps and adjustment layers in a single item and affecting only a selected number of layers.

Imagine how powerful could be... Maybe I'm writing nonsense and maybe there's a solution out there yet that I'm not aware of. What do you think?



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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 12:09:08 pm

There are quite a few folks out there looking and asking for the same or similar feature- make sure you submit this to Adobe, they have the good habit of listening to their users.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 1:49:53 pm

[Carlos Zapater] "The other solution would be parenting to a null but then it wouldn't reduce the number of visible layers (the shy button should be handy but for the entire compo, not for a selected group of layers)"

I highly recommend Zorro the Layer Tagger [link] for this specific bit of functionality.

For the rest, I'd suggest you submit this to Adobe as a feature request [link].

Some form of layer grouping is one of the most popular feature requests [link]. It's a hard problem for a number of reasons, but they more clearly you can articulate what you're looking for when you file your feature request, the more helpful it is for the Ae development team.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 2:50:05 pm

The Collapse Transformations layer switch should get you 80% of what you're asking for :)

Darby Edelen


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:09:56 pm

Darby, from the examples he used I'm pretty sure he understands what that switch enables. ;)

there are projects in which we NEED to apply effects without affecting blending modes... We NEED to have a matte masking several 3d layers at once...It's this lack of nodal compositing capabilities that gets me enraged in some cases, there are only lame workarounds that involves duplicating and linking cameras. It has been asked before several times and its also in my wanting list.


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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 16, 2013 at 8:43:55 pm

[Cassius Marques] "there are projects in which we NEED to apply effects without affecting blending modes... We NEED to have a matte masking several 3d layers at once...It's this lack of nodal compositing capabilities that gets me enraged in some cases, there are only lame workarounds that involves duplicating and linking cameras. It has been asked before several times and its also in my wanting list."

Hmmm, while I understand the NEEDs I'm not sure I understand why they would currently require a lame workaround. I've almost never come across a situation in which the only solution was duplicating and linking cameras.

Can you give a more specific example?

Darby Edelen


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 12:19:32 pm

I can, imagine hundreds of peoples photos coming in through Z forming up a logo, half is set to overlay and half to screen so they blend somewhat into the logo's colors.

I want to take out this 500 layers out of my main comp to make it less cumbersome. So I precomp them and collapse. But then I decide it needs a glow to sell the effect when it settles in, So I apply it and bamm there goes the blending modes.

So...with this kind os situation, I usually have two choices. either I link some cameras with expressions or I precomp layers per-blending modes and set each comp again to their respective one.

It can be sometimes pretty straightfoward to solve the issues. But I've had 10-20 projects already that it's complexity were a lot greater that it became a real puzzle to solve and on those 20, maybe 5 that it wasn't possible to do what wanted.

A grouping function that would make effects/masking "global" to grouped layers would speed things up a lot with the way I tend to logicaly set my projects around.


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Carlos ZapaterRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 2:15:35 pm

Thanks for all the feedback and letting me know that I'm not either alone or crazy.

Walter, I will sure use your link to send Adobe this request. Let's see what they have to say.

By the way, the example that Cassius has explained reflects almost perfectly how often you begin a project and almost without realizing they can become a puzzle and this feature would help a lot.



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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 4:01:39 pm

[Cassius Marques] "I want to take out this 500 layers out of my main comp to make it less cumbersome. So I precomp them and collapse. But then I decide it needs a glow to sell the effect when it settles in, So I apply it and bamm there goes the blending modes."

If you're specifically set on using the Glow effect in this manner then yes: you're hosed. Personally I would simply use another method to get the same (or similar) result.

I don't intend to argue that AE is a perfect animal. It is problematic that it doesn't work the way that people think it should. However, every application I've ever used has its own idiosyncrasies.

Nuke isn't a perfect animal either. For me the key is understanding the limitations and finding ways to work within them. Very often the same result can be achieved in a dozen different ways some of which may be possible in one application and not in another.

Darby Edelen


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 5:16:07 pm

I understand and agree with you Darby, we can almost allways do it differently and get close results. Though it will take us more time, unless we had plenty of time to think it through before.

