By Brady Betzel
The big update to the Adobe Video collection is here. It features some heavy hitters in terms of offerings. If you really want to see what the fuss is all about, go and update your Adobe apps, read this write up and get to playing…NOW!
One addition to the line-up that I think is very important to the future of the Creative Cloud ecosphere: Libraries. These aren’t FCP X libraries or LightRoom libraries; the new Creative Cloud libraries are basically a way to share common assets between Adobe apps, including their new iOS app Hue CC — I’ll get to that shortly.
A big gap in Adobe Premiere’s data sharing offerings is the ability to rival Avid’s ISIS collaborative working environment, with sequences being worked on concurrently between teams of editors. However, this is one step in that direction, and I hope they will continue to evolve this concept to eventually work in an internally networked environment where teams of two or 50 can work on the same Premiere, After Effects or Speed Grade projects concurrently. While you can share moving media in libraries, it’s just that…a library, not a way to share projects or sequences.
Something that really got me to bite on this Adobe update was the addition of the iOS app Hue. Simply put, you take a picture with your iPhone or iPad in the Hue app (which is connected to your Adobe Creative Cloud login via the Libraries), and the app interprets the light and colors and creates a swatch. This swatch can then be applied to footage in Premiere, Premiere clip or After Effects. Imagine if you are witnessing a beautiful sunset in Hawaii with great purples, reds and oranges — take a pic in Hue, choose those colors you like and later on, or immediately, apply it to your footage. This is a great way to take advantage of current technology.
In the past, Premiere had been thought of as the NLE in the back of the room, usable but never quite at the level of FCP or Avid. Over the past couple of years that view has changed and the tool has not only gained traction, but, in my opinion, has started to pass the competition… in some aspects. These days I use Premiere as the Swiss Army Knife in my post toolbox. It can open practically every video codec and resolution and decipher many XMLs or AAFs from other NLEs, coloring suites and VFX software packages. Oh and it’s an editor too.
The latest update to Premiere Pro has added some awesome preset “workspaces.” At the top is now a menu that gives you the options for different workspaces such as Editing, Effects and Color. These are basic preset workspaces that actually work quite nice. They open common windows that make sense when working in certain modes like color correction. You can delete, create or even modify existing workspaces if you like. While it’s really just a reimagining of preset workspaces, I think it really helps someone to jump right into using Premiere to its fullest abilities without having to fumble around finding where different windows are.
Up next is Premiere’s addition of pseudo-live scopes and consolidated color tools directly inside of Premiere in the new Color workspace. (After reading this breakdown you may ask yourself, “Will SpeedGrade be around much longer?” I’m really not sure if Adobe imagines Premiere to become more of a Resolve or not, but it seems like a logical progression.)
The new color workspace and tools are referred to as the Lumetri Color panel and Lumetri Scopes. In previous versions of Premiere we had scopes, however they wouldn’t play in realtime, which if we are going to be honest really makes color correction difficult. The newly updated Lumetri Scopes update live while playing a video clip or sequence. I did notice some lag when playing a sequence (I tried both a 1080p and a 4K clip with the same results) — it seems to be a few frames. I went one frame at a time down the timeline and even once I stopped, the scopes continued to update.
For this review by the way, I am working on a Lenovo W550s mobile workstation that contains an Intel i7 2.6GHz processor (two cores, four threads), 16GB of RAM and an Nvidia Quadro 620M. It’s not a slow computer but it also isn’t an HP z840, so take from that what you will. Software scopes are nice for a quick reference, but if you are doing constant scope referencing (which you probably should be), you may want to take a look at Scope Box or an external hardware scope.
Some things I would love to see in the future would be to have the ability to zoom in on the vectorscopes and reference under “0” in the RGB Parade, as well as have the ability to dock individual scopes into different windows. If I had the luxury of three monitors, and my system could handle it, I would love to have the scopes docked on the third screen. Those are nit-picky wishes I guess, but Premiere is on its road to glory so why not get all the details sorted out.
Before I leave Premiere, under the new color workspace and inside the color panel are the same curve panels and new Hue/Saturation tool, which can be very handy, as well as a basic color correction tab where you can do things like input your LUT or do some basic exposure correction. Adobe has introduced a newly renovated three-way color corrector, and if combined with a nice color panel like the Tangent Element would operate nicely. (I wasn’t able to test this, but keep an eye on this space for an upcoming Tangent Element panel review.) Inside of the Creative tab is where you can load a look or dial in your own creative grade. Overall, this is a phenomenal addition to the already vast toolset of Premiere.
There is a game changing app that Adobe is releasing called Character Animator. At the moment it is a separate app that can track your (and your friends’) facial movements and, in realtime, apply them to a puppets’ facial features with little programming knowledge. It really is as simple as that. You can go much deeper but for this review I will just say it’s amazing and you must try it for yourself to really understand what it can do.
