Just when you thought there was nothing more to add to After Effects, Adobe has crammed a large number of new features and enhancements into the CS4 release of its flagship visual effects and motion graphics software.

This major upgrade to After Effects CS4 lets you more easily search and navigate around your project, import 3D layers from Photoshop, fine tune your composites with separate X-, Y-, and Z-position keyframes, create a cel animation look from live footage, and export projects to open and edit inside Flash.

A new add-on program, now shipping with After Effects CS4, helps you track hard-to-manage shots.

Here's what to expect when After Effects CS4 arrives next month with the rest of Adobe's Creative Suite 4 (CS4) updates.

Production and authoring

Adobe has added much-needed production features to After Effects CS4, such as keyword-searchable timelines and projects and nested composition navigation. In keeping with the inter-application integration touted in the other CS4 updates, you can now export rich media from After Effects to Flash CS4 Professional while still retaining layer and keyframe data for further editing. (We'll talk more about integration with Flash below.)

Even better, After Effects CS4 improves asset management and copyright tracking by letting you add and maintain XMP metadata throughout your After Effects projects from start to final render.

After Effects CS4 also integrates mobile-device authoring into the workflow, complete with multi-device previews.

NEXT PAGE: functionality