1.0 The Video Production Suite

Workflows that incorporate CS6 Master Collection applications differ not just in what they produce (print, video, web etc.), but also in the way they (are allowed to) grow. Applications like Photoshop can and will be used by people of various vocations, from photographers and painters to web artists. It is entirely possible to have workflows that incorporate many steps that use, say, Photoshop, Illustrator, or Acrobat Pro. In contrast, video editing tools of CS6 tend to have a certain position in video production workflows and are more specialized. This is why it would perhaps be unfair to look at C6?s video production applications individually. Adobe Prelude, Audition, Premiere Pro, After Effects, SpeedGrade, Media Encoder, and Encore serve as the ?core? of video editing in Creative Suite, supported by Photoshop, Illustrator, and Bridge. The use of many of these applications is optional, and will greatly depend on the needs of the particular project.

1.1 Adobe Prelude

As the newest addition to the Creative Suite, Prelude replaced Adobe OnLocation and serves the same purpose as a pre-editing tool. Prelude is a very specialized Adobe Bridge-like application that offers ?quick and dirty? footage selection, annotation, and tagging. It does support other Adobe file formats like AI and PSD, and, considering this is the first version of Prelude, it is to be expected that its limited list of supported video formats will eventually be expanded. The application is built around keyboard shortcuts, minimizing the need for a mouse and it also features a built-in voice dictation tool for annotation.

Adobe Prelude supports a number of file formats, and we hope this list will be extended in future versions.
Adobe Prelude supports a number of file formats, and we hope this list will be extended in future versions.

Once selected, content can be directly imported into Premiere Pro and all the notes from Prelude will be included on the Premiere Pro timeline as well. Further changes made in Prelude will be automatically updated in Premiere Pro, much like in InDesign.

In Adobe Prelude, several types of markers can be added to ?ingested? files, depending their type. In this screenshot, two chapter markers were added.
In Adobe Prelude, several types of markers can be added to ?ingested? files, depending their type. In this screenshot, two chapter markers were added.

Files drawn from Adobe Prelude into Premiere Pro retain all markers associated with the file.
Files drawn from Adobe Prelude into Premiere Pro retain all markers associated with the file.

1.2 Adobe Audition

One often overlooked trait of Adobe Audition is its intuitive and responsive user interface.
One often overlooked trait of Adobe Audition is its intuitive and responsive user interface.

Originally known as Cool Edit Pro, Adobe Audition is a wave and multitrack audio editing application. Rewritten from ground-up in C++ for Creative Suite 5.5, it received further enhancements in CS6 and features a wide array of audio processing and manipulation tools. Like Prelude, it can integrate itself fully into a Premiere Pro project, but unlike Prelude, it is also a fantastic stand-alone application.

There are two sides to Audition, one is the wave editor that can either manipulate an existing recording or can create a new one, and the other is the track editor that combines multiple wave files. Both utilize a wide array of effects and tools, a list too long for a whole suite review.

In Adobe Audition, up to sixteen simultaneous effects can be added to a single wave, all interacting with each other.
In Adobe Audition, up to sixteen simultaneous effects can be added to a single wave, all interacting with each other.

The most exciting new features of Audition include its new, powerful Speech Alignment Tool that enables syncing of two voice recordings, one made on shooting location (presumably with lots of noise) that is attached to the video, and the other made later in the studio. Although some actors are very good at lip-syncing, the Speech Alignment Tool is really designed for a wider audience.

The speech alignment tool is probably the best new addition to Adobe Audition.
The speech alignment tool is probably the best new addition to Adobe Audition.

Since Audition now also supports video playback (preview) all audio effects can be ?felt? without switching to Premiere Pro. Metadata, like Audition‘s "markers", work across multiple applications, so an annotation of a marked segment in an audio track will be visible in Premiere Pro.

As with Adobe Prelude, Audition supports markers that will follow the file into Premiere Pro.
As with Adobe Prelude, Audition supports markers that will follow the file into Premiere Pro.
1.3 Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects

I was once told by a good friend, "to understand video editing tools, you need to master the concept of a timeline. Once you do that, Premiere, After Effects, and Flash, these will all make sense". He was right, of course. This applies to all video editing tools, of which Adobe Premiere is one of the top three choices for professionals. (One might argue that Final Cut Pro used to be such a tool, until it took an arrow to the knee).
A statement that Premiere Pro is, in essence, a layer-based moving pictures editor could viewed as banal, trivial, or obvious. However, if one fully embraces this concept, it becomes clear what, how, and most importantly, why Premiere Pro introduces new features and how it improves on old ones. The final 30 seconds of exported video may contain 30 minutes of simultaneous or interwoven video footage, dozens of layered effects and several audio tracks. It is layers upon layers, like Photoshop with wheels.

CUDA acceleration works as advertised - stutter-less playback in Premiere Pro even when working with multiple sources and multiple outputs simultaneously.
CUDA acceleration works as advertised – stutter-less playback in Premiere Pro even when working with multiple sources and multiple outputs simultaneously.

For this review, we had the privilege of using an NVIDIA Quadro 5000 professional graphics card into a fairly common ?prosumer? custom PC computer setup. It consisted of an Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, an SSD system/applications disk and a WD Raptor for work files and scratch. The monitor, a Dell U2711, supports 30-bit color and might the only piece of hardware, along with Quadro 5000, that stands out. Both Windows 7 64-bit and OSX Mountain Lion were installed on the same computer and the Quadro 5000, its CUDA drivers, and all Adobe products worked perfectly on both OSes.

