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This week may mark the turning point of which suite of products that editors and their counterparts may seriously consider to be the centerpiece of a post production studio. After almost eighteen months since the last release, Adobe is now shipping CS4. Every facet of the Adobe's suite of software products is getting an upgrade.
The new Premiere Pro CS4 can handle batch encoding and metadata management from tapeless cameras without rewrapping or transcoding, including Panasonic P2 (DVCPRO, DVCPROHD, and AVC-Intra formats); Sony XDCAM (EX & HD) and AVCHD, the emerging format for consumer grade models from Canon, Panasonic, and Sony as well as the new pro-level Panasonic AG-HMC150. By going tapeless, ingesting video is no longer a time consuming 1:1 process of tape to disk transfer; it's simply copying files between two drives, reducing the editing time dramatically.
Delivery requirements have been changing at a dramatic pace, with online and mobile options become more prevalent. Adobe Media Encoder CS4 is now a standalone application, giving you the ability to import or export compositions with After Effects by utilizing Dynamic Link. Any changes that are made in AE will now be automatically updated in Premiere. After Effects comps can also be imported to Soundbooth. Media Encoder now supports online friendly formats, including FLV and F4V, Windows Media, MPEG-2, H.264, and QuickTime, including batch encoding any combination of Premiere Pro sequences to other formats.
Adobe Device Central helps to optimize content for the latest mobile devices, with a dynamically updated online device library. With its preview window, Device Central enables you to review a wide range of devices in real-world situations, eliminating tedious troubleshooting.
Premiere Pro expands its multi-format timeline by producing SD and HD versions of the same project in short order. You can now import layered PSD files from Photoshop and apply video and audio transitions to multiple tracks and change speed and duration of multiple clips in the Project panel.
Another time saver is that you can select two or more clips and adjust speeds, transitions and effects. The new Track Sync Lock control gives the editor the ability to select which track stays in sync after ripple and insert edits.
The new Track Sync Lock feature makes it easy to control which tracks remain in sync after ripple and insert edits
Adobe's products should no longer be considered standalone offerings. Adobe had made integration an essential component in previous versions, which is now enhanced with CS4.
The most noticeable upgrade is the ability to send a timeline to Encore for DVD authoring without rendering. You can even continue to make changes to the timeline before authoring the final optical disc. Speaking of Encore, you can now preview interactive DVD menus via SWF files for online viewing. For anyone who is serious about optical disc production, these features will streamline their workflows drastically. Optical Disc Recording within Encore now has pop-up menus for Blu-Ray projects, a major addition thanks to the end of the format war earlier this year.
Adobe Media Encoder gets some attention by importing timelines or files and continue working in Premiere at the same time or even encode while still working on your project. Combining several earlier tools including Flash encoding, web and mobile file formats, Media Encoder can also access the new Speech Transcription tool, letting you load up several file for transcription in the background and continue to work on the main application. This is a huge timesaver. Media Encoder also supports Apple TV, iPod, YouTube, Google Video, Yahoo Video and Sony PSP.
Speed Search is an Audio Transcription tool that is found in several different applications in the CS4 suite that lets you scan any audio file and make it searchable by taking speech and creating a metadata file with the final text. Although the translation is not perfect, it does eliminate the hours upon hours of having an assistant editor (of if you're like most of us, the only editor) to transcribe the text by typing into a text document. In my tests, over 90% of the translation was accurate, and it was fairly easy to decipher the misspellings found along the way by simply selecting the incorrect word and make the spelling correction. Combined with the ability to follow the text with the Timecode display, final script editing is a breeze.
Speech Search is built to support a variety of languages, including several versions of accented English (U.S, Canadian, U.K. and Australia), French (France or Canadian), German, Spanish (Spain or Mexico), Italian, Korean and Japanese. After Effects is supported by adding the footage with the embedded metadata and reviewing each word on the project timeline.
Although we tested CS4 in Windows, it is important to note that the one tool that was missing in the CS3 Mac version is now available in CS4. Originally the bundled version of Serious Magic's DVRack tool, OnLocation CS4 is an onset capture and monitoring tool with software vectorscope and waveform monitor for calibration. The new Shot List panel lets you create a shot list with metadata and mark which takes are good for simplifying the post process.
The new Media Browser previews clips and source files within the Premiere interface, making assets on all of the drives (optical disc, network drives and even mounted tapeless cameras) viewable. You are able to preview clips, either by double-clicking or watching it in the Preview window or drag clips onto the Timeline, making searching for clips much easier.
Other new features in Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 include an enhanced view of audio in the Source monitor, more assignable keyboard shortcuts, and the ability to replace clip yet retain its effects and other settings.
It's now possible to natively import a PSD file with video and blend modes, with Premiere Pro honouring those blending modes on import and treating the video clip as it would any other on the timeline.
When first opening After Effects CS4, a new Welcome screen has a searchable Tip of the Day and quick links to the Web-based Community Help system. The navigation elements found in Premiere are also available within After Effects, including a Composition Navigator for each composition panel for an easier search with mini-flowchart that includes nesting elements.
Timeline and Project panels can be searched by item names or individual attributes such as "position," greatly easing navigation of complex projects.
The Mini-Flowchart reveals how nested compositions are shared across a project.
The 3D composting tools gets a big boost with separate keyframe positions for X-, Y -and Z- axis. Photoshop 3D files can be imported into AE and AE composition layers can be exported into Flash CS4.
Separate X-, Y-, and Z-position graphs in After Effects CS4 offer animators new levels of motion control, such as creating this bounce-style animation movement.
The new Cartoon effect allows you to create new looks for your video or other animated imagery, instantly applying the appearance of cel animation or watercolor paintings to live action or to computer-generated 3D imagery. This makes it equally useful for motion graphics and for interactive designers interested in crafting new visual styles as well as videographers and editors who want to create unique visuals without the painstaking process of hand-drawing every frame. You can even use the Cartoon effect to rescue low-resolution or poor-quality footage by smoothing and abstracting it.
The new Cartoon effect (left) can convert live-action footage into stylized imagery
Native FLV, PNG, and JPG sources that have been transformed or made opaque are passed straight through, assets such as text and Illustrator artwork are preserved as vectors, while pixel-based layers are rendered to a variety of formats, including FLV, and are then presented as layers in Flash CS4 Professional.
In addition, After Effects includes Imagineer Systems' Mocha, a standalone application that features advanced 2.5D planar motion tracking. It gives you an additional set of tools to use alongside the point-based tracker built into After Effects and helps with the more problematic shots.