Videoguys NAB2011 Report, Part II: Avid, Adobe and more Software News

Videoguys NAB Report Part IIWhile Apple may have stolen a lot of the buzz from NAB with their Sneak Peak of Final Cut Pro X at the FCPUG Supermeet, that didn’t mean that the rest of the industry sat quietly on the sidelines. (See Videoguys NAB2011 Report, Part I: Apple's Final Cut Pro X Sneak Peak – More Than Meets the Eye )

Avid, Adobe, Grass Valley and others all had their own updates to talk about. In fact, it looks like we’re entering the first stage of a war for marketshare among the three Big “A”s of editing, Apple, Adobe and Avid. While Apple fired the first shot with their FCPX Sneak Peak, Avid and Adobe still have plenty of bullets left and we must not forget about Grass Valley and Sony who have very viable offerings for the PC.

Avid Media Composer 5.5 Special Upgrade and Crossgrade Offers

Avid didn’t wait for NAB to launch their latest version of Media Composer. In fact, version 5.5 started shipping a month before the show. This new version continues on the success and buzz that Avid created at last year's NAB Show. Avid Media Composer 5 lived up to all the hype in 2010 and now, with version 5.5, it gets even better!

There are a lot of impressive new features in Avid Media Composer 5.5 but the biggest news from the show was instead about a MAJOR pricing promotion that runs through June 17th, 2011 (Offer Extended - while supplies last!). Now, there are two ways to get Avid Media Composer 5.5 at incredibly low prices.

If you own Avid Media Composer 4.x or older, or Avid Xpress Pro/DV you can now upgrade to Media Composer 5.5 for only $595. That's $300 off the regular $895 upgrade price and it includes the complete Avid Production Suite.

The second part of this limited time offer is attracting even more attention. Avid has announced a special Crossgrade Offer that allows anyone who owns Apple Final Cut Pro the opportunity to purchase Avid Media Composer 5.5 for less than $1,000. That's right! If you're a Final Cut Editor you may now get Avid Media Composer 5.5 Crossgrade complete with the Avid Production Suite for just $995 now through June 17, 2011. You don’t need to get rid of or stop using Final Cut Pro, you simply have to provide you serial number and proof of ownership.


Avid adds additional 3rd party hardware support!

One of the biggest stories of last years NAB was Avid opening up Media Composer to 3rd party hardware support. Partnering with Matrox, the MXO2 Mini became the go to choice for HD editors looking for an inexpensive was to monitor their timeline in full HD on an affordable HDMI monitor. Avid Media Composer 5.5 now adds support for two other hardware I/O devices and the Avid Artist Series (formally Euphonix) control surfaces.

AJA I/O Express box now gives you support for both HD/SD-SDI and HDMI in and out as well as component video SD/HD output - making it the first 3rd party hardware to get Avid’s blessing for both input and output. While the Io Express does not support analog input, you can add an AJA Mini Converter like the HD10AVA to convert the signal to SDI for the Io Express.

The other new hardware supported is the Matrox MXO2 Mini with MAX. This box has been able to work with Media Composer 5 but you couldn’t take advantage of the MAX technology for accelerated H.264 encoding directly from inside Media Composer. Now, with Media Composer 5.5 on a Mac, you can! That's right, at this time this feature is only available on a Mac but if you can take advantage of it it's a great productivity booster. The Matrox MXO2 Mini with MAX will let you export directly from the Avid timeline on a Mac to H.264 for Blu-ray, web, flash or mobile devices 5 times faster! In fact, a 1 hour timeline will now take less then 55 minutes!

Avid Media Composer 5.5 also supports the Avid Artist Series Control Surfaces that Avid acquired from Euphonix. The Avid Artist Transport gives you a precision jog shuttle with a bunch of programmable keys. Avid Artist Control gives you a jog shuttle, mixing board and a customized color LCD panel that allows you to take control of the entire MC5.5 interface!

More 3rd party hardware support is coming!

I talked to several product guys at Avid over the course of the show and my first question was “When are you going to really open up Media Composer and allow the full range of Kona and MXO2 I/O devices to work?” I received the same answer every time – “It is on the roadmap.” Well let me tell you, I think the Apple FCPX circus definitely accelerated that plan. While the “Got Final Cut” crossgrade promo is fantastic, think about how much better it could be if it also included “Got a Kona card – it works with Media Composer too!” That would really give the installed base of professional editors who left Avid over the years a clear choice on what direction to take in the future if FCPX does not meet their professional expectations and needs.

