Maximize your productivity with Adobe ® Creative Suite ® 3 Production Premium software, the total post-production solution available for both Mac and Windows ®. Tighter-than-ever integration between Adobe's all-new video, audio, and design tools - now including Adobe Flash ® CS3 Professional software - offers a smooth workflow from concept to delivery. Reach the widest possible audience by delivering content to film, video, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, the web, and mobile devices.
Includes latest versions of:
• After Effects Professional
• Premiere Pro
• Photoshop Extended
• Flash Professional
• Dynamic Link
• Device Central
• Ultra * (Windows version only)
I want to start off with the beginning of the production flow... Now, depending on what you have on hand in the way of raw materials, it could be Photoshop (which is dealt with in the Design Suite review, Premiere or After Effects... now because the data from these last two are fairly interoperable, each being able to deal with the output from the other, I'll flip a coin and start with... Premier...
Premiere is where you take your raw movie footage off the camera and into the digital editing realm. As any experienced user already knows, the features and function in here are astounding, allowing you to fully explore your creative urges when it comes to cutting, merging and transitioning video clips. Thanks to some radical design enhancements and shared memory-spaces, you can import After Effects compositions simply by drag'n'drop'ing the .aep files into Premiere as a resource, which means you can adjust your AE compositions on-the-fly, not having to re-render the footage as a stand-alone file each time you tweak something. This drastically reduces your overheads and speeds up workflow by whole orders of magnitude. One of the really dinky features I discovered while playing around in here was the ability to create fast-forward and slow-mo footage by mouse-driven operations only. So simple, it blew me away! I took some old footage of a family member taking the plunge at Gravity Canyon's Bridge Swing and, by slowing down the initial release'n'drop moment I was able to clearly capture that "Oh holy S**T" look of sheer terror on their face, then I sped up the first part of the actual drop... all very Matrix Bullet Time'esque.
Now, another key feature, but not actually a new one... introduced back in Production Premium CS2, the Multicam feature has undergone a stunning overhaul, taking it out of the realm of "dinky, but awkward feature" and firmly into the realm of "Professional productivity tool", allowing you far more compositing options. Now it's as simple as aligning all your raw footage to be in sync, then telling the system to output a single stream based on whatever footage you select as you go along. This is a LOT of fun to do in realtime, giving one the feeling that until now only high-end broadcast directors have enjoyed... "OK, get ready to switch to camera 2 in 3... 2... 1... NOW!" Oh the sheer POWER of it all! OK, home users aren't exactly going to be running around yelling CUT! OK, first places everybody... ready... and ACTION!" (Well, OK they might, but only if they have no fear of being glared at during the family Christmas BBQ!) but this suite isn't really aimed at the home user anyways, so no biggie there. The target market are going to be able to do so much more with this enhanced version.
Now, a quick run down of the output stuff... The new Adobe Media Encoder is great, allowing you to export into a range of formats, which you can then run through Device Central if you need to, allowing you to calibrate it to peak optimisation for the target viewing devices. Great if you want to have a version of your finished production available to mobile users. And of course, your final footage is ready to go to directly to Encore for inclusion in the distribution DVD.
Right, now to After Effects... Having played with this application a lot, (I don't think some family members will ever forgive me for some of the home movies I have made, in an effort to test some of the features... especially the Gravity Canyon stuff) I was able to skip over a lot of the basic stuff and get right down to playing with the really cool toys... One of the key ones is the ability to link files directly into Premiere Pro. This allowed me to do tweaking on-the-fly, with the reassurance that a small change wasn't going to require another hour of rendering to test, then a further hour of rendering in the other application, and then maybe find out I need to tweak some more, thus blowing away another 2 hours of the day twiddling my thumbs! Dynamic links and shared memory spaces are just such cool pieces of functional engineering! Another great improvement is the handling of importable files, especially Photoshop .psd, retaining all the layer information, and most, if not all, of the layer effects. Still a little more work needing to be done on that, but I would hazard an educated guess that this will be fixed in a future auto-update, rather than require a full version-upgrade. It even copes really well with Photoshop's new Video Layers, and you can now animate the layer effects as well! Seriously stunning creative possibilities here, folks! In the past, text has always been something rasterized in Photoshop, or typed directly into AE, but now that has changed. Leave your text as a text layer in PS, import it, convert it to AE Text, and you can animate it easily, while retaining the ability to edit it. Animate the block, line, word or even individual character at a whim... without losing the ability to fix those embarrassing typos in the final moments. -snigger-
But, by far the biggest splash on the AE frontlines is the new 'Puppet Tool'... I was fortunate enough to see a live demo of this feature, and of course simply HAD to have a play with it myself as soon as I got the chance... and what a heap of fun it is! Take a flat image, say a person standing in a casual starfish pose... using the 'Pin' tool to lock key points of the image, eg. head, neck, shoulders, torso, hips, knees, feet and hands... you can then grab a pin and drag it around to distort and move the various body bits! I used this feature on a layered scenery image to create a fake landslide, making the hill slowly collapse in a realistic way while I faded a dustcloud and falling rocks footage over the top... Ruapehu, eat ya heart out! The Puppet Tool uses a form of mesh morphing to accomplish some seriously stunning results... you could think of it as a beefed up, animated version of Photoshop's "Liquify" filter.
