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First view of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium

By Robert Alstead - Posted on 12 August 2007

Adobe takes video editing to the next level with a new suite of professional tools for both Mac and PC users.

I was recently given a presentation of Adobe's new CS3 Production Premium. There's some significant upgrades and changes to the previous video editing software suite Production Studio Premium.

Top of that list is that there is now an Adobe CS3 Production Premium for the Mac. The two Adobe product managers, Colin Smith and Dave Helmly, who were giving me the whistlestop tour of the new programs insist that this now makes Mac their preferred platform for running this suite.

The reason they gave, which I'm sure we've all heard before, is Macs are more stabile. The operating system and hardware configuration are tried, tested, and controlled.

The suite of programs work on Macs which have the Intel chipset, apart from Adobe OnLocation, for live mixing. Smith and Helmly don't see this a big drawback - with Boot Camp installed, you can now restart the Mac in Windows without any of the sluggish performance that you'd previously experience using Windows simulation software. I can't verify this myself, but as a lifelong PC user I'm now seriously considering switching to a Mac.

It's good to see that Adobe is trying to woo back those users who moved to Apple's Final Cut Pro when Premiere became Premiere Pro, for Windows only. More heated competition between these software giants can be only a good thing for video editors.

The Suite

CS3PP comprises of several standalone Adobe programs in a package designed specifically for the pro video editor. The mainstays of the suite are its video editor Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 and motion graphics and animation software Adobe After Effects CS3. Now that Adobe own Macromedia the two still image editors Photoshop CS3 Extended and for illustrative work Adobe Illustrator CS3, have been augmented by vector animation and video editor Adobe Flash CS3 Professional.

Interestingly, the audio editor Adobe Audition has been replaced by Adobe Soundbooth CS3, Adobe say, because video editors wanted a less complex sound editor than Audition. Adobe Encore CS3, for outputting DVDs, remains, but in a format that is better integrated with the rest of the suite than before.

The new software includes some knockout new features like After Effects motion layers and puppet effects, some that address the always changing media environment where videomakers are having to deliver to multiple platforms from mobile to big screen, and other features that are welcome, but slight, like interface improvements.

This is really just a first look at the new features of the various programs - in a few weeks time, I expect to be looking at the CS3 Production Premium Suite in more depth.

Adobe After Effects CS3

After Effects CS3 has some of most impressive new features. As mentioned before the shape layers feature looks like an addictively fun way to create eye-popping animations in a very short space of time. Within a few minutes you can take a simple star, circle or square, add a few filters and animation keyframes, and generate a kaleidoscopic animation that is sure to impress. For more on this check out the video

A new Puppet tool offers a quick way of animating a vector image using pins to hold your image in place and dragging the image to animate it. As in Illustrator you can choose to animate one layer over another layer.

After Effects also supports 3D text animations per character, not just per line, with some elaborate 3D text animations presets which you can use asis or as a starting point for your own 3D text composition.

With a new feature called Brainstorm you can ask After Effects CS3 to come up with variations on your composition. You choose the filters you want to experiment with and then tell After Effects to offer alternatives based on whether you want radical or moderate changes. You then preview the various options and if you like one of what Brad calls AE's "happy accidents" you can hone in on that particular one and suggest another nine close alternatives until you get something you are happy with.

As well as continuing to build on its colour management tools, After Effects now supports layers styles from Adobe Photoshop CS3 and with Video Layers you can switch between Photoshop and After Effects tool sets when working on a specific layer. You can also manipulate 3D objects rendered in Photoshop using the Vanishing Point filter with Vanishing Point Exchange.

Flash, now that Adobe own Macromedia, is well supported in After Effects. Cue points and parametres can be set from keyframes and exported directly to FLV files from within After Effects. After Effects CS3 comes with a variety of export presets with common settings, support for both Sorenson Spark and On2 VP6 codecs, alpha channel option, and control over separate audio and video bitrates.

