Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Adobe Photoshop CS4’s Animation Panel – Serious Limitations



First of all, let me start this post by stating that I DO applaud Adobe for combining the animation capabilities of Image Ready into Photoshop, starting with Photoshop CS3. I was hoping they would have stepped up to the plate and given us a bit more in CS4, however. Simple things like a little more control of keyframe interpolation. Allow us a little finesse in the control of keyframes, as we have in After Effects (for several versions now). Also, the biggest disappointment is the stuttering layer movement that makes your animations look like a GIF animation from 1998. Opacity fades are a bit more smooth, but move a layer over time, and you may be a bit disheartened.

Let’s take a look at the Photoshop CS4 Animation Panel:
Photoshop CS4 Animation Panel
Photoshop CS4’s Animation Panel – showing a 3-layer animation

This is an example of a simple 3-layer animation… a background in motion, along with a mid-ground element and a foreground layer. In After Effects, this would go together quickly with many simple controls to chose from on the Timeline. However, this is a much more complicated process in Photoshop, since there are so many limitations and lack of simple animatible functions and keyframe tools.

For instance, the simple tools that would give you more control over layer animations would be:
• Keyframable Scaling
• Keyframable Rotation
• Keyframe Interpolation controls – more than just Hold or Linear (on/off)
• Smoother motion of layer elements in an animation (perhaps adjustable by frame rate?)

In comparison, let’s take a look at the After Effects CS4 Timeline Panel:
After Effects CS4 Timeline Panel
This is the After Effects CS4 Timeline Panel, split & stacked to view the details

Again, there are far more tools for animation on the Timeline Panel in After Effects than there are in Photoshop, such as Motion Blur, Frame Blending, 3D Layers, Graph Editing, and much, much more…
But what I’d like to compare are the “logical”, simple tools that Photoshop should include at minimum, like SOME Keyframe Interpolation control (even just a simple on/off for Easy Ease In/Out) and the ability to animate Scale and Rotation (or any other Transform functions, if they should chose to do so)!

Okay – so how about we take a look at the end results of this simple animation, with a side-by-side comparison video:

*Download a hi-res, non-streaming version of this video clip to really see the difference here: Hi-Res h.264 Movie Clip

Notice the difference between the smoothness of the After Effects animation compared to the Photoshop version? The only thing I did different between them was to use an Easy Ease In/Out on the Keyframe Interpolation in AE CS4… something not available in Photoshop CS4. But the quality of the layers in motion between the two examples is what I’m mainly concerned about. Both were set to 30fps as well.

So why am I so bothered by this, anyway? Why should I care if Photoshop has these tools when obviously, I have After Effects and have self-admittedly stated that I find that workflow much easier to achieve the results I’m looking for?

Well, I’m thinking about the average guy/gal here. You know, “Joe Six-pack & Jane Wine-box”. They probably don’t have the premium suite which includes After Effects, or maybe they’re intimidated by it’s complex UI, that they have to take a nap by merely opening it up and viewing it. Either way, they’re promised something in Photoshop that is still only “barely” there in my opinion.

I don’t think this is asking too much from Adobe – and I’m not trying to circumvent the After Effects capabilities by trying to do everything in Photoshop, or suggest that Photoshop is any kind of replacement for After Effects – only that Adobe considers that if they are going to go down that road by claiming Photoshop’s keyframe animation capabilities, that they NOT take a half-assed approach at it!

I’ve come down to the point where I actually swore in my blog.
Thanks Adobe.




6 Responses to “Adobe Photoshop CS4’s Animation Panel – Serious Limitations”
  1. John Dowdell says:

    If you’d like Photoshop’s new 3D timelines to offer easing, then you can cast your vote directly with the product team:


  2. Jeff says:

    John – thanks for posting the link to Adobe for our readers!

    I know that this has been requested numerous times before – with only hopes that it gets picked up in the next rev, but so far – no dice.


  3. Hi Jeff! I haven’t played much with Photoshop CS4 yet because my primary machine is still a pre-Intel G5. And i was lucky enough to have professionally skipped over doing a lot of GIF animation. 😉 But in looking at the CS4 screenshots in this post and your more recent 3D glasses post, the animation timeline reminds me of early Flash combined with the Illustrator Layers palette. I wonder if The Adobe was trying to initially put out something that’s visually familiar to web and still image graphic artists. Instead of you high-brow AE specialists. 😉

    Either way, your post has inspired me to borrow one of the Mac Book Pros around the office and start tooling around with CS4 finally.

  4. Very Interesting stuff about Photoshop.. It helped me a lot in understanding photoshop.

  5. offthesky says:

    REMEDY: the only way i’ve found to correct the jagged jerky movement in photoshop is to double the image size of the document (200% using bicubic interpolation) right before rendering, then render the video down to the document’s original size(in the vid render output panel just put in the original width by height) – it’s a pain in the butt to wait for the resize to occur but i have noticed an upgrade in the motion resolution… for really slow panning images, i’ve had to even quadruple the size of the document to make the jerkiness less noticable – this is a dirty work around and i’m sure there’s some loss in image quality through the resizing but let’s face it – photoshop ain’t no after effects(and vice versa)!

  6. Jeff says:

    Thanks for the info Jason. I have found that increasing the scale of 3D layers does help with both animation and the smoothness of imported models, but the cost in rendering time and potential crashes is pretty severe and you’re right – Photoshop is NOT a replacement for After Effects! 😉

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