NAB 2012 – Adobe launches CS6 Production Premium with a revamped UI, a faster and more efficient After Effects, and SpeedGrade – a professional color grading application
It goes without saying that the production industry has seen some significant changes in the past couple of years. Disruptive camera technology (RED ONE, Canon 5D Mark II, etc.) has created a new industry in which low-budget filmmakers can now compete with studios in delivering a professional looking film. The post-production industry is no different with off-the-shelf, all-in-one editing and finishing suites that have given editors, visual effects artists and colorists the ability to finish projects on laptops with affordable software packages costing in the thousands of dollars rather than the tens of thousands.
Last year at this time marked a major disruption in the post-production market. Apple released Final Cut Pro X for a low price point of $299 and the professional editing community was turned on its head. Not only did the program lack many professional features editors were accustomed to, they also couldn’t open up previous Final Cut Pro projects. In the past year Apple has quickly released numerous updates through their Mac App store to get its FCP X up to speed but the damage was done, enabling Adobe to increase their market share for CS5 and 5.5 Mac licenses up over 40%.
Another big reason why many indie filmmakers have made the switch over to Adobe was the DSLR effect. DSLRs like the Canon 5D Mark II created a new army of filmmakers who were eager to begin editing their footage. Since you weren’t able to work natively with the DSLR’s H.264 codec with Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier versions, Adobe quickly latched on to these new filmmakers because Premiere Pro was one of the first NLEs to enable this. For professionals, companies including the BBC, CBS Sports Network, CNN, Hearst, Media General and NRK started using the Creative Suite Production Premium for their file-based workflows. I recently had the opportunity to meet with Ellen Wixted, Sr. Project Manager, Adobe Systems, Al Mooney, Project Manger, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Steve Forde, Sr. Project Manager, Adobe After Effects to discuss the latest version of Creative Suite – CS6 Production Premium.
Last year’s CS5.5 was a big upgrade with their Mercury Playback Engine broadening its GPU hardware support to laptops and more supported cards, which gave users real-time feedback, higher resolutions, and the ability to work natively with almost any format. At NAB 2012, people were expecting big things, especially with Autodesk announcing a new version of Smoke for $3,495.
Well, Adobe did not disappoint and announced Creative Suite 6 Production Premium, which features big updates to Premiere Pro, After Effects, Audition, Story, Media Encoder, and Photoshop. CS6 is also releasing two new programs to the suite: SpeedGrade for color grading and Prelude for complex workflow. There’s also better integration between the programs so you can move shots or sequences in a more efficient manner. According to Adobe, CS6 is their biggest release in a decade.
Here are some of the updates and highlights from programs for CS6:
Premiere Pro CS6 is definitely not your father’s Premiere. In terms of power, the new and enhanced Mercury Playback Engine lets you do a number of new things, such as scrubbing clips, perform multi-format sequences in HD, 5K and even higher resolutions.
Adobe has completely redesigned the Premiere Pro’s UI, making the editing process more intuitive. Some new features include dynamic timeline trimming, Warp Stabilizer, which was previously in After Effects, a revamped Three-Way Color Corrector, expanded multi-cam support and more.
The first thing you’ll notice when opening Premiere Pro CS6 is the new UI. There’s a new “two-up” workspace that shows your Source Monitor and Program monitor taking up the entire upper half of the screen. You can also view your Source or Program monitor in full screen, which you couldn’t do before. Below, in the newly designed Project Panel, there are now 16×9 panels (you can also view these in list) and Adobe has employed a scrub-like feature they’re calling Hover Scrub. Similar to Final Cut Pro X’s scrubbing feature, you’re now able to view clips just by guiding your mouse over a clip to view a shot. Since most editors use key strokes (e.g., J, K, L, etc.) Adobe has really refined the UI to show more video and less grey borders. In terms of controls, you can also manually remove certain buttons with a Button Editor beneath your Source and Program monitors to give your UI an even cleaner look. Pretty much everything within the workspace is now customizable, which is exactly what editors want.
Every year there seems to be an influx of new formats and resolutions. One of the Premiere Pro’s biggest strengths was its versatility with working with a variety of codecs such as H.264 and AVCHD. Premiere Pro CS6 allows you to work natively with the RED Scarlet-X, EPIC, ARRI ALEXA, and the Canon C300.
