The CS6 was released in the Middle East a few months ago. BroadcastPro Middle East teamed up with Dubai-based editor Alistair Rankine to test the CS6 and see why it is a hit among video professionals It has been a couple of years since my review of Adobe CS5 and I was very interested to […]
It has been a couple of years since my review of Adobe CS5 and I was very interested to see what changes had been made. CS5 was a huge leap forward for Adobe and hopefully, CS6 will take that to another level yet again. For the purpose of my review, I have tested the Production Premium Suite and will concentrate on features and toolsets that relate to the post production and television broadcast industries mainly Premiere Pro and After Effects.
As with CS5 and CS5.5, CS6 makes use of the Mercury Playback engine. With CS6, the Mercury Playback Engine has been enhanced and optimised and will allow smooth playback and scrubbing of multilayered, multi-format sequences. Whether your project is SD, HD, 2K or even 5K, you will now be able to play back your footage in real time and create faster and more efficient workflows.
CS6 offers native support for RED, XDCAM, ARRIRAW, Canon XF, P2, AVCHD, AVC_Intra and other DSLR camera footage. The amazing thing is that it not only supports these formats but all of these formats can be played in a timeline without any need for rendering. This offers a huge advantage over other software apps on many levels. Take your footage into Premiere or Adobe Speed Grade and you can basically start grading your clips in real-time while they are playing even if they are 5K clips.
Obviously, in order to make use of the Mercury Playback Engine, you will need the correct hardware and graphics cards fitted to your computer. More support is now available for OpenCL based graphics card found in certain Apple Mac Pros. Support for the new NVIDIA Maximus Dual GPU configurations that make use of NVIDIA Quadro GPUs along with NVIDIA Tesla GPUs is now available and will help you work at speeds you only dreamed of before.
Now that I have got the technical specifications out of the way, lets see what changes there have been to the software.
Long time users of Premiere wont instantly notice any massive changes in terms of look and layout. One of the main visual differences is that Premiere has now opted for the Source and Record style interface as seen in most non-linear editing applications such as Avid and FCP. For editors moving to Premiere for the first time, this will certainly help to give them immediate familiarity with the product.
When you delve a little deeper, you start to uncover some more interesting new features within the editing interface.
Premiere now offers a fully customisable interface with the ability to remove any unwanted function buttons giving the user more space to view the pictures they are editing. All functionality of the interface can now be performed using keyboard shortcuts such as the J,K,L keys and clips can be scrubbed through simply by hovering over them and moving the mouse left and right without clicking.
The Project Panel has also received a makeover and features fully resizable 16:9 thumbnails that allow you to mark your edit selections in the project panel. Each thumbnail has a usage icon in the top corner indicating to the user where and when they have used that specific clip. In all, the editing and trimming process has become more streamlined and dynamic, and allows Premiere to compete hands down with products such as Avid and FCP.
Other new features in Premiere include the ability to add an adjustment layer on empty timeline layers in the same way you would in After Effects. Anything applied to the adjustment layer will affect everything in the edited layers below and can easily be removed at any time without affecting the layers below. Multicam editing has been vastly improved since the last release and is also easier and more friendly to use with unlimited camera views available. The audio mixer has now taken on a familiar look and resembles Adobe Audition and also includes the majority of the functionality of Audition.
Premieres Colour Grading software has also been given an overhaul. This has been a long time coming and is certainly a vast improvement. The interface has been streamlined and the colour wheels now work in a similar way to those on a more high end colour grading system. As with other applications in Production Premium, the colour grading makes use of the newly enhanced Mercury Playback engine which allows for uninterrupted playback. What this means is that one can grade their clips while they are playing without the need to render them. The end user must, however, make sure they have fitted their hardware with recommended graphics cards that allow for realtime playback.
As well as the colour grading within Premiere Adobe, Speed Grade also works in conjunction with Premiere and allows entire sequences to be sent to Speed for more advanced colour grading sessions. Sequences can be sent directly from Premiere or imported as XML or EDL-based workflows. I havent had a chance to put Speed Grade through its paces yet but from what I have seen at a glance, it is a very competent colour grading system with the ability to handle up to 5K imaging during real time playback. I am sure it is going to become a major contender in the post production workflow.
