You are here

Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium Advanced Editing Software Review

Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium Advanced Editing Software Review

Part 1 - CS6 Production Premium is a major upgrade with enough new features and improvements to make it a must-have tool for any video professional or serious amateur.

Read part 2 of this review.

Creative Suite 6 has been in circulation since early May giving us enough time to catch our breath and give it a good real-world workout. The flagship titles have exciting new tools, requested new features, are faster and, in the case of Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop CS6 Extended and Illustrator, sport a whole new look.

Since there is so much to talk about, we are going to break up our review into two articles that focus primarily on Premiere Pro and After Effects. This first one will feature our look at Premiere Pro and associated programs that are commonly used in the first half of a production workflow including Prelude, Adobe Audition, Photoshop and Illustrator. Our second article, which runs in next month's issue, will examine After Effects and touch on other programs commonly used in the second half of the production cycle including SpeedGrade, Flash Professional, Encore and Media Encoder.

There are several other impressive new products in the suite that are not included in the Production Premium collection, which we will not review here, such as Adobe Muse, Adobe Edge, Story Plus and many others that are part of the 18+ apps included in the Creative Cloud services. They are certainly worth checking out at Adobe's website.

A New Way to Pay

Let's quickly get to the bottom line - is the cost of upgrading or purchasing CS6 Production Premium worth it? Absolutely! But the new subscription pricing model is initially a bit confusing. No, you are not being forced into shelling out cash every month if you don't want to. You can still buy the products on disc individually, as part of various collections as you always have or you can now pay monthly with, or without, an annual agreement as part of a Creative Cloud membership. If you already own CS4 or above, the Creative Cloud membership is discounted for the first year costing you only $30 per month with a one-year contract. Without a previous qualifying version it is $50 per month for a 12-month contract. The huge benefit of the Creative Cloud membership, beyond not having to shell out a hunk of cash at one time is you get access to all the Master collection programs plus the new Muse, a simplified Web creation tool along with five Cloud-based services: Story Plus, for script writing and scheduling; Adobe TypeKit, a web-font library and manager; Business Catalyst, a template-based website development tool; cloud storage; and device and PC sync. Your Cloud activation is confirmed on a monthly basis so you do need to maintain an online connection with your editing system.

Premiere Pro

The first thing you notice is the redesigned workspace. It is greatly simplified since previous versions but, in many ways it is more powerful. Adobe wanted to let you concentrate on the creative aspects and remove the distractions of a complex workspace. Of course, you can always revert to a CS5 workspace if you get homesick. Major user interface (UI) changes include: a larger area dedicated to source and program monitors with simplified transport controls that are now user-customizable; a tabbed window in the lower left that joins the Project panel with Media Browser, Info, Effects, Marker and History windows; a centrally located toolbar and a nice big audio VU meter to the right of the timeline with independent solo buttons for the left and right channels.

To make way for this sleeker interface, some things had to go. The shuttle and jog controls are now extinct. Adobe says after surveying users, they found that the controls were just not being used. There are inexpensive USB controllers that will give this back to you if you need it. The Resource Central window and CS Live button have also vanished. No tears shed here.

Cool New Tools

Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium Advanced Editing Software

The top new tools include; Warp Stabilizer, Adjustment Layers, Dynamic Timeline trimming and Rolling Shutter Repair. Warp Stabilizer was the first new tool we had to check out (not that we ever shoot shaky footage). We had a nine-second 1920x1080 clip shot with a DSLR on a Steadicam that, due to strong winds, was less than "steady." A perfect subject for this test. We simply dragged the Warp Stabilizer effect onto the clip and left all the settings at their defaults. Premiere Pro then analyzed each frame in a background process allowing us to continue working in the program. Since every frame was in motion, this took a lot of analysis but after three minutes and 32 seconds, what was a very shaky shot with plenty of tilt and roll was a perfectly stabilized shot. We applied the effect to other stationary shoulder shot clips that took far less time but the results were equally stunning - rock solid images! The only artifacts we found were some blurring when the camera was jostled faster than the shutter speed could keep sharp. A work around would be to shoot with faster shutter speeds if you know that you'll be applying this effect.

