Today, at the start of NAB 2012, Adobe is revealing Production Premium CS6. This forthcoming release will convince more editors to make the switch. If the unparalleled integration of the software (through Adobe Dynamic Link) and hardware (Mercury Playback Engine, with extended support for OpenGL and 3rd party I/O cards) won't convince you, the cool new features inside the individual programs surely will. Check it out.
Before you read on, I have to admit that I have been an Adobe fan ever since they took over Syntrillium's Cool Edit Pro (anyone remember that?). Just to make things clear: other than getting heads up on new developments, neither this site nor I am getting paid to endorse Adobe. As a member of the Adobe Influencer/Pre-Release program, I had to keep my lips tightly sealed for the past few months, but today the NDA-embargo has been lifted: Adobe is revealing Production Premium CS6.
A few weeks ago, the editing team of Conan O'Brien already made the infamous #JohnAdobe video that featured their endorsement of Adobe, introduced the Freddie Mercury Playback Engine and showed the new Premiere Pro CS6 interface, 6 months after they publicly trashed Apple's FCP X in an item on Conan. If you haven't seen it yet, here's your chance:
Adobe Production Premium CS6
Let's quickly review the key innovations in the suite, in order of a typical production workflow:
- Adobe PreLude
- Adobe Audition
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe After Effects
- Adobe Speedgrade
This program replaces Adobe OnLocation, which is no longer available in CS6. In the past, I used this program to add metadata to my DSLR clips, up until the point that Adobe released version 5.1, which halted playback on these types of clips, somewhat to my chagrin. Adobe's response to my bug complaint was that OnLocation was meant for live recording ("on location") and tape-based ingestion. So I was kinda forced to do my media copying, organisation, shot selection (spotting) and rough cutting in Adobe Bridge and Premiere Pro – far from ideal.
Today, Adobe makes up for this with PreLude, an easy to use program that allow for quick and easy ingestion and logging of file based formats (i.e. tapeless).
Effectively, this program allows you to do your homework before you start editing.
Staying safe and organised is key, especially when you are on a multiple camera, multiple card shoot. The last thing you want, is to find out in post that your data got lost (no back-up or overwritten a card) or all mixed up (which can easily happen, especially when importing-exporting XMLs between NLEs). Adobe Prelude does just this – and more.
Upon ingest of your source material from your media card you can immediately designate any number of drives attached to your system to write (and back-up) your media to. I typically copy things to two HDDs (one RAID-5 and one external) before erasing my media card. Better be safe than sorry.
PreLude also is a fast tool for adding comments and simple rough cutting. No effects or transitions, just straight cutting, based on in/out points set to individual clips. Ideal for directors and producers who want to review dailies on a laptop while travelling or in a hotel room. To each clip you can add comments (e.g. "good performance by actor X") which can be called up by the editor in Premiere Pro. Once done, the program features an export option that will only include the source material needed for the editor (like the Project Manager feature works in Premiere Pro). If PreLude is run on a system with all of the programs, you can directly send a rough cut to Premiere Pro for further editing.
One thing that is not clear, is if PreLude will be made available as a stand-alone application as well, so that a director or assistant does not need the full suite on his/her laptop.
Instead of going directly to Premiere Pro from PreLude, I tend to first set up my audio mix. Perhaps because I have a background in audio mixing, I put a lot of effort into the audio and then edit the video to the music, instead of the other way around. If you accept that 50% of a video production is actually the audio, I am convinced you can see and feel it (and my clients agree).
Ok, enough self-promotion. Back to Audition. With CS5.5, I was thrilled to see the program being revived after Adobe had initially gone astray with SoundBooth in CS4. I continued to use Audition 3 as a stand-alone program, while development of Audition stalled for several years, as engineers were trying to make SoundBooth work. Much to my rejoice, Adobe reverted that decision and returned from the woods. However, the decision to bring Audition back to life came a little too soon for the release of CS5.5 and some major features did not make the list.
For me, by far, the most important missing feature was the inability to group multiple clips in CS5.5. It may appear to be a trivial thing, but it's not. Trust me. Especially if you're working on a beat-sensitive mix, you *need* the cuts to stay where they are (in a group), whilst being able to move groups of clips freely around on the timeline. Well, with Audition CS6, Group Clips is back — and more powerful than ever before. For one, you can suspend individual clips from a group. Thank you, Adobe.
Adobe Premiere Pro
This has been my NLE of choice ever since CS4. Although I initially had to convert my DSLR footage to make it editable in Premiere, I have not had to do this since CS5. With CS5.5, Adobe introduced the Warp Stabilizer, which required round tripping to After Effects. In CS6, the Warp Stabilizer is now an integrated effect, that still allows you to continue working, as it does its magic in the background.