Over the years, After Effects has grown from strength to strength and has slowly, but surely, become one of the industrys leading motion graphics effects and compositing softwares.
With the release of CS6, the power of After Effects has been taken one step further. This is primarily due to the new Global Performance Cache, which basically saves your previews as you work and is ready for you when you need them. Theres no need to wait for After Effects to play catch up any more. This allows for faster workflows and also makes the system more responsive as the Global Cache allows After Effects to make the most of your computers hardware.
This, combined with the Global RAM cache, which cleverly calculates whether any frame or composition inside an After Effects project is the same as any previously rendered frames and hence doesnt need re-rendering. This, along with the Persistent Disk Cache, which basically remembers all cached frames regardless of whether you have just re-opened a project along with the new graphics pipeline, will offer a whole new world of power to After Effects users.
With regards to the tools set, one of the main additions to After Effects is the built-in 3D Camera tracker. Combine this with the existing built-in Mocha Planar tracker and the After Effects two-point tracker and it really does take After Effects into a different league.
The beauty of After Effects Camera Tracker is that it is easy to use. Compared to any camera tracker I have come across, this is certainly one of the easiest. Select the clip you want to analyse, add the camera tracker and analyse. The Camera Tracker will process in the background while you carry on working. Once the clip has been analysed, a series of tracking points are displayed and any bad tracking points can be deleted.
So far, I have had no problem with the tracker and I look forward to seeing how it copes with truly complex jobs where some human intervention may be needed in order to acquire an exact result. Other 3D trackers such as PF track and Boujou offer more scope for adjustment in order to accurately achieve camera solving. Whatever the outcome, After Effects 3D Camera Tracker will open up fantastic new possibilities for Effects. Motion Graphics works directly inside After Effects.
Another welcome addition to After Effects is the new ray-trace 3D rendering engine allowing fully three-dimensional layers. Although previous versions of After Effects have offered a true 3D compositing environment, the layers have always been two dimensional. Now, fully ray-traced 3D geometric text and shape layers are available in 3D space.
The new three-dimensional layers also bring light to other features available directly inside After Effects such as the ability to extrude shapes, text or logos from either EPS or AI files from Illustrator. When used in conjunction with the new ray-traced 3D engine, new properties become available in Material Options that allow you to add reflections, translucency, glass and metallic looks.
Another great feature in this software is the Shadow Catcher. If you are tracking 3D text or an object into a scene and want it to look like it was there when the scene was filmed, then Shadow Catcher will help to integrate your object directly into the scene and integrate it to look like it has always been there.Other new capabilities come in the form of the Cycore HD effects suite, which is now built into After Effects as standard. This consists of 80 new effects all of which work in 16-bit, and allows for perfect integration with HD footage. Many of After Effects standard effects now support 32-bit floating point as do 35 of the new Cycore Effects.
This is essential to make use of the dynamic range when working with footage from cameras such as RED and ARRIRAW.
Last but not least, it is now possible to import projects from Avid Media Composer and Final Cut 7 directly into After Effects using the Pro Import function. This will then appear as a composition inside After Effects.
This is a massive time saver and allows for smoother workflows between several different platforms.
It is becoming harder and harder to fault Adobe products. Every time it releases a new version of its products, it just gets better and better. With the latest version of the Adobe Production Premium and Master Collections, one has access to every toolset they may possibly need for post production and broadcast. I know so many people who are scared to move from Premiere to FCP. Premier has never had a great reputation as a professional NLE. I think it is time to change that as Premiere does everything you need it to do and more.
The inclusion of the Camera Tracker in After Effects is a great leap forward as well as the ability to have true 3D layers by way of the new ray-trace 3D engine. My only comment really for After Effects is the interface. I always mention this because I have never really felt comfortable with it. I would love to see a true Node compositing environment added to After Effects. That would indeed be a game changer for the whole industry.
Dubai-based Alistair Rankine has 23 years of international experience in the post production and broadast industry as editor, operations manager and VFX artist. He is also an Autodesk-certified instructor and trainer.