If you've touched Photoshop anytime since CS2, you know how powerful Adjustment Layers can be and it is finally available in Premiere Pro. You no longer have to painstakingly add the same effects to every clip on the same layer or get tricky and nest sequences. We created an adjustment layer (it is not an effect, you have to go to New>Adjustment Layer), placed it on the track above the tracks we wanted to modify and added several effects. It works just like it does in Photoshop or After Effects.

CS6 gives you lots of new ways to trim edit points. By right-clicking on an edit point you have a new option panel that includes Ripple Trim In/Out, Rolling Edit, and Trim In/Out. You can also use the numeric keypad to assign a set number of frames to trim or even dynamically trim by selecting the Roll Edit then double clicking on the edit point. This displays both clips in your program monitor allowing you to drag the edit point in the timeline or adjust directly in the program monitor window. These are tools designed to speed up the process, but we found it took some time to get used to how they worked. Once we spent some time with them, we found ourselves using them more often. Give them a try before you just plow through your next edit session doing it the "old-fashioned" way.

If you shoot with a DSLR, you know all about the rolling shutter problem. If you don't, you will soon. While there are several third-party solutions for this problem, we are glad to see Adobe take it seriously enough to integrate their own. The Rolling Shutter Repair works admirable well in CS6. We tested it with a tracking shot of a passing car that had background buildings looking like they were made by a 12th century Italian architect. We applied the effect, set the scan direction to top to bottom, selected Pixel Motion rather than Warp under the advanced dialogue and presto - our leaning Towers of Pisa were no longer a tourist attraction!

Good Stuff Gets Better

There are many smaller, but equally welcomed improvements such as: you can now instantly switch to a full screen mode which Adobe calls, Cinema mode. By pressing the Ctrl and Accent keys we were viewing a clutter-free full screen image on our 24-inch monitor. Multicam is no longer limited to just four streams and is much easier to use. With our system we were able to switch "live" between eight HD video streams without a problem. This is one area's performance that will be very dependant on your system. The three-way color corrector is more intuitive but the new SpeedGrade will more than challenge you if you need finer controls (more on this in our next article). When creating new sequences or adding new dissimilar footage, if the clip you import into a sequence has different settings you are prompted to alter either the clip or sequence settings. And one of the most pleasant changes - playback now continues rather than stopping when you click outside the Premiere program window (like to type notes in a word processor when doing a review).

Other improvements include thumbnails that automatically play with mouse-over, (hover-scrub) improved methods to set markers, notes, and input metadata. Audio tracks now are type-independent...so no more mono-only or stereo-only tracks. Just drag and drop, both can exist on the same track. The Merged Clips feature helps you sync your separate timecoded master audio source with your DSLR footage. And if you've got seriously large files to edit, you can edit up to 5K files. Sorry, but we didn't have any handy to test.

Prelude

Adobe Creative Suite 6 Production Premium Advanced Editing Software

Prelude is Adobe's new ingest and logging application. With the exception of direct-to-disc recording, it goes a long way beyond where the now defunct OnLocation left off. Prelude gives you the ability to import full or partial clips, add metadata, trim, add searchable markers and comments, create rough-cuts and send to Premiere Pro as a timeline or even export as a project with all media to any other location including an FTP server.

After a test shoot with a DSLR, we popped our CF card into a reader and opened Prelude. We clicked on the Ingest tab, selected our card reader and it quickly populated the window with thumbnails of our shots. But unlike normal thumbnails, we could scrub each clip and, most importantly, could place in and out points to ingest just the part we wanted. This is potentially a huge hard disk space saver. To save partial clips you do need to transcode the file, but there are plenty of high quality options. Transcoding automatically opens Adobe Media Encoder and begins the process. During the ingest process you can also send the files, with the same or different transcoding settings, to multiple locations. We found this great for doing our backups at the same time.

