Videomaker's 2009 Best Video Editing Suite: Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium Software Review

View all of the best consumer video production products of 2009, selected by the editors of Videomaker

The Premiere Editing Suite

The Adobe CS4 Production Premium video-editing suite is a perfect combination of creative tools for the video-editing guru or post-production business. Enhancements to the CS4 Production Premium bundle include both the impressive “wow” features and the more practical updates that make video editing much more enjoyable. As with any expansive software suite, such as CS4, there is a great deal of ground to cover. In CS4 Production Premium, the bundle includes Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Flash Professional, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore, Soundbooth, Device Central, Bridge and Dynamic Link. That’s a hefty suite that’s ideal for the professional video editor. For the hobbyist or casual editor, you might just consider Adobe Premiere Pro at $799.

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Good Input

The latest version of Adobe OnLocation has received a complete GUI make-over, and it is finally available on the Mac platform. Long gone is the quirky GUI that included knobs and buttons that mimicked authentic video calibration and monitoring gear. Now it adorns that classic Adobe look with sliders and neatly-organized windows. The interface is clean and even more user-friendly.

The best improvement is the addition of metadata that allows the editor to input additional information to individual video clips. The metadata stays with the clip as it moves into other applications (e.g., Premiere Pro). This enhances the capturing/acquiring process, as well as search functions. OnLocation is no longer a little utility for capturing video instantly to your computer, but rather a full-scale application that will have a big impact on efficiency while in tandem with Premiere. We’ll talk more about the interactivity between applications when we discuss Adobe Dynamic Link.

Adobe OnLocation is perfect for the professional shooter who cares greatly about image quality. The live vectorscope and waveform monitor relay accurate visual information that helps the shooter make necessary adjustments. Another terrific touch to this application is the addition of the Good Take checkbox. Now, you can define whether a clip is good and even export all your good takes right into Adobe Premiere Pro.

Compatibility Plus

Speaking of Premiere Pro, there are quite a few enhancements with this latest video-editing application. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 is currently one of the few video-editing applications with native support for Panasonic P2, Sony XDCAM and AVCHD. That’s right, Premiere Pro finally has native support for AVCHD. Additionally, the metadata from P2 and XDCAM formats are also supported, which continues that theme into the Premiere Pro application. These are great touches for the professional editor who relies on metadata.

Premiere Pro CS4 is also easier to use for every type of editor, thanks to some timeline usability improvements. Most notably, it’s much easier in this version of Premiere to add transitions to multiple layers of video and audio. You can select a group of video clips and choose a default transition or select audio clips and choose a default audio transition. This reduces a great many repetitive editing tasks when transitions are necessary. Editors putting together photo slide shows will definitely benefit from this feature.

Another great time-saving feature in Premiere Pro CS4 is the media browser window. This is a simple yet clever addition to the program that enables an editor to explore and play back media from the hard drive without having to import the media to the project. The media browser window’s default position is on the lower left side of the GUI. The window explores your hard drive and presents media files. If you’re curious what the media file is, you simply double click it and it appears in the viewer window. Now, you can play back the media and view it to make sure it’s what you wanted. The key to this feature is that it hasn’t been officially imported to your project. You can sample media all you want from the media browser window without cluttering up your project bins. If you find a clip you like, you can drag it from the viewer window to the project window.


Dialog Magic

Adobe CS4 Production Premium debuts a fantastic feature called Speech Search. There’s a handy new utility in many of the applications in the bundle that allows you to search your video for specific text. It works wonderfully well if you’re searching a particular key word in a sequence or if you’re looking for a particular part of a single video clip. This is made possible with special software that analyzes the audio associated with the video clip and translates the audio to text. The text is then inserted into the video clip’s metadata and is timecode-accurate.

This feature is a great enhancement for documentary filmmakers who have to sort through many hours of talking-head footage. The text is editable and, since it’s metadata, it will be accessible in OnLocation, Premiere Pro, After Effects, Encore and Soundbooth. Naturally, it’s really useful in Soundbooth, but we will get into that later.

Dynamic Interactivity

The real power of Adobe CS4 Production Premium comes to life with the newest version of Adobe Dynamic Link. This utility makes it easier for the applications to work together seamlessly. Editors can work more easily between Premiere Pro and Encore. In earlier versions, it was a common task to render clips before moving; working with them in Encore. That obstacle has been removed, so that there’s no more wasted time waiting on clips to render.

