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Adobe Production Studio: First Look  (2/2006)

    by Douglas Dixon

The Production Studio
Common Interface & Adobe Bridge
Premiere Pro 2.0
After Effects 7.0 and Dynamic Link
Audition 2.0
Encore DVD 2.0
Adobe Integration
References

See also Using Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0

See also Using Adobe Encore DVD 2.0

Adobe kicked off the new year by announcing a major upgrade to its suite of video tools, formerly known as the Adobe Video Collection -- Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing, After Effects for motion graphics and visual effects, Audition for professional audio mixing and editing, and Encore DVD for DVD authoring.

Adobe has made major upgrades to each of these four applications, bringing them even closer together as elements of a suite -- redesigning the interfaces for a common look that eliminates window clutter, and greatly enhancing the workflow integration between the applications. The new integration features a powerful new Adobe Dynamic Link feature that enables using and previewing After Effects compositions directly in Premiere Pro and Encore DVD, without requiring a separate rendering step. These new versions also step up to full support for high-quality HD editing, providing scalable format support for SD and HD, including native HDV video and full 32-bit color processing.

   

Now renamed the Adobe Production Studio, the suite was released in early 2006 (www.adobe.com/productionstudio). It now also includes Adobe Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2 from the Adobe Creative Suite, plus Adobe Bridge for asset file browsing and organizing. The Production Studio is available for Windows XP, with After Effects also still supported on Mac OS X.

I've been able to preview these applications at Adobe meetings, and even try out pre-release versions, so let's take a look at what we have to look forward to.

The Production Studio

It's been a while since Adobe released the last major upgrade of its suite of video tools. Given the major enhancements, and the usual reliability of Adobe's products, it looks like the new versions are worth the wait. The previous Adobe Video Collection version 2.5, released in May 2004, included Premiere Pro 1.5, After Effects 6.5, Audition 1.5, and Encore DVD 1.5. The Professional edition also included Photoshop CS.

The new Adobe Production Studio, Standard edition starts with Premiere Pro 2.0 and After Effects 7.0 Standard, plus Photoshop CS2. It also includes Adobe Bridge (which is shipped with each individual application), and Adobe Dynamic Link (available only as part of the Production Studio).

The Premium edition steps up to After Effects 7.0 Professional, adds Audition 2.0 and Encore DVD 2.0, and now includes Illustrator CS2. (Encore DVD is not required in the Standard edition since Premiere Pro now has enhanced DVD authoring capabilities.)

The estimated street price for Adobe Production Studio Standard is $1,199, with Premium for $1,699. Upgrades start $499 and $649, respectively, with upgrades available from Standard to Premium, and from previous versions of the individual products.

Common Interface & Adobe Bridge

While the user interfaces for Adobe applications clearly had a common heritage that made it comfortable, for example, for a Photoshop or Premiere user to move to Encore DVD, the new Production Studio takes a significant leap forward. Adobe has worked to unify common commands, tools, keyboard shortcuts, and control elements, so the applications become elements of a common design environment.

Even more, all four applications now sport a new interface design of interlocking panels instead of floating windows, based on the recently-released Photoshop and Premiere Elements. Instead of constantly twiddling window sizes and moving overlapping palettes, this design uses interlocking workspace panels that move together as you adjust their size, so there's no wasted space or partially overlapping windows. You can still drag out separate palettes if you want (i.e., to place on a second monitor), and a new "drop zone" feature makes it easy to rearrange the layout -- you can drag and drop individual windows to either be positioned as a new panel, or be nested as a tab with a group of windows in an existing panel.

You can also use Workspaces to restore the screen layout to default positions for different kinds of tasks, or save your own layout.

Adobe also has separated out file organization and browsing from the individual applications into the new Adobe Bridge application, first released with Photoshop CS2. Bridge serves as centralized asset manager for all the different media file types (and application presets) used across the Production Studio and Creative Suite, so you can preview, organize, and then drag and drop assets directly into your projects. Bridge also supports XMP metadata for annotating and searching your files. It's also not just a launcher for the individual applications -- it also can directly perform common operations and prebuilt actions using the Production Studio applications.

   

But enough of suites and integration and commonality. What about the individual applications? No fear -- even with all this integration work, Adobe also has made significant leaps with each of the applications, particularly in the quality of the processing.

Premiere Pro 2.0

The key improvement to the Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 video editor is scalable format support, from standard definition to high-def, up to 2k and 4k resolutions (4096 x 4096), including DV, SD, HDV, HDCAM, D5HD, and Windows Media. Premiere Pro now supports native HDV capture and editing for lower-cost camcorders, and provides native pro HD-SDI support out of the box through the AJA Video Xena HS real-time encoding card.

