Lineup: Adobe Premiere Pro, Encore, Audition, and After Effects 6.0
Tonight was Adobe night at MGLA as everything shown was from Adobe and they graciously catered the event as well. Apple Computer again sponsored the room at the LA Film school, so admission was free.
(Some have commented about Apple sponsoring and Adobe presenting, as the two are perceived to be more competitors than partners these days. Sponsors don't control MGLA's agenda; getting objective information is the only way for users to make the best decisions - and our sponsors, including both Apple and Adobe, support this position as well as the community overall.)
Attendees were also able to get close-up with products as the VAR New Media Hollywood, and Digital Anarchy's Jim Tierney were set up in the lobby. The night was so jam-packed that we shortened our regular Q&A session. After introductions and mentions of upcoming presenters (Alias, Apple, and others) we jumped right into looking at a whole bunch of cool new tools from Adobe.
Tina Eckman - well known to the MGLA audience - once again took our stage, this time it was to show us the brand-new version of Premiere called Premiere Pro. She explained that the old code was a bit long-in-the-tooth so they put it away and built the program from ground-up. In the process they completely re-designed the user interface. She explained that they kept "the good stuff" and added many new features, such a keyboard customization (including AVID shortcuts). Mac users should note that this new version is PC only.
One of Premiere's most noteworthy improvements is in the area of real time performance. You can now have from two to five real time tracks on a "good" machine. Tina began her walk-through of the new Premier by showing us how easy it was to drag-and-drop folders or clips onto the timeline and then scale them to customize your view of the timeline. Next, she showed us how editing has changed from a multiple-tool to a control-key paradigm. For example, if you drop a clip onto the time line it performs an overlay edit, but if you hold down Control, it performs an insert edit. There are many new editing functions that follow this approach.
Next up was the Effects palette. Here you have audio effects, audio transitions, video effects and video transitions. Once you've applied a transition you are presented with a separate window that previews how the transition will work. You can edit either numerically, or by clicking and dragging. Tina pleased the long-time Premiere users in attendance by noting that transitions can now be placed in tracks other than Video One. You can also add a video track simply by dragging a clip into the timeline. You can also nest a sequence of tracks into another - similar to pre-comping in After Effects. Further, keyframing and scaling are much more similar to AE than in previous versions.
Tina then explained that there have also been dramatic improvements to how Premiere works with audio. The program now supports VST plug-ins and even ships with a few. You can now enlarge and stretch the audio waveform and edit at the sample-unit level. You can now record live audio while watching video playback and the use a real time pitch control knob to adjust the pitch of an audio track. Premiere now features a 5.1 mixer for surround sound and you can also export to AC3 and Windows Media 9. You must purchase the AC3 option, but you do get three free uses.
Color correction tools have greatly improved, as have tools for DVD authoring. Premiere still features markers, but now they can include URL's and DVD chapter points. You can also burn a DVD with chapter points (but no menu) right out of Premiere. Lastly, Tina explained that you can open layered Photoshop files directly in Premiere, and open Premiere files in After Effects (again, Windows only versions).
Premiere retails for $699, but there are many options for getting the program as part of an Adobe "Collection" (including a great deal we emailed out to the list) - a bundle featuring all the programs we saw this evening. However, digital video bundles are "PC-only."
Tina next showed us Encore, Adobe's DVD authoring program. She explained that you can bring in your own graphics via MPEG's or AVI's and then choose from "tons" of templates and other graphics - in that we do not know how much a template weighs, we're not certain how many that is (grin), but we're certain it's lots.
Tina explained that working in Encore feels to her much like Photoshop. She showed us how Encore works by taking a movie and setting it as the "first play" movie. She then created a menu by grabbing an image and adding buttons. Encore lets you select all buttons and easily change their look to another via the menu - very convenient. You can even take the layered menu and then open it directly in Photoshop for further editing, complete with automatic updating back in Encore. Tina then added a motion menu and showed us how the "pick stick" worked for assigning links to buttons.
Tina wrapped this brief look at Encore by explaining that there are many, many other tools for checking links, setting regions and more. For more information check out their web site. Encore is expected to ship in August.
After the break we continued with Adobe's new audio editing application, Audition (an update of the well-loved Windows audio editing package Cool Edit Pro). Jason Levine took over the room to give us a great demo of Adobe's new "fully-integrated-multitrack-audio-editing-application-with-5.1-surround-sound" as he put it. Jason's name has also been added to the MGLA hall-of-fame for putting on such an informative demo in the face of daunting technical hurdles. Yes, it's tough to show off an audio program every disk access and mouse movement caused buzz in the 1 Beyond laptop's audio he was using - but Jason did an admirable job (imagine showing off some color-correction software with a black-and-white projector).
Jason explained that the program can handle up to 128 track of audio and that all audio is processed in 32-bit. He showed the user-interface and explained how it can easily be adapted to multiple monitors. Perhaps best of all, he let us know that the program comes with 5000 clips of royalty-free audio content.
He then talked about encoding options and how to work with 5.1 Surround Sound. Audition can output six individual mono wave files, or can create a single interleaved file. You can also export in Windows MA9 format. For recording you can simultaneously record up to 32 inputs.