But that's just it. I want to do it faster with the least effort possible. There's no downsides at having this kind of functionality and I do believe Adobe will introduce it to some extent sometime.

And to be reasonable I've never used Nuke nor I'm blamming AE for not having something essential but I understand the nodal concept, and it would be cool to be able to use something like that.


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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 5:57:15 pm

[Cassius Marques] "I understand and agree with you Darby, we can almost allways do it differently and get close results. Though it will take us more time, unless we had plenty of time to think it through before."

What I would've done in this specific example would be to duplicate the pre-comp, apply Glow to it and set its blend mode to Add. Not an overly complicated solution :) I'm not sure how a nodal approach would help in the chosen example.

Of course there are downsides (or lets call them challenges) to implementing the functionality being described. Is it an entirely new feature or an extension of an existing one? How would the layers be organized within the hierarchy? When I have a group in a group in a group how do I get to the layer I need to access? If I apply an effect to the top group does it propagate to every group under it or only the non-group (top level) layers? What can I not do to this group (time remapping? material options?)? How are effects applied to the layers inside the group: is it like a pre-comp or is an instance of the effect applied to each individual layer? In the former case: what is the benefit over a pre-comp? In the latter case: what would that mean for compound effects like Displacement Map, Set Matte or Compound Blur?

Rather than simplifying things I see this potentially leading to complication beyond necessity.

Darby Edelen


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 9:12:23 pm

If the effects were applied like a pre-comp IT WOULD BE A PRECOMP...come on =P! All the rest you described are pre-comp alike functionality...

Effects/masks would be instances applied down the hierarchy...all the rest is the same. That's it.

How do I expect THIS or THAT to behave? Just the same as I do in a pre-comp.

The nodal thingy is just the concept. I don't want interfaces, nodes, wires or anything.

I want to be able to tell every layer within this group function to process the same effect (as if wired to a node), in this quick/lame example, the glow.

And hey...I'm not saying its simple from a developer's POV. I'm just saying it would save me a lot of time.

Edit: And I know, big hardware impact. 500 glows against 1. But I prefer the machine doing it's job instead of me. Again this is one example.



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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 17, 2013 at 11:45:07 pm

[Cassius Marques] "If the effects were applied like a pre-comp IT WOULD BE A PRECOMP...come on =P!"

My point exactly. But what I was getting at is if effects don't render like a pre-comp then in many cases they will render in a totally new and unexpected ("wrong") way. Mass confusion ensues.

[Cassius Marques] "Effects/masks would be instances applied down the hierarchy...all the rest is the same. That's it."

You don't think that would be confusing in any way? Say I want to use the Set Matte effect to punch a circular hole in the middle of this group and when I apply it instead every layer inside the group gets a hole punched through it. Same problem with masks.

So now users have a new dilemma: when do I pre-comp and when do I group? Instead of making the workflow more streamlined I think this is adding complexity.

[Cassius Marques] "I want to be able to tell every layer within this group function to process the same effect (as if wired to a node), in this quick/lame example, the glow."

That's not necessarily how nodes work though. A Glow node in Nuke, for example, takes exactly one input.

To apply a Glow to 500 footage items in Nuke you'd either need 500 glow nodes (like applying a glow to each layer inside a pre-comp) or to merge the 500 footage items together with a merge node before 1 glow (just like a pre-comp).

Darby Edelen


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 6:12:27 am

I agree very much with this! Two feature AE could use badly is:

- Layer grouping. This could be handled with pre-comps but we are able to "fold out" the contents of these in each comp. This would make managing complex comps much easier.

- Alias layers and effects. I don't know how often I end up having 3-4 copies of the same matte layer which in turns is a pre-comp of some video footage. I.e the matte is locked in time to footage in the main-comp and multiple layers rely on it as for example a matte. A manually updating everything if one needs to be changed. Same goes for effects where you might want two or more elements share identlicle amounts of what ever.

