Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 Takes The Top Product Of The Year! What Does Adobe Have In Store For 2012?
I recently named Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium as my top product of 2011. With the release of their Mercury Playback Engine, as well as Apple’s release of Final Cut Pro X, Adobe has slowly but surely taken back some of the NLE marketshare that Apple has dominated over the years. With the ability to throw almost any codec at Premiere Pro and edit natively, Adobe has recently partnered with Automatic Duck to help improve the workflow integration into the system.
HDVP recently spoke by phone with Adobe’s Bill Roberts on Adobe’s great year as well as what will be in store for 2012. As the Director of Video Product Management, Roberts oversees product planning, design and development efforts around Adobe’s digital video and audio products. He has worked in professional video and audio for more than 20 years, with the majority of his career focused on developing software tools for creative professionals.
HDVP: So it seemed like 2011 was a huge year for Adobe, especially in regards to CS5.5. Do you think a lot of that was due to some blowback from the FCP X release.
BILL ROBERTS: That was interesting but because of Apple’s size and scope, we can only ponder about that. But looking from the outside, it was a smart financial move for them because Final Cut Pro X ranks very high in the App store. And you’re absolute right. It did cause a lot of attention to come our way and I think for us, we were just happy and ready for the attention. If Apple had chosen that path a couple of years ago, I don’t think we’d be in the same boat. But starting with CS5.0, which was in April 2010, we put in the Mercury Playback Engine and we really started to focus on professional quality performance. That started to move a trend. In 2010, before Apple released Final Cut Pro X, our business on the Mac had grown 45%. There already was a strong momentum for us in that space and when Apple did that, it really didn’t change most people’s day to day workflow. People weren’t saying, “Oh my God, Apple has released a new piece of software, I must stop using FCP 7.” What it did do was force people to think about where Apple is going so it did bring a lot of attention to us. But like most things, people won’t spend the money unless they’ve tested out the software. For 5.5, we spent a lot of time thinking about what it was like coming into Premiere Pro if you were coming from an Avid or Apple background. What are the things you would expect to work in a certain way? We spent a lot of time on that, which was a big plus.
The thing that has really shined for us is that the Production Premium Suite is really the last suite in the market. Kudos to Apple, they’re playing by their own rules. They disassembled their suite to put it on the App store. Recently, the thing that really resonated for us was Dynamic Link, which is a feature that enables you to work between After Effects and Premiere Pro seamlessly. You have the ability to have a shot in Premiere and pop it across to After Effects, create something, have it work in the background, have it appear in your timeline, and then dynamically have all the changes working back and forth. We saw an incredible interest in this since After Effects is so ubiquitous in this space and people are using it as an on-ramp to Premiere Pro. At the end of the year we had top-tier post houses around the world calling us up and asking, “Can you walk us through these Dynamic Link workflows.” It’s been a big plus and one of the main trends we’re seeing in 2011 as well.
HDVP: Are you worried that with the $300 price point of FCP X that many of the DSLR users – who will eventually become working pros – will stick with the NLE.
ROBERTS: It’s interesting that you bring that up. I’ve said before, Apple plays by its own rules. With Final Cut Pro X, now you have an editor where you can do a little color correction on it but you have to buy Motion separately. You don’t have a photo editor or an audio solution so you have to go out and buy them. So when you start to look at this, if you’re going to be any sort of digital professional today, chances are the two things you’re going to want in your arsenal are Photoshop and After Effects. When you look at those two stand alone things , all of a sudden the value proposition of Production Premium at $1,700 (in North America) is extremely good. I think that a $299 price point is a bit of a loss leader because you pretty much only get an editor for that price. If we wanted to sell an editor for $299, we could but we base all of our stuff on value. When you look at that, we’re comfortable with Production Premium and the power of the suite is something that is in line with where the industry is going. Moving forward, if you can’t afford the upfront software, we’re going to have an offering where you can get all of the software in Master Collection as well as Tablet apps, and Cloud Services – all for a low price.
There’s all kinds of ways to skin this cat but I’m not intimidated by their price point. I think it’s a great move for Apple because if we see what’s happening in this space, we see digital video echoing what happened in digital imaging, which was one of the first large scale areas where professionals led the way and the consumers followed through. Apple did a smart thing in getting in front of the broader use of DSLR for video but it’s not necessarily all the same users that you would see in the professional domain. They’ve opened their market to a new space, but closed a little of their professional space.
HDVP: What sort of trends do you see for 2012?
ROBERTS: This year we acquired IRIDAS, who produce SpeedGrade, a very competent and powerful GPU grading solution. One of the reasons we did was we started to see video heading down the same path stills did with extended and high dynamic range capture. So if you looked in 2011, you started to see the forefront of this with our close partner is RED, who is starting to move into extended dynamic range by capturing a stop up and stop down. It will be able to capture as much light as you want to. Some people will manipulate the light on set to get the look that they want. Other people will want to capture as much latitude as possible and create that look downstream. This will be something that benefits everybody that produces content, not just the folks in stereoscopic. I think HDR video is going to be huge.
A tool that is getting a lot of play for us and again, that’s the power from the Suite, is Adobe Media Encoder. It allows you put your content out in every format. In 5.5, we made it really easy because we didn’t talk about things like the raster size and cadence. It was more like, “I just want to send this to an iPad.” People don’t want to understand the medium just so their customers can consume content. They want to focus on telling their stories as richly as possible.
DSLRs have been huge for us. We just had filmmakers Vincent Laforet (December 2011) and Shane Hurlbut, ASC (December 2010) speak to our sales force. We also really got out in front of the technology with the Warp Stabilizer feature in After Effects. We continue to get the love from our users on that.
Currently if you’re working in DSLR, you’re working with 8-bits of latitude. It can look brilliant if you work with it very carefully but it can also look really rough if you don’t manage it well. We had an interesting kerfuffle earlier in the year. Paul Joy, who does a great blog on DSLRs, was commenting his images didn’t look the same coming out of Premiere Pro rather than Final Cut Pro. Basically with the Canon DSLR format, you have two ways of reading it. You can go through QuickTime or the way we do, which is natively to the bit. As it turned out, just from our analysis, and this has not been confirmed by Apple, but if you go through the QuickTime wrapper, there’s a certain amount of filtering and softening going on, so we’ve put the time to go to the raw data and we pull all of the information out of that.
HDVP: So what can we expect from CS6.0?
ROBERTS: (laughing) I can give you a few anecdotes. It will be one of the biggest and most exciting video releases ever on the video front. In my career, you get times where certain forces manage to line up and you get big releases and multiple products at the same time.
For more information on Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium, please visit http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/production.html.