Adobe Creative Suite 6: Software Introductions and Improvements Streamline Your Post Process
Adobe charged into 2012, powered by the momentum of two solid years of growth on the Mac platform and heavy customer anticipation about what the company plans to offer in Creative Suite 6. The CS5 and CS5.5 releases were each strong in their own right, introducing such technologies as the Mercury Playback Engine for better real-time performance, but Adobe clearly ramped up its focus on video professionals in 2011, acquiring the IRIDAS SpeedGrade technology and bringing the developers of Automatic Duck on board.
There have been a few sneak peeks at Adobe CS6 online, including a popular video posted by Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco editors, but the wait for CS6 finally ended at this year’s NAB Show. Adobe CS6 and the new Adobe Creative Cloud subscription-based offering were announced at the show and began shipping in May.
Adobe’s video content creation tools may be purchased individually, through a Creative Cloud subscription, or as part of the Master Collection and Production Premium bundles. Most editors will be interested in CS6 Production Premium, which includes Prelude, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop Extended, SpeedGrade, Audition, Encore, Adobe Media Encoder, Illustrator, Bridge and Flash Professional.
Each of these applications has received an impressive list of new features. It would be impossible to touch on every new or updated feature here, so look for more in-depth reviews at a future date. I’ll quickly cover some of the highlights.
Prelude CS6 media ingest
As part of CS6, Adobe is introducing Prelude, a new product designed for footage acquisition, ingest/transcode, organization, review and metadata tagging. It’s intended to be used by production assistants or producers to prepare footage for an editor.
Both Prelude and Premiere Pro now feature “hover scrubbing,” which is the ability to scan through footage quickly by moving the mouse over the clip thumbnail, which can be expanded as large as a mini-viewer. Clips can be marked, metadata added and rough cuts assembled; these are then sent to Premiere Pro.
There is a dynamic reading of metadata between Prelude and Premiere Pro. Clip metadata changes made in one application are updated in the other, since the information is embedded in the clip itself. Although Prelude is included with the software collection for single users, it can be separately purchased in volume by enterprise customers such as broadcasters and news organizations.
Premiere Pro CS 6’s new user interface
A lot of effort was put into the Premiere Pro redesign. The user interface has been streamlined and commands and icons have been adjusted for consistency with both Apple Final Cut Pro (“legacy” versions) and Avid Media Composer. Adobe took input from both FCP and MC users so engineers could alter the UI in a way that would be reasonably familiar to them. The new CS6 keyboard shortcuts borrow from each, but there are also full FCP and full MC preset options. Workspaces have been redesigned, but an editor can still call up CS5.5 workspace layouts with existing projects to ease the transition. A dockable timecode window has been added and Adobe has integrated a dynamic trimming function similar to that of Media Composer.
The changes are definitely more than cosmetic, though, as Adobe has set out to design a UI that never forces you to stop. This means you can now do live updates to effects and even open other applications without stopping timeline playback. Adobe engineers added Mercury Playback acceleration support for some OpenCL cards, and the new Mercury Transmit feature allows better third-party hardware I/O support across all of the video applications. Many new tools have been added, including a multi-camera editor with an unlimited number of camera angles. Additional features have been brought over from After Effects, including adjustment layers and the Warp Stabilizer that was introduced with CS5.5. In this release, the rolling shutter repair function has been broken out as a separate tool. Use it for quick HDSLR camera correction without the need to engage the full Warp Stabilizer.
SpeedGrade CS6 primaries
By adding a highly regarded and established color grading tool, Adobe has strengthened the position of Production Premium as the primary application suite for video professionals. The current level of integration is just a starting point, given the limited time for development since last September. Expect tighter integration in future versions.
SpeedGrade works as both a standalone grading application and as a companion to the other applications. There’s a new “Send to SpeedGrade” timeline export operation in Premiere Pro. When you go into SpeedGrade this way, an intermediate set of uncompressed DPX files is first rendered as the source media to be used by SpeedGrade. Both applications support a wide range of native formats, but they aren’t all the same, so this approach offers the fewest issues for now when working with mixed formats in a Premiere sequence.
SpeedGrade can also import EDLs and relink media, which offers a second path from Premiere Pro into SpeedGrade. Finished, rendered media returns to Premiere as a single, flattened file with baked-in corrections.
As a color correction tool, SpeedGrade presents an easy workflow, enabling you to stack layers of grading onto a single clip or across the entire timeline. There are dozens of included LUTs and looks presets, which may be used for creative grading or to correct various camera profiles. An added bonus is that both After Effects and Photoshop now support SpeedGrade look files.
Audition CS6 auto speech alignment
With CS5.5, Adobe traded out Soundbooth for a cross-platform version of Audition, Adobe’s full-featured DAW software. In CS6, that integration has been greatly improved. Audition now sports an interface more consistent with After Effects and Premiere, newly added Mackie and Avid EuCon control surface protocol support and mixing automation.
The most significant new feature demoed in the sneak peeks has been the Automatic Speech Alignment tool. You can take overdubbed ADR lines and automatically align them for near-perfect sync to replace on-camera dialogue. All of this is thanks to the technology behind Audition’s new real-time, high-quality audio stretching engine.
Audition gains a number of functions specific to audio professionals. Audio CD mastering has been added back into the program, and there’s a new pitch control spectral display. This can be used to alter the pitch of a singer, as well as a new way to create custom sound design. Buying Production Premium gives you access to 20 GB of downloadable audio media (sound effects and music scores) formerly available only via the online link to Adobe’s Resource Central.
After Effects CS6 camera tracker
After Effects is the Swiss Army knife of video post. From motion graphics to visual effects to simple format conversion, there’s very little that After Effects isn’t called on to do. Naturally there’s plenty new in CS6. The buzz feature is a new 3D camera tracker that uses a point cloud to tightly track an object that exhibits size, position, rotation and perspective changes—for example, the hood of a car moving toward the camera at an angle. These objects are often very hard for traditional 2D point trackers to follow.
For the first time in After Effects you can build extruded 3D text and vector shapes using built-in tools, including surface material options and a full 3D ray tracer. In general, performance has been greatly improved through a better hand-off between RAM cache and disk cache. As with Premiere Pro, rolling shutter repair is now available as a separate tool in After Effects.
Photoshop has probably had the most online sneak peeks of any of the new Adobe apps. It has been available as a public beta since mid-March.
Photoshop also sports a new interface, but that’s probably the least noteworthy of the new features, which include impressive new content-aware fill functions, 3D LUT support (including SpeedGrade look files) and better auto-correction. There’s better use of GPU horsepower, which means that common tasks like Liquefy are accelerated.
Photoshop has offered the ability to work with video as a single file for several versions. With CS6 Photoshop gains expanded video editing capabilities, enabled by a new layer structure akin to that used in After Effects. Although Premiere Pro or After Effects users probably won’t do much with it, Adobe is quite cognizant that many of its photography customers are increasingly asked to deal with video—thanks, of course, to the ready availability of HD video-enabled DSLRs like the Canon EOS series. By integrating video editing and layering tools into Photoshop, Adobe allows these customers to deliver a basic video project while working inside the application environment where they are the most comfortable. Video editors gain the benefit of having it there if they want to use it. Some may, in fact, develop their own innovative techniques once they investigate what it can do for them.
Adobe Creative Suite 6 offers a wealth of new features, expanded technologies and a set of brand new tools. It’s one of Adobe’s largest releases ever and promises to attract new interest from video professionals. Adobe has been actively courting this community with a refreshing willingness to listen, and much of what you see in CS6 is a direct result of that attention.