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After Effects 16.1: New Features Overview

By School of Motion
After Effects

From Content-Aware Fill to the updated Expressions Editor, let's take a look at the new After Effects 16.1 features you should know about.

Adobe just released a massive update with really cool game-changing features that you should know about. Not only are there really big updates that will affect how you'll use After Effects, there are also nice quality of life improvements that are going to have motion designers and visual effects artists singing hallelujah!
So, What are the new After Effects updates in 16.1? Let's find out...
A video review of the new After Effects update.

Download the Free Project File

Want to download the free project file to follow along with the video tutorial? Just click the download button below. In addition to the project files, you'll also find a nifty KBar script for creating rule of thirds guides in After Effects. Hooray for freebies! In addition to the freebies below you can also score 20% off GridGuide at aescripts by clicking this link (offer expires April 10, 2019).

Download the Free After Effects 16.1 Update Goodies

Download Now

An Overview of After Effects 16.1

There are a ton of new features to get excited about in After Effects 16.1. So if you don't want to follow along with the video above, here's a quick rundown of the updates.

1. Content Aware Fill in After Effects

Adobe has taken one of Photoshops beloved features, used some coding magic, and has brought Content Aware Fill to After Effects! This is going to take hours out of editing simple videos and be a great way to get started tinkering with VFX work. In the tutorial above we walk through how to use Content Aware Fill inside of After Effects.
Using Content Aware Fill to remove lamp posts from a video clip.
How to Use Content Aware in After Effects 16.1
  1. You can use the Content Aware Fill Panel by going to Window > Content Aware Fill
  2. Roughly Mask out the object you want to remove. (You can use any method you like, e.g. track a mask, erase or key out an object, apply an alpha matte, or use Roto Brush.)
  3. Click Generate Fill Layer to render a new layer that fills in the hole. After Effects will do the rest!
Is the content aware fill not getting it just right? Try playing with the Alpha Expansion. Alpha Expansion expands the amount of pixels the algorithm is utilizing to fill in. This can produce better fill results in some cases.
How does After Effects cover up your video? It generates a PNG sequence that sits on a layer just above your original video footage. Making this a non-destructive way to edit.
Using Content Aware Fill Reference Frames
There may be some rough patches that After Effects may not be able to work through. So, what do you do if Content Aware Fill didn't get everything? In the tutorial above Joey shows you how to create a reference frame using content aware fill. Here's an outline of what you want to do.
How to use Create Reference Frame
  1. Find a clean frame in the new PNG Sequence
  2. Click Create Reference Frame in the Content Aware Fill Panel.
  3. Use the clone stamp tool, or other tools, to clean up the blemished area in Photoshop
  4. Save the Photoshop project that was opened by After Effects
  5. Pre-comp the original and generated PNG Sequence
  6. Repeat masking and tracking
  7. Select Generate Fill layer
Fun Fact
During Adobe MAX 2017 Adobe demoed "Project Cloak" and the crowd went bananas! Now, with After Effects update 16.1, Content Aware Fill has made its way into After Effects!
After Effects Content Aware Fill Sneak Peek

2. The Expression Editor Gets A MAJOR Overhaul

In the tutorial above Joey went over a few changes in the expression editor, and for the enthusiast coder out there we thought we'd throw out just a few more options that have been added. So, what are the new features for the expression editor in After Effects?
Screen Shot 2019-04-02 at 3.47.37 PM.png
Custom preference for the Expression editor in After Effects 16.1
  1. Syntax Highlighting- There is now Syntax highlighting of JavaScript syntax and After Effects methods and properties. Along with this option, Adobe has allowed you to set custom colors for syntax highlighting, selection, and background. You can also save and load custom themes.
  2. Line Numbers - Tired of trying to count which line your expression had an error at? Line numbers has found its way to the After Effects expression editor. This is a great quality of life improvement!
  3. Formatting and Structure - Tabs or Spaces have been added to the expression editor as well. Being able to read your code is going to be easier than ever. Also, if you're not liking how much or little space is given, you can set a custom tab width! Adobe has really put some thought and love into this release.
  4. Braces - Highlighting of matching braces and the automatic closing of braces have been added to help you travel across those lengthy strips of code. This is sure to help reduce those easily forgotten braces.
  5. Adjustable Font Size - Forgot your glasses? Well, it seems like the After Effects Team has got your back here also! Scripting preferences in After Effects lets you set fonts sizing now!
  6. Optional Code Folding - There are now 4 different types of ways to fold up your code in the expression editor. This will help reduce how long it takes to scroll and travel through those super long and complicated expressions.
  7. Auto-Complete - One of our favorite updates is the auto complete function added to the expression editor. Once you start typing After Effects will give you a list of the available options for your line of code. Custom variables are even available as options in the auto-complete. These auto-complete features are going to be setting those fast typing fingers on fire!
New After Effects brings an auto-complete function in the Expression editor.

3. Guides!

The guides in After Effects have received some love that's going to help boost your workflow. Teams are for sure going to rejoice over the new import and export function now built into After Effects Guides!
  1. Zack Lovatt Kbar Script - As mentioned in the tutorial above, Zack wrote a free script that helps you create rule-of-thirds guides with just a click of a button! It's available in the download file just below the tutorial at the top of this article. If you don't have K-bar and are looking to work faster, check out K-Bar at aescripts!
  2. GridGuide Update - Now, after creating grids using GridGuide you can turn them into native guides in After Effects!
  3. Import/Export Guides - You can now import and export guides in After Effects and Premiere Pro!

4. Quality of Life updates

How to Edit Original source from After Effects layers.
  1. Edit Original Option From Timeline - To access the edit original option just right click a layer in the timeline, select open, and click "edit original..." Now you can jump into editing faster. And, if you're a hotkey ninja, you can now set a hotkey to launch this for the selected layer. Your Photoshop and After Effects workflow is now that much easier.
  2. Motion Blur and Frame Blending - Motion blur and frame blending is now automatically activated for the entire composition when you toggle it on a layer. No more forgetting to click those buttons!
  3. Automatic Adobe Font Syncing - The missing fonts pop up box is now a little more tame. When you open a project that contains Adobe fonts After Effects will automatically sync those fonts in the background.

Level-Up Your After Effects Skills

It's time for you to become an After Effects master. Whether you're a beginner looking to get serious about your After Effects skills, or a seasoned pro ready to take a deep dive in the world of animation, our courses will help you achieve your Motion Design goals.
Now stop reading this article and go write some colorful expressions!
Coding Dog After Effects Updates.jpg
What do you mean colorful expressions?...