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Adobe announces Creative Suite 6

Today Adobe announced the full feature set of Creative Suite 6. Here are the features that stood out at me:

  • Open CL - Mac laptop users do not get a choice as to which brand of graphics card they use so it's great to see GPU acceleration extended for people with ATI graphics cards.
  • Full-screen playback - Premiere Pro can now play back your sequence in full screen on your primary monitor, which is great if you're on the move.
  • New trim mode - This one seems to be aimed at Avid users with dynamic trimming via JKL.
  • Adjustment layers - This is something I've wanted to see in an NLE for a long time. You can add a Photoshop-style adjustment layer and it will affect all clips beneath it. This is great for applying global effects to a sequence.
  • Combine mono, stereo and multitrack clips into a single audio track - One big point of confusion for Final Cut Pro switchers was the way Premiere Pro CS 5.5 dealt with audio tracks. Instead of having one audio track per channel, Premiere can create mono, stereo or surround tracks, which means that mono clips can only be added to a mono track and stereo clips have to be added to a stereo track. These limitations are now removed in CS 6.
  • Big thumbnails that can be "hover-scrubbed" - This looks to be almost identical to skimming in Final Cut Pro X. You can even set in and out points from the thumbnails.
  • Ability to toggle Work Area off - The Work Area was another point of confusion for FCP users. It allows you to set a certain area of the timeline for rendering and exporting which can also be achieved by setting in and out points. If you don't plan to use this feature, it can now be switched off in CS 6.
  • Markers can now be assigned a color and duration - I've always felt the marker implementation in Premiere was poor so this is great news. There is also a marker window that provides a summary of all markers in the sequence and you can quickly jump to them. No word yet on whether you can import and export marker lists.
  • Unlimited multiclip angles - I was disappointed with the four-angle multicam in CS 5.5 so this is a big improvement.
  • Uninterrupted playback - You can now adjust effects on-the-fly without pausing playback.
  • New apps - Prelude and SpeedGrade
  • Prelude has an SDK - Adobe's new tool for ingesting file-based media has an SDK to allow production houses to integrate it into their custom workflows.
  • Ray tracing, extruding and 3D tracker in After Effects - Adobe is really aiming at the higher end of the visual effects market with these features.
  • Variable mask feathering in AE - I've never been keen on AE's mask tools so this is a big improvement.
  • Automatic Duck integration - Pro Import AE is now bundled with After Effects and allows you to import Avid projects into AE.

What's clear from this release is that Adobe is aggressively targeting a broad range of users. There are features in the new release that will be familiar to Avid, FCP7 and FCPX users. Since the demise of Final Cut Studio, Creative Suite is the only suite in town and this release fixes many of my complaints with CS 5.5 (although no word on new developer features yet). I don't think it will change my plan to use Avid for long-form and Premiere for short-form but the wide-open nature of the NLE market right now is something that is clearly producing great results for editors.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Apr 12 2012 to Adobe, Analysis, Video Editing

Developer features I will miss from Final Cut Pro 7

I'm currently working on a feature film that will be my last Final Cut Pro 7 project. I'd just finished implementing a custom solution to automatically log and sort clips as they are brought in, when it suddenly occurred to me that a lot of what I was doing would not be possible in the future with a competing NLE (at least not on the Mac; Sony Vegas has great scripting capabilities).

Here is a summary of things we can do with FCP 7 that is impossible or less smooth with its replacements:

(Note: we don't develop effects plugins so this post does not delve into plugin-related differences between the apps. But it's a post I'd be glad to link to if someone else writes it.)

Controlling the NLE

Developers can use Apple Events to perform such tasks as programmatically saving and loading projects, highlighting items in a bin and searching. None of the competing apps are able to do this.

We can also communicate with Final Cut Pro over MIDI, which we put to good use in Cut Notes, but Premiere and FCPX unfortunately lack this feature.

XML Interchange

It is important to be able to easily get data in and out of the editing application. There is mixed support for this among competing apps. Avid has XML output via FilmScribe but this is not as fully-featured as FCP XML and I have found the FilmScribe app to be unreliable. FCPX XML exports do not include all of the information within the project or event. Premiere gets full marks for including FCP 7 XML interchange support.

Avid does get some bonus points for being able to import and export marker lists though, which none of the others can (it's even better than FCP 7 which was limited to export only). Some people would say this feature is unnecessary if you have XML input, however it's very useful for applications that don't need or cannot access the underlying project, such as our own Cut Notes app.

