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Software Review: Adobe Master Collection – Premiere Pro, Prelude, and Speedgrade CS6 From Adobe Systems

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This is the third of a series of reviews that will cover what is contained in the Adobe CS6 Master Collection. Adobe releases CS6 with four separate suites of products. They are Design Standard, Design & Web Premium, Production Premium, Master Collection. Add to that, they also have the Creative Cloud – a subscription-based suite that gives you access to all of the individual products for a $49.99 per month subscription fee. You can go online to compare what is contained in each version. The goal of this series it to define what each product does and provide information of what the new version brings to the table.

Adobe Premiere CS6

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is a real-time, timeline-based video editing software application. It has gained acceptance within the film and video industry and has been used in part in such films as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Act of Valor as well as the Keith Urban music video “For You” which was also used in the film.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 attempts to reduce the complex process that is video production. It does this by easily integrating multiple products such After Effects, Audition, and Photoshop to try to make each step of the video production more efficient and giving you more time to work your story. When purchased with the Master or Production Premium suites, you also get Adobe Prelude, and Adobe Speedgrade as well. Please visit Adobe for complete system requirements as Premiere Pro CS6 is a 64-bit only application and to run this application, you will need a 64-bit operating system for Windows or the Mac.

So what is new with Premiere Pro CS6?

• New default workspace – is a “two-up” look that presents you with a much less cluttered look and feel. Your Source Monitor and Program Monitor are side by side at the top of the screen with the project and other panels located on the bottom. The legacy layout is still available and since the layout is stored with the project, you can customize your layout based on the needs of the project at hand.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

• New Monitor Panels – makes the interface have a sleek new feel. For both the Source and Program Monitors you also have the ability to easily reconfigure using the new button editor which lets you reposition the transport controls and default buttons, as well as customize the button bar by adding the buttons you most frequently use. You can even hide all of the buttons, which is perfect for fast keyboard-driven workflows. You can even toggle on or off the time code numbers as well.

• Redesigned audio mixer – gets its new look and functionality from the multichannel mixer in Adobe Audition. In addition, double-clicking a fader returns it to 0dB, and the mixer includes separate decibel-level scales for meters and faders. Also, the redesigned Audio Meter panel can be easily resized, and it automatically switches from being oriented vertically to being oriented horizontally when you increase its horizontal dimensions.

• Project panel views – give you the ability to view, sort, and arrange media more easily by viewing resizable 16:9 thumbnails of your clips directly in the Project panel. When in Icon view, clips can be selected and scrubbed by using the clip play-head, standard J-K-L or spacebar keyboard shortcuts, or by hover scrubbing with your cursor. You can mark In-points and Out-points directly in the clip thumbnails in the Project panel for ultra-fast initial editing.

• Resizable thumbnail views – the Media Browser panel now lets you view and resize 16:9 clip thumbnails, providing more immediate, visual access to your content. Clips can be selected and scrubbed using the clip play-head or via standard J-K-L and spacebar keyboard shortcuts. Hover scrubbing is also supported in the Media Browser panel.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

• New time ruler bar – with the Source Monitor, Program Monitor, and Timeline panels now have been redesigned. Its components—the play-head, In-points, Out-points, and the duration of the portion of the clip that they define—have been revamped, and new marker functions have been added. The time ruler bar’s time-code numbers can be easily toggled on and off, and zoom/scroll controls have been integrated into the horizontal zoom bar at the bottom of the Timeline panel. The work area bar, which specifies the area of a sequence that you want to preview or export, can now be toggled on and off using the Timeline panel menu.

• New Markers – are available for Encore chapter markers, web links, and Flash cue points in the Source Monitor, Program Monitor, or Timeline panel—or ones you import from Adobe Prelude are displayed in color so you can spot them more easily. In addition, comments added to markers are displayed next to the markers. If no comment is entered, the marker name is displayed. Multiple markers can be added at the same temporal location, allowing more than one stakeholder to add notes and comment on clips.

