This year’s NAB started for us on Saturday, April 14th, two days before the actual show opened! We spent our weekend attending dealer and user events for with our vendors. The advantage of these events is that you get to spend a good amount of time watching presentations about the road map and new products for each company. These meetings are very cool and they tend to set the tone for the coming week. While Adobe, Avid and Apple all had very exciting news to share, we walked away realizing that while there was lots of sizzle, we had to dig a little bit deeper to find the steak. By the end of the show it was clear to us that our industry is at an interesting crossroads.

We are clearly maturing. New products are more evolutionary then revolutionary, but they are also more powerful, stable and reliable than ever. At the same time, these mature products are taking us into a new and very exciting market – HD. With HD new challenges come and our vendors are working hard to offer you the best possible solutions. There are so many different HD formats and sub-formats. While we can compress HD footage into manageable file sizes, this compression makes editing and working with the footage difficult. If you choose to go uncompressed, you will require massive amounts of expensive storage. How you edit, process, use and manage your HD footage is what we call your workflow. This is where you will find the greatest differences between Adobe, Apple & Avid. No one workflow is the best. You have to find the one that is the best fit for you. Many times you may find that a combination of products from these 3 vendors gives you the ideal solution. In today’s video editing and production world, there is room for more than one set of tools in your toolbox.

Adobe

I guess you could say the NAB really started for Adobe back on March 27th when they officially launched the new CS3 product line up. CS3 is the biggest new product launch in the history of Adobe and possibly the industry. Almost every product in the Adobe product line is being upgraded and with each new version comes cross platform support for Windows and Intel based Macs. That’s right – Adobe is now going to be cross platform for Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere, Encore DVD, Illustrator, Flash Professional and the new SoundBooth audio editing software – the list goes on and on. At NAB we had the chance to see these titles running Universal Binary code on PowerBooks, multi-core workstations and the new Eight core Macs. WOW! Adobe has tapped into the power and performance of the latest CPUs and graphics cards – for both PC and Mac users.

The product that will be most important to our customers is the new CS3 Production Premium bundle. It includes the new versions of Premiere, Encore DVD with Blu-Ray support, On Location (formerly known as Serious Magic DV Rack), After Effects, the new Photoshop Extended, Illustrator and Flash Professional. The Windows bundle will also include Ultra2 chromakeying and virtual set software which Adobe is rebranding as part of the Serious Magic aquisition. Ultra 2 will not be included in the Mac versions, but Adobe has committed to bring this technology over to Mac in the near future. At NAB 2007 Adobe announced a new open beta project that will let you download and try the beta versions of many of the titles in this collection now.

The new CS3 Production Premium is scheduled to ship this July. PC owners can purchase the Production Studio Premium today (full or upgrade) and get a free upgrade to CS3 when it ships. Those who purchase Premiere 2.0 today will get a free upgrade to Premiere Pro CS3 which will include not only the new version of Premiere Pro, but also Encore DVD CS3 with Blu-Ray support and On Location. The free upgrade also applies to any bundle purchases with Adobe products - so Matrox RT.X2 purchases also come with free upgrades to CS3. We are going to be launching a very exciting program for those of you on the Mac platform who pre-order!

The workflow between the Adobe titles in CS3 Production Premium is outstanding. You can move your media assets with ease between Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro. The interfaces and GUIs of the Adobe product line will all have the same look and feel making learning and moving from one application to another very easy. SoundBooth is the first audio editing tool designed for video editors to use. It is very graphical and visual. You’ll be able to remove clicks, cell phones ringing in the background, feedback and other audio problems with a few mouse clicks. The new Time Remapping feature in Premiere Pro CS3 delivers excellent keyframable variable speed control slow-motion effects. Add in the ability to author to Blu-Ray and output your video as Flash for web and mobile solutions and you’ve got one incredible end-to-end solution. One of my favorite demonstrations from the show was using Photoshop to build a 3D wire-map around a building and converting it into a 3D object, then bringing it into After Effects and allowing the camera to fly around it. Very impressive! So was the puppet tool in AE that allows you to animate still frames of people. I was shocked by how easy and well it worked. Overall I think that the value of the new CS3 Production Premium makes it a must have upgrade for all video editors and producers. If you own any version of Premiere, After Effects or Photoshop you qualify for the $1199 upgrade offer. As I mentioned earlier, Windows users can purchase an upgrade today to Production Studio Premium, and get the CS3 upgrade for free when it ships this summer.

Apple

Let me tell you – these guys at Apple know how to throw a user event. The lines started forming hours before the show. The room must have held over 2,500 people and it was standing room only. The presentations were slick and fun and almost reminded me of a rock concert. These guys certainly know how to make their users feel loved!

The big news from Apple for the Final Cut faithful is the new Final Cut Studio 2. At the hub of this new bundle is Final Cut Pro 6 the latest version of the NLE software that has revolutionized video editing and production. One of the coolest new features I liked was the ability to have the beat of the soundtrack control your effects. The new image stabilization tool and motion tracking were also impressive. Apple was also showing off their new ProRes 422 compression format that allows you to work with full HD quality using SD file sizes. I’ve always felt that uncompressed HD editing was for a very small portion of the marketplace. For event, corporate and independent editors ProRes 422 will give you fantastic results and save you a fortune in storage.