Speaking of clearcutting footage... you need to explore the "Keylight" tool, and also the stand-alone 'Adobe Ultra' application (Note: Ultra is only available in the Windows version of this package. Not available for the Mac... yet.), as both of these are powerful masking and keying tools, which are VITAL for the professional user to get a handle on. Both relatively simple and intuitive, you should become comfortable with these as a first step to producing top-quality clear-cut footage, because you'll be collecting the payout on your pension fund before you finish doing it by hand! You should also get to grips with the included "Adobe OnLocation" package for colour and exposure calibration. Small and fast, it is perfect for those on-site shoots where you might not have the resources to get the lighting just right.
And should you need to replace some footage elements in your composition, it is now as simple as holding down the ALT key while you drag'n'drop the file into the Assets panel, for a fast and easy replace! On top of all this, because of the layered nature of AE files, and the new intense level of integration with the old 'Macromedia' family of applications, you can now export your footage as a Flash SWF file too! Awesome for those web developers who are Adobe fans and yet to really get into Flash (like me).
Now, as a bit of a test of Soundbooth's features, I decided to try out it's "Remove a sound" task, whereby it converts the waveform into a frequency-over-time graph, colour-coded for strength of signal. The stronger (louder) the sound, the closer to white the blotch representing that sound is, the quieter, the closer to black. Gradients passing through blues, red and yellows allow for easy visual recognition of the relative strength of the sound at any given point in the file. I used an MP3 file that was itself a conversion of an old WAV file I was given many years ago, which was captured off an old radio news bulletin... so you can imagine how degraded the sound was in places. As part of the conversion to MP3 using Audition (part of Production Premium CS2), I had already cleaned some of it up, but had neglected to run a cleanup to remove the more subtle pops and crackles... At the left and right edges of the Spectral Display window you will notice two little gadgets. Dragging these inwards will quickly crop the sample to your desired segment, making cleanup of lead-in and lead-out sounds as simple as setting the start and finish points with a couple of mouse-drags... but BE WARNED... this can have some dangerous side-effects if used unwisely. Since I was playing around with this at 2am, and wasn't really focussing on what I was doing, in an effort to 'zoom in' on an area of interest, I accidentally cropped the test sample down to a few seconds. Since I was a bit muddled, and I couldn't see a way to 'zoom out' (the actual zoom gadget being ghosted out now that the entire sample fit in the window) I simply closed the file. I didn't hit 'Save' or 'Save As...' or anything... so you can understand my confusion, and growing horror, when I realised that Soundbooth had automatically saved over the original file with the now-much-shorter soundbite! Serious -grr- factor, partly at the software for not asking "Do you want me to save this first, or just close it and lose changes?" and partly at myself for being so intent on "Dive in, play, and learn as you go, since it appears to be so intuitive" and losing all my cleanup work. However, being not as dumb as I am cabbage looking, I had a backup of the file on CD and was able to learn from my mistake. The next day I did a bit of a flick through the manual, got a few ideas on where buttons and features were in the layout, and started from scratch. Pretty soon I had a nice, reasonably clear soundfile that I take great pleasure in listening to now.
Last, but by no means least, we come to Encore DVD, the ultimate final stage in the production chain. Sure, you may not need to make a DVD and may have stopped at Flash, but for certain there aren't any other steps beyond this one. Very similar to the previous version, the biggest highlights are actually more just enhancements of older features, but there are a couple of things I do want to comment on... the new paradigm of interoperability between the various applications in the CS3 family means that you can now dynamic-link to Photoshop files, meaning that you can jump back to PS to adjust this button, or that bannertext, and pop back to Encore and all updates have magically been transferred over while you were swapping screens. You just HAVE to love shared memory-spaces! Building a DVD navigation layout by flowchart-view is a hundred times easier now, with a new level of intuitiveness that at first may seem too simple to actually be as effective as it undoubtedly is. And yes... you can even drop the final results out as a Flash file from here too! Welcome to the new wave of web!
Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash are all covered in the Design Suite review, and when you put it all together you have one serious multimedia authoring package. From starting off with an idea, right through to broadcast-quality (or higher) footage... this package is exactly what you need. Priced a little too high to really appeal to the 'holiday home movie' sector of the market, none the less after a bit of dedicated practice they would find this would give them home movie to make Peter Jackson pause for thought.
Overall... my mind is blown away by this package. Unarguably the ultimate multimedia authoring suite out there, there is a LOT to learn, but once you have mastered the basics and intermediate level skills, you are well on your way to being able to charge some serious coin for some stunning results! Promotional DVDs, home movies to die for, broadcast advertising, web marketing materials second-to-none, mobile content that makes their cellphone or pda as good as watching TV... the only limit is your tolerance for insomnia and the furthest reaches of your imagination. My one and only gripe is that the helpfiles and manuals are overly full of links to online video resources, instead of actual answers. If you are going to lumber your customers with *6kgs* of hardcopy manuals, you should at least fill them with usable information... not ALL of us have broadband y'know! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a new world to continue exploring... as I build it!
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