The Heavy Hand logo was used to test the 30-bit color. With hardware accelerated Mercury Engine the transitions in grey are seamless. The second image shows the 30-bit color screenshot, while the third image shows what happens when we turn off hardware acceleration and - inevitably - color depth drops down to 24-bit.
The Heavy Hand logo was used to test the 30-bit color. With hardware accelerated Mercury Engine the transitions in grey are seamless. The second image shows the 30-bit color screenshot, while the third image shows what happens when we turn off hardware acceleration and – inevitably – color depth drops down to 24-bit.

NVIDIA was also kind enough to provide us with two projects, one for Premiere Pro and one for After Effects that show both the new features of Premiere Pro CS6 and how these applications utilize NVIDIA?s CUDA that unlocks the hardware-accelerated (GPGPU) form of the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine. These projects also came with a manual that encouraged making comparisons of the GPU-accelerated to the CPU-only Mercury Engine. We tried once, and immediately concluded that working in Premiere Pro without a CUDA-enabled graphics card would require dangerously high levels of masochism. That said, for this particular computer setup, the Quadro 5000 turned out to be overkill, as the CPU and hard disks could not keep up. Most of NVIDIA?s graphics cards currently on the market support CUDA, and for the average user – they will serve just as well.

1.3.1 Treasure of Sierra CUDA

Of all the applications in the Creative Suite 6, Premiere Pro and After Effects received the most significant upgrades. Starting with CS5, both applications became exclusively 64-bit. However, that was just the beginning. There was CUDA, a new, untapped resource that could increase the hardware capabilities of existing machines tenfold. Thus, logically, most of the effort in creating CS5.5 and CS6 went into tapping this newfound resource and exploiting it as much as possible.

Simultaneous playback of 13 screens resulted in a very slight delay due to a slow hard disk setup.
Simultaneous playback of 13 screens resulted in a very slight delay due to a slow hard disk setup.

The new Premiere Pro has a redesigned, streamlined interface that takes into account integration with Prelude, Encore, and SpeedGrade. This UI revamp was essential, as Premiere enhanced its multi-camera editing capabilities (more than 4 cameras, limited by hardware) as well as adding a brand new Adjustment layers feature that makes effects affect all desired, rather than individual clips (similar to how adjustment layers in Photoshop work). The new Warp Stabilizer effect is also a great addition to an already wide range of effects, as this GPU-accelerated effect greatly reduces blur from shaky or bumpy camera moves inside Premiere Pro.

NVIDIA?s rock band recording project features eleven 1920×1080 multicam clips, a Warp stabilizer and a 30-bit color band logo, all features hardware accelerated.

The warp stabilizer of Adobe Premiere really does an impressive job of removing shaky camera issues.
The warp stabilizer of Adobe Premiere really does an impressive job of removing shaky
camera issues.

Our attempt to preview the multicam Premiere Pro project using CPU-only Mercury Engine.
Now, when someone sends you a whole demo, it is usually a treasure trove of information and reviews almost start writing themselves. That is not the case here though, because the results are pretty much binary. With GPU acceleration everything works smoothly in real time. Without it, everything slows down to the level of an 8 MHz Motorola 68000. With the CPU-only Mercury Engine, merely asking Premiere to play the 11-cam content requires a full hour of rendering it first. It is not only the multicam and effects that get accelerated by CUDA, but encoding as well. NVIDIA?s benchmark for encoding the video using Dual Xeon Z800 3.2 with Quadro 5000 was 44 seconds with CUDA-enabled Mercury Engine, and 369 seconds with the CPU-only version. Our system performed worse (due to CPU limitations) and finished the encoding at 61 seconds. To conclude, making the video editing part of CS6 fully operational requires an NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPU.

1.3.2. After Effects

Only people who use After Effects on a regular basis know how some of its features were difficult to use and how often one had to ?cheat the system? just to get a basic 3D effect without dealing with 3rd party software. CS6 fixes most of these issues by introducing a vast number of fixes, tweaks, upgrades, and brand new features. For example, The Global Performance Cache makes many pre-renderings obsolete, speeding up work immensely. Aside from hardware accelerated features, the biggest new feature is that After Effects is now able to create and ray trace 3D objects, similar to Photoshop Extended?s 3D features.

An After Effects ray traced band logo that started its career as an Adobe Illustrator vector image.
An After Effects ray traced band logo that started its career as an Adobe Illustrator vector image.

Vector objects from Adobe Illustrator can now be directly imported and manipulated with in After Effects. Masks also got a complete revamp, as one can now define and see feather effects both outside and inside the mask. The Camera Tracker got upgraded to a 3D Camera Tracker that is able to track 3D elements, complete with shadows, depth of field, and so on. Overall, v11 (CS6) is a great, massive leap forward for After Effects.

This otherwise uninteresting screenshot carries a much deeper message: Both Quadro 5000 and Adobe Mercury Engine work perfectly on a custom-built PC running OS X Mountain Lion.
This otherwise uninteresting screenshot carries a much deeper message: Both Quadro 5000 and Adobe Mercury Engine work perfectly on a custom-built PC running OS X Mountain Lion.
1.4. Adobe SpeedGrade

A brand new addition to the Creative Suite, SpeedGrade is all about color grading. Utilizing the hardware accelerated Lumetri Deep Color Engine, this post production application enables precise and fast color corrections for RAW and HDR content. It is also able to perform color grading on stereoscopic content. As expected, with proper hardware acceleration, everything is done in real time, without a need for rendering. SpeedGrade is not just about colors though, as there are a number of other filters like blur or glow. A range of presets is already built into SpeedGrade in form of .Look files, and users can make their own. Once saved, these .Look files can be imported into either Premiere Pro or Photoshop for consistency.

Fast and powerful color correction of Adobe Speedgrade. Peter Jackson will finally have a proper tool for editing the Blu-ray extended edition of The Hobbit.
Fast and powerful color correction of Adobe SpeedGrade. Peter Jackson will finally have a proper tool for editing the Blu-ray extended edition of The Hobbit.