Some of the above can be handled with pre-comps and scripting but this can quickly turn into a spiderweb and with pre-comp you rapidly run into overview issues.

From talks with Adobe I think my point 1 is one of the most requested features users have. It's just a massive undertaking for Adobe to sort out (something like rewriting the whole rendering pipeline). I would imagine "alias layers" could speed things up with rendering also since AE can render once and use a cached version for all other aliases. Not sure if this happens at the moment with multiple, identnical, instances of the same elements.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:57:58 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "I don't know how often I end up having 3-4 copies of the same matte layer which in turns is a pre-comp of some video footage. I.e the matte is locked in time to footage in the main-comp and multiple layers rely on it as for example a matte. A manually updating everything if one needs to be changed."

I'd like to see arbitrary track matte layer selection, not just fixed "layer above" use.

I'd also like more control over the render order for dependencies of compound effects, so things like inputs for Set Matte don't need to be pre-comped.

But it doesn't count if we just talk about it here -- let's file those feature requests!


[Erik Lindahl] " I would imagine "alias layers" could speed things up with rendering also since AE can render once and use a cached version for all other aliases. Not sure if this happens at the moment with multiple, identnical, instances of the same elements."

This does happen now with the new caching system.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:05:28 pm

[Walter Soyka] "I'd like to see arbitrary track matte layer selection, not just fixed "layer above" use."
Agree! This with a "grouping" or "nesting" feature would make organsing the comp so much easier.

Group: Mattes
Group: Depth Maps
Group: Tracking

Instead of like some comps end up now - 100 layers+

There are also some funky limitations to how effects, mattes and layer masks correlate. I guess that's what you're getting at with "render order for dependencies of compound effects". Again, having the ability to group layers would be such a huge boost.

I've said this to Adobe the past 5-7 years when I go to IBC. They are well aware of it - I think the problem is one of those "easy great ideas" that sadly hare terribad for the programmers to implement.


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:09:31 pm

[Darby Edelen] "You don't think that would be confusing ... Same problem with masks."

It's not a problem! It is a new option, that's the whole point. And no, I don't find it confusing.

[Darby Edelen] "So now users have a new dilemma: when do I pre-comp and when do I group? Instead of making the workflow more streamlined I think this is adding complexity"

which to use? read the help and understand what's the difference. Is it adding complexity? perhaps adobe should strip away all the other complex features AE has then?

...seriously though, I may be oversimplifying things. But you're overcomplicating them. Maybe you're right and such a thing will never pop up, but I still hope Adobe will do something like that along the way. It's for them to decide.


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:15:23 pm

IMO a pre-comp and a group could be the same thing. At least the ability to "fold out" a pre-comp in the main-comp would be vital.

That said I could see them being two separate features also. I don't however think this is an issue to talk about when dealing with "new users": AE is one of the more complex applications to get into in the Adobe-sphere as is. This wouldn't really change anything, just make the app more user-friendly for advanced users.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:48:06 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "IMO a pre-comp and a group could be the same thing. At least the ability to "fold out" a pre-comp in the main-comp would be vital."

Two words: time-remapping.

What are you looking to do that isn't covered by ETLAT?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:57:25 pm

Not sure what "ETLAT" is.

Not sure why time-remapping would change from how it works today. You can time-remap elements in a pre-comp, this would be done in the same way inside a "pre-comp group".


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:13:38 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "Not sure what "ETLAT" is."

Edit this, look at that [link]

Personally, I think it would be greatly enhanced with live update. I also think this is probably easier said than done!

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:15:43 pm

Ah, well ETLAT has it's place yes, but that's one really complicated thing to deal with if we're talking "keeping things simple": Grouping solves other problems as well, such as non-editable layers / data you want to hide but have available.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:15:12 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "Not sure why time-remapping would change from how it works today. You can time-remap elements in a pre-comp, this would be done in the same way inside a "pre-comp group"."

Because a twirled-down group looks like it has the same clock as its comtaining comp, whereas a precomp very clearly has its own clock.

