After Effects Needs a Node Editor (and other small changes that would make it the best software ever)
After Effects could dominate the market if the developers simply did this:
Rewrite the software so that you have the option to work with nodes in a dedicated window AND still use layers as default (Blender does this, so I know it's possible).
The key to making After Effects the industry dominating software it ought to be, is by keeping the easy to use and super clean UI that it already has, while optimizing its functionality.
For instance, if After Effects had it's standard "layer" timeline, but also gave users the ability to work 'under the hood' for more complex tasks, it would be a game changer!
As it is now, if I have 20 layers that I want to apply a mask to, I have to make 20 copies of that layer (or do some weird precomping setup).
But if AE had nodes, the workflow would be amazing.
Additionally, we already have multiple functions for the 'pick whip,' but if it could also be utilized to connect layers (without jumping into the node window) that would be a major convenience.
For instance, if I held down Shift and Alt, then the pick whip could connect a layer to another layer's properties, like masks or color, instead of just its transform value, like parenting layers work currently.
Just look at the way Blender functions and model AE from that model.
After Effects could be the perfect solution for hobbyists and pros alike with just a rewrite and some stability tweaks.
Also, as a random note: if you changed your subscription model to à la carte, our minds would be blown.
How this could work: for 2 programs of our choosing, $20/per month (or whatever).
For 4 programs of our choosing, $50.
For 5 or more, $84.99.
And as a final note, if anyone is still reading this far -- if there was some way that Adobe could either acquire existing plugins to make them part of the software itself, or write its own code independently to accomplish the same ends, that would be fantastic.
It just seems that AE has been riding on its old tricks for too long, and is reliant on plugins to do more of the heavy lifting -- for compositing, Red Giant has Supercomp. The question then, is why can't that either be licensed and incorporated into the software itself, or just rewrite the code to allow native compositing in AE to function more intuitively (better glows, a new version of 3d Camera Tracker that allows the user more control, clean track points and troubleshoot instead of just hitting a button and hoping for the best).
After Effects is the software I grew up on, its the software that still makes the most sense and has the easiest to use interface. But it needs to grow up and become the effects powerhouse that it always should have been.
DaVinci Resolve is fine enough but its workflow is overcomplicated and Nuke is way out of most people's price range.
If AE could evolve, it could absolutely dominate.
Please consider any of these changes.