Adobe CS5 Production Premium software review
Adobe writes some of the most advanced, flexible, easy to use and powerful creative products in the world. Products like Photoshop, After Effects, InDesign and Dreamweaver really dominate their sectors through sheer ability. Adobeís Creative Suites combine many of these world class products into cost-effective sector specific bundles, such as Design, Web, Video and aim to cover all your creative software needs.
Adobe has, since 2003, had a firm commitment to interoperability among its creative products. Each Creative Suite comes coupled with Adobeís initially flawed but now excellently executed Dynamic Link, allowing seamless workflow between applications.
Premiere Pro CS5
Within the film and video sector, Adobeís product offering is considerable. Premiere Pro (video editing), After Effects (motion graphics & VFX), Encore (DVD & Blu-Ray authoring), Soundbooth/Audition (audio editing/sound design), and OnLocation (On-set realtime digitising, checking and logging tool). Adobe Story (scriptwriting) is also now available and allows you to write and integrate your screenplays directly into the Adobe workflow.
Premiere Pro is Adobeís broadcast video editing application. Originally written by Randy Ubillos who went on to develop Final Cut, Premiere has been seen by many in the industry as a bit of a hobbyist video tool. This is, in part, due to its lacklustre abilities in original Premiere guise. It wasnít nearly as professionally focussed as Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer, and quickly got relegated to the Corporates and Weddings shelf. Undeterred Adobe continued to develop and innovate with Premiere, launching Premiere Pro in 2003. This looked to redress the balance and offer a professional platform to edit on. Unfortunately this release dropped support for Mac becoming a PC only solution. Having already shelled out for Apple hardware, few Editors were going to swap back to PCís, and without an Adobe alternative FCP really gained a massive foothold on the Mac (49% of US professionals (according to a 2007 SCRI study) using Macís to run Final Cut Pro).
But as the BBC start to adopt Premiere Pro CS5 as a professional editing platform, have Adobe managed to stop Premiere Pro from simply being seen as no more than a video hobbyists toy?
From 2003 Adobe began a long haul development of the software, chipping away at the main players version by version, until today where we have Premiere Pro CS5. So what does Premiere Pro CS5 bring to the table? Can it out perform FCP and Avid MC on their own terms and in a professional arena. The answer is a resounding yes.
To begin with Premiere Pro CS5 is a native 64bit application running on both Mac and PC. At its core is the newly developed 64bit Mercury Playback Engine which allows GPU-accelerated rendering and effects, in tandem with multi-core CPU support. This adds up to the fastest timeline around today (depending on your hardware setup).
Premiere Pro also has the widest native format support in the industry with direct to timeline import and playback of XDCAM HD 50, AVCCAM, Canon 5D Mark II and 7D, DPX, and AVC-Intra as well as enhanced RED. It also continues native support for P2, XDCAM EX and HD, AVCHD, HDV and DV. No wrappers, no transcoding, just import and edit.
Now imagine being able to combine all those formats on one timeline and still get smooth playback, even after applying effects and colour correction. Well thanks to the Mercury Playback Engine you can. It even gives you the ability to control the playback resolution to optimise the playback further.
Another highlight is Premiere Pro CS5ís Final Cut Pro and Avid Media Composer import and export. For the first time this really gives Editors the ability to work with Premiere Pro CS5 alongside an FCP and Avid MC workflow, without worrying about compatibility issues.
Enhanced Speech Analysis identifies spoken dialogue in a clip (remember to download the language pack if youíre not from the US), and allows you to navigate the timeline directly from that script. In fact if you integrate the process with the new scriptwriting software Adobe Story, the process from script to screen becomes totally integrated. This is fantastically useful and can really cut down the time finding the right place on the timeline. Itís also pretty accurate.
Premiere Pro CS5 now has the ability to scene detect capture from HDV tapes (a function sadly missing from previous versions) and import assets directly from DVD.
Premiere Pro CS5 likes to give you as much flexibility as possible. Remember itís been second fiddle to FCP and Avid for a long time now and that has proved to be very useful. Premiere Pro CS5 has taken good workflows from the other applications and combined or improved them in Premiere Pro CS5.
It has a robust timeline, has accelerated real-time transitions and effects as well as YUV and 32bit effects, 64 bit accelerated Ultra Key chroma keyer, which produces excellent results, and a world class titler based on Abobeís Print-Design software. It also supports multiple nesting and allows import of image sequences straight onto the timeline Ė no Quicktime rendering needed here. Premiere Pro also features excellent audio handling with an audio mixer that supports thousands of third party VST effects and allows effects and sends to be applied to complete audio tracks, ideal if you want to add a compressor to a dialogue or interview audio track.
Editors will find it intuitive and reasonably simple to edit with right off the bat. Clips can be imported without a care for the format and thrown, dragged or inserted straight on to the timeline. Adobeís Dynamic Link allows extended task integration with Photoshop for graphics, Audition or Soundbooth for audio, including excellent noise reduction effects, After effects for motion graphics and motion titling, and Encore for DVD and Blu-Ray authoring. Each of these link processes are very straightforward and make for a very smooth transition from one programme to another and back, each time keeping track of files and resources.