Another long awaited new feature is an advanced Trim Mode in the Program Monitor panel, which allows you to do more precise edits. When in Trim mode, it changes to a two-up display and you’re able to keep track of trimming by frame by frame both visually and audibly. (In Premiere Pro CS5.5, you could only keep track either visually or audibly.) This is an important feature that professional editors have been asking for.
One of the most popular features in CS5.5 was the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects. The Warp Stabilizer takes shaky handheld footage and smoothes it out to make it look as if it were shot on a Steadicam. What’s great about the feature is that it not only smoothes a shot out, but it also removes motion artifacts that would remain after stabilization. The Warp Stabilizer function is now in Premiere Pro and it gives you even more control and refinement such as reducing the amount of cropping and scaling, as well as the degree of smoothing. For indie filmmakers who can’t afford to work with a dolly or Steadicam, the Warp Stabilizer can add production value.
Although most editors are not motion graphics designers or visual effects artists, with shrinking budgets, today’s filmmakers and editors are being asked to tackle some of these duties in post-production. After Effects has long been an industry standard for motion graphics and effects but editors have also been using the program for color correction, motion tracking, keying and rotoscoping. After Effects CS6 is faster and more responsive than previous AE releases and Adobe has made it even easier to integrate with other programs. They’ve added and/or updated over 80 built-in effects.
The newest and most talked about new feature within After Effects is the Global Performance Cache, which makes AE faster and more powerful. It consists of new technologies, including a global RAM cache, a persistent disk cache and a new graphics pipeline. According to Adobe, early tests performed by NVIDIA AE functions have improved by a factor of 1.5 to 2.5x with some up to 16 times faster than before (depending on your hardware configuration).
Another new feature is the 3D Camera Tracker that analyzes the motion in 2D; computes the position, orientation and field of view of the camera that shot the scene, and then creates a new 3D camera in After Effects to match. The new 3D layers have the same movement and perspective as the original footage and you can insert these objects into existing scenes.
The negative effects of rolling shutter from CMOS sensors in cameras are a major problem for most shooters, especially for DSLR filmmakers. Wobble and skew are the main issues from rolling shutter in which following a moving subject can cause distortions (e.g., a leaning building or an elongated car driving by). AE6 now has an advanced Rolling Shutter Repair drag and drop effect that contains two algorithms to help straighten out this problematic footage.
Last year, Adobe made big news by purchasing SpeedGrade from IRIDAS. SpeedGrade is a professional color grading and finishing software, which previously sold for $20,000. SpeedGrade is now included in CS6 and is a native 64-bit app that offers GPU-accelerated performance and format support, including RAW, HDR, and stereoscopic content. In terms of camera formats, you can work natively with the ALEXA, RED, Phantom, as well as QuickTime, DPX and Open EXR. With SpeedGrade’s new GPU-accelerated Lumetri Deep Color Engine, you can create a look for every scene with 32-bit floating-point accuracy with primary and secondary color adjustments, film-style filters, and effects. You can also de-Bayer RAW footage in real time, work with HDR footage and switch between log and linear color spaces.
Professional colorists can also conform EDLs or receive sequences from Premiere Pro. When your edit is done in Premiere Pro, you can easily send to SpeedGrade, which sets the project up as a 10-bit DPX sequence, creates a SpeedGrade .ircp file that includes a timeline and then opens the project in SpeedGrade.
The line between production and post is becoming increasingly more transparent due to the emergence of file-based workflows. On a shoot, someone is usually charged (typically a camera assistant, or on a bigger budget, a D.I.T.) with getting the files off the camera, logging the footage and then delivering to post. Prelude – the newest program to CS6 – provides a smart new workflow interface for ingest and logging. Prelude simplifies this process by allowing you to ingest footage quicker, including the ability to duplicate, transcode and verify formats. With intuitive keyboard driven logging, you can also create metadata and subclips while you’re still viewing your clips. You can also create rough cuts by combining clips and subclips with markers and comments and then send to Premiere Pro CS6 for editing. If you’re working with an editor that you haven’t worked with before, you can also add comments in a clip to tell him or her what’s important in the shot and what to emphasize. Prelude will definitely save you valuable time in post and is a great new edition to an already loaded suite.
For more information, please visit www.adobe.com.