In addition to the expanded hardware support, Avid Media Composer 5.5 also has a few new software enhancements that I think are going to make editors very happy. First, Avid has an improved SmartTool. When Avid released the SmartTool in MC5 it created a bit of a controversy with experienced, long time Avid editors. While some liked it, many others did not. I happen to love it, and with 5.5 it gets even better. The new 5.5 Smart Tool allows you to manipulate transitions directly from the timeline. This will save me lots of time and extra steps. I really like how it gives you handles to easily modify the start and stop points of the transition. Now editors also get more control over the Smart Tool, which should make experienced Avid users very happy.

Avid also announced new and improved search capabilities inside Media Composer. The Find tool has become far more powerful and the new PhraseFind plug-in automatically creates a searchable data base of all your dialog form inside your videos. PhraseFind is based on the same technology as the Get plug-in for Final Cut and is a productivity tool that can save you countless hours. PhraseFind is a $495 add-on to Media Composer 5.5.

Adobe joins the fight, Announces Creative

Suite 5.5
loaded with new features and performance

Adobe announced the new Creative Suite 5.5 Production Premium software for PC and Mac that continues on the success of CS5 with new features and even better performance.

Last year Adobe introduced Creative Suite 5 Production Premium and the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro. The Mercury Playback Engine (MPE) was a gigantic leap forward for Premiere editors. MPE taps into the full 64 bit architecture of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, taking full advantage of multiple CPU cores, RAM and the NVIDIA's CUDA technology. With the introduction of CS 5.5 and Mercury real-time video editing of with native HD formats like H.265, DSLR footage and even AVCHD files.

Mercury gets even more powerful.

With CS5.5 Adobe added a bunch of new GPUs to the supported list including the Quadro 2000, GTX 570/580 and a bunch of mobile Quadro GPUs which means that buying or building a computer that can take full advantage of Mercury is easier and more affordable then ever! Adobe also realizes that Apple has decided to go with ATI graphics in their newest laptops, desktops and iMacs. So Adobe has tweaked the Mercury engine to take even better advantage of the multi-core processors used in the latest Macs. While it's not as powerful as with a CUDA based GPU, it's still the most impressive performance yet.

Revolutionary Warp Stabilizer

Warp-Stabilizer.jpgI can't think of an adjective to describe the way I feel about the new Warp Stabilizer tool inside After Effects CS5.5. Last NAB I was blown away by the Intelligent Content Fill tool for Photoshop. The Warp Stabilizer is even more amazing! Unlike existing stabilization tools that blow up and crop the image to stabilize it, the Warp Stabilizer actually take hundreds or even thousands of stabilization points and actually warps the perspective of the clip as it stabilizes the footage. Sure it's cool for fixing shaky camera work, but wait till you see how it uses the same technology to fix DSLR rolling shutter - INCREDIBLE!

SWEET Suite Integration

One of the big features that has separated the Adobe Creative Suites from compilations offered by their NLE competitors is how the tools truly integrate together as part of your workflow. This integration gets even tighter with Adobe CS5.5. For example, you can take some DSLR footage with rolling shutter, send it to the Warp Stabilizer in After Effects and then round-trip it back to Premiere Pro quickly and easily. Adobe Dynamic linking allows it to all work together seamlessly and automatically. Adobe has improved the integration across the CS5.5 Suite.

Audition is back - better than ever, for professional Audio production

Audition.jpgAdobe CS5 Production Premium included Adobe Soundbooth, a watered down Audio tool that was designed specifically for video editors. It was easy to use, but lacking the features to make it a true digital audio workstation (DAW) tool. Last year Adobe let Mac users check out a Beta version of Adobe Audition for Mac. Audition was the audio tool included in the first Creative Suites, but when they came back to the Mac with CS3, Audition was dropped for the cross platform Soundbooth. Audition is now multi-platform and more powerful than ever. So now you get a real professional DAW class audio tool as part of CS5.5. I spoke to several "Audio Guys" who put Audition in the same class as Avid ProTools or Apple Logic, now that's saying a lot about the power, performance and capabilities of Audition!