Clip notes which was introduced in Adobe Premiere Pro CS2, is incorporated into After Effects, so you can fire off a version of your composition as a PDF for approval or feedback comments from a client. It does require that the client has a version of the free Acrobat Reader that supports this feature.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS3

Premiere Pro CS2 was already a very well-equipped video editor. With CS3 there's little major change to report in the program itself, unless you are a Mac user. The last Mac version of this title was Adobe Premiere 6.5, before Adobe rebuilt the software engine. Premiere Pro is a more powerful and effective editor altogether. Mac users may be pleasantly surprised.

With Premiere, Adobe have continued down the path of integration with their stable of other programs, in particular with Adobe Encore CS3. It's noteworthy that when buying Premiere Pro CS3 alone you get a bundle of additional programs including Adobe Encore CS3, Adobe OnLocation CS3 (Mac users will need Boot Camp as this is a Windows version), Adobe Device Central CS3 and a bunch of templates.

One of the main new features is the Time Remapping tool for creating that fast-slow-fast motion effect in video action and other variable rate time stretches. This popular effect was available in After Effects, but now comes with Premiere.

It's good to see the tilda key shortcut whereby you can maximise a window to full-screen is in Premiere Pro CS3. It should have been in the last edition for completeness sake, except the Adobe Premiere Pro programming team wasn't apparently ready in time for the release. Another couple of useful tweaks to Premiere include support for multiple project windows, which combined with a search facility should make finding media in big projects less of a headache. In the past, when dragging a new audio-video clip onto a busy Timeline, it was quite easy to accidentally overwrite audio on one of your tracks. Pro CS3 now gets around this annoying trait by automatically creating a new audio track.

Video to go

With a new "Export to Encore" feature you can now output a Timeline and the various markers to DVD, Bluray and Flash from within Premiere . There's presets that optimise video for the big online video sites such as YouTube and MySpace - a nice bit of product placement for those sites.

Within Encore you can also output DVD-style Flash menus and video direct to the web.

The new Adobe Device Central CS3 addresses the growing use of mobile video. When exporting to video, you are presented with a table of virtual phones where you can simulate how your video will look on any mobile phone or handheld device. You can adjust these settings to simulate, for example, what the video will look like with different levels of daylight on individual phones. Adobe updater automatically adds new models to the Device Central list, so you can always be up-to-date with the latest models.

Adobe promise speed improvements over CS2, which will be particularly welcome where the media manager Adobe Bridge is concerned. When organizing my files in CS2, I find I tend to avoid this on big projects, which is really when you need it most, because it slowed things down so much. So it'll be good to put this to the test soon.

On the integration front, there is less need for pre-rendering of compositions when moving between programs - edits to unpreviewed After Effects projects will show up in Premiere, for example.

Dumbed down sound?

Production Suite CS3 comes with a new audio application, Adobe Soundbooth. I'm not totally convinced of the argument that videomakers want something less complicated than Adobe Audition for their audio needs. Personally, I don't mind being forced to rise to a more challenging programme if it produces better results.

Still, Adobe Soundbooth has all the features of Audition that you will need for simple audio projects and in the heated eleventh hour of some deadline you might appreciate a more streamlined workspace and straightforward approach.

You can do most of the standard trimming and volume control as well as stretch audio to fit your video. Useful audio post-production tools allow you to clean up pops and hiss. Soundbooth includes Adobe's fairly sophisticated and colourful, spectral analysis tool for removing audio artefacts.

There are 15 audio filters with standards like reverb, chorus, and noise distortion. You can stack up to five of these and preview them in real time, or use Adobe's presets.

Soundbooth also comes with something called Autocomposer and Scores. Scores are proprietary and exclusive to Adobe Soundbooth. I'm not sure where Adobe is going with this, but the idea is with that you can take these preset soundtracks, and adjust the various instrumental tracks that make up the composition, increasing or lowering the "intensity" to fit. Soundbooth comes with 40 Scores.

Soundbooth is not set up for working with loop compositions. For that, and more complex audio editing, you could use Adobe Audition.

Add to the suite, Adobe OnLocation for live mixing (PC only or Mac running Windows), and you can see that Adobe CS3 Production Premium is a huge package. This preview really just skims the surface of its features, but keep an eye on this space for more in depth coverage in a month or so.

Buy Adobe CS3 Production Premium online (U.S., U.K., Canada).