FC Studio 2 also includes:

Motion 3 has been expanded to allow you to work in both 2D and 3D space. You’ll also get new 3D particle effects and vector-based paint strokes. Motion 3 continues to grow into a very powerful 3D effects and graphics animation tool.

Soundtrack 2 has become an even more robust audio editing tool. The integration with FCP was very impressive. I was blown away by how easy it was to conform your audio projects to changes in the video. Soundtrack 2 now has excellent 5.1 surround sound mixing that is both powerful and easy to use.

Compressor 3 is now included in FC Studio. The interface has been streamlined and you can encode easily for web, mobile devices and DVD authoring. I was very impressed watching Compressor unleash all 8 cores on the G5 workstation!

FC Studio 2 also still includes DVD Studio Pro 4. Unfortunately there isn’t a new version yet with Blu-Ray or full HD DVD support. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until next NAB to get HD authoring.

The biggest surprise within the FC Studio 2 bundle is that it will now include Color. Color is a professional color-grading product that offers editors a level of color control unheard of at this price level. In fact, Color Finesse, the predecessor of Color cost over $5,000 before Apple purchased the company. Color-grading is what professional cinematographers and post-production houses use to give the imagery a special look. It’s a very powerful tool that can be used to bring out emotions and moods in your videos. Something tells me it’s going to become one of the most over-used tools in the industry, but what can you expect when Apple delivers it at no extra cost?

The new Final Cut Studio 2 keeps the same $1299 MSRP. The really great news is the upgrade prices. Owners of FC Studio can upgrade to FCS2 for just $499. If you own any version of Final Cut Pro you can upgrade to FCS2 for $699. We’ve worked with Apple and several of our vendors to create some incredible FC Studio bundles with Matrox, Black Magic, G-Tech, Grass Valley and Focus Enhancements.

Apple also launched a new program called Final Cut Server that works seamlessly with Final Cut Studio 2 and allows you to better share and manage your media. Media management has been something that Apple needed to address and this new product is a big step in the right direction. Apple will be pricing FC Server very aggressively – single server with 10 concurrent users for $999 or unlimited concurrent users for $1999. It will be shipping this summer.

Avid

The big news at Avid is that Media Composer and Xpress Pro for Universal Binary is now shipping. This is a very important milestone for Avid. While both these product have always been cross platform, now they will run on the very latest and fastest Windows and Mac machines! We know that many dedicated and loyal Avid editors have been waiting for this version before they upgraded from Xpress Pro to Media Composer. Avid announced to their dealers that the introductory $2,995 software upgrade from Xpress Pro to Media Composer will be extended and that they will also still be including Boris Continuum Complete AVX as part of the software bundle. Even more exciting, Avid has extended the Media Composer software with Mojo SDI bundle ($3995) offer until May 31st!

Avid was also showing off the new Avid Studio Complete 5.7. With version 5.7 Studio Complete becomes the most powerful integrated solution for the independent filmmaker and producer. The new Bundle includes Avid Xpress Pro, the new Studio Toolkit 5.7 including Avid DVD by Sonic for Blu-Ray and Standard Definition DVD authoring; Avid FX for adding 3D filters and effects; and Avid 3D for creating and adding 3D objects and graphics to your productions. The biggest news in the bundle is the inclusion of Mojo SDI as the video hardware. Rounding out the bundle is the latest version of DigiDesign ProTools LE and the Digi002 audio control surface.

Avid was also showing the newest update to Avid Liquid – version 7.2. With 7.2 Avid has added support for several new HD formats including:

* JVC HDV 720 24p/25p/60p – from the GY-HD 100 and 200 series of cameras, including native capture, editing and play back;
* Panasonic DVCPRO HD. Users can import via P2 and edit material in 1080 interlaced and progressive formats; and,
* Canon 1080 24F/25F/30F capture from the XL H1 camera; (supports four channels of audio).

Avid also announced that they would continue to include the Big Splash bonus software with Avid Liquid. The Big Splash includes Title Deko® Pro, Hollywood FX Pro, and Magic Bullet Movie Looks. Avid also announced a special Chrome version of Liquid that will support the AJA XENA LHe hardware for uncompressed SD & HD I/O. This is very exciting news and hopefully is a sign of things to come in the future. Perhaps, down the road, Liquid will support a broad range of hardware from several different 3rd party partners. We also have good news for existing Avid Liquid software owners – you can now purchase the Pro Break-Out-Box for just $499! If you are looking for analog I/O and real-time monitoring from the timeline this is a great deal for you.

One thing I think is important to mention in our recap of Avid at NAB2007 was their booth. It was very clear when you walked into the South Hall Lower Level that Avid was and still is the dominant force and top dog in video editing and post-production. What impressed me the most was how prominent products like Liquid, Xpress Pro, Studio Toolkit and Media Composer software were. There must have been over a dozen different pods each demonstrating various Avid independent post products. We all know that Avid dominates the world of post-production. Over 80% of broadcast television content is cut on an Avid system. You will be hard pressed to find any feature films that are not cut on an Avid, and Avid products are vital to the workflow of post-production facilities all over the world. While Avid did not introduce any earth shattering new products at NAB2007, it was clear to me from my discussions with them that they have some very big projects and products in the works.

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