The big broadcast show in Amsterdam starts later this week, but Adobe has its PR department making the rounds with the announcements of “over 150 new features and capabilities in the video tools in Adobe Creative Cloud.”
Maybe we’re being a bit prejudiced to call this an IBC-aimed upgrade, since it was at Photoshop World that Adobe announced a new pricing package for photographers. That’s a specific group, which typically wouldn’t use the rest of the Creative Cloud suite yet had to pay for it. Now photographers have a $10 per month option
That’s a pretty quick amendment from Creative Cloud’s intro this spring. No surprise, as Adobe has a rep for listening closely to its users. If you wanted to hear more about this thinking, along with some history of the app, check out this interview with Thomas Knoll (co-creator of Photoshop with brother John).
But isn’t it a bit curious that the Adobe still times upgrade announcements for shows, whether IBC, NAB, or Photoshop World? After all isn’t the new world of Creative Cloud supposed to be about constant updates that make such upgrade announcements redundant?
In an increasingly cloud-centric world, major upgrade announcements are a relic of the days when companies needed to push for buyers of their pricey boxes of CDs and manuals. Adobe also faces a relatively small video pro market (compared to moneymakers Photoshop and Acrobat) already saturated with owners of Premiere Pro, After Effects and Photoshop, who often pass on the latest version. That worry isn’t just Adobe’s concern of course. Across the post and effects industries, the advanced stage of software development means that there are few new “must have” features that require shelling out for a box of discs. Innovative companies like Avid know how that reluctance to upgrade can cause havoc to not only the bottom line, but also the firm’s actual existence.
The cloud changes all that, for users and for Adobe alike. For Adobe, it solves the problem of moving its products into a saturated market even while protecting it from rampant software theft (Photoshop is the most popular target for that, as you might imagine). As a public company Adobe also must show steady efforts to build sales. The cloud doesn’t change that, though now the emphasis moves from attracting new users via upgrades to keeping current Creative Cloud users happy with what they have.
Users benefit too by keeping their video compositing or effects computation in the cloud. Expect future iterations of Adobe CC to harness massive computing centers to enable swifter processing of tasks such as motion blur, rendering and transcoding. And that benefit will come whether you’re on a cellphone, iPad or laptop.
Programs will have better integration, meanwhile, helping to make your work more intuitive. The whole concept of separate programs seems a relic of the days of buying apps one by one on hard plastic. When you sit down to work, you want to complete certain tasks, whether to edit images, composite, or color correct them.
A glimmer of that is in the new up-rezing capability of After Effects CC. Users can boost SD footage to HD, Adobe claims, and HD can go to 4K, using the same algorithms that Photoshop CC employs. Why do you need to know that you’re using Photoshop or Premiere?
There’s another twist: since all of Adobe’s IP chops will be on the Internet and available presumably, via standardized APIs, there should be ways for other vendors to create programs that nip over and, say, use one of Adobe’s cool new filters.
Whatever the long-term results from moving to the cloud, Adobe is moving today. Well, by October 15th, when the updates are rolled out. Packed with some 150 new features, the upcoming video tools release shows Adobe commitment to all of its video product line: Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Adobe After Effects CC, Adobe SpeedGrade CC, Adobe Prelude CC, Adobe Media Encoder CC and Adobe Story CC Plus.
In comparison, Adobe Anywhere, gets comparably few updates, but it’s a large, interconnected product aimed at broadcasters, who generally aren’t thrilled with changes that might involve retraining. (If you’re unfamiliar with it, Adobe Anywhere enables large virtual teams to shoot, log, edit, share and finish video productions.)
Adobe’s done a good job of prepping videos that take each product in turn to explain in more detail.
As we’ve noted, Adobe will be demo the new features and solutions at IBC 2013 on September 13 -17. The San Jose-based company says it has lined up an impressive list of some 60-partner companies that will be showing some version of both product lines in their booths.
New Features in Creative Cloud Apps
Let’s take a look at some of the key new updates coming to Creative Cloud apps. If I picked one thing, it might be the new Direct Link color pipeline link between Adobe Premiere Pro CC and SpeedGrade CC. A more integrated workflow allows users do away with the rather clunky Dynamic Linking and instead just move multi-track timelines back and forth between the two programs. Simply open Premiere sequences in SpeedGrade and you’ll immediately see the results of your color grading back in Premiere via the potent Lumetri Deep Color Engine. SpeedGrade adopts a UI the fits better with Premiere too, making that back and forth movement more intuitive.
Next up –expanded native support for UltraHD, 4K and higher, high frame rates and RAW formats—plays to Premiere’s strength of offering probably the best out of the box—oops, out of the cloud—file format support. Editors can work with footage from the latest cameras natively in Premiere—including RED’s new Dragon 6K sensor–without having to transcode or re-wrap files.
After Effects, Adobe’s venerable compositing and motion graphics tool, now has a mask tracker, which allows you to track your masks automatically each frame and apply effects to them. Says Mark Christiansen, Visual Effects Supervisor, noted in a release that while After Effects has long had tracking and masks for “combining the two has never been straightforward.” Since all you have to do now is select a mask and activate the tracker, this should seriously speed up the tedious job of rotoscoping.