The interaction between Photoshop and After Effects now includes 3D capabilities. You can import Photoshop 3D objects into the After Effects application. This might not be practical for most editors, but it’s a unique feature. Most 3D modelers and animators will likely prefer to work in a specialized 3D application. But, for some folks this could help spice up your After Effects compositions in many ways.

There are more improvements across applications when working through Dynamic Link. While we can’t go into detail on all of them, it’s important to note that this is an overall critical improvement that will aid professional editors tremendously. It’s a relief to see that this suite is behaving more like a singular tool than ever before.

An Easier Encore

Adobe Encore (disc-authoring application) can now create Blu-ray Discs, provided you have a Blu-ray Disc burner. Encore CS4 also has added dual-layer capabilities that increase the encoding capacities with dual-layer DVDs and dual-layer Blu-ray Disc. Also, new to this application is a nice feature that allows you to export your DVD experiences as Flash files (.swf). In this way, Encore is becoming a more useful tool outside of DVD authoring.

As mentioned before, Encore now works even better with Premiere Pro, as you can drag sequences from your Premiere Pro project directly into Encore. Adobe has also enhanced the Flowchart to show your assets and how they relate to the media you’re creating, another nice touch on the overall workflow.


Soundbooth

Adobe Soundbooth CS4 kicks it up a notch with multitrack support. When Soundbooth replaced Audition not too long ago, many Creative Suite users missed the multitrack editing. It’s back, now with the availability of a new sound document file format that will move multitrack projects from application to application.

With multitrack functionality, an audio editor can work on a separate dialog track, music track or sound effects track in Soundbooth. That editor can take advantage of all the advanced audio-editing tools to make each track sound its best. Then, with the new file format (Adobe Sound Document, ASND), the audio editor can send the file over to the video-editing workstation where the tracks can be imported into Premiere Pro seamlessly. This
is a great workflow enhancement for production teams or even for the video editor who’s ambitious.

End Scene

Adobe CS4 Production Premium is a notable update that focuses on a higher level of refinement in workflow, especially as a collection of applications that shares media assets seamlessly. As such, professional video editors and post-production facilities will find that this group of tools can save a great deal of time. At the granular level, the simple enhancements in each application show an acute attention to detail that even the casual editor will enjoy.

Professional editors will definitely find value in this suite of applications. Amateurs might struggle with their first glance at the price tag. The option to work with only Adobe Premiere Pro at nearly half the price is a good option for some editors. All things considered, there is no other production suite on the market that has as many industry-standard applications in one bundle.

TECH SPECS

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS

Processor: Windows – DV, 2GHz, HDV, 3.4GHz; HD, dual 2.8GHz; Mac – Multi-core Intel processor

OS: Windows XP SP2 (SP3 recommended)- Vista SP1 (32- or 64-bit, excluding Home Basic); Mac – OS X 10.4.11 or higher

RAM: 2GB of RAM (more RAM recommended when running multiple components)

Disk Space for Install: Windows – 16.3GB; Mac – 20.6GB (additional space required during installation)

Disk System for Video: Dedicated 7200 RPM hard drive for DV and HDV editing; striped disk array storage (RAID 0) for HD; SCSI disk subsystem preferred

Capture Card: Adobe-certified card for capture and export to tape

Display: 1280×900 display with OpenGL 2.0-compatible graphics card (some GPU-accelerated features require graphics support for Shader Model 3.0)

FireWire: Windows – OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 port for DV and HDV capture, export to tape and transmit to DV device

Disc Burner: DVD-ROM drive (DVD or Blu-ray Disc burner required for creation of respective disc types)

Sound Hardware: Windows – WDM or ASIO-compatible sound card ; Mac – Core Audio-compatible sound card

Strengths

  • Full Mac Compatibility
  • Improved functionality between applications
  • Solid workflow

Weaknesses

  • A little sticker shock

SUMMARY

The Adobe CS4 Production Premium software bundle is a robust set of applications that work well together in creating professional video presentations for film, TV, DVD and the web.

Mark Montgomery is an independent video producer.

Adobe Systems, Inc.

345 Park Ave.

San Jose, CA 95110

www.adobe.com


Price: $1,699; Upgrade: $599

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.