Adobe's Suite Production
Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 2 (Feb 2006)

Adobe's Suite Production

There are plenty of contenders for the attention of video professionals, including Avid’s Pinnacle line of products, Sony’s Vegas+ DVD suite and a swarm of upstarts led by Sonic and Ulead, Adobe appears to be aiming directly at Apple. Yet, Adobe is exploiting several advantages-its ownership of creative tools such as Photoshop and Illustrator (which are ubiquitous in the industry), its possession of PDF (the de facto standard for document exchange), and its acquisition of Macromedia’s Flash, a leading format for small form animation used widely in phones and on the Web.

Adobe has a long history in digital video with its Premiere and After Effects software and, in piling it all into one box, the company is trying to give its customers what they want-true compatibility between the different modules of the Production Studio, better tools for collaboration, new presets for After Effects, more and better templates, enhanced ease of use for DVD creation, and fundamental improvements in Audition.

Production Studio’s Bridge component is a centralized file browser with media management capabilities, allowing users to find and work with all files related to projects within any of the Production Suite modules.

Adobe’s newest release of Production Studio is available in two versions: Standard, which includes After Effects 7.0, Premiere Pro 2.0, and Photoshop CS2 ($1199) and Premium, which adds Audition 2.0, Encore DVD 2.0, and Illustrator CS2 ($1,699). One of the guiding principles for Adobe’s development is that the use of Photoshop and Illustrator is almost universal among creative professionals, making back-andforth compatibility a built-in advantage for Production Studio users right from the start. Expanding on this, Adobe has created consistently similar environments for Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Audition.

Taking intercommunication between the software programs even further, Adobe has added Dynamic Link, which enables users to work smoothly within modules without having to perform intermediate rendering. I talked to people who were already using the Production Suite as beta testers for Adobe and they universally tipped their hat to the power of Dynamic Link.

For example, Michael Kolowich of Diginovations in Concord, Massachusetts, works with Adobe’s video products to create corporate videos for the area’s universities and museums. He notes that the freedom of working interchangeably with Premiere Pro and After Effects is “incalculable.” Interoperability, notes Kolowich, actually makes the programs more powerful than they would be on their own. For example, he says that one of the aspects of video that separates professionals from amateurs is the skillful use of animated titles. He has been able to take advantage of Adobe’s inclusion of text animation and presets in After Effects since the last introduction of Adobe’s Production Suite, but now feels like it is an embedded utility. “It’s like the Adobe Titler on steroids,” he says.

Other work flow improvements in the Production Suite include Bridge, Adobe’s name for its centralized file browser with media management that helps users find and work with all the files related to projects within any of the Production Suite modules. Also, Adobe has added DVD creation to its Premiere Pro program, recognizing that users may need to quickly output a DVD with good-looking menus rather than go to Encore to create a professional-level DVD designed for distribution.

Encore DVD’s flowchart simplifies organization when creating interactive menus, multiple audio tracks, subtitle tracks, and more.

Adobe’s attention to work flow issues speaks to some of the challenges its customers face. A large part of the video professional market is made up of small studios-owners are very often the creative director, the videographer, and the IT person. For the small house, work flow and communication can be particularly challenging because it involves the shooting and editing of sound and video, delivery, client input, and so on.

Chris Randall of Edit 1 Media specializes in wedding videos and corporate videos. In fact, he finds that one business often feeds the other. Most of the time, Randall and his team will shoot the video while Randall’s wife takes over the editing tasks. Randall favors the new multicam features in Premiere Pro to simultaneously view and work with multiple sources, since the workloads at small production houses can be staggering. In fact, he recently was editing 15 video projects simultaneously. Randall notes anything that helps make his job easier and reduce editing time goes straight to his bottom line.

Videographers are also coming to grips with the transition to HD. Interestingly, video producers are finding that even their wedding clients are becoming interested in HD video because they’re buying high-def large screen TVs and looking ahead. Corporate clients are likewise moving to HD, and, of course, the broadcast industry is racing to get to HD. But the other reality of video is that it’s big and demanding. Luckily, hardware manufacturers are coming to the rescue. To keep up with the trend, Adobe has added support for the Aja Xena HS and also native support for HDV. In addition, Adobe’s support for OpenGL gives hardware graphics boards the ability to accelerate processes. One of the most obvious advantages will be support for high dynamic range imagery, thanks to OpenGL, and also support for effects and plug-ins.

Adobe was among the first to spawn a plug-in community with its SDK for Photoshop and, later, for After Effects. It is continuing the effort by reaching outto third-party partners in video hardware, such as Aja, for example, and also audio hardware partners, third-party software developers, training program developers, and expert support. The evolution of OpenGL and Adobe’s enthusiastic exploitation of the API definitely opens up new opportunities for hardware and software developers.

Adobe has made several significant improvements to Audition and, as a result, believes many customers will be able to work totally within Audition, and not rely on additional products for audio work. Features, such as support for ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output) for multi-channel hardware, puts Audition more firmly within the realm of professional audio products, and Frequency Space Editing lets users zero in on a particular sound, or frequency, to actually see the area that needs work.

As always, it’s not about the pieces, it’s about the whole. Much of the Adobe Production Studio has been evolving to this point-some of the features, such as presets, titles, frequency space editing for Audition, and so on, were actually included in earlier versions of the software. Nor are these features unique, but they are necessary. Apple’s Final Cut Pro, for example, has multi-cam features, Apple introduced Motion to compete with After Effects, and Apple has very strong audio editing tools. What’s most important is the way the pieces fit together and the way in which they enable people to work with each other creatively. Perhaps one of the most revolutionary additions to the Creative Suite Production Studio won’t even be realized until the product is used in the creative community. Adobe has enhanced its Acrobat PDF format to work with video content, allowing collaborators and customers to attach notes for items such as sequence fixes, additions, deletions, etc.

And, some of the real changes in the use of video are just taking shape. Kolowich is encouraged by the potential of the wide-ranging hosts for video and the merger between Adobe and Macromedia. As a former executive with Lotus and publisher at Ziff-Davis. Kolowich is also a veteran of the vast changes in work habits caused by digital technology and the arrival of the Internet. In his work with college marketing he sees giant change coming as kids who grew up swimming in digital media reach college and the workplace. “It’s a tsunami,” he says of the change in media that’s on the way. As a video producer, he sees that radical new ways of working will have to be developed to create content suitable for HD and content that can be sent to mobile phones, media players, and online. Kids, he believes, will treat video just like they treat words, pictures, and music.

Audition’s Spectral View can be used to apply effects or edits to select frequencies of a particular time span.

With Production Studio, Adobe is concentrating on the professional side of the equation but with key technologies in video and communications, Adobe is well positioned to ride the wave as it changes our concept of media.

Kathleen Maher is a senior analyst at Jon Peddie Research, a Tiburon, CA-based consultancy specializing in graphics and multimedia, and editor in chief of JPR’s “TechWatch.” She can be reached at