Other important upgrades to After Effects CC include new property links that allow you to copy an effect, mask or other properties from one layer to another and keep a live link to the original. That means that if you modify something on the original, the changes will be reflected in the linked instances. Maybe that’s the old Dynamic Linking, but it sure looks slick in demos, more like something you’d find in a 3D app.
After Effects also sports a faster warp stabilizer and 3D camera tracker that analyzes your footage with a claimed 80-percent speed-up. Speaking of speed, GPU functions have also been optimized throughout the app, allowing for quicker redraws with the ray tracer. It’s not clear, however, if that is specific only to those tapping the CUDA capability of NVidia cards. That will matter to Mac users eyeing the upcoming “Darth Pro” (aka Mac Pro), which uses tightly integrated ATI chipsets. If Apple is abandoning NVidia at the high end, top speed rendering under After Effects might be hitting a dead end on the Mac.
Premiere Pro, meanwhile, adds other things we like: improved multicam functionality (move and change between angles quickly), simpler ways to link proxies (on an underpowered system) to the full rez original, dynamic monitor info overlays, single click access to critical editing features and improvements to audio monitoring. Premiere Pro CC also includes support for OpenCL and new GPU debayering of Cinema DNG for real time playback.
Here’s a nod to that near ubiquitous piece of gear on production sets: Expect to see a new Prelude CC Live Logger iPad app that allows you to log notes, events and other data on your iPad while shooting. The app also allows you to sync timecode on set via wireless timecode generators. When you’re finished for the day, that same wireless connection will sync all that metadata to footage and post it to Creative Cloud.
SpeedLooks, which Adobe licensed from the Canadian-based company LookLabs, are now available in SpeedGrade CC. SpeedLooks are a collection of pre-set looks (using 3D LUTs) which transforms ungraded footage into professional looking results with just a few clicks. You’re not glued to the SpeedLook either — modifications are easily made. SpeedLooks also includes dedicated camera “patches”, which enable you to match color spaces across different camera formats.
For our full review of LookLabs’ SpeedLooks, click here.
Adobe Media Encoder CC now includes new sync settings that allow you sync application preference between multiple computers via Creative Cloud. The app is now GPU-enabled, which should give a good boost for processor-intensive chores like scaling and pixel format conversion. I also like that Premiere Pro CC projects can be imported natively, giving options such as rendering an entire stack of sequences from a PP project file.
Adobe Story Plus CC now provides new powerful new scheduling and reporting tools for managing complex video productions. Creating schedules and reports directly from the script is very welcome, while the simple capability to include sticky notes into the highly structured world of a script is just helpful.
Enhancements to Adobe Anywhere
If you haven’t heard about Adobe Anywhere, you need to see it in action, because it’s part of the future direction of our industry. There isn’t a “CC” after its name, since it has been in the cloud from its beginning. (This video from its introduction at NAB 2013 will help.)
As a collaborative workflow platform, Adobe Anywhere builds around Premiere Pro; editors, producers and others work together by storing footage at centralized locations. Of course you can access it across standard networks. The key to selling this to broadcasters and other large groups using video is that it is cheap to implement, since users don’t have to invest in huge infrastructure, and the Internet can deliver enough speed to make use nearly seamless. Quoted in an Adobe release, Steve Sharman, CTO of Mediasmiths, said that he was most impressed that “you can’t tell you’re using it.”
In its update, Adobe Anywhere now allows you to edit your Premiere Pro CC footage while it is being recorded. Broadcasters of live events have used systems with similar capabilities for years, but this required a big hardware buy-in. As television faces the same tightening budgets that post has grown used to over the past few years, this will count.
Adobe Anywhere now allows visual effects and motion graphic artists using After Effects CC to collaborate with other production team members.
Also previewed is a new complementary Adobe Anywhere iPad App. Users can view productions and play back Premiere sequences from a remote office or from, well, anywhere in the field.
CNN is one of the first top tier companies to test the program. Adobe Anywhere should get a good workout with the varied circumstances of reporters and producers taking part of the cablers worldwide operations.
Adobe has made its name by developing software that’s become crucial to our creative lives. Desktop publishing went from concept to revolutionary overthrow of a long established industry went Adobe partnered with Apple to deliver an inexpensive, turnkey pre-press, design and illustration.
Decades later, Adobe is at it again in the world of motion media production. As Final Cut Pro 7 begins to fade from the scene, Adobe has seized the moment. Editors of all forms and styles continue to move to Premiere Pro every day. After Effects, meanwhile, is a ubiquitous presence, a part of the scene in practically every post house, production company and ad agency. Of course, many of us have come to rely upon SpeedGrade, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator and the rest. From our vantage point, Adobe Anywhere is a bold move that promises to revolutionize the business of creating video productions.
It’s still unclear how much fallout there will be from the company’s move to a subscription model. Some users still want to hold on to a physical copy that they can call their own. At some point in the future however, those versions will start to look dated.
Whether you have joined the cloud bandwagon yet or not, with 150 new features and innovations after only six months on the market, the future of Adobe Creative Cloud is looking bright.