   

For high performance, Premiere Pro can take advantage of GPU accelerated rendering using new graphics cards. For high quality results, it uses deep 32-bit internal color processing, and can input 10-bit video and 16-bit PSD files.

To help with moving between video and film, interlaced and progressive, Premiere Pro has nice features including 3:2 pulldown to edit 24p content in 29.97 interlaced sequences, real-time letterboxing for 16x9 preview to 4x3 displays, and export to full-resolution uncompressed HD as well as to image sequence files for film.

However, the coolest new feature in Premiere Pro is the fully integrated support for multi-cam editing. You can import and synchronize up to four tracks, and view and switch between them in real time as you edit. But that's not all: Premiere drops the result in a new timeline, which you can continue to edit with all the usual Premiere tools, adjusting the cut points and even switching between the sources directly from the timeline.

   
        Premiere Pro multi-cam editing

For more custom effects, Premiere Pro now supports editable keyframe graphs in the Effect Controls panel to adjust value and velocity curves. And it adds a Lighting Effects filter to apply spot, directional, or omni lights.

Then when you are done editing your production, Premiere Pro now includes full DVD support right from the timeline. Inherited from Premiere Elements, this includes the ability to generate motion menus from templates and customize their content. Premiere Pro and After Effects also can encode and export for Macromedia Flash.

   
        Premiere Pro DVD authoring

Finally, Premiere Pro adds a new Adobe Clip Notes feature that uses the PDF format to share your production for review and approval, and then map the comments back to specific timecodes on the project timeline.

In addition to the Production Studio suite, Premiere Pro 2.0 also will be available individually for $849, or for upgrade at $199.

After Effects 7.0 and Dynamic Link

Joining Premiere Pro in the Adobe Production Studio is Adobe After Effects 7.0 for 2D and 3D compositing, animation, and motion effects. After Effects boosts performance with accelerated OpenGL support for faster previewing and rendering of more core functions. It also adds expanded file format support for native formats including HDV, Camera Raw, OpenEXR, AAF, 10-bit YUV, and 32-bit TIFF and PSD.

   

To help you get started, After Effects includes pre-built project templates and customizable animation and behavior presets. And for more control the new Graph Editor provides visual keyframe editing and synchronization of animated properties across layers. It also adds creative blur effects including Lens, Smart, Fast, Box, and Compound Blur.

   
        After Effects Graph Editor 

The Professional edition then adds full 32-bit float high dynamic range (HDR) color support to better match the real-world behavior of color and light. And Timewarp slows down and speeds up footage with more accurate in-between frames. The Pro version also includes motion tracking, keying tools, distortion effects, network rendering, and scripting.

   
        After Effects high dynamic range (HDR) color

However, the most thrilling capability of the new After Effects is the new Adobe Dynamic Link integration, available only in the Adobe Production Studio. Dynamic Link allows you to use and preview After Effects compositions directly in Premiere Pro and Encore DVD, without waiting to render. You can edit in After Effects, and then immediately preview the result in a Premiere Pro timeline or as an Encore DVD motion menu. In fact, you never need to wait to render within After Effects -- it can run in the background as an effects engine, serving the frames as needed when you export the Premiere Pro production or build the Encore DVD disc. This takes the integration between these Adobe products to whole new level -- saving time and interruptions as you keep on working.

Adobe After Effects 7.0 will be available individually for Mac OS X and Windows XP, with the Standard edition for $699 and Professional for $999, with upgrades from $199.

Audition 2.0

Beyond video ending and effects in the Adobe Production Studio Standard, you can step up to the Premium edition to add professional audio editing with Audition, DVD authoring with Encode DVD, plus the bonus of Illustrator CS2.

Audition brought the new interlocking panel interface approach to Adobe when it was acquired as Cool Edit Pro, and now its interface has evolved to join the rest of the Adobe line.

The big news with the new Adobe Audition 2.0 is under the covers, a rewritten audio mixing engine to boost performance and support low-latency dynamic mixing and routing. Audition now can provide real-time recording of parameter automation to envelopes, and has ASIO support for low-latency interface to external hardware devices.

   

Audition also provides a multiband compressor to control dynamics and adjust overall loudness, and supports tape-style audible scrubbing to listen for edit points.

   
        Audition mixing

For working with audio in video clips, Audition now can import QuickTime and MPEG files to view in sync while editing the sound. You then can export as AVI, MPEG, DV, and WMV. The edited audio is updated in the video file without re-rendering the video.

