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Adobe's Video Collection  (11/2003)

    (Adobe Premiere Pro, Audition,  
        After Effects 6.0, Encore DVD)

    by Douglas Dixon

Adobe Video Collection
Premiere Pro
Adobe Audition
After Effects
Adobe Encore DVD
Adobe Integration
Video Collections
References

Adobe is an interesting company, with a wide variety of products for digital imaging and video, print and Web publishing. Beyond its heritage in PostScript printing, Adobe is probably best known for its ubiquitous Acrobat PDF format for electronic document distribution. And to design professionals Adobe's best-known product is, of course, the Photoshop image editor. But to us digital video folks, Adobe Premiere is front and center as the long-time flagship desktop digital video editing application.

But while Adobe Premiere and After Effects have been important and popular cross-platform video tools, they address only part of a full solution required for working with digital media. Adobe has attacked this gap with a vengeance with a series of developments through the first half of 2003, culminating on July 7 with the announcement of a new full video product line.

        

Adobe introduced a dramatically rewritten version of Premiere for video editing (now called Premiere Pro), a new audio editor, Adobe Audition (a re-branded version of Cool Edit Pro acquired from Syntrillium), a major upgrade to After Effects 6.0 for compositing and effects, and its new DVD authoring tool, Adobe Encore DVD. Along with these products, Adobe also introduced two editions of the Adobe Video Collection, bundling the products together with aggressive pricing.

In this article, we'll take a look at these new developments from Adobe, as it positions its applications as an integrated family of tools for working with digital video. We'll focus mainly on the new Premiere Pro and the upgrades to After Effects 6.0, since Encore DVD was announced previously and Audition is functionally equivalent to Cool Edit Pro 2.1.

Adobe Video Collection

These four new applications were scheduled to be released in the U.S. and Canada by the end of August. Each is available separately: Premiere Pro for US $699 (estimated street price), Audition for $299, After Effects Standard edition for $699 and Professional edition for $999, and Encore DVD for $549.

Adobe also offers two versions of the Adobe Video Collection bundling these products together with significant discounts: the Standard edition for $999 with all four products (including the standard version of After Effects), and the Professional edition for $1499, also including Photoshop (and the professional version of After Effects). As a further inducement, Adobe also announced introductory pricing for the first 30 days of $799 for the Standard edition.

Adobe offers upgrade pricing for the individual applications (but not to step up from individual older applications to the complete Video Collection): Premiere Pro for $199 to upgrade from any version or platform, Audition for $99 to upgrade from previous versions of Cool Edit Pro (free for version 2.x), and After Effects for $199 to upgrade the Standard edition, $299 to upgrade the Professional edition, and $499 to upgrade from the Standard to the Professional Edition.

One major decision Adobe has made with its product line is to focus on the Windows XP platform for new development, so both Premiere Pro and Encore DVD are PC-only and XP-only applications that take advantage of the full Windows XP digital media infrastructure. Audition will be available for Windows 98, 2000, and XP, and After Effects 6.0 will be available for Mac OS X and Windows 2000 and XP.

Moving away from supporting the Macintosh is a business decision for Adobe, based both on the sales of Premiere, and Apple's aggressive development and pricing of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express as part of its drive into digital media.

As Adobe is working to wean Premiere users away from the Macintosh onto Windows XP, Apple continues to push aggressively to take over more of the Mac application space with Apple-branded products. Also in July, Apple unbundled its Soundtrack music production tool from Final Cut Pro 4 as a standalone product for $299. Meanwhile, Final Cut Pro 4 includes two other bundled tools, LiveType for advanced titling and Compressor batch compression, which also diminish the need for third-party products on the Mac.

Taking direct aim at Premiere, Apple also announced an "easy switch" program for Premiere customers on Mac or Windows. Through September 20, Premiere users can trade in their disks for a free copy of Final Cut Express ($299 list), or receive a $500 rebate from the purchase of Final Cut Pro 4 ($999). Additionally, Apple is offering Final Cut Express for $99 to purchasers of any new Macintosh computer.

Premiere Pro

The first thing to understand about the new Premiere Pro is that this is not a step up from a 6.5 to a 7.0 version; this is a totally new product. Adobe had taken the old Premiere software code base about as far as it could go, with one last incremental step to Premiere 6.5, released in August 2002. Premiere Pro is a total rewrite, a brand new application designed and built to take advantage of Windows XP and to address the needs of today's professional video production.

As a result, Premiere Pro is more of a 1.0 application, albeit created in the Premiere style. What this means to current Premiere users is that you cannot expect that Premiere Pro works like the old Premiere. Instead of having all the old features, except those enhanced or changed in a new release, with Premiere Pro the old features remain only when the development team explicitly re-created them in the new application. For example, the Storyboard is gone, although partially replaced by the icon view, and the Project Settings window did not make the first release, so it's more difficult to check that your settings are consistent across the project.