Next Jason showed us all the tools available for cleaning up and otherwise editing your audio. There are excellent key and tempo tools that help eliminate transient smears and do their best to retain the feel of the music when it's sped up or slowed down. There are also some great tools for restoring audio. The clip/pop eliminator will look at the audio and attempt to remove all the clicks and pops automatically. Jason also showed some amazing tools for restoring audio that's been digitally clipped as well as taking care of popping p's and sibilance. Lastly, Jason illustrated the Noise Reduction feature with which you can sample a bit of the ambient nose and then use that to intelligently subtract the noise from the existing audio.
When it comes to finishing the audio, Audition features some stellar analysis and mastering tools that can make your audio sound much more professionally edited. There are real time visual analysis tools, multi-band processing, sample-level editing and even mono mixing (very important for backwards compatibility).
Audition retails for $299 and, like Encore and Premiere Pro, is PC-only.
After Effects 6.0
Even though Premiere was shown earlier, the "premiere" software demo for this evening (at least for our audience) was After Effects. Another long-time MGLA fave, After Effects Senior Product Manager Steve Kilisky, gave us our first look at the new version 6.0.
Even though AE 6.0 contains hundreds of new features Steve explained that the "big six" were:
New Text Engine
New Motion Tracking
New Paint Engine
New Keyer - Keylight
Major Performance Improvements
New Scripting Support
Steve then walked us through the big six and more.
You can still create text the old way via solids and filters, but AE now also has the same text engine that PS has. AE's new Character and Paragraph palettes give you control over a fully vector-based text layer. Since it's fully vector-based, scaling text is easier than it's ever been. In addition, you can constrain text to a box and work with paragraphs.
Text animation has many new features. You can set keyframes to scale the text, and then set a selection range so that only selected characters will animate. Similarly, you can set a scale factor and then animate the selection range. You can select by both words and characters, and you have ramps for easing into a scale or other animation. You can set a range and then animate the offset so the scale will move thru the text. You can add multiple animators to the text to have multiple effects. The text engine is completely new, very impressive and will give designers/animators many new ways to come up with cool text effects.
Steve illustrated how you can put the new text on a path and in doing so showed us AE's new "roto bezier" path. He also showed us how you can bring in editable text from Photoshop.
Next, Steve jumped into 3D to show us how much the previews have improved with the addition of OpenGL support. He also noted that AE6 includes a number of Digital Anarchy's 3D Assistants. The OpenGL preview performance improvement shown was dramatic.
The Tracker is new from the ground up and includes improvements in speed and accuracy. You can now name the tracking points and their quantity is unlimited. It's now so fast that they always track at 1/256 subpixel accuracy. And you can now average more than one track together.
AE Pro comes now with Keylight - an excellent keying system used by many professionals. Adobe's now licensed it and included it in the pro version of AE. Steve did a great job of puling a good key without much fussing. He also looked at Keylight's edge tools, which seemed quite formidable.
Steve then imported a movie with an alpha, auto-traced the alpha and created a number of animated masks. He then applied the new Scribble tool to create a variety of cool outlining effects.
At this point Steve pointed out a few improvements/changes that he was certain would be welcomed by long-time AE users:
Now when you move a project and your effects are missing, AE no longer deletes the effect. This produced big "whopee"s from the audience.
You can now apply effects to continuously
rasterized layers (even bigger "whopee"s).
You also have a new transfer mode called Hard Mix, as well as an "undo history."
AE now includes the Photoshop Liquify effect, so you can now perform animated brush-based warping.
Steve explained that for years now he's had users request that Adobe simply "put Photoshop inside After Effects." While we're not there yet, we do now you have PS brushes inside AE. You can paint in the alpha, RGB or both and record strokes in real time. AE now features a cloning brush and your clone source can be from different times and different layers.
Solids are now more robust and
customizable. For example, if you have a number of solids with the same name
and change a parameter of one, it'll change 'em all. You can also perform
relative scaling on multiple solids.
Lastly Steve illustrated the convert-audio-to-keyframes feature and had it control the scale of various objects. Lastly he mentioned the addition of Scripting to further control AE rendering.
The Standard version of Adobe AE is $699.00. The professional version is $999.00. The many upgrade prices and options can be found on their web site.
After Effects is available on both Mac and PC, and all indications are that Mac users do not have anything to worry about on this one. Indeed, G5 optimization was a hot topic during the Q&A session at the end, as well as the audience's desire to see Audition and particularly Encore ported to MacOS.
Since the meeting was so full, we had no time for demo reels, We'll try again next month but we plan to be pretty full-up then as well with Alias, Apple, Belief, and the ProAnimator winner.
We had a small-but-solid doorprize giveaway in while Adobe gave out two copies of After Effects 6.0 and Jim Tierney added a copy of Digital Anarchy's 3D Assistant for After Effects. We thank both companies for their gracious donations, and again thank Adobe for catering the event and Apple for being our primary sponsor in 2003, so admission was free. We'll see you on August 19!
Chris, Trish, and Lucky
Your MGLA co-hosts