By Brady Betzel
When I got the call to review the latest release of Adobe Creative Cloud for postPerspective, I almost jumped out of my skin with excitement. I am a big fan of Adobe tools in addition to how they handle their social media and customer outreach. You can submit a feature request and it seems like Adobe addresses it instantly.
About a year ago I asked another company for features such as higher than 1920×1080 projects and there still is no answer. On Twitter you can see @AdobeAE or @AdobePremiere answer technical, support, or even feature request questions. Long story short, they really seem to care about their products and the people who use them.
For this review I’m focusing on the video and motion graphics side of CC — Adobe Premiere and Adobe After Effects — but I will lightly touch on some of the other products like SpeedGrade as well.
A Closer Look
Once inside of Premiere you won’t really see anything visually different. Instead they’ve focused on some technical improvements. There are new Master Clip effects which allow you to apply something like color correction to the master clip and see the color correction ripple across all sequences and subclips. This is not necessarily ground breaking but still a great feature to have; this even works in conjunction with Speed Grade using Adobe’s Direct Link technology. Speaking of Speed Grade, this latest update brings greatly improved scopes and updated grading tools that make it much more natural to color with. The previous scopes were very mediocre to say the least; the new ones are on a professional level.
Once back inside of Premiere, the updated masking and tracking options really caught my eye. Recently we saw how After Effects incorporated the Mask Tracker, an automated way of tracking masks in your video simply and easily to do things like blur a face. If you used it the way it was intended it worked, and Adobe decided to port that technology over to Premiere. It really is an easy process, pick your effect (i.e. mosaic) create the mask shape on the video, go to the top of the clip and track forward. As long as no other object eclipses the mask it should work pretty well.
Inside of Premiere the Mask and Tracking feature is useful when you need to blur someone’s face. You simply add the desired effect, mosaic blur for instance, go to the mask options, draw the circle mask on the persons face, click the track forward button and Premiere will do it’s best to track the blur as the person moves. If an object or person walks in front of the person you are blurring, the track will probably go off the rails, and while you could probably fix this in Premiere, you may want to turn this into an After Effects composition and do the proper rotoscoping work in After Effects.Luckily for you, all of the masking and tracking work you did in Premiere can be used in After Effects. You just right click on the clip in the Premiere Timeline and select “Replace with After Effects Composition.” Now your clip is opened in After Effects and can be finely tuned. There are, however, a couple of issues I had with the masks in Premiere. First you can only create circle and square masks — you can individually adjust the mask points, but no custom spline masks can be built. Second, you cannot adjust a mask that was created in After Effects back inside of Premiere; it is a one-way Mask highway — Premiere to After Effects, and once it’s in After Effects you cannot go back and adjust in Premiere. I may be projecting what my own ultimate goal of Premiere Effects Pro is here, but in the future I hope we can go back and forth between Premiere and After Effects.
While Adobe has listened to its users, it has also done its due diligence by not giving complete control over the creative content in Premiere. As I was testing out the new Live Text feature I kept thinking to myself I wish I could put expressions on these so I could loop text, or I wish I could change fonts, etc., but really Adobe did it right. They only let you change the text… no creative changes can be made inside of Premiere (i.e. colors, fonts, sizing, etc).
Typically I meet editors that do not want to have anything to do with graphics. Sometimes it’s a technical reason, and sometimes it’s a monetary reason (that is a topic that can have its own blog at some point down the road). So in Premiere, adding the ability to change lower-third IDs without affecting the graphics, timing or movement is simple yet effective. Do I really want editors who “know” After Effects touching these templates and screwing up my pre-comps or breaking expressions? Probably not, so thanks Adobe for keeping it as simple as it should be. Who knows, maybe they’ll add an advanced twirl down menu with some password protected abilities in the future, but for now this is as simple as it should be.
Now you are probably wondering how to actually create the Live Text templates for Premiere inside of After Effects, well it’s actually simple to set up. You can set up your composition like normal with text in the proper position, scale, kerning or however you want to design it. Then go into your Composition Settings > Advanced and check off Template. Every text layer that is unlocked will become editable inside of Premiere, even text inside of pre-comps. The label for each input field is the name of the actual text layer in After Effects. Once in Premiere in the effects editor you will be able see the label of the text input field and the actual input field for any text you want. This is a huge time saver for companies and independent workers. Instead of having to go back into After Effects every so often to only change a name or title, you can do it right inside of the NLE. This also means you won’t have to pay extra money for someone to create multiple lower third versions of a graphic. One template, and the editor can do the rest.
