When you're watching an effects-intensive movie, what you're seeing at any given moment is a patchwork quilt of individually produced visuals. A single frame may have been built from up to 500 distinct components, from filmed sets and performances to CG characters and landscapes. Compositing software is the tool for assembling all the pieces; it's like
Photoshop, but for moving imagery. Before After Effects, the compositing process was
handled on supercomputers that cost $200,000-plus. Priced at around $1,000, After Effects democratized the business. Soon after the program's release, CoSA was snapped up by Aldus, which then merged with Adobe
Systems. Over the next decade, the power of desktop machines exploded, and today supercomputer compositors are in decline.