Video editors who liked Soundbooth will be happy to know that many of the easy to use tools you've grown fond of are now part of Audition and still just as easy to use. Adobe did a great job of upping the ante, while still understanding the needs of their installed users. Once again, just like with the Warp Stabilizer, the round-trip workflow between Audition and Premiere Pro is smooth as silk.

Adobe Media Encoder grows up

Lets face it, in today's NLE workflow you have to handle many formats, both for injest and for your final output. The new and improved Adobe Media Encoder (AME) 5.5 gives you a full blown encoder that supports multiple export formats for each sequence and the ability to do batch encoding. AME gives you a ton of presets that all work and look great, and you can easily tweak them for your own special needs. Of course none of this matters if the encoding doesn't look great, which is why Adobe Media Encoder delivers spectacular image quality and lightning fast encodes. Now that's a winning combination!

Current CS5 Production Premium owners will be able to upgrade to CS 5.5 Production Premium for $379.95. While this upgrade price may seem a bit high, please keep in mind that you get the full Adobe Audition software - a professional Audio production tool.

The price of the full version of the Adobe CS 5.5 Production Premium is staying the same as it was for CS5 (MSRP $1699), the price of Suite upgrades is going up. If you own CS4 and you want to upgrade to CS5.5, it's going to cost you MSRP $649, instead of the current $599. For CS2 and CS3 Suite owners the price jumps to MSRP $949 from the current $799. Fortunately you can still take advantage of the current upgrade pricing if you buy your CS5 upgrade today, register immediately, then call Adobe customer support for your CS 5.5 upgrade after it ships on May 3rd.

Latest Updates for Edius & Vegas

Grass Valley EDIUS 6

Grass Valley didn't announce a new version of EDIUS at NAB. They actually began shipping EDIUS 6 back in November of 2010. But I felt it was important to talk about EDIUS as part of our NAB report because they are gaining market share in several key areas. Quite honestly, we've been blown away by the strong sales of EDIUS 6 full versions and upgrades.

EDIUS has been a product that has flown under the radar for many video editors, but one that bears looking at, especially for the way it handles multiple HD formats in the same timeline. EDIUS' ability to edit the widest variety of native HD formats without any extra hardware other than a fast computer has been its strength for years. While Adobe, Avid and the new FCPX are now bragging about this capability, EDIUS has had it for years, and they just keep making it better. EDIUS may not have all the bells and whistles of other NLEs, but what it has is the tools you need to get the job done, as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is why so many Event Videographers rely on EDIUS for Same Day Edits, and why it is gaining so much ground in local newsrooms across the world.

Sony Vegas Pro

Sony also released Vegas Pro 10 back in November and, at NAB, they announced a small, downloadable update to version 10d. The big story with Vegas Pro 10 is it's integrated 3D workflow and now, with 10d, you get 3D Blu-ray Disc burning capablity. Now you can burn full HD 3D Blu-ray Discs onto BD-R/BD-RE media (our Pioneer BDR-206 is supported), providing editors with a complete ingest, edit and delivery option for 3D media. Sony also added GPU encoding acceleration for ATI graphics cards with OpenCL, in addition to the already supported NVIDIA CUDA cards. At NAB Sony was touting their support for AMD processors and ATI AMD graphics cards, which puts them in a pretty unique spot, as most of the industry has moved towards Intel and NVIDIA. One of the things that has always made Vegas special is it's ability to scale to the power of your computer. So while having the latest and greatest workstation or laptop will yield the best results, you can run Vegas on an older dual core machine and still edit HD footage, you'll just have to scale the preview playback down.

In our next report we will look at the new hardware announcements from NAB. We had two big stories in hardware this year: Thunderbolt and ProRes Field Recorders.

Thunderbolt is the new Super Hi-Speed I/O connection launched by Apple and Intel that will make everything you attach to your computer faster. Matrox, AJA, G-tech and many others were showing Thunderbolt solutions on the floor, although nothing is shipping yet.

ProRes Field Recorders is a new category of devices that allow you to capture video directly to ProRes (and other formats) while you shoot. New devices like the Atomos Ninja and FastForward Video sideKick HD join the AJA Ki Pro & KiPro Mini and Convergent Design nanoFlash to make this one of the most exciting new product categories in the industry.

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