• Warp Stabilizer effect, – based on the one that was introduced in Adobe After Effects CS5.5, is now available in Premiere Pro CS6. Warp Stabilizer doesn’t just smooth the motion of the camera; it removes motion artifacts that would otherwise remain after stabilization. Warp Stabilizer processes individual areas of the frame separately to compensate for parallax. If these corrections are not desired, other modes can be used to stabilize only perspective, or scale and rotation, or even just position. The Warp Stabilizer effect offers further refinements as well. You can raise or lower the default amount of smoothness, which has a direct effect on the amount of scaling. (You can’t stabilize a shot without some scaling to compensate for missing areas of frame, but this innovative approach requires less zooming than most available alternatives.) In the advanced controls, you can decide whether to create a smoother shot with more cropping, or reduce the amount of both cropping and scaling by reducing the overall degree of smoothing.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

• Expanded multicam editing – that now effectively allows you to work with as many cameras as you have on your shoot. Previously, it was possible to work with multicam footage from four cameras. Now, you’re limited only by the formats you’re working with and the power of your editing machine. The process of creating a multi-camera sequence has been greatly simplified, and enabling more than four multicam angles is easy and straightforward. Simply select your multicam clips in the Project panel, right-click on the selected items, and from the context menu choose Create Multi-Camera Source Sequence.

• Enhanced Mercury Playback Engine – performance and stability have been boosted yet again, thanks to sweeping optimizations and enhancements that let you smoothly play and scrub through multilayer, multiformat sequences that include HD, 5K, and even higher resolution footage that is steeped in effects. Dynamically scalable, natively 64-bit, GPU-accelerated, and optimized for today’s lightning-fast multicore CPUs — and now with improved support for third-party hardware – the enhanced Mercury Playback Engine, which delivers astounding performance, with or without a GPU. In addition, new support for the OpenCL-based AMD Radeon HD 6750M and AMD Radeon HD 6770M graphics card with a minimum of 1GB VRAM available with certain Apple MacBook Pro computers running OS X 10.7 brings improved mobile workflows to Mac users.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

• Ability to author and publish DVD’s Blu-ray Disks, and Web DVD’s faster with 64-bit Adobe Encore CS6 — a separate software application included with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Encore is now a fully native 64-bit application, enabling you to take advantage of all available RAM in your system, open and save projects faster, and get more responsive performance when handling large files and projects.

Adobe Prelude CS6

Adobe Prelude CS6 is a new product that comes with the Production Premium and Master Collection Suites. It provides a unified interface for ingesting and logging workflows. This way you can work faster and stay organized as well as streamlining your production process.

Some of the ways that Prelude can be used are, say you are a producer you can prepare raw news reports on the way out of your location shoot. If you are a director, you can create dailies and distribute them to reviewers and editors without the overhead of a full-blown non-linear editing system giving you the ability to easily show how the story should be told.

 Prelude CS6
 

• Full or partial ingest – depending on the urgency of your footage. If it is for a film you can transfer the entire footage and get it ready for logging and handoff. If your footage is more immediate – say for a breaking news story, you can ingest just the material that is relevant and you can transfer that for editing.

• Transcoding during ingest – gives you the ability to move your footage directly into your preferred editing format. You just select the Transcoding option and select the format you want. You can even transcode into multiple formats by choosing the add destination button.

• Keyboard-driven logging – will help to speed up your workflow and helps you to work more efficiently. All controls are accessible from the keyboard, so you can insert temporal metadata, add comments, define subclips, and step through your video frame by frame—all without taking your eyes off the footage.

• Searchable temporal markers and metadata – will allow you and your team to locate relevant footage quickly and easily – now or anytime in the future. When you insert metadata using Prelude, it is logged with time-code accuracy. Metadata embedded in the video allows you to easily communicate about a specific frame, quickly explain your take on the story to the production editor, or remind yourself later why this shot is so great. Also, adding comments to your video is easy and efficient in Prelude CS6. Each comment marker travels with your video. You can tell your editor what is important, what to emphasize, and how you see the story unfolding. Each marker is searchable so you can easily locate your footage later.

 Prelude CS6
 

• Rough cuts – can act like a story board and give you the ability to easily communicate to the team how the story should be told. In Prelude CS6, you can get a jump-start on editing by assembling a rough cut — combining clips that play in the order that you specify. The rough cut will display all markers and metadata on the clip, without niceties like transitions or special effects.

• Thumbnail scrubbing – lets you quickly review your video and locate the right segments. Several different methods are available to meet your workflow needs. You can scrub (or skim) video thumbnails in the Ingest panel. Just hover over a thumbnail with your mouse. When you move the mouse, the video moves backward or forward. You can also click a thumbnail and start the video player, which displays a playhead and play track and you can even play audio during playback.

• Write confirmation – is provided through the Verify option in the Ingest panel. These options help you confirm that the transfer of files from your removable media (such as a memory card or memory stick) to your hard drive is successful and accurate.

