CS4: it’s about time

CS4 Production Premium

By Brian Brown - Posted on DVinfoNet forums and posted here with his permission.

CS4: it's about time
... saving time, that is. As a video professional, that's more important to me than just "bells and whistles". Clearly CS4 delivers quite a bit of both, but I'll focus on the saving time category, and those upgrades and enhancements that I'm finding the most useful (so far).

I got the big email from Adobe on October 15th that CS4 Production Premium was shipping (two weeks ahead of schedule), or in my case, download-able, and I went and bought it that night. 8GBs later (love those cable modem DL speeds), it was ready to go. I waited another week until I finished a project before taking the plunge. I mirrored my C: drive in case anything got wonky, and then started un-packing the downloads. Boy were they compressed! It took way longer to unpack than to install. And since it loaded from the HDD instead of optical media, installation went very fast.

I've been editing steadily on PPro CS4 now for the last few weeks. It's been rock-steady, no glitches. Once I wrapped my head around the new targeting tracks implementation (watching a little Adobe TV on CS4), it was smooth sailing. I really like how highlighting tracks focuses the keyboard shortcuts (Pg Up/Down, Home/End) only to those tracks you want impacted by the shortcuts. Same with adding transitions. I'm certain there's some other niceties to discover in the day-to-day keyboard-pounding.

The biggest changes for me, are HUGE, though. Bigger than any other release so far:

1) Adobe Media Encoder is standalone now, and has a queue. Let me repeat, it has a queue. And it's awesome. Not only does AME take rendered files, but it accepts comps and sequences from PPro and AE. I can set up a dozen comps or sequences, set my desired output (or multiple outputs: HD, DVD, and Flash), hit the go button and then go home and go to bed... and awaken to rendered files for an entire project. Theoretically, I could even render while I was working on something else in PPro or AE, but let's get real... my render would never finish and playback would slow to a crawl. There's only so many CPU cycles to go around.

2) Encore is render-less, as well. Dynamic Link drills right into Encore, transparently sending PPro sequences to the app. to be rendered without intermediates. Amazing.

3) Dynamic Link works both ways. In case you missed that, Dynamic Link works both ways. I can cut in PPro and finish in AE... and render the comp in AME. Or do something cool in AE, bring it into PPro (which I could do with CS3, to be fair), and go from there. Or more to the point, cut greenscreen in PPro, key it out in AE's Keylight effect via "replace with a new AE comp", and then finish it in another session of PPro... a real round-trip (wisely, the D.L. server won't allow two-way linking to avoid circular references, hence "another session" in PPro).

4) Finally, PPro is sequence resolution and format agnostic... allowing multiple sequence frame sizes and framerates in the same project. I noticed that I can't change a sequence framerate or rez. like I can in AE (or Vegas, gasp!), but it's a minor niggle to make a new sequence with the desired settings and drag the timeline clips over (or nest it). HD and SD can now input/output readily from the same project. No more importing PPro projects to try new settings, and being frustrated with the results. A loooong overdue feature.

5) Blend modes in PPro for clips, footage, and PSD files. Yeah, buddy. Almost as huge as the PS layer styles added to AE CS3. I don't do a lot of compositing in PPro, since the world's finest 2.5D compositor is just a D.L. away, but there are times that call for spicing-up video-only footage with blends, and viewing it in near-realtime is cool indeed.

6) Two-pass encoding for FLV Flash content. The Flash encoder is much more robust... basically it's a free version of the On2 Flix encoder. FLV and F4V (H264 Flash) is supported. I haven't fully investigated all of the features, but two-pass CBR and VBR encoding gives much fewer artifacts at lower bandwidths

Those are the biggies for me. It will save hours over the course of any given project. And so far, it's been bulletproof (except for the time I tried to break PPro, and succeeded, by changing a Dynamic Link comp size in AE... except this time, a message window popped up so I could send comments and my dump file to Adobe for their R&D guys to check out. Nice! I told 'em I was trying to break it.)

A funny "feature", and possible potential future feature (say that three times fast) is the meta Speech Search function. You basically give PPro a video file and it chews on it awhile and eventually scripts out (an oftentime hilarious interpretation) of your dialogue in a meta track so you can later jump to specific words or phrases (which would be amazing... if it worked). I tried it, and let's just say it needs lots (and lots and lots) of work. I think the Dragon Naturally Speaking folks learned over a decade ago that successful speech-to-text software needed several rounds of training to provide any acceptable accuracy. C'mon, Adobe. Duh! It's great for some comic relief, but I don't think that's what the Adobe folks were hoping for. I'd wager that the various forums could hold a contest for actual Speech Search results and get some wonderful doozies. I've since been told by other CS4 users that they've experienced much better results with Speech Search, so I'm going to give it another shot on my next interview segment footage.

And I know there's lots more to explore in CS4 from here (like OnLocation, Flash, Photoshop and a now-multi-track SoundBooth), but to say that I'm a happy monkey about CS4 is an understatement.

Rah, rah, Adobe,
Brian Brown
BrownCow Productions
Longmont, CO USA
BrownCow Productions - Affordable Full-Service Video Production

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