Simply put, reviewing a Meyer book about After Effects is tantamount to sitting down and taking the time to review the Bible (good character development, by the way, but it dragged on too long - wait for the 2-disc DVD to see the alternate ending). Trish and Chris Meyer have perfected the art of teaching their readers how to best maximize the fantastic tool that is Adobe After Effects, and this latest updated release, which includes content for the latest version 5.5, is no exception.
The Cold, Hard Truth
If you are new to After Effects, or you have somehow managed to use the application this entire time without hearing about the first edition of this book, then you are in luck. I can save you time right now by telling you that you should put down your mouse and get to your local (or online) bookstore to purchase this book. It has been general consensus for some time now that this is perhaps the ultimate companion book for After Effects (with the suggestion even being raised from time to time that perhaps Adobe should just start shipping this as the programs manual). This 2nd edition has more than kept up this tradition.
There. That was easy. So let's take a minute to review:
1. This book rocks.
2. You should buy this book now.
With this glowing (and well deserved) prose flowing from my mighty pen upon first getting wind of this assignment, I realized that this short but sweet version would not constitute the review that was necessary for the Cows high literary standards. So if everybody who wants to use After Effects should own this book, what is there to review? The cover is nice, and it comes with the usual extremely handy CD that is chock full of a lovely variety of AE goodies and tutorials no help there. With these out as options, I decided that it was best to take the angle of the effectiveness of this as a 2nd edition. So the question becomes this: If you are a proud owner of the first edition, is this latest and greatest release worthy of joining (or replacing) the creased, dog-eared first edition that now graces your tech shelf?
Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue
Of course marrying the book itself is optional, but this age-old saying seemed appropriate here. While there is certainly a nice collection of new examples, comps, graphics and ideas, much of this book will look very familiar to owners of the first edition. From the liquid matte movie to the keyframed spaceship, you will see all of your favorites. One nice thing to see what that all of the screen captures have been re-done in Apples OS X. However, fear not Windows users the song remains the same for you and your OS as well, as Adobe has done a fine job of preserving the UI as best as possible across the platforms.
So whats new? Well, the first chapter, for one thing. This time around, the book dives right into an AE introduction with a groovy little comp creation for a mythical detective show. If you've never used AE before, then this might seem to be a bit fast for you, but it moves along at the typical comfortable Meyer pace, so you'll be whipping out motion graphics before you know what hit you. In addition to this deeper initial dive, many examples have been updated with new footage and there is a nice set of new tutorials to learn with.
In addition to the examples, this edition keeps up (dare I say borrows to keep my point in the forefront of your brain?) the festive and colorful layout from the previous Meyer books. I have always enjoyed this presentation, as it seems to lighten things up a bit and keep the learning fun. The iconography has returned again as well, making it easy to pick out certain trouble spots.
And whats blue? Alright, so it's not really blue (more a shade of purple), but there are a few nice and new boxed areas that highlight whats new to this version of AE so that you can see what the Adobe programming teams have been up to for the past year. In reality, there are quite a few boxed areas, but in this case, I am referring to the separate sections devoted to the latest and greatest features that are there for your use.
So let's get to the point here is this latest edition worth your hard-earned $54.95 (or $38.47 at Amazon at the time of this writing)? I will refer back to the beginning of the review when I say that if you are a frequent Adobe After Effects user and you have never made use of this book, then you should purchase it immediately. Also begin to refer to it around your friends and colleagues as if you were smart enough to purchase it in the first place without my recommendation.
Editor's NOTE: Download CMG: Volume 1 Table of Contents here.
Creating Motion Graphics: Volume 2: Advanced Techniques (to be released Spring 2003) covers professional topics such as working with Photoshop and Illustrator, video and film issues, integrating with 3D programs, and using the Production bundle.