After Effects, or Velvet Revolution : Lev Manovich PART 1 + 2

After Effects, or Velvet Revolution : Lev Manovich


By the end of the decade, the “pure” moving image media became an exception and hybrid media became the norm… the transformation of the visual language used by all forms of moving images outside of narrative films – has not been critically analyzed. p.3.

While narrative features mostly stick to live cinematography and video shot by ordinary people with consumer video cameras and cell phones is similarly usually left as is, everything else – commercials, music videos, motion graphics, TV graphics, and other types of short non-narrative films and moving image sequences being produced around the world by the media professionals including companies, individual designers and artists, and students – are hybrid. p.4.

AFTER EFFECTS released in 1993. This software is After Effects. Introduced in 1993, After Effects was the first software designed to do animation, compositing, and special effects on the personal computer. p.6.

Velvet Revolution is a new hybrid visual language of moving images in general. This language is not confined to particular media forms. And while today it manifests itself most clearly in non-narrative forms, it is also often present in narrative and figurative sequences and films. p.8.

Media Remixability

What is the logic of this new hybrid visual language? This logic is one of remixability: not only of the content of different media or simply their aesthetics, but their fundamental techniques, working methods, and assumptions. United within the common software environment, cinematography, animation, computer animation, special effects, graphic design, and typography have come to form a new metamedium. p.9.

Once all types of media met within the same digital environment – and this was accomplished by the middle of the 1990s – they started interacting in the ways that could never be predicted nor even imagined previously… The result is a hybrid, intricate, complex, and rich visual language – or rather, numerous languages that share the basic logic of remixabilty. p.10.

To put this in general terms, we can say that before computerization of the 1990s, the designer’s capacities to access, manipulate, remix, and filter visual information, whether still of moving, were quite restricted. p.14.

In short, digital compositing now allowed the designers to easily mix any number of visual elements regardless of the media in which they originated and to control each element in the process.  p.15

From “Time-based” to a “Composition-based”

But if we consider media design software such as Maya (used for 3D modeling and computer animation) or After Effects (motion graphics, compositing and visual effects), we encounter a different logic. These software applications do not simulate any single physical media that existed previously. Rather, they borrow from a number of different media combining and mixing their working methods and specific techniques.  p.21.

In the case of After Effects, the working method which it puts forward is neither animation, nor graphic design, nor cinematography, even though it draws from all these fields. It is a new way to make moving image media.   …Instead, it led to the emergence of numerous new visual aesthetics that did not exist before.



3D graphics : it offers a new method for representing physical reality – both what actually exists and what is imagined. This method is fundamentally different from what has been offered by main media of the industrial era: still photography, film recording, and audio recording. With 3D computer graphics, we can represent three-dimensional structure of the world – versus capturing only a perspectival image of the world, as in lens-based recording. p.3.

Although in production practice these different paradigms are used together, they are actually distinct ways of understanding an image, so they are not necessary conceptually all compatible with each other. p.6.

If we focus on what the different paradigms summarized above have in common, we can say that filmmakers, editors, special effects artists, animators, and motion graphics designers are working on a composition in 2D or a 3D space that consists from a number of separate objects. The spatial dimension became as important as temporal dimension. From the concept of a “moving image” understood as a sequence of static photographs we have moved to a new concept: a modular media composition.p.8.

Computerization virtualized practically all media creating and modification techniques, “extracting” them from their particular physical media and turning them into algorithms. This means that in most cases, we will no longer find any of these techniques in their pure original state. p.12.


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