With the help of the 64bit Adobe Media Encoder, Premiere Pro users have the ability to output to almost any format they choose from Lossless high-end formats like DPX to Blu-Ray, web and mobile (still no Windows Media output on Mac though). Adobe Media Encoder CS5 can also render in the background allowing users to continue working. One change from CS4 to CS5 was the inclusion of Queue and Export buttons in the Export Media dialogue. CS4 users had to export everything to the queue in Media Encoder, but now if you simply want to run off a quick render, you can do so straight from the export dialogue, and go and make a cup of tea.
Encore CS5 is Adobeís professional grade DVD and Blu-Ray mastering application that integrates beautifully with Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop and Media Encoder via Dynamic Link. It can create DVD and Blu-Ray discs with all the necessary menus, buttons and navigation systems all within a simple and familiar user interface. And once you have mastered the layer naming conventions in Photoshop, you can create high quality menus and buttons in a matter of minutes. There is also the possibility to create multi-page menus which share audio and video background elements without having their playback interrupted when users navigate from page to page.
New to Encore CS5 is the ability to create search-capable Web DVDís. These behave like standard DVDs or Blu-ray discs, except a Shockwave-based file format is used and the interface and referenced media exist online instead of on a physical disc. The new search interface gives viewers a more engaging experience by enabling them to search a web DVD using keywords. During authoring, Encore automatically creates a search database using metadata from speech-analysis text, subtitles, slideshows, and menu and button names.
Other highlights include native 24p support, so film assets will be preserved at the correct frame rate. 4k footage can now remain at its native resolution right until the encoding stage, so optimal quality is maintained whatever the final output. Encore CS5 also allows you to directly publish content from AVCHD cameras to Blu-ray using the high-quality native camera format. Encore directly passes AVCHD content directly to disc without transcoding and thus preserves the original fidelity of the source content.
Again, as with Premiere Pro, Encore CS5 benefits from background rendering from the 64bit Media Encoder CS5, which can run in the background whilst you continue to author. And remember Final Cut Studio still has no competent solution for authoring Blu-Ray, so if thatís your preferred output, Encore is really your number one choice.
Even if you have no optical disc burner, Encore allows you to burn a disc image (ISO) to distribute and burn at a later date.
Photoshop, originally released in 1990, is probably the most widely used professional image editing and creative programme in the world, and as such an update is always keenly awaited. Photoshop CS5 builds on its already peerless reputation with the addition of both 32bit and 64bit versions and the 64bit version really flies on both Mac and PC.
The big new addition to Photoshop CS5 is Content-Aware Fill. This is an astounding new tool that allows you to select an element in the image that you want to remove, and Photoshop works out what to replace it with by analysing the surrounding detail. Whilst not perfect it generally does a quite astonishing job, and can become quite addictive. If anything it provides a fabulous place to start and the time saved in retouching can really be appreciated.
Another great addition is Intelligent Selection technology. This allows you to control the edge selection parameters through The Refine Edge dialogue window. Its strength lies in the fact that it can automatically select around soft edges such as hair, something that is almost impossible using conventional selection tools. Its Smart Radius function does a brilliant job and allows you to accomplish in seconds what would have taken hours before without third party plugins. You can also manually apply the effect to specific areas using the tool in the Refine Edge dialogue.
Camera Raw 6, Adobeís DSLR RAW format picture processor is included in Photoshop CS5 and now supports nearly 300 camera models including all the latest DSLR and mirror-less system cameras. It uses new advanced algorithms to provide vastly improved noise reduction and sharpening, and also includes effects filters such as film grain, special processing emulation and vignetting. It can also be used on JPEG and TIFF files, though you need to go through Adobe Bridge (Adobeís browsing application) to achieve this.
Another handy tool is the automated lens correction which can remove the effects of optical distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting. If you regularly use the same lens and camera you can batch apply the correction to all of your pictures. This is ideal if you are creating textures for 3D work.
For me Premiere Pro CS5 really holds the NLE system crown at the moment, making both FCP and Avid MC seem slow and complicated. Its 64bit Mercury Playback Engine really has to be seen to be believed, and its massive native format support really takes the strain out of the ingestion stage and allows editors to get on with the actual timeline editing.
Encore has slowly built itself into a powerful must-have application, benefitting from a simple interface and great integration with Premiere Pro, After Effects and Photoshop. Although we are starting to see a slowdown in optical media output as a whole, Encore is still the only convincing place you can go to build menu driven Blu-Ray discs.
All in all Adobe Creative Suite 5 offers video and film-makers almost everything they need to complete highly professional broadcast quality work, from on-set logging and capture to WebDVD and Blu-Ray output. It has an easy to understand logic and a unified user interface. It has seamless interoperability among the Creative Suite applications, and is supported on both Mac and PC platforms. CS5 is the first integrated suite to be built on 64bit technology, albeit not for all its programmes, and the performance differences can really be felt because of it. Plus of course it comes with Photoshop CS5 against which neither Apple nor Avid can compete. I donít know a day that goes by when I am not reaching for Photoshop for something.
But is it time to make the switch your NLE from FCP or Avid? Premiere Pro CS5 is certainly making a convincing case for doing so now, and with an update just around the corner, it has never looked so good.
Chris Longman is a multi-skilled freelance creative based in Suffolk, UK, specialising in Video, 3D and Motion graphics for the Film, Television and Corporate Media industries. To find out more email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.chrislongman.com
Product: CS5 Production Premium editing software
Platform: Mac & Windows
Reviewed by: Chris Longman
Review Date: 02-05-2011