Once our clips were ingested we moved on to the logging tab where Prelude gives you default markers for Subclip, Comment, Flash Cue Point, Web Link, Chapter, and Speech Transcription. We stacked our clips with all of these, easily adding, naming, moving, trimming and deleting each type. In the List View all the markers show up in the Marker List window with their associated In/Out points, durations and any notes you may have added. Here you can make changes to marker types and nearly all parameters. Finally, we clicked on the last tab and created a quick rough cut in Prelude, saved it and with one click, sent the timeline and all associated clips almost instantly into Premiere Pro. Easy!

Audition

If you do much work syncing audio to video and labor over getting your audio to match a given length, the new Automatic Speech Alignment and real-time clip stretching tools are practically worth the upgrade alone. You can also now control your mixing sessions with more types of hardware mixers with Audition's expanded set of compatible protocols.

We had just finished shooting a car commercial in which the lot was too noisy to use the talent's voice over. So we recorded the script later in the studio and were excited to us the new Automatic Speech Alignment tool in a real-world application. We loaded both clips into Audition's multitrack panel, trimmed off the excess and aligned the start points. One clip was nine-seconds long and the other was nearly ten with lots of differences in inter-clip timing - a real Godzilla scenario. Once we selected both clips we opened the Automatic Speech Alignment dialogue, we had options to choose the reference clip, the reference channel and the unaligned clip and channel. You can also select from alignment methods that include a balance between aligning and stretching, the tightest alignment or the smoothest stretching. We selected the balanced approach and got a perfect match on our first attempt. No odd stretching of vowels or strange cadences. This may not work in every scenario but it saved our skins on this job.

The real-time clip stretching does just what it claims - within reason. We took four of our car commercial clips recorded in the studio at 48kHz/24 bit and brought them into the multitrack panel. We did a rough edit to get it down to about 35 seconds, five seconds more than our required finished length of 30 seconds. We then selected all of the clips and enabled Global Clip Stretching. We easily were able to shrink the length down to 30-seconds without any audible artifacting. In fact we kept pushing it to see where the audio quality started to suffer. We were able to reduce the length to 77 percent of the original before we heard any anomalies. You can push this even further if you choose to move out of the real-time stretching and decide to render.

Oh, and if you're wondering where Sound Booth went, it is now a collector's item as well.

Photoshop Extended & Illustrator

No matter how much time you spend editing video and audio, there always seems to be a need to dive into Photoshop to tweak a still or graphic here and there. Adobe gave the user interface (UI) a facelift to make it look more like the rest of the suite applications with a neutral grey color and simplified default workspace. There are a few interesting new tools such as the new content-aware move and extend that allow you to enclose an object with a very rough selection and simply drag the whole object, or parts of it, and Photoshop will fill in the hole and do its best to integrate the object to its new location. The results of our tests were highly variable since many backgrounds that we needed to move objects over were too complex or varied for Photoshop to do a good job. On simple backgrounds this could save you time. We were able to convincingly de-fish some stills we took with a 12mm wide angle lens using the intuitive Adaptive Wide Angle filter. There are also several new painting tools and brushes but the majority of changes in Photoshop come in the form of minor to moderate improvements in current tools and capabilities. There are better image selections with Truer Edge technology, 3D editing is getting more attention, and we confirmed that a few key processor-intensive tools like Liquify, Transform, Crop and Lighting Effects (now 64-bit) are much more responsive, partially due to accessing the Mercury Graphics Engine. There have been refinements to the basic video timeline editor within Photoshop, but it remains largely a tool for those without access to full-featured editors.

Illustrator, an often overlooked vector-based tool for video production, got a complete redesign in CS6. It is now native 64-bit and takes advantage of the Mercury engine for GPU accelerated performance. It has a new UI and several new tools and capabilities such as applying a gradient to a stroke and a new tracing engine for creating paths from raster images. With a few new vector drawing enhancements in Photoshop, Illustrator may remain a stepchild for many video editors, but remember that vector graphics open up a whole new world of creativity and quality when working in After Effects.