What happens in the UI for the keyframes of a twirled-down, time-remapped group?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 3:17:51 pm

[Cassius Marques] "which to use? read the help and understand what's the difference. Is it adding complexity? perhaps adobe should strip away all the other complex features AE has then?"

The feature you're describing is not itself complex. The complexity, in so far as I can see, arises out of the workflow confusion of a new feature that could be advertised as almost-entirely-the-same-as-pre-comps-but-a-little-different. Not only that but the difference is there to solve a problem that can already be solved without the new feature.

In a cost-benefit analysis the feature as described doesn't make sense to me.

Darby Edelen


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:50:59 pm

[Darby Edelen] "To apply a Glow to 500 footage items in Nuke you'd either need 500 glow nodes (like applying a glow to each layer inside a pre-comp) or to merge the 500 footage items together with a merge node before 1 glow (just like a pre-comp)."

Or you need some kind of effects instancing system, so you can apply the 500 glows individually, but have them all reference a single controller.

This is doable today with expressions, but surely there is room for improvement.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 12:55:45 pm

This is doable with expression, which in its self is powerful, but for "alias" type of work it's a clumsy solution.

It's also not possible to have alias layers which is again a lacking feature. You can have two layers act identical with expression or linking but it's again a very clumsy solution. Powerful, flexible but clumsy.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:08:21 pm

[Darby Edelen] "Rather than simplifying things I see this potentially leading to complication beyond necessity."

Agree 100%.

I'm one of those nuts who doesn't think that uber-twirl/grouped layers are a good idea. I think they're trying to solve maybe a dozen different challenges at the same time, and that whole idea starts falling apart once you go beyond the most basic use cases.

Rather, I think that a lot of hypothetical uber-twirl benefits can be achieved through more targeted and flexible new features, like some kind of effects instancing manager, a more malleable render order for compound effects, and maybe some kind of bi-directional timeline marker system.

Maybe we can we brainstorm on this a little bit here and then write a couple good FRs. For the uber-twirl aficionados, what problems are you looking for it to solve? What other ways can we solve them?

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:12:47 pm

But the grouping of items in the timeline IMO is a very basic needed feature. Both Photoshop and Illustrator have them. Apple Motion has it. Why couldn't After Effects have it?


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:22:51 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "But the grouping of items in the timeline IMO is a very basic needed feature. Both Photoshop and Illustrator have them. Apple Motion has it. Why couldn't After Effects have it?"

Grouping is overloaded. Is it an organizational feature? Is it a compositing feature? Nope, it's both!

Photoshop and Illustrator lack the element of time, and they have totally different (read: vastly more destructive, vastly less parametric/procedural) effects systems compared to Ae.

Grouping in Photoshop is not the same as instancing, like a smart object or an Ae precomp is. Is this the right (expected) behaviour, or the wrong one?

Apple Motion needs grouping because it allows only a single timeline in a project. As Darby lays out above, it gets complicated fast. The idea should be to ease existing limitations, not create new ones.

If we're going to borrow any feature from Motion, I'd rather boost clone layers than groups -- but I think we can do better than that, too.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:28:22 pm

I do see issue can arise for sure but some kind of grouping / folding out of pre-comps is needed. But as you state it could potentially be a feature with a bunch of limitations connected to it.

I'm not exactly sure how Motions "Clone layer" works but if it's like idéa of an "alias" or "clone" of another layer and these are always exact copies of one another - yes please.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 1:38:12 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "I do see issue can arise for sure but some kind of grouping / folding out of pre-comps is needed. But as you state it could potentially be a feature with a bunch of limitations connected to it."

But if it's going to be so limited that I can only use it in easy cases, there in my mind there is no point to adding the feature. I'd be better served with a set of more focused, less limited features that work very broadly.

That's why I'm asking what problems you want to solve with grouping or uber-twirl. We might be able to come up with less obvious and better overall solutions.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:44:05 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Grouping is overloaded. Is it an organizational feature?"

Grouping as an organizational feature is something I could support, but I don't know that it would make other people happy. The groups would not have any transforms, could not have effects applied and have no blending mode. They would exist exclusively for the purpose of collapsing several related layers into one layer slot on the timeline.

