Post Production

Celebrating 25 years of Adobe After Effects

bonus NAB 2018 MoGraph Meet-up!

Adobe is celebrating the 25th year of After Effects with interviews, video tips, and livestream demos. If you’re going the NAB 2018 you might ask around for a likely Adobe celebration. In addition, check out the NAB 2018 MoGraph Meet-up (RSVP) on April 8 and the MediaMotion Ball (sellout possible) with the AE team on Monday April 9, 2018 .

Here’s the feature video, After Effects: Revolutionizing an Industry and Shaping its Future, with a couple of co-founders, Dave Simons and Dave Cotter:

Other interviews so far include Stephen Lawes (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and Danny Yount (The Grid, Six Feet Under) and Eric Demeusy (Stranger Things). Also, Premium Beat jumped on the train with Free AE Templates and Assets to Celebrate 25 Years of After Effects and someone made AE-icon 3D printed keyrings.

Here are a few older tidbits picked up along the way…

Below (via Eduardo Morais) is AE before the 2.0 feature that made it a killer app: the Time Layout window, which combined floating pallets: Layers, Properties, and Time. Five years ago, Adobe posted Happy Anniversary to After Effects with an Adobe TV playlist with Stu Maschwitz, Andrew Kramer and more, Ae & Me. It’s still there, along with a report from the NAB party, if you want a sample of reminiscences. You even read about those who participated in embiggening the Ae & Me blog with own perfectly cromulent submissions.


Todd Kopriva posted the After Effects 1.1 demo reel (1993), embedded below.


CoSA After Effects 1.1 (see Dan Wilk’s AE 1.1 screenshot), later sold as “After Image” and came dongle-free with the SuperMac Digital Film card, which with Radius VideoVision Studio, brought online nonlinear video to microcomputers at the glorious resolution of 640 x 480. The Time Layout window showed only one layer at a time in After Effects 1.0, until 2.0. Thus “CoSA” – the nickname of AE in the Bay Area – was a bit more confusing to newbies than Premiere. After the more friendly timeline appeared (akin to Infini-D and Electric Image) no one wanted to use version 1, hardware dongle or not. Happily, at least one Marin County 2.0 version flew free for those who couldn’t cough up the $2,000 for the hardware dongle.

Note that in “Egg” (AE 1.0), there was a “Filter” menu, now “Effects” (see screenshot below), which explains why some users said filter not effect when talking about plug-ins. Note also the sheep icon on the Time-Comp, Layers, and Properties palettes. A failed render would make AE bleat a goatish “maa,” which you can still hear by Shift-clicking on the layer name in Effect Controls. A few other After Effects Easter Eggs were rounded up some time ago, though that roundup is missing the more secret easter eggs.

CoSA Hitchcock, the NLE from Digital F/X in the Aldus era, didn’t ship after the Adobe aquisition. Hitchcock required “an Apple Macintosh II or greater, at least 13MB of free RAM, an 80 MB hard disk,” etc!

While not a museum piece yet, one can cobble together some more memorabilia. In years past, John Burns had some comments and a product shot, and Eric Escobar and @melorama had pictures of other After Effects 1 floppies. And in a 2013 Mochat, AE team member Jeff Almasol shared a pict of an AE 1.0 box still unopened. Here’s an early “About” screen and a note from InfoWorld August 1992:

If you want to see how development proceeded, Wikipedia has a nice version history with main feature additions in After Effects, which was a Mac-only app until early 1997. The first version from Adobe was 3.0, which was discussed in a 1995 issue of DV Full Motion. That newsletter and Interactivity magazine were early public outlets that combined into the After Effects heavy DV Magazine braintrust. In the SF Bay Area, memorable user group meetings with John Knoll and other local luminaries soon led to the establishment of Toolfarm, as well as the first release of 3rd party plug-ins, Aurorix by White Sands Multimedia (later Digieffects). Final Effects, the most influential early plug-in set, was already in beta and came soon after from Cycore and Fractal Design (it’s a long story). Here’s an overview of release history according to CoSA:


A few years ago Motionworks posted a now missing-in-action PDF of the early stories of CoSA by After Effects engineer Dave Simons, which was originally published in an edition of Creating Motion Graphics by Chris and Trish Meyer (you might have to settle for their interview with Motionworks). The AE team has always been user-friendly, and often appeared on the AOL “CoSA Cafe” support forum (before Netscape existed; now the Media-Motion list), along with many familiar faces today. Technical accuracy, a flexible interface, general stability, leading 3rd party plug-ins, affordability, and community support made After Effects the go-to application for mograph and desktop VFX.

Paul Conigliaro posted the summary and transcript of MoChat 26 – After Effects’ 20th Anniversary, which has some historical details that even longtime users might not know. A great resource for those further interested was posted by Matt Silverman in a trip down memory lane from the first SFMOGRAPH user group meeting in March 2008. In this one hear “gigantic pulsating brains”, two of the original CoSA After Effects team members, David Simons and Dan Wilk (once “Filter Boy” [I think]), and middle period After Effects Engineering Manager Chris Prosser.


Later, Adobe posted The History of After Effects webinar with DaveS and DanW, as well as Two Decades of After Effects: War stories from the start of the desktop motion graphics industry with Chris and Trish Meyer, the original beta testers who early on taught the only advanced class for AE in the country at American Film Institute. A word document from the class, authored by Trish Meyer and Lynda Weinman, was highly sought after in the mid-1990s before their book or Brian Maffitt’s Total AE VHS tapes.

You’ll have to follow the links to see those presentations, but below is After Effects: 20 years of innovation from Ae & Me, with co-founder Dave Simons and Steve Forde, a product manager:



Awhile back, Todd Kopriva posted a pictures of the original plabt (typo of plant) in the birthplace of After Effects, which is also memorialized in a t-shirt designed by Stu Maschwitz, “The Plabt Abides.” Here’s an attempt to peek at 14 Imperial Place, Providence, RI:



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Rich Young is a long-time After Effects user from the San Francisco Bay Area. His After Effects and Premiere Pro round-ups provide viewers with an easy-to-digest summary of developments. He also supplies info and links…