Review of Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium

Posted inComics & Animation Design

I’ve already reviewed Adobe’s new release of CS5 for print and the web, but we’ve not heard much for the broadcast industries. The video and filmmaking industries tend to keep to themselves, separate from print and the web because they are busy. Filmmaking is the one medium which has not had its legs cut out from under it with the appearance of the web a decade ago—it’s skills and processes are simply too difficult to combine. While print and the web require adept skill with composition and production (and optionally, storytelling and imagecraft), filmmaking requires critical alignment of storytelling, performance, imagecraft, soundcraft, and editing. Many times, these can be added or substituted with the end user’s own imagination in other media—but not filmmaking.

With the increase of narrative content available and the increase in chances for delivering that content, video is looking much more futureproof.

The thing that pleased me most with Adobe’s CS5 Production for is the completeness of its workflow. The process begins with the sketch of a story and flow through a project, continues with asset procurement, shooting, sound production, visual effects and compositing, and final edit. While their workflows in the other tools are good, the opportunity for such completeness simply is not available since other disciplines’ tools must be easily adaptable to multiple media in a way the Production Bundle is free to ignore.

The initial step in CS5’s workflow is import of a script (as a text file) into Adobe Story, one of the new Adobe Live services. Story is a few different things at once—it separates the script into its constituent scenes and allows for collaborative writing between multiple co-authors. This is the beginning of a laundry list of components for the film, absolutely necessary for shot schedules and budgetary means.

Story begins with a look at the script, which is then formatted into an outline-like form, giving a structural overview at the story, scene by scene. Each scene can have multiple color-coded dots to represent characters present, an aid to easy overview, and tags to represent necessary disciplines present. There’s also an automatic shot timer, which can be overridden manually. After the script is complete, it can be output as Microsoft Word, text, PDF or CSV to be imported into spreadsheets for scheduling and budgeting.

OnLocation is an impressive second step after Story, allowing for scheduling of shots both on-set and off. Professionals of other disciplines, stop raising your eyebrows—film art directors know this will help them run around less at 4 AM looking for that scimitar they were supposed to have ready for the morning’s 5:30 filming. It allows for a breakout of scenes on a camera-by-camera basis, allowing for granular knowledge of the production’s shot inventory. OnLocation logs footage from digital cameras as well, meaning this impressive organizational tool collects raw footage into broadly-defined buckets for later editing. Camera and OnLocation clocks can be approximately synced, allowing for logging of shots without manual work. Upon import, onLocation can automatically scan files for general visual or sound errors (clicks, pops, overbrights) and alert you that something might need a reshoot. The tool allows you to create very rough edits of your footage to ease the transition from initial shoot to final edit.

Projects from OnLocation can then be worked into Premiere, Adobe’s editing application. Premiere and After Effects sport a new playback engine called Mercury, which is 64-bit ready and GPU-enabled. This means you can scrub in real time through more footage faster, with fewer glitches than ever before, and therefore edit your footage more quickly, using all of the resources newer computers offer. This means, in real world terms, After Effects can be rendering something in the background while you edit in foreground. As for tapeless camera import, here’s a direct quote from Adobe’s press release:

“Adobe Premiere Pro builds upon the industry’s best native tapeless workflow by offering new native format support for Sony XDCAM HD 50, Panasonic AVCCAM, DPX, and AVC-Intra. In addition, native support has been added for video shot on Canon, Nikon, and other DSLR cameras. Plus, full native support for RED R3D files means you can import them directly without installing additional software. Adobe Premiere Pro lets you combine a wide range of sources—with different resolutions, frame rates, and aspect ratios—in a single sequence without complex format conversions.”

What’s that mean? Versatility, speed, and less opportunity for frustration.

Your effects shots in After Effects can be created while footage is editing in Premiere. After Effects sports a number of new tools to make effects easier and faster, such as its new Roto brush. This tool lets you, easily and quickly, identify and isolate foreground elements from background for later compositing. It operates essentially the same as Photoshop’s quick selection tools, but with more visual emphasis on making a completely correct selection. After Effects now also supports mocha, allowing for motion tracking of separate elements as theya re composited, therefore giving believable motion results. There’s auto-keyframing for artists who need to be more involved with effects creation and less with remembering to tell programs basic steps.

After Effects ships with a powerful color-correction plugin called Color Finesse, which allows for complex color correction This plugin lets you find white values over 100% and bring them back down without losing color detail, and improve vibrance in shots lacking adequate color saturation. There is also support for custom color look-up tables, allowing for total color consistency between pieces of footage. After Effects also supports Photoshop’s new Repoussé tool.

Finally, Soundbooth ships with over a thousand sound and soundtrack clips in Soundbooth Scores, multi-track royalty-free sound content files completing your round-trip editing tasks. There’s an enhanced link to Resource Central for finding and downloading additional content, and Soundbooth allows layering of multiple sound files, and auto-healing of small sound glitches (like footsteps or knocks). With this final step of content creation, and a further step of DVD or Blu-Ray menu creation with Encore, Adobe has made a source material to final edit roundtrip workflow complete.