Media Production with Adobe CS6

July 17, 2012 1:22 am

Tags: Adobe, After Effects, Animation, CS6, Prelude, Premiere Pro, SpeedGrade, Video

Adobe has released the Creative Suite 6, providing significant improvements in different areas. The company has also unveiled the Creative Cloud service, adding faster and easier synchronization and remote work using the power of the cloud. As regular readers may know, I am mostly into media production, so I will be focusing on that specific area, using After Effects CS6, Premiere Pro CS6, and the new Prelude CS6, which are included in the CS6 Production Premium, as well as in the CS6 Master Collection.

Prelude is the newest addition to the Adobe media production family in CS6. It’s used to import (ingest) movie files from either a storage drive or your camera into your system, and to produce rough cuts of a sequence, or group of sequences. Just like any other application, importing the media is really easy. Once the media has been imported, you can make a rough cut, add markers, in-out points, notes and similar data. What’s nice about adding this data to your clips is that it can be used across your entire production, because it’s added as meta-data that can be read by any other CS6 application.

When making a rough cut in Prelude, you can’t add any kind of transitions or effects, although I don’t consider this a weakness because the software is not an editor (that’s what Premiere Pro is for). When you have made the cut and added all the notes and data you need, you can export the Prelude project to Premiere Pro. Exporting will retain all the data, markers and cuts you made in Prelude, which is really useful because whoever does the edit in Premiere Pro will get all the instructions you may have added in Prelude.

After Effects CS6 also includes many new features and performance improvements. The new 3D Camera Tracker can extract camera movement and lens data from your footage, just like any third party camera tracking software. When the tracker finishes, After Effects creates a 3D camera that follows the movement of the real camera, and also adds marker points to the footage (these marker points also follow the camera’s movement to make sure they don’t “slide” across the footage). You can use these marker points to place different objects in After Effects (for example, you can attach a shape to them in case you need to replace the content of a screen, a plate, or similar things). The 3D Camera Tracker offers different tracking algorithms that can be used, depending on the shot.

You can also use Adobe Illustrator shapes inside After Effects CS6. This integration is not limited to just importing an AI file, because you can also edit it, change its color and add animated deformations to them. You can also extrude these shapes to create 3d logos (in real 3D space, of course). Mask feathering in After Effects CS6 has also been improved. Previously, feathering has been the same around the entire mask, but now you can vary the feathering around the mask. This can be very useful to mask objects moving in a specific direction, making it easier to deal with motion blur.

Performance is improved in After Effects CS6 with the new global RAM cache and persistent disk cache. Global RAM cache improves performance by storing in RAM the layers that remain unchanged as you work. For example, if you have a 10 layer composition that was already cached using RAM preview, when you change an effect in one of those layers, the new RAM preview caching will take less time to compute because previous layers don’t need to be calculated. On the other hand, persistent disk cache stores your project’s cache on disk, so you don’t need to cache everything back into ram whenever you reopen a previous project. Keep in mind these performance improvements are limited by your computer’s hardware.

Premiere Pro CS6 also has many new features, although I can’t take advantage of some of those since I rarely work with live-action footage (I work mostly with animation). The first thing I need to mention is the improved performance and changes in the Mercury Playback Engine. The Mercury Playback Engine now adds support for OpenCL Radeon cards available on the Mac (there are some OpenCL-based AMD cards for Windows, but I don’t own any of them so I couldn’t personally test if Adobe supports OpenCL on Windows like other developers do, like Eyeon, for example).

The Premiere Pro CS6 interface offers a lot of small, but useful, changes. Users have been able to move interface elements around and rearrange panes to fit their needs. This new versions, however, allows you to add and remove playback button elements, so you can make those controls fit your needs perfectly. The Project panel displays larger views of your clips so they are easily recognizable, but the thumb view takes it one step further because you can also put the cursor on top of any clip and then move left or right to scrub through it without even opening it. This can be very useful if many clips display similar thumbs (or have similar contents).

You can even set in-out points while doing this, so you don’t need to open them in the Monitor. Trimming has even been improved, as it now shows in the Monitor, making it easier to perform precise trims. You can also trim in real-time using shortcut keys and new tools.

Those who work with live-action footage, and use more than one camera, can create a multicam sequence. In the multicam sequence, you can “record” the result of switching from one camera to the next, in real-time, and then fine tune that rough cut.

SpeedGrade CS6 is the new color grading application. I’ve had experience using Color Finesse in previous versions of the Adobe Creative Suite, but it’s good to see Adobe is providing its own tool for the job. SpeedGrade can exchange data with Premiere Pro, like any other application, but it can also save “look” files that can be used inside After Effects.

Personally, I find Adobe Media Encoder a very good tool for encoding video, because not only does it offer a wide variety of presets, but it also allows you to automatically encode a lot of files, create watch folders, and such. The new Media Encoder CS6 has a new interface that includes a presets panel, allowing you to easily apply new format presets to your queued files. This update also includes even more presets that will fit almost any frame ratio and device. With so many presets, it can be very hard to find the one you need, that’s why the presets panel has a search field. This search field works just like any other search field in an Adobe application (like the search field in the After Effects effects pane, where you just type the name of the effect you need).

Adobe CS6 offers a variety of new tools that can make your life easier. Personally, I like the addition of OpenCL support to the Mercury Playback Engine because it’s a more open standard (even if I don’t see it replacing CUDA any time soon). The addition of Prelude can make things a lot easier in the production pipeline, thanks to the ability to embed data in clips, and quickly create rough cuts to show. Also, you can take advantage of the new SpeedGrade color grading application, be it for live-action footage, or even CG animations. Definitely check out the new Adobe CS6 and see for yourself.

For more information, please visit the Adobe website.

Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.




July 17, 2012

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