I don’t usually like to comment on things I can’t directly test, but it’s worth noting that Adobe confirmed to me during a demonstration that Live Text templates would work with products like Video CoPilot’s Element3D. For some reason I couldn’t install Element3D with the pre-release version of Adobe CC 2014, but it’s definitely something worth noting, and it seems like it should work since Element3D takes user input text as the basis for its extrusions and bevels. I could see this being a highly usuable feature especially if you want to have a common title structure across multiple episodes but don’t want to have to farm out each title to a graphics artist, potentially a huge money saver.
Other Notable Updates
Once inside of After Effects, besides Live Text, there are a couple of other updates that I love. The first is the addition of Compositing Options to effects. In short, multiple masks can have specific effects applied to them on the same clip, a very welcome addition to After Effects. While Keylight hasn’t been updated in a little while (reasonably so since it works pretty well), Adobe has gone ahead and created one of the best keying effect trios I have seen in a while using the new Advanced Spill Suppressor and Key Cleaner. I say “best” because it’s relatively easy to pull a great key without having to use third-party plug-ins (i.e. no additional costs).
You can find Adobe’s animation preset by searching for “Keylight + Key Cleaner + Advanced Spill Suppressor.” It applies all three effects to your footage at once, and when the key color is selected in Keylight it ripples through the other two effects (via an expression), a really-really fast and easy process. While Key Cleaner is awesome and does a great job at recovering some lost detail from pulling a typical key, the Advanced Spill Suppressor is a sight to behold. I don’t think I’ve seen a product that deals with spill suppression so well and it’s included with CC!
The “Standard” Advanced Spill Suppressor setting will do the trick with typical greenscreens, but if you have some odd keying phenomena try the Ultra setting. It gives you a few extra options, like adjusting the key color just on the spill suppression, spill color correction, etc. I was testing the new keying abilities on some footage I had. These greenscreens needed multiple passes using masks because of three different greenscreen colors behind the subject, not to mention the subject had bright blue and black hair with fly-away pieces — kind of a nightmare to pull a correct key, especially with my limited knowledge. The Advanced Spill Suppressor was my savior for the blue hair; it not only left the detail in the tiny pieces of hair, but it didn’t add much, if any noise, to the subject.
I am thoroughly impressed with these new and updated keying abilities. It is awesome that Adobe is bringing fierce competition to their plug-in providers. As a side note, the old Spill Suppressor effect has been moved to the obsolete category in the effects and presets window.
There are a few other smaller updates to After Effects, such as the Mercury Transmit support which I use in Premiere Pro to preview content full screen; an improved media browser; and a very welcome update to the Curves effect with an Auto option and a much more Photoshop like appearance with resizing of the curves graph. One interesting casualty in the update is the removal of H.264, MPEG-2, WMV, FLV, F4V, and SWF exporters from After Effects. Really though, if you want to do some heavy or unique compression you should be using Adobe Media Encoder, which allows you to drop your compositions or sequences in directly.
Now I will touch on some of the smaller but no less important updates to the Creative Cloud video product family. Adobe Prelude CC is adding trimming ability, which should have been available in the beginning. Adobe Audition CC can now send clips and projects back and forth between Premiere and Audition for sweetening, mixing and mastering. It also allows editors to work with Dolby 5.1 audio content and export to surround sound AC3 files. Adobe Media Encoder CC has improved rendering out projects with the Mercury Playback Engine and added the ability to generate DCP (Digital Cinema Projection) or AS-11 content packages.
In the end, this latest Adobe Creative Cloud update will be a big one, and not only for the video and motion graphics user. Keep a look out for what’s coming from the illustration side, and their new mobile hardware: Adobe Ink stylus and the Adobe Slide digital ruler.
If you aren’t already a CC user, check out the 30-day trial and see why it’s such a jam-packed product. If you do any VFX work, After Effects is the broadcast industry standard and with the latest Advanced Spill Suppressor you will be able to create some of the best keys you’ve seen. Personally, being able to apply effects to individual masks using the Composite Option is the real game-changer for me though. If you’re a video editor, the new masking and tracking options are pretty handy, and the Live Text feature will definitely help the editor who doesn’t want to adjust keyframes — it’s plug and play.
Adobe is really starting to gain ground in finding their way to the head of the broadcast production and post-production class with each and every CC update.
Brady Betzel is an editor at Bunim Murray Productions, a reality television production company. He is one of the editors on Bad Girls Club. His typical tools at work are Avid Symphony, Adobe After Effects CC and Adobe Photoshop CC. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.