The most visible change, however, is the demise of A/B editing. Premiere Pro supports only single-track editing, with clips and transitions overlapping in each track on the timeline. This can be a significant change for some users, but supports a more efficient workflow. A remnant of the A/B view does survive where it is needed most, in a separate view when fine-tuning transitions.

   

In exchange for this dramatic change, Premiere Pro offers much more powerful video and audio processing capabilities. It supports multiple-processor and hyper-threaded systems, of course, and provides real-time preview without waiting to render. And it supports a full range of formats, from DV to SD and HD, Web, and DVD. It also exports Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) files to exchange projects with other professional editors and Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) for interfacing to audio hardware and systems.

The most dramatic interface improvement, however, is support for multiple and nested timelines. You can create components of your project in separate timelines, and then nest them as elements in a master timeline to build up your project. Timelines can be docked as tabs in the Monitor and Timeline windows, or can be dragged out as separate windows. This not only makes it easier to organize your work in more complex projects, but also allows you to apply effects in one operation to entire sub-elements. You also can easily try out different versions of a project by copying a timeline.

The Premiere Pro interface has been redesigned to reduce the need to switch between different tools. With drag and drop editing and keyboard modifiers (plus helpful dynamic tips) you can insert or overwrite, operate on a non-contiguous group of clips, and even do a ripple delete and insert in a single action. Plus, you can use the separate Trim window for more precise editing. You can customize the height and display of individual tracks in the timeline, and Premiere Pro also provides customizable keyboard shortcuts and workspaces.

Premiere Pro finally supports DV scene detection to split an input tape into separate clips, and can scan tapes to create lower-resolution proxy video for offline editing, and then batch capture full-resolution versions for the final edit. It processes video in native YUV color space, eliminating processing overhead and quality loss from color conversions. It includes 3-point color correction, and built-in waveform and vectorscope displays.

For audio work, Premiere Pro supports up to 24-bit 96 KHz audio files and 5.1 surround sound, with surround mixing and AC-3 export (through a trial version of the Minnetonka Audio SurCode encoder). You can edit individual tracks to the sub-frames or audio sample level. Audio tracks also can be combined and processed together as submix tracks, for example to apply different effects to voice and music tracks. To support this audio processing, Premiere Pro "conforms" input audio files to the project format by converting them in the background. This is required to play, mix, and display the audio, which Premiere Pro will fill by silence until the conforming completes.

The effects architecture in Premiere Pro now provides independent customization and keyframes for individual parameters. Motion paths also have sub-pixel positioning and ease in/out settings.

Premiere Pro also provides stronger media management, for tracking and recapturing offline clips. Input media is imported at its native resolution, with its aspect ratio adjusted to match the project. This makes it easier, for example, to create pans over large stills.

Premiere Pro includes built-in export to formats including DV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Windows Media 9, RealVideo 9, WAV and AIFF audio, and a variety of still image formats including Photoshop (PSD). Through the Windows XP architecture, Premiere also can export to a variety of other formats as supported on the target system, including QuickTime. For fast export to DVD, Premiere Pro includes a Print to DVD option to burn a project directly to DVD. Or export to Encore DVD to add menus and other DVD features.

Adobe Audition

To add audio to its digital media editing suite, Adobe acquired the Cool Edit Pro product and technology assets of Syntrillium Software in May 2003. The first release of Audition is a re-branded product, functionally equivalent to Cool Edit Pro version 2.1. Audition is packaged and documented as a full Adobe product. Although Audition does not have an Adobe style interface, the interface is comfortable and not unfamiliar, with flexible window layout, docked or floating, and right-click menu access to common operations.

With Audition, Adobe now offers a professional digital audio application that includes multi-track editing and mixing of up to 128 stereo tracks, wave editing and effects down to individual samples, phase and frequency analysis tools, and looping tools. You can apply real-time effects to experiment with changes on individual tracks, for example, to restore old recordings by eliminating hiss and pops, equalize and sweeten clips, or apply a wide range of interesting effects such as reverb and dynamics.

   

In addition to editing and mixing, Audition is also a loop creation tool that can automatically match the global tempo and key, and ships with thousands of royalty-free music loops in a variety of styles.

Audition works with high-quality 32-bit sound, at any sample rate up to 10 MHz (well beyond 24-bit/ 96 KHz DVD sound). It provides precise sample rate conversion, as well as independent tempo and pitch stretching. It supports 6-channel surround sound and multichannel Windows Media 9. And it supports batch processing and automation of repetitive tasks with scripts.

