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Software Review – Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 From Adobe Systems

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Adobe has released its latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite which brings a lot of new features including breakthroughs in HTML5 authoring and mobile application development. This release is a major change to their prior 18-month release cycle now changing to a 24-month cycle with an intermediary updates.

Also contained within this update are innovations in the area of video production and editing as well as digital publishing. While all of the products have been updated, the major changes have been with After Effects, Dreamweaver, Flash Professional, Premiere Pro, and InDesign. An addition to this release is Adobe Audition 5.5, and I will look at Audition in a separate review.

Creative Suite CS5.5

So what is new with After Effects 5.5?

• Warp Stabilizer – will help give you much smoother looking camera movement especially when you are shooting handheld. Handheld footage is often shaky, with distracting motion artifacts. Sometimes it’s just not practical to use a counter-balanced camera rig or keep a dolly or crane ready for every moving shot. What Warp Stabilizer does is to make the hand-held footage look like it had been shot with a rig setup. It even has the ability to use pixel analysis to resolve artifacts related to motion and parallax.

• Timecode Support – provides more efficiency and will save you steps when working directly with source footage. Without it, you are left to guess based on visual clues or frame counts how a video selection is edited. This increases the likelihood of extra steps and careless errors. Now with this support you can use the data that is embedded in source media to your benefit and save time in editing.

• Stereoscopic 3D Rig – now gives you the ability to set up a 3D scene completely from scratch as well as with the intention of integrating existing stereo footage and elements. Animating and compositing in stereo requires that you carefully coordinate the left and right eye views, and this can be a cumbersome to manage without the aid of a dedicated workflow. Now it as simple as setting up a 3D composition and create the rig. It lets you center around any one of three cameras and adjust the stereo depth by changing between the left and right views. You can even create multiple rigs to correspond to multiple cameras in a single composition.

• The ability to control light intensity fall off – gives you greater freedom to naturally light objects in After Effects. By choosing the Inverse Square Clamped falloff setting you can recreate the real-world decay of light over distance – in which light intensity naturally falls off by the square of the inverse distance. The Smooth falloff setting allows you to define the exact distance over which light levels decay.

• More HD source formats – to choose from. As new formats for gathering high definition footage arise, After Effects continues to add support for the most versatile and widely used among them, including native R3D support. After Effects can import those files directly, reducing steps between shooting and post-production.

• Camera Lens Blur – can create, in post-production, characteristics of defocused areas within a camera image. What this means for you is that footage shot in perfect focus can take on the elegant attributes of a much more soft focus image. This realistic blur can be applied with the new Camera Lens Blur effect or generated automatically via Depth of Field controls in the After Effects camera.

Creative Suite CS5.5

• Additional LUTs – makes it possible to save the color correction performed on a file using a wide range of applications and systems, and simulate those settings exactly within After Effects on a specific piece of footage or final composite. A LUT is also used to simulate how images look when projected via specific film stocks or digital projectors. LUTs are an important part of streamlining complex post-production pipelines that span many locations and use a wide variety of software and hardware.

• Export XDCAM EX footage – using multiple bit-rates, pixel aspects, and frame rates. This allows you to roundtrip footage shot on currently popular Sony cameras such as the PMW-EX3 so that your output is consistent with files being edited directly from source.

So what is new with Dreamweaver 5.5?

• CSS3 and HTML5 – support has been enhanced to deliver a new level of support. There have been updates to the CSS panel, the user interface, and live view to give you the ability to be more productive as you develop for both the web and new devices.

• jQuery integration – makes you coding more powerful as now you have both code hinting and starter layouts for many different types of mobile devices. You can add interactivity much more quickly to user interfaces to your mobile projects and much more quickly as the jQuery framework can help speed up you coding.

• Enhanced Multiscreen Preview Panel – allows you to view three different screen sizes and run your code in real time. This gives you the ability view your designs for smartphones, tablets, and PC screens. It also helps you create CSS media queries as well as displaying different style sheets for each kind of device.

Creative Suite CS5.5

• PhoneGap Framework – gives you support for the write-once publish anywhere model. Using PhoneGap, you can build native Android and iOS applications from directly in Dreamweaver all while using your existing web development skills, assets, and resources with no need to learn a new development model.

• New Live View – enhancements give you the ability to preview and manage your web, mobile, and multiscreen projects with greater accuracy as well as perform real-time rendering. These enhancements are supported by the latest version of WebKit and have been updated to support HTML5 and CSS3.

So what is new with Flash 5.5?

• Expanded platform and device support – gives you the ability to use the latest Flash Platform runtimes including Flash Player 10.2 and Adobe AIR 2.6 to reach your audiences. It also allows you to play back on Android and through the use of AIR on iOS as well as delivering content to tablets.

