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NAB 2015: Adobe, Foundry and revisiting the ‘big picture’

By Adrian Winter

Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to put this entry together, as the days between when NAB wrapped up until now have been very busy. How busy? So busy that I have yet to catch up with Daredevil. THAT’S how busy. I am not starting Episode 10, despite the fact that Episode 9 ended on a really crazy note and I can’t stop thinking about it. Instead, I am taking this time to run through my last day at NAB.

While the exhibit floor on toward the end of the show was significantly less crowded than earlier in the week, there were still some gems to be found that are worth reporting on.

Adobe
Wednesday morning found me at the Adobe booth, taking in demos of the new releases of CC 2015, specifically Premiere and After Effects. Both programs were showcasing standard upgrades: better overall performance and error handling across the board. After Effects is being upgraded with facial tracking, character animation tools and Creative Cloud Library Support, and more sophisticated grading tools along with an improved Audition workflow through dynamic link are being added on the Premiere side. Beyond that Premiere showed off two very cool new tools that I am sure will prove useful to a lot of people.

After Effects FaceTracker

After Effects FaceTracker

The first was Morph Cut. This feature is designed for use when working with interview footage, during those times your subject is either briefly interrupted, loses his or her train of thought or just says “um” too many times. Editing around these annoyances is always a huge challenge, and often times they result in a distracting jump cut. With Morph Cutting, Premiere looks on either side of the cut point and creates a transition by way of morphing the two shots together, making it appear as one continuous shot. The caveat is that the shots in question need to be locked off and the background static. It was hard to imagine Morph Cut working without seeing it in action, but the example Adobe showed worked remarkably well.

The second was Time Tuner, a feature designed for use when duration of an edit is important. Time Tuner will scan and adjust the length of a cut by removing or adding frames at cut points, or in areas where there are low amounts of movement. If you end up with a cut that is half a second longer than it needs to be, this tool has the potential to make the necessary adjustments relatively painless.

The real standout feature across both programs was Uninterrupted Playback. In previous versions of Premiere or After Effects, clicking or interacting with the program in any way while a preview was running stopped the preview altogether. In the new versions, playback will continue until the user stops them. Though simple in concept, this is actually a pretty powerful new feature, allowing you to enable and disable effects, or edit the contents of precomps used in the scene while seeing the immediate results of those changes in context during playback. Though in some cases the extent of the edits made may require Premiere or After Effects to re-cache some portions of the animation, it is clear that this will be a very dynamic feature for interactive review. The idea of a client calling out, “make that type bigger… now move it a bit up… what if it were blue…” and being able to make those changes without playback ever completely stopping was very appealing.

Project Candy

Project Candy

Seeing this feature immediately made me yearn for something akin to Photoshop’s Layer Comps feature to be adapted to After Effects and Premiere. I imagined being able to create a number of toggleable combinations of effects to a single layer and be able to switch between them during playback. Such a feature would make it possible to present alternate versions of animations and comps as an uninterrupted viewing experience, and I sincerely hope this has occurred to the folks on Adobe’s development team.

The final thing of note at the Adobe booth was a new app under development called Project Candy. The app allows you to sample the color palette and temperature of iOS photos and export it as looks preset to be applied to video. It remains to be seen whether it will fall into the “fun toy” or “powerful creative tool” category, but it is a very interesting premise.

The Foundry
Still inspired by the presentation I saw the day before, I returned to the Foundry booth where I got a demo of Nuke Studio. A lot has already been said about Nuke Studio; many people love it while others maintain it is not ready for prime time. My main interest on that day was seeing it as a tool to help maintain a desktop app pipeline.

Frequently, I find the way Nuke artists like to organize their media and assets is different than the way most After Effects artists prefer. Since on many jobs we are running both programs side by side sourcing the same media, I go back and forth on what’s the best way to build a folder structure that works for all artists involved. The thing I like is that much like Hiero before it, Nuke Studio will build out a predetermined customized folder structure based on the count and name of each shot in a spot it conforms, and given how well it uses that folder structure to manage a versioning workflow, it could be useful in helping to finalize our 2D comping and animating pipeline. The demo went well and I think there is room for exploration, so I’ll be looking experiment with it further.

Sessions
In closing, I wanted to take a look back at the sessions I attended as part of Post | Production World. This was my first time attending, and I did my best to take in as wide a range of offerings as I could. While not all were winners, I wanted to point out two presenters in particular that I found to be extremely knowledgeable and engaging, and I recommend anyone interested to seek them out.

The first was Richard Harrington (@rhedpixel), who ran three sessions I participated in, including the Advanced Photoshop techniques one I mentioned from earlier in the week. In each he dropped some major knowledge bombs across After Effects, Photoshop and Adobe Bridge, exposing many features in each that I had not been previously aware of, despite having used each of the programs in question for between 10 and 20 years. Harrington is quite prolific on lynda.com and maintains a website at www.richardharrington.com.

In addition to Harrington, colorist Robbie Carman (@robbiecarman) deserves a shout-out as well. I sat in on Carman’s sessions on color spaces, vectorscopes and on-set lighting considerations and found what he said be both insightful and accessible. Carman has a few courses on lynda.com as well, and hosts his own training site at www.mixinglight.com.

Of the many times I have attended NAB, this year was by far the most productive. I want to take this opportunity to thank postPerspective for giving me the platform from which to share my experience. I hope you all enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

Adrian Winter is the VFX supervisor at New York City-based Nice Shoes Creative Studio.


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