Darby Edelen


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 2:49:45 pm

I could live with such a grouping feature. It would remove all "issues" with über-nudles and what not.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:04:14 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "I could live with such a grouping feature. It would remove all "issues" with über-nudles and what not."

Go get Zorro [link], and you can pretty much have this today.

GoodMotion was working on FoldLayers [link] a while back, but I haven't used it or seen any updates in some time.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:39:08 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Go get Zorro [link], and you can pretty much have this today."
Looking at the demo on their site, no. It's a show / hide function based on keywords. Not a bad thing to have but not a grouping feature really. Sure I could add the tag "MATTE" to all my mattes and hide them with Zorro but it's quite a clumsy / ugly workflow I'd say personally. Zorro has it's place for some for sure but it's not a clever grouping function from what I can see.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 5:24:48 pm

[Erik Lindahl] "Looking at the demo on their site, no. It's a show / hide function based on keywords. Not a bad thing to have but not a grouping feature really. Sure I could add the tag "MATTE" to all my mattes and hide them with Zorro but it's quite a clumsy / ugly workflow I'd say personally. Zorro has it's place for some for sure but it's not a clever grouping function from what I can see."

Not just show/hide, but select.

If we're talking about organizational groups, not compositing groups, tagging has a big advantage that grouping does not: non-contiguous selection.

I also use layer colors pretty frequently as a poor man's grouping function, as you can multi-select based on layer color with two clicks.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Darby EdelenRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 3:03:12 pm

[Walter Soyka] "a more malleable render order for compound effects,"

Which is one of the feature requests I'm going to file after this conversation :)

It's crossed my mind before that the Collapse Transformations/Continuously Rasterize switch should be available for bitmap footage items. I can see this working essentially as a switch that says "Transform me before rendering my Effects" much in the same way it works for vector items and pre-comps.

This doesn't immediately solve the problem of Set Matte looking only at a layer's pre-effect contents. I always expected (hoped) that Adobe would add a checkbox to each compound effect to either look at the source layer "pre-effect" or "post-effect." I may file that feature request as well but I'd love to hear whether someone has another option that makes more sense.


[Walter Soyka] "some kind of effects instancing manager,"

Are there models out there for this sort of behavior? I could see allowing a special mode of "paste" that would keep a link between the source effect. Maybe this could just be some automatic expressions applied (problem: not all properties are accessible by expressions) or something else.

In Nuke you get pretty green lines connecting nodes that have had one or more of their properties linked together via expressions. Is some indicator like that necessary or desirable in order to find the 'parent' effect? Perhaps parenting is a better paradigm to approach the problem with, although I could see that getting out of hand. Too many layers in a comp? Imagine having to sort through all of the effects too! Perhaps just a little button off to the right of the effect in the timeline that says "Linked" and if pressed would jump to the parent effect.

Darby Edelen


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 4:28:03 pm

[Darby Edelen] "Which is one of the feature requests I'm going to file after this conversation :) It's crossed my mind before that the Collapse Transformations/Continuously Rasterize switch should be available for bitmap footage items. I can see this working essentially as a switch that says "Transform me before rendering my Effects" much in the same way it works for vector items and pre-comps."


Cool idea about using collapse transformations to swap the render order.

I might like to have a per-layer adjustable render order (drag to rearrange METL badges, or maybe represent the entire render order in the ECW or similar, so you can intermingle masks, effects and transforms, and layer styles within the same layer and eliminate some precomping scenarios entirely) -- but that might be a really, really big can of worms.



[Darby Edelen] "This doesn't immediately solve the problem of Set Matte looking only at a layer's pre-effect contents. I always expected (hoped) that Adobe would add a checkbox to each compound effect to either look at the source layer "pre-effect" or "post-effect." I may file that feature request as well but I'd love to hear whether someone has another option that makes more sense. "

The issue of compound effects seeing pre-effect contents is pretty deep. I'm torn about how I want this to work -- a "post-effect" toggle in the compound effect itself, or a "Use render instead of source for compound effects" toggle on the source layer?



