Out to Launch: Adobe Reveals CS4

The rest of the folks were grubby journalists, just like us, attending—supposedly—for the scoop, but primarily for the free food and drink and the promise of Adobe branded toys, or shirts, or even pens, of which, I’m sad to report, there were none. I did get a much appreciated bottle of non-Adobe branded single-malt scotch from my favorite PR lady who had just returned from Scotland, so I didn’t go home empty handed.

OK, enough about me, but you can’t say I didn’t warn you. On to CS4.

What’s New?
Reader Warning:
We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

So, what’s new? Let’s take a quick fly by of the critical new features in the primary audio and video production tools, Premiere Pro, Encore, Soundbooth, and the Adobe Media Encoder.

Regarding Premiere Pro, the program now supports AVCHD, which is probably a yawn for most videographers but will become much more important with the introduction of cameras like Panasonic’s AG-HMC150, with 1920x1080 capture at data rates of up to 24Mbps. I think 2009 will be the year of AVCHD, and now you can edit it in Premiere Pro.

Premiere Pro can also support multiple timelines with different presets. So, if you’re producing a Blu-ray disc at 1920x1080 resolution, and streaming video at 640x360, you can have timelines for each in a single project, a nice convenience.

Those looking for an excuse to upgrade, however, need to look no further than Dynamic Link to Encore and, though it’s not called Dynamic Link, the similar ability to send a timeline to the Adobe Media Encoder and then keep working. As you probably know, with previous versions, you had to render before sending a timeline to Encore, which for many projects, particularly multi-cam, HD productions, stuck of multiple hour lump of forced non-productivity in your lap, which you had to creatively work around to meet your deadlines.

Now, you can send the timeline to Encore without rendering and start authoring right away. Nothing gets rendered until you push the magic button to start burning the disc (or creating the Flash project), and then, while Encore renders your Premiere Pro timeline under the hood, you can return to Premiere Pro and start editing another project. Totally killer. Encore also gets pop-up menus for Blu-ray discs, which doesn’t thrill many streaming producers but is the first program that costs under $40,000 with that ability.

Since I’m behind on e-mail anyway, let’s address the Final Cut Studio comparison up front. Yes, Final Cut Pro has supported AVCHD for awhile now, and can have multiple timelines with different parameters in the same project. Through QuickTime reference files, you get some of the same benefits as Dynamic Link, though for most serious projects with lots of edits, Dynamic Link will be much faster.

In addition, as much as I love Apple hardware and software, and especially those cute Mac and PC advertisements, the company’s dogged refusal to support Blu-ray has and continues to be a total disservice to their producers. I sense this is going to change in the relative short term, but until it does, Final Cut Studio will be an incomplete solution.

Moving on to other suite components, Soundbooth gets back the multi-track production capabilities the suite lost in the move from Audition to Soundbooth, curing the product’s most glaring weakness. There’s also the ability to volume correct over multiple clips, which I haven’t tested, but would be huge for many producers.

More importantly to us streaming producers, Adobe Media Encoder (AME) is now a cross-platform batch encoding tool with watch folder functionality, transitioning from a relatively feckless necessary evil to a dynamic, standalone program. Again, you can send timelines from Premiere Pro to AME and continue to edit while AME encodes in the background, a neater solution that you get with Final Cut Pro and Compressor. There are lots of tests to perform before I call it the second coming of Lotus 1,2,3, but the Adobe Media Encoder will likely be a huge step forward for all of us in the streaming community.

Changing the Face of Video Editing
What’s the feature that will "change the face of video editing going forward?" Premiere Pro can now convert audio to text, adding an incredibly valuable metadata element to video that will bring all metadata to the fore. Briefly, the speech-to-text function is run as a post process after capture. Once the speech has been converted, the text is linked to the audio file that generated it.

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