• Multi-target content – has now been simplified with the ability to creating and managing multiple FLA files for a single project that target multiple devices. You can share code and assets across documents and device targets to efficiently create, test, package, and deploy content for a wide range of screens and devices.

• Content Scaling – will greatly reduce the time it takes to get your content to fit all of the different screen sizes. Now you can choose to scale the contents of your file when you change the size of the stage. That means that all of the things on the stage, including symbols and motion paths across all scenes, are scaled. There are also controls for limiting scaling to unlocked or visible layers.

• Symbol rasterization – can reduce the degrading rendering toll that vector artwork can take on mobile devices. Now you have two new options. One is you can convert your artwork to bitmaps – once this is done any editing needs to be done in Photoshop. The second is you have the ability to export your movie clip symbols to bitmaps – this allows the symbols to remain editable in Flash Professional.

• Code snippets – have been improved in such a way that now when you hold your cursor over a movie clip placeholder in the code snippet, a pick whip appears such that you can drag the pick whip to a movie clip on the stage so you can insert the instance name of your target movie clip. There are more than 20 new code snippets and the code snippets have been formatted to help novice programmers parse the code much easier.

• Streamline publishing – will save you time and you can now access directly from the Properties panel. Select multiple formats on the left and edit the corresponding settings on the right. New to the dialog box is the ability to publish a SWC file to a path of your choice without having to publish the SWF file.

• Layer controls – will give you more control over the contents of your document and do even more with layers. You can copy and paste layers including the ones with motion and inverse kinematics armatures to a different timeline or even a different FLA document.

Creative Suite CS5.5

• Customer enhancements – include better control over author time playback, conflict resolution for symbol naming, TLF text support, support for tab stops, optimized export of TLF text to SWF, and much more.

• Mobile testing – has become much more seamless now that you can perform source-level debugging on Adobe AIR enabled devices that are connected with a USB cable.

So what is new with Flash Catalyst 5.5?

• Designer-Developer workflow – has been expanded to allow directly in the same project as opposed to in the past, the designer would hand the Flex Project (FXP) off to the developer who would work with them. To avoided pitfalls, when a developer hooks up various items – say a control, the designer cannot delete the control, but will still be able to work with it for design work.

• Resizable applications and components – will give you much more freedom when you are designing for multiple devices of differing screen sizes and screen resolutions.

• Enhanced timelines – makes it easier to flow through longer timeline transitions using a scroll bar located across the bottom of the timeline panel. The transitions that are applied in the panel have also been redone to use the tag making for better performing code.

• Common Library Panel – has replaced the Wireframe Components panel and now has larger and more descriptive icons. They are in a horizontal format and contain two categories. Flex components – which can be skinned, and Placeholder components – which cannot be skinned.

• Custom skinnable components – are elements that are built by developers in Flash Builder 4.5 and contain customized parts that are defined and controlled by the developer. These custom components can be skinned by a designer in Flash Catalyst CS5.5.

• Improved interactions – now gives you the ability to visually target components directly from the artboard, making it possible to easily define transitions to other component states.

• User-requested enhancements – includes a new Align panel is similar to that found in other Adobe design applications such as Illustrator, more efficient component naming anytime you convert artwork to a component or attempt to skin a wireframe component. You now have a “Replace with” command to exchange objects on the artboard, and an updated color theme for wireframe component skins.

Creative Suite CS5.5

So what is new with InDesign 5.5?

• Folio Producer tools – will add interactive overlays to your documents as well as let you preview them all within the context of your publication. These let you create and distribute for the iPad, BlackBerry Playbook, and the Motorola Xoom. You can also include audio, video, slideshows, and hyperlinks.

• EPUB export enhancements – will let you design more interactive eBooks that now include images that resize for almost any size screen along with better looking text and typography. This gives you the ability to offer readers a much more smooth and pleasant reading experience.

• Articles panel – will be useful to improve the readers experience in textbooks, or other books that contain images, captions, block quotes, or sidebars. You just drag content from your document into the Articles panel, and then organize them to appear in a logical order for the reader when exported.

• Embedded video and audio in ebooks – and add another dimension to your ebooks. InDesign now supports video and audio tags for newer standards such as HTML5 and EPUB 3.

Creative Suite CS5.5

• Styles mapped to tags – will allow you to create more sophisticated text. You create digital documents that conform to open standards with improved basic typography without needing to make changes directly to the HTML code.

• Linked text – will save you time and reduce errors by linking identical text blocks in a document, so that edits you make to the parent story apply to all of them.

• Dynamic image resizing – allows you to produce documents that look good on any device by letting your images adjust automatically.