• Speech transcription – gives you the ability to transcribe speech from audio and video files and turn it into text. Each spoken word is assigned a start time and duration, creating a Speech Transcription marker. These markers are added to the metadata for the clip, exactly like the markers that you create in Prelude CS6. There is also a Speech Transcription marker type available in the Marker Type panel. You can use this marker to manually insert a word that was not picked up by Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 or Audition CS6.

Prelude comes with Production Premium and Master Collection as well as with the Creative Cloud subscription and really gives you the ability to manage the logging and transcoding process in a very easy way. Although it is a new product, I see this as one that transforms into the Lightroom for the video editing process and will be interested in seeing how this grows over the next several versions.

Adobe SpeedGrade CS6

Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 is a new product that comes with Production Premium as well as the Master Collection, but unlike Prelude, it can be also purchased as a stand-alone product as well. SpeedGrade is a software product that aims to craft the perfect look for every production. Through color grading, you can transform the visual part of your storytelling in to something special. SpeedGrade, with the new Lumetri Deep Color Engine, lets you add professional color correction and look design to your post-production workflow.

 Prelude CS6
 

SpeedGrade offers broad file-format support, so you can work as easily with footage from today’s digital cinema cameras, such as ARRI ALEXA and RED, as you can with common post-production interchange formats, such as QuickTime, DPX, and OpenEXR. With SpeedGrade CS6 you can build grades as layers, using an extensive toolset for color correction and look design, including primaries, secondariess, film-style filters, and effects. Resize and reframe content for virtually any display format, from handheld tablets to the big screen.

• Streamline user experience – lets you organize the grading and finishing process much more logically and in an efficient manner. You have powerful search tools to help you find what you need as well as the ability to create multiple desktops for working in different projects.

• GPU-accelerated performance – gives you the power that you need when working with your clips in both playback and grading.

• Lumetri Deep Color Engine – is brought in to play after you balance your blacks and whites so as to set the contrasts and brightness. It is then that you can apply the color adjustments using the tools and the refined color engine.

• Adobe workflow integration – lets you send completed projects directly into SpeedGrade from Adobe Premiere Pro providing an integrated workflow from editing through finishing. The Send To Adobe SpeedGrade command renders 10-bit DPX sequences, creates a SpeedGrade .ircp file, and opens the project automatically in SpeedGrade CS6.

• Layer-based color grading – gives you the ability to adjust values across a whole scene or to just portions through the use of layers and masks, as well as opacities. You can even save the adjustments as .look files so that they can be reused for other clips.

 Prelude CS6
 

• Professionally designed looks,– filters, and effects that come with SpeedGrade that will provide visual impact to your productions in the form of .look file presets. They include a 3D LUT, along with the SpeedGrade grading parameters, making them a rich and powerful interchange format with other Adobe tools — both After Effects and Photoshop CS6 support application of SpeedGrade .Look files. The 3D LUT component of .Look files can also be exported for use with other products.

• Make shots match – by first applying color corrections and match the shots within a sequence and then add separate grading layers in the timeline on top of the color corrected clips giving you the ability to apply a .look file across a series of shots.

SpeedGrade is a really needed product that, while I am glad it is here and included with the suite, still needs some better integration within the Adobe realm. As with all the Adobe products, I feel that that will come in time (perhaps by CS6.5). Still, it is a product that you no longer have to purchase as an add-on so to benefit from its features.

As far as Premiere Pro CS6, this is a professional level editing package which means that you need a professional level machine to work with it. Not only a 64-bit system, but lots of memory and hard disk space – all of which are relatively inexpensive, but you also need a GPU ready video card to make this really work well. This means one of a select class and generally expensive graphics cards. If you want to be sure, check out the system requirement listed above.

 Premiere Pro CS6
 

Premiere Pro CS6 has built off of what was an extraordinary update with the CS5 versions, but has taken editing and production to another level. The enhanced Mercury Playback Engine, the Warp Stabilizer effect, the enhanced Media Encoder, and the ability to author and publish DVDs, Blu-rays, and web DVD’s make it easily worth the upgrade. When you add in all of the other features like the expanded multicam editing, the colorful workflows, the native support for more cameras, and all of the other new features and enhancements, I say that this is easily a must have upgrade. If you are thinking about moving to Premiere Pro for the first time, I would have to say do it without hesitation. I very highly recommend Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.

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About T. Michael Testi

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