You really get the feeling of how powerful this will be in the future. You turn on your webcam and you are controlling a puppet just by talking. I can’t say enough how amazing this is. Really, just download a trial of it already! I got caught up, playing with it for hours. Even my wife, who leaves the nerdy tech stuff to me, was blown away, and it’s really easy to use. Of course, you can dive in deeper and get super complicated if you want to.
A huge update to After Effects in this latest release is the ability to preview while adjusting parameters in the timeline. While I couldn’t get it to continue playing while I was adjusting the parameters, once I stopped adjusting it did continue playing. So it’s not like you can adjust a curve while video continues to roll; it will stop for the time you are adjusting and pick up when you stop adjusting. It is still an awesome and needed feature.
The new Face Tracker is something I find intriguing. I quickly tried to track a face and was able to get the outside of the face — one eye and the mouth — to adequately track, however, one eye didn’t lock on. It was pretty accurate when it worked, but it didn’t always work. You can quickly see how your workflow will speed up if you have a lot of very tight face blurring or eye color changing to do. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a good track on faces that weren’t facing towards the screen.
Adobe Media Encoder
I wouldn’t be doing my reviewer duties if I didn’t mention a few of the Adobe Media Encoder updates in this latest release. First off, I love Adobe Media Encoder, it’s fast and has pretty much every option I need. In this release Adobe has added Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus support, QuickTime Channelization and rewrap (think one QuickTime with multiple types of audio layouts, eliminating multiple QuickTime deliveries — this sounds awesome to me!), MXF-wrapped JPEG 2000 format and Time Tuner.
Time Tuner is a weird one for me. While in theory it sounds great, I just don’t see it being used in many broadcast workflows. Time Tuner allows the encoding operator to shorten or lengthen a QuickTime based on time or percentage. Often networks require strict total run times when delivering master show files. For instance, if a network requires the total run time of your show to be 42:10 and the final edit is 42:00 for whatever reason (often indecision), what are you supposed to do if you absolutely can’t cut content to meet your total run time? Well Time Tuner is designed to rescue you… that is, if you don’t care where that time is stretched (or shortened) in your QuickTime. It is limited to plus or minus 10 percent of your total run time, so it isn’t completely crazy.
The issue I have is that 90 percent of the time the act structure of a show is specific, i.e. the act breaks must be :10 or acts must all start or end on zero frames, meaning you can’t arbitrarily add or remove video without destroying the exact start and stop of content. It’s possible you could luck out, but I wouldn’t gamble on that. On a positive note, I have seen shows that have alternate deliverables (often for international delivery) that don’t have strict time requirements, in addition to not having act breaks. In that instance, this could save your butt if you need an additional :30 of content.
Remember that all the program is doing is essentially speeding up or slowing down your content over the course of the entire QuickTime. If you are incrementing or decrementing only a little, then it will probably not be noticeable. However, if you are pushing the 10 percent stage, it might not be acceptable. I tested this on a 19-second and 14-frame QuickTime that I needed to be at an even 20 seconds. The result looked great — I didn’t visibly notice a difference — however the time it took to encode with Time Tuner was expectedly longer, about 1-2 seconds per frame additional. This will add up over an hour-long piece of content.
The latest updates to the Adobe Creative Cloud video apps are really laying the groundwork for some great advances in production and post production technology. The new Character Animator is simply amazing, even if you and your kids just play around with it for now. I can’t even fully understand the future implications of this tracking technology.
The latest updates to Premiere are furthering its advancement in the race between the major NLE contenders. Premiere added a feature called Morph Cut to this latest update (think of it as an updated and more advanced version of Avid’s Fluid Morph). If you have an interview shot where the person stumbles over a word and you want to cut it out, Morph Cut tries to stitch together the cut by searching the video for similar frames and/or morphing the footage to try and look seemless — keep in mind the circumstances have to be almost perfect for this to work correctly, and if they aren’t perfect it looks like a mistake or glitch. Features like this remind me that Adobe is listening to their customers and even if the feature isn’t for me personally, they are pushing the boundaries to make great apps that work together beautifully and address many concerns of its users.
After Effects features greatly improved preview functions in addition to Face Tracker, which could come handy in the right circumstances. SpeedGrade, Prelude, Audition and Media Encoder all had various updates but the real advancement is Creative Cloud Libraries. Adobe has gotten their feet wet with true team collaboration by integrating a live library between Adobe apps via the Creative Cloud, allowing access to different assets between apps (and can be contributed to by multiple creative cloud users). Hopefully, there will be a time when this includes large amounts of video in the team-based environment where users can work on the same project simultaneously with proper file locking, much like Avid Media Composer and its ISIS collaboration.
I leave you with these top three highlights: Adobe Premiere’s interface has been updated and improved with the integration of color correction toolsets; Adobe After Effects’ preview engine will now run while you are making adjustments; and Adobe Hue (formerly known as Project Candy) allows for interesting use of real life color palettes by way of an iOS app to be used in Premiere and After Effects through Libraries.
Brady Betzel is an online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood. Previously he was editing The Real World at Bunim Murray Productions. You can email Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter, @allbetzroff.