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First, we did a series of six After Effects composites. If you'd like to see the QuickTime movies of these benchmarks, please click here.

AE Benchmark 1

1. Simple Animation
The first test involves a simple cel-style animation. It consists of a pict file created in Photoshop that was used as a background for tracing paths, which were then animated and filled with another pict file making the pink color of the face. It's a goofy, simple animation, but it shows how well the processors can calculate the paths and render the final composite.

AE Benchmark 2
2. Video Composite
Here's a project that's commonplace for After Effects users. It's a composite that uses a number of effects in one shot. This comp uses a green screen layer, a CGI layer and then an element that was shot on film. The background layer is the castle hall behind the actors. The two men were shot against a green screen, and a QuickTime movie of moving smoke was also layered into the shot. All three layers are combined to result in a realistic final composite.

AE Benchmark 3

3. Data Project
This test concentrates on animating layers from Photoshop and Illustrator. It animates randomly sequenced 1s and 0s traveling across the screen at different rates. Green lights were also added, making this the kind of graphic that might be used as a background for statistics in a production. The text elements were imported into After Effects as a three-layered Illustrator file. Since these are vector graphics, they could be scaled to any resolution within After Effects without diminishing their resolution. After the text layers were skewed using 3D effects, lighting effects were added to give the numbers a green cast. This kind of project is indicative of many text animation sequences that are commonly created in compositing software.
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AE Benchmark 4
4. Gambler
This project was originally intended to be exported to the SWF (Shockwave Flash) format, but we processed it in 720x486 (QuickTime and AVI) pixels to see how our contestants could render this composite of Illustrator files in a more broadcast-bound situation. It's a good example of a 2D graphic composite that originated in Illustrator, which is many compositors' bread-and-butter.

AE Benchmark 5

5. Source Shapes
Here's another pure graphic of Illustrator files. This time the shapes are moved around in a 3D environment using a camera in After Effects. The graphic was originally designed in 2D, and when it was imported into After Effects, it retained its 2D composition while being moved around in 3D space. It started as a single multi-layered Illustrator file, and its individual layers were manipulated in After Effects to achieve this fly-around effect.

AE Benchmark 6

6. Virtual Set
Here's the most render-intensive graphic in our test. Using still photographs, an entire 3D environment is created within After Effects. The project involves constructing a room with walls and a ceiling, and then placing various graphics of pipes and gauges into the 3D space. Then, a camera is moved through the space, giving a 3D point of view.

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If you would like to replicate these tests for yourself, pick up the book After Effects 5.5 Magic that includes a CD containing these AE project files (and many more) along with all the media you'll need to exactly reproduce our results. Special thanks to After Effects 5.5 Magic's author Mark Christiansen and the book's editor, Nathan Moody, as well as New Riders Publishing for giving us permission to use materials from this excellent book. Highly recommended.

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