Conclusion

All of the programs in the CS6 Production Premium now feel like a truly unified suite of tools. Menus and operations are now so similar between each application you almost feel as though you are working in just one program. Most applications are faster, more stable and are peppered with useful new tools that indicate to us that Adobe has been listening to users.

CS6 Production Premium is a complete and capable set of tools that will allow any content creator to achieve their vision with speed and sanity intact. And certainly not the least thing to consider when upgrading, but we did not experience one system crash, driver conflict or hiccup of any kind when installing and using CS6 - a first when testing such a large array of new and powerful tools.

Tech Specs

OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Motherboard: Tyan S2696
CPU: Dual Intel Xeon Quad-core E5345 2.33 GHz processors
Overclocking: No
RAM: 32GB DDR2-666
Graphics Card: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285
Video RAID: 8TB SATA RAID 0, 10,000 RPM

Key System Requirements:
For PC:

  • Intel Core2 Duo or AMD Phenom® II processor; 64-bit support required
  • Microsoft Windows 7 with Service Pack 1 (64 bit)
  • 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
  • 10.5GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on removable flash storage devices)
  • Additional disk space required for preview files and other working files (10GB recommended)
  • 1280x900 display
  • OpenGL 2.0-capable system
  • 7200 RPM hard drive (multiple fast disk drives, preferably RAID 0 configured)
  • Sound card compatible with ASIO protocol or Microsoft Windows Driver Model
  • DVD-ROM drive compatible with dual-layer DVDs (DVD+/-R burner; Blu-ray burner)
  • QuickTime 7.6.6 software required for QuickTime features
  • Optional: Adobe-certified GPU card for GPU-accelerated performance

For Mac OS:

  • Multicore Intel processor with 64-bit support
  • Mac OS X v10.6.8 or v10.7
  • 4GB of RAM (8GB recommended)
  • 10.5GB of available hard-disk space for installation; additional free space required during installation (cannot install on a volume that uses a case-sensitive file system or on removable flash storage devices)
  • Additional disk space required for preview files and other working files (10GB recommended)
  • 1280x900 display
  • 7200 RPM hard drive (multiple fast disk drives, preferably RAID 0 configured)
  • OpenGL 2.0-capable system
  • DVD-ROM drive compatible with dual-layer DVDs (SuperDrive for burning DVDs; Blu-ray burner for creating Blu-ray Disc media)
  • QuickTime 7.6.6
  • Optional: Adobe-certified GPU card for GPU-accelerated performance

Strengths

  • Increased speed of key apps, many new tools, improved stability, workflow and collaboration.

Weaknesses

  • Complicated new purchasing options.
  • New hardware may be necessary to get the most speed out of the suite.

Summary

CS6 Production Premium is a major upgrade with enough new features and improvements to make it a must-have tool for any video professional or serious amateur.

Read part 2 of this review.

Adobe Systems, Inc.
www.adobe.com
$1,900 Upgrades from: $375-$950

Adobe Creative Cloud Membership:

  • annual contract: $50/mo.
  • monthly (no contract): $75/mo.

Brian Peterson is a video production consultant, trainer, and lecturer.

Tags:  October 2012
Brian
Peterson
Mon, 10/01/2012 - 12:00am

Comments

Overall, I like the Production Premium CS6 suite.  It fixed a lot of little things, and I like having the warp stabilizer included with Premiere Pro which eliminates the AE round-trip. 

 

However I just wish it had added the ability to seamlessly dynamic link and/or export HD video and Surcode-encoded Dolby Digital 5.1 audio from Premiere Pro into Encore.  As far as I can tell, we still need to encode the 5.1 audio and HD video separately and then bring them into Encore....which means if you have to make some tweaks in Pr Pro afterwards, you have to re-render and "replace" the assets in Encore. 

 

BJBBJB