For those who are still lingering on in 32-bit land, hanging on to the uncluttered interface of Apple's FCP, Premiere Pro CS6 now features a nice and clean interface that allows for maximum viewing of media and hiding of unnecessary buttons. The thumbnails of your assets are no longer as big as a thumbnail and you can quickly scrub through them using Hover Scrub. Move your mouse (or Wacom pen) across the clips in the media bin and you're scrubbing.
What's more, Adobe has decided to adhere to a new mantra of never stopping playback, which Premiere Pro used to do a lot. This allows you to stay more in the flow of editing. As editing is a creative process, you don't want to be interrupted when on a roll. Unfortunately, you still have to hit CTRL/CMD+S to save your edit as you go along. Now if only Adobe would implement a true silent background save (like Avid does) you can safely go on a road trip to editing heaven (and stay there). Gotta have something to wish for, I guess…
Creating edits where you change the position of the audio relative to the video track was somewhat burdensome. You had to single out either the video or the audio track with the Alt-key, or even unlink them altogether. Not anymore in Premiere Pro CS6, because it features trimming on steroids. You can now easily adjust the audio relative to the video, or select multiple clip heads/tails and move them jointly.
Another key new feature in Premiere Pro CS6 is the ability to add Adjustment Layers to your footage, for easy application a color grade. Much like After Effects and Photoshop, Adjustment Layers affect all of the layers below it. However, since Premiere Pro is a time-based system, as opposed to a layer based program such as After Effects, you can easily place multiple Adjustment Layers *behind* each other, instead of only on top of each other (as in AE). This is handy if you want to do a primary grade to footage from several cameras (to match them) and then add another overall layer for a more creative, secondary grade.
Please also check the Premiere Pro blog for a more detailed look on what's new.
Photoshop is the default stills editing application that has been included inside the Production Premium suite for quite some time. The new CS6 version features more image magic with a selectable Content Aware Fill, among other things. Although I don't know why, you can even edit video inside Photoshop CS6 now. However, the fact that you're getting this de facto standard image manipulator as part of Production Premium makes it all the more valuable.
Adobe After Effects
Although the learning curve may be somewhat steep in the beginning, once you get your head around it, After Effects is a workhorse when it comes to doing creative stuff, varying from title animations to color grading and elaborate VFX work. For example, instead of resizing/transcoding my timelapse footage from my DSLRs before editing (as some used to do), I dump the RAW image sequences straight into AE and happily tweak it.
Although the layer-based system engine allows for more powerful rendering than a time-based one, it frequently happened that AE had to re-render, even with minor changes in specific layers. Not anymore with CS6, which now features Global Performance Cache. Effectively, this allows you to work faster, because AE 'remembers' previous states and does not require you to rerender all the time.
Another feature inside After Effects is the ability to repair rolling shutter with a new effect called, ta-daa, Rolling Shutter Repair. Quite common with DSLR cameras, rolling shutter is the effect of skewed portions of an image due to the way the CMOS sensor works.
Finally, we no longer have to do round tripping between PhotoShop and/or Illustrator to extrude text, because it is now possible in AE CS6. As is a built-in 3D camera tracker and conversion of Illustrator vector graphics to shape layers.
For a more elaborate list of changes, please see Todd Kopriva's overview here.
In September 2011, Adobe announced the takeover of Iridias, maker of SpeedGrade, a color grading package that stood out from the crowd due to its use of CUDA-like hardware accelleration. Wait, CUDA!? That's right, the same technology that drives the Mercury Playback Engine. This is why integration of SpeedGrade with other Adobe applications was only logical. Once a package that sold for a price tag of thousands of dollars, it is now part of the Creative Suite.
Although I still have to start playing with SpeedGrade (I like and use Red Giant's Magic Bullet Suite), it certainly looks like a professional grade application, right up the alley with Davinci Resolve and Assimilate Scratch. Professional graders may tend to disagree and prefer a node-based system, but I firmly believe that, over time, SpeedGrade will evolve and be used by the pros, in the same way that editors are now making the switch to Adobe. Let's hope that professional grader hardware tools from Tangent Devices will continue to support this application. Maybe one day I will upgrade my edit suite with such hardware. But first I need to study the field of color grading more.
From Creative Suite to Creative Cloud
So there you have it, all the tools needed for fast and creative video production tightly integrated in a single suite. What's also new to CS6, is that Adobe will be offering it in a subscription-based membership model, called the Creative Cloud. While traditional licenses of CS software will still be offered and the software will not require a continuous internet connection (i.e. the software runs locally, not in the cloud), a membership to Creative Cloud provides more benefits than simply owning desktop software, such as cloud based services/extensions (e.g. iPad Touch Apps, web-based storage) and instant upgrades without additional costs. More details will follow soon.
What do you think of CS6? Are you making the switch? Please feel free to comment below.