[Darby Edelen] "Are there models out there for this sort of behavior? I could see allowing a special mode of "paste" that would keep a link between the source effect. Maybe this could just be some automatic expressions applied (problem: not all properties are accessible by expressions) or something else."

Good question. I've been using pt_EffectSearch for linking effects, but you're right that expressions are limited because they can't handle custom controls.

Possible solution -- expose custom controls to expressions, even if it's just as binary blobs? You may not be able to do much with them, but you could at least link them.

Special paste modes are something I've been thinking about for a while, but I am having trouble formulating what I'd really want them to do to make a good feature request -- this idea seems to feature creep really quickly.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 6:17:52 pm

[Walter Soyka] "[Darby Edelen] "... compound effect to either look at the source layer "pre-effect" or "post-effect." I may file that feature request as well but I'd love to hear whether someone has another option that makes more sense. "

The issue of compound effects seeing pre-effect contents is pretty deep. I'm torn about how I want this to work -- a "post-effect" toggle in the compound effect itself, or a "Use render instead of source for compound effects" toggle on the source layer?"


This is exactly what I tried to solve with being able to apply masks in a group basis. I can't imagine why set matte ain't able to see the source layer post everything else and as if it were collapsed. This would solve 50% of my problems. I just hasted in bringing everything together in an arguably possible solution.


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Walter SoykaRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 6:28:53 pm

[Cassius Marques] "This is exactly what I tried to solve with being able to apply masks in a group basis. I can't imagine why set matte ain't able to see the source layer post everything else and as if it were collapsed."

It's as designed. When a compound effect in one layer looks at another layer, it sees the layer source, not the rendered layer. Of course, precomposing to "flatten" the METLs is the traditional solution, because then the layer's source and its rendered output are one and the same.

It's not just masks, it's effects, too. The Set Matte effect works fundamentally differently than track mattes, but I think it often feels as though they should work the same way.



[Cassius Marques] "This would solve 50% of my problems. I just hasted in bringing everything together in an arguably possible solution."

That's why I'm asking about what the problems you see are. Maybe we can solve 100% of them if we break them down intelligently and handle them separately.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 9:05:17 pm

I guess one issue is the fact that you in the time line keep everything connected to that sequence. This makes sense but can get messy as described here.

1. Mattes
These can double the amount of layers even if one matte is used for multiple layers. To remedy this one should be able to able to use an arbitrary layer as a matte instead of just the one above the current layer.

2. Multiple instances of the same layer
This can be for example creating a light or glow effect on top of a logo with the video footage. You duplicate it, tweak it with effects, add a matte (probably based on the alpha of the graphic). Here I'd say a "clone layer" feature would be brilliant. The clone layer would be identical to its rendered and rastered source. Changes to the source reflect to the clone layer. One would be able to add effects / transforms to the clone layer as well, these would be applied after their source layers processing of.

3. "Extra stuff needing grouping"
This includes things like nulls with track-data, an excessive amount of video or audio layers. I don't do a lot of work with 3D and lights but I could imagine one can end up with heaps of "crap" you'd like to group up like cameras, nulls and lights. Never the less, from my point of view sometimes I end up with:

- a of of tracking nulls. Would be great to have group-collect these layers feature for that.
- a lot of layers from a video-source I've done frame-by-frame fixes to. I know I can use a pre-comp but I hate losing having instant access to all the "bits". Here a group or expand pre-comp feature would be needed.

There is probably more but I'm completely zonked after a 14 hour day.


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Cassius MarquesRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 9:07:21 pm

That change to set matte is a must.

Built in function to instance effects. Change one and it's reflected within the others. You guys know 3ds max when you duplicate something? That would be nice, the ability to paste instances and then make them unique again if needed. I do this currently with scripts.

And I can live without groups. Though if they figure something out that would be cool.


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Erik LindahlRe: Null Object 2.0
by on Apr 18, 2013 at 9:48:36 pm

Yeah, effect aliases are also high on my list of requests.


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