Layers provide a very inflexible two-dimensional editing paradigm and isn't very conducive to sharing data within a project. Instead of simply allowing node-based editing, Adobe appear to invite their own hacks such as Smart Objects for Photoshop, for example, but these still feel clunky to work with and still don't offer the flexibility that nodes do.
What is needed is an alternative view that is node-based an allows data to flow any way a user wants and without data duplication. This should be optional workflow within all Adobe tools, but at least in Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere Pro, and even audition.
If done right, the layer-based approach would simply be a view on top of the node-based network with added visual clues to highlight interconnectivity where layers are unable to display the data flow. For example, a layer that may be inherited from another part of the tree could be colour-coded or, better still, have an icon to highlight this relationship. The icon could the be used to toggle views and/or jump to the related output that influences or generates the layer. In Photoshop, for example, it may be that the alpha channel for the current layer is sourced from another layer that is in a group below the current layer. An icon could then indicate that such a link exist. Clicking the icon then jumps to that layer to allow it to be manipulated. The source layer icon could then display a drop-down of all the related destination allowing the user to pick one and jump to it. Either way, flattening a node-based tree to a layer-based on is possible. It just takes some thought. Users just need the option to have node-based editing if their workflow demands it. In fact, I can see no professional who would not welcome such a powerful workflow and paradigm to be part of their toolchain.
We’ve investigated node-based compositing before, and chose to keep After Effects time-based.
At least for our video applications, the opportunities for user confusion and errors outweigh the potential benefits.
Exactly. You could include the workflow of nodes in all your video applications and have both layers and nodes, bringing out the best of both workflows.