Finally, Audition's amazing frequency space editing mode is even more powerful. You can customize the Spectral Frequency Display view with color ranges and a logarithmic display, and then even use the Lasso tool to precisely select and edit specific frequency ranges. Editing audio now really can be as natural as working with images: you can see the exact sound that needs work, and then surgically adjust and repair it.

   
        Audition amazing frequency space editing / Spectral Frequency Display 

Adobe Audition 2.0 will be available individually for $349, or for upgrade at $129.

Encore DVD 2.0

Wrapping up the Adobe Production Studio is Adobe Encore DVD 2.0 for creating customized DVDs. Adobe developed Encore DVD to leverage the Adobe interface to provide a base of straightforward drag-and-drop DVD authoring, plus a Photoshop-like menu editor and Premiere-like timeline for more customized authoring. But Encore DVD's core strength is the Photoshop integration: all menus and buttons and even styles are just Photoshop PSD files, easy to use either as template designs or to customize for your own use.

   

The new Encore DVD 2.0 adds more authoring assists for easy slideshows and linked menu creation, along with a powerful new Flowchart view and new advanced DVD features.

One distinguishing feature of entry-level DVD tools is the automatic generation of a linked series of menus from a list of clips or chapters. Until now, stepping up to more professional tools meant giving up these kinds of time-saving features in return for full control over the menu design. Now Encore DVD gives you the best of both worlds: you can define a menu template with built-in Back, Next, and Home buttons, and Encore will automatically create a linked series of menus for clips or chapters, complete with thumbnail button links. Once created, you then still have full creative control over editing the menus and links.

   
        Encore DVD templates and styles

Similarly, the new Encore DVD slideshow creator not only simplifies assembling a collection of slides with a soundtrack and transitions, but also provided automated or custom dynamic pan and zoom effects.

   
    Encore DVD slideshow 

However, the most impressive addition to Encore DVD is the new Flowchart view, which automatically lays out elements of your disc and its navigation in a schematic tree structure. And the flowchart is dynamic -- it dynamically updates around the selected element to reposition the neighboring linked notes for easy viewing and access. Even better, the flowchart is not just for viewing -- it is a full alternate editing environment in which you can edit links and even add new nodes.

   
    Encore DVD Flowchart view

Beyond the interface, Encore DVD is also bulked up with more sophisticated DVD features, including Chapter Playlists that allow you to reuse content in different ways by playing specific chapter ranges, Line 21 file support for closed captions, and the ability to assemble multiple video sequences on the same timeline.

Adobe Encore DVD 2.0 will be available individually for $349, or for upgrade at $149.

Adobe Integration

As you can see from this quick preview, the new Adobe Production Studio is a significant enhancement of the Adobe tools, combining quality results from native HD and HDV support and 32-bit color processing, the common interface with interlocking panels, and significant enhancements to the individual tools.

Even more, the Adobe Production Studio is about the enhanced integration between the Adobe tools. It provides a much more straightforward workflow for moving directly back and forth between editing different elements, without being delayed by file export and import issues and rendering times:

- To move elements between applications, you can simply drag and drop, or cut and paste, preserving key frames, markers, and effects. After Effects also can import and export entire Premiere Pro projects.

- When working with files, you can import layered Photoshop files directly into a Premiere Pro timeline, and layered Photoshop and Illustrator files into After Effects to animate the layers. And you can apply Photoshop layer styles directly in Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Encore DVD. In the other direction, to create compatible images for video, After Effects and Premiere Pro can create a new image files in Photoshop to match the project's resolution and pixel aspect ratio, and Encore DVD can open a new Photoshop file to match a menu template.

- Even better, when you want to change an asset that you imported into Premiere Pro, After Effects, Encore DVD, or Illustrator CS2, you can simply use Edit Original to automatically launch the original application from which the asset file was exported. This opens the originating project, composition, session, or layered image file in its creator Adobe application -- ready for you to make a quick change and re-export right back to the application in which you are using it.

- In addition, Premiere Pro and After Effects share the same formats for third-party effects, and Audition recognizes audio effects from Premiere Pro. Similarly, markers set in Premiere Pro and After Effects can define chapter points in Encore DVD, and Premiere markers can be used in Audition to align soundtracks.

Of course, Adobe Bridge also provides a powerful resource for browsing assets and presets, as well as performing common operations. But the biggest step forward is in using the different applications as engines to support each other. For example, you can now capture video directly in After Effects, using Premiere Pro. And the exciting Dynamic Link feature allows you to work with animated After Effects compositions directly in Premiere Pro and Encore DVD without requiring a separate rendering step.

References

Adobe - Production Studio
    www.adobe.com/productionstudio

Originally published in Camcorder & Computer Video magazine, 22, 2, Feb. 2006.