• Drag-and-drop anchored objects – lets you add anchored objects quickly. These will let the text reflow on the page and the anchored object remain in position moving the text it is anchored to.

• PDF accessibility – will reduce the time it takes to create PDF documents that people with disabilities can use more effectively. Now you can more easily add, edit, and view alternate text attributes that are associated with an image or object.

So what is new with Premiere Pro 5.5?

• Productivity enhancements – have been to address issues that have come about since more and more video productions are using dual-system sound in their recordings because of the increased use DSLR cameras that have HD video capabilities. In Premiere Pro CS5.5, you can now use the Merge Clips feature to combine separate audio and video source files into a single merged clip. There are also improvements in customizing and accessing keyboard shortcuts, performing insert/overwriting edits, extracting frames from a sequence, adding keyframes, and decoupling media.

Creative Suite CS5.5• Mercury Playback Engine – has been kicked up a notch with even faster playback of mixed-format timelines and additional GPU-accelerated effects and transitions as well as it supporting additional Nvidea graphic cards for laptop and desktop computers. You also have new speed-change features, footage interpretation options, field-order processing, and transition such as the new Film Dissolve.

• Multiscreen delivery presets – will give you the ability to reach your audience on whatever device they are using no matter what the size. With New presets, intuitive context menus, and dramatically enhanced watch folder support in Adobe Media Encoder CS5.5, a separate 64-bit application that is included with Premiere Pro.

• More efficient audio post-production – now that Premiere Pro CS5.5 has tight integration with Adobe Audition CS5.5. This is an audio editing solution that is part of this suite (reviewed separately) that lets you send your audio into via an “Edit in Audition” command from within Premiere Pro. It opens as a multitrack audio project. When you are done, it sends the multitrack file back.

• Streamlined workflow – through the use of Adobe Story – an online service that is available separately and as a desktop application can speed your editing workflow by importing your Adobe Story scripts into Premiere Pro without having to through Adobe OnLocation.

• Closed-captioning support – now allows you to sync closed captions to video sequences and display the closed-captioning data in both 608 and 708 formats.

• Expanded native support for RED – has been redesigned and now offers more intuitive controls for those who work with RED media regularly. In addition to the ability to save and load the latest versions of RMD—as well as the ability to create custom presets—you can now pick a white point and use either a histogram or a five-point curves interface to adjust red, green, blue, RGB, or Luma values for a clip.

Creative Suite CS5.5

• Enhanced native support fo Canon XF video – that gives you the ability to preview XF footage in the project panel, view and edit camera metadata, as well as take control of your metadata throughout your workflow.

So what is new with the rest of the suite?

All of the other products, Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, and Soundbooth, have been updated and are referred to CS5.1. These changes are minimal and really amount to minor improvements and bug fixes. They have added Acrobat X and Audition 5.5 which I will review next.

They have also added a subscription option to where you can purchase any or all of these products for a monthly fee, as well as for an annual fee. The prices vary, but to me seem to be rather expensive. For example, to purchase the Master Collection outright it is $2599. To purchase it month-to-month it is $195 (which works out to $2340) and for a 1 year subscription it is $1548. I can see it if you need a product or suite for a two month period, it might make sense, but not long term.

What I do like is the 24-month cycle. This gives Adobe time to focus on those things that are hitting the fire right now and make the changes in a 12-month cycle and wait for the longer range improvements for another 12-month cycle.

For example, we have had the explosion of mobile devices that not only includes the variety of new phones, but the iPad and other table devices, as well as the netbooks and other computer related devices. This made sense that Adobe would focus on these issues in this release.

I really like that they systematically worked all of the these products to focus on the two major concerns for this go around – mobile devices and the changes coming with coding for HTML5 and CSS3. This means that those in the industry can stay ahead of the curve and not have to wait another six months to get to these new capabilities.

For me, the changes to After Effects, Premiere Pro, and InDesign as well as the addition of Audition would make it worth it to me for the upgrade as I work with these products the most, but the changes to Dreamweaver and Flash are no less dramatic to those who regularly use those products.

I think that if you work with providing content to mobile devices, if you are moving to CSS3 and HTML5 and work with these products, you should seriously consider upgrading. If you work with After Effects, Premiere Pro, or InDesign, I think that they are must-have upgrades and highly recommend you do so.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.
  • Oly

    Hi Michael, there’s a new Dreamweaver-like software that’s recently been released called Jahia 6.5. It’s the same no-code experience, but Jahia is completely is cloud-based. Jahia also offers a Java marketplace and support HTML5. Please let me know if I can set you up to talk with Emmanuel Garcin of Jahia to discuss the impact of the innovation. Thanks! [personal contact info deleted by comments editor]