While Premiere Pro includes extensive support for multi-channel audio editing and mixing, Audition is a much more sophisticated audio tool. And although Audition does include the ability to open AVI files to edit the audio, Premiere Pro is designed explicitly for editing video soundtracks.

After Effects

After Effects 6.0 is a major upgrade of Adobe's motion graphics and visual effects software. It includes a new text engine that allows text to be imported from Photoshop files, or entered directly in the Composition window and then edited and formatted with immediate feedback. You then can animate the text, by individual characters or ranges of characters, independently within each text layer, to easily create flowing and popping text effects.

   

After Effects 6.0 is optimized using OpenGL for 2D and 3D graphics acceleration, and includes an impressively fast and accurate motion tracker. It also adds new vector paint tools to retouch layers and create mattes.

The Standard edition of After Effects includes the core set of motion graphics and visual effects tools. The Professional edition adds advanced features including motion tracking and stabilization, Keylight keying technology from The Foundry, over 30 additional effects, render automation using scripting, and 16-bit per channel color support.

Adobe Encore DVD

As described in the Sept. issue of C&CV, Adobe's new Encore DVD is leading a new generation of DVD authoring tools, along with Apple's DVD Studio Pro 2. Encore combines the convenience of drag and drop editing from entry-level automated tools (like Sonic MyDVD), with the full control of menu design and navigation from professional tools (like Sonic ReelDVD), at a mid-range price.

Adobe Encore DVD supports professional DVD authoring. The built-in menu editor is fully integrated with Photoshop for editing graphics layers, text, and buttons. The Premiere-like timeline interface supports laying out video clips with multi-track audio and subtitles. The tabbed windows and palettes provide convenient access to view and edit the individual DVD components. The navigation controls not only provide the ability to specify links to specific buttons on a menu and chapters in a clip, but also support overrides to link together the same elements in different ways, depending on how the user accesses them.

   

Adobe Encore also provides powerful project management capabilities for both small and large DVD designs, with sortable tables to review and check the usage of assets. Even better, Encore provides the ability to make global changes to settings and links across the entire project, instead of having to manually step through all the menus to make each change individually.

   

To burn DVDs, Encore actually uses Sonic's AuthorScript DVD authoring technology as the underlying DVD engine, and includes the same MainConcept MPEG video compression technology introduced in Premiere 6.5.

Encore is a version 1.0 application. It is missing some desirable interface features such as QuickTime import, asset management for original and transcoded clips, and more extensive menu and video editing, as well as more advanced DVD authoring capabilities such as programmable navigation.

Adobe Integration

Premiere Pro and After Effects share common interface elements, including the Project, Monitor, Timeline, Effects, and Effect Controls windows. After Effects 6.0 can import Premiere Pro projects with video and audio layers on its timeline, including nested sequences, and conversion of motion and opacity keyframes, crops, and cross-dissolves. After Effects also can import Photoshop and Illustrator files and preserve elements and layers.

Premiere Pro can import layered Photoshop files either as a single flattened file, or with each layer arranged on a separate video track. Encore DVD can import and edit layered Photoshop files, with full round-trip editing between the two applications.

Premiere Pro exports AVI and MPEG files for use in Encore DVD. You can choose your preferred workflow: use Premiere to compress to DVD-ready MPEG format, or import and compress AVI files in Encore. With AVI files, use Edit Original in Encore to open and edit the file in Premiere. With MPEG files, markers in Premiere will be used as chapter points in Encore.

Premiere Pro and After Effects can use Edit Original to open audio files in Audition for further editing. Audition can then open the editing session (project) associated with a WAV file.

Video Collections

With these four new products, Adobe has significantly advanced its digital media product line -- leapfrogging Premiere Pro into the forefront of next-generation Windows XP video editors; adding Audition as a full-featured digital audio tool for multi-track mixing, waveform editing, and even looping; advancing After Effects as a cross-platform effects tool with OpenGL performance, dynamic text effects, plus motion tracking and keying; and adding Encore DVD to provide professional DVD authoring with drag-and-drop ease of use.

Even with two new products in Premiere Pro and Encore DVD, and with only a short time to integrate the acquisition of Audition, Adobe has provided an impressive set of tools for working with digital media with similar interface approaches and growing integration between applications. The ongoing competition and rapid innovation in digital media software continues to produce these kinds of nice benefits for users.

References

Adobe - Premiere Pro
    www.adobe.com/products/premiere

Adobe - Audition
    www.adobe.com/products/audition

Adobe - After Effects
    www.adobe.com/products/aftereffects

Adobe - Encore DVD
    www.adobe.com/products/encore

Minnetonka Audio Software - SurCode for Dolby Digital
    www.minnetonkaaudio.com
    www.surcode.com