Manipulation of project data

Probably the most useful feature is the ability to change data within the project. You can add new clips, batch modify metadata and sort clips into bins. It's very powerful and you can specify various options when importing a clip or bin such as only adding clips that do not currently exist or making copies of existing clips.

More importantly, it can be done on the fly without needing to close the project or modify any files on disk. Quick Bins, FCP Versioner and several of our other apps make use of this feature.

Avid doesn't support this at all and Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere only support this via manual XML import / export.

Premiere wins extra marks for basing its project file format on XML but it then loses most of them by not documenting the project file format nor encouraging development of it.

These are all great features that we're putting to good use in our apps and it's a shame to lose them. We've developed workarounds for most of them but these often require additional manual work by the user, which we're keen to avoid.

Apple created third-party developer ecosystems with FCP 7 and FCPX that simply don't exist with other NLEs (and FCPX's developer features still need some more work, as noted above). We're putting this post out to encourage NLE manufacturers to increase their focus on third party developer-friendly features. Fostering third-party development helps end users, developers and the manufacturers themselves. Everyone wins.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Mar 26 2012 to Analysis, Avid, Adobe

How to get render notifications on your iPhone

Editors spend a lot of time rendering and exporting, and it's very useful to know when a render is complete if you are not currently at your computer.

Render Watcher in Pro Media Tools can watch for renders and then perform various tasks when a render is complete. It supports Final Cut Pro 7, Compressor 3 and 4, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder.

Render notifications are not supported for Final Cut Pro X because it has background rendering and the alerts would be going off constantly, however you can get export notifications via Compressor or by adding your export folder to the Watch Folder pane. This also works for other apps not natively supported by Render Watcher.

There are three ways to get render notifications from Render Watcher on your iOS device - text message, email and push alert. (Compressor has email support already, however it is impractical for most users because it requires you to run an SMTP server on your computer.)

Push alerts are the most flexible option because you can customize them independently to make sure render notifications don't get lost in your regular email and SMS alerts.

Here's how to setup render and export notifications on your iPhone / iPad:

1. Download and install Pro Media Tools.

2. Launch the Render Watcher application and tick the boxes for all of the render notifications you wish to watch. If desired, add watch folders for applications not natively supported.

3. Go to the Actions tab and select all of the actions you wish to perform when a render is detected. There are lots of options here including playing a sound effect and showing the exported file in the Finder.

4. If you want to send an email or text message, tick the relevant checkbox and enter the destination email address or phone number (selected carriers only).

If you want to only setup push alerts, skip to step 5.

4a. Go to Preferences and enter the details for the account you wish to send email from. Presets have been included for common email providers but you will be able to get the relevant SMTP server information from your email provider's website. In most cases you should leave the Port field blank.

Note: Your email address and password are not sent to our servers and are stored on your computer in encrypted form.

4b. Click Send Test Email and if your settings are correct you should receive an email from Render Watcher in your inbox.

If you don't wish to setup push alerts, skip to Step 13.

5. To setup push alerts, make sure Display Growl notification is ticked in preferences and then download Growl from the Mac App Store for $1.99. If you don't want to pay for it or are running OS X 10.6 or lower, older versions are available here free of charge.

6. Download Boxcar for iOS. We favor Boxcar because it is free (with ads) but this feature should work with any push notification service that supports Growl, such as Prowl.

7. Sign up for a Boxcar account here.

8. In the Boxcar iOS app, sign in and tap the icon in the top left corner that looks like a grid of nine squares. Then tap Add Service.

9. Scroll down the list (it's not alphabetically-ordered) and tap the entry marked Growl. Setup the notification settings as desired and then click Save.

10. Download the Boxcar plugin for Growl. Unzip the .growlView file and double-click it to install. When prompted, select Yes to open the Growl preference pane or alternatively launch System Preferences and open it manually. If you are running the Mac App Store version of Growl on Lion, the preferences dialog is accessed via the menu bar icon.

11. Go the the Display Options tab in the Growl preference pane (called Displays in the Mac App Store version) and set Default Style to Boxcar. This will send all Growl alerts to your iOS device.

Alternatively, if you only want Render Watcher notifications sent to your device, go to the Applications tab, select RenderWatcherHelper, click the Configure button and then set Application's Display Style to Boxcar. RenderWatcherHelper will only appear in the list when it has displayed a Growl alert at least once.

12. In the Display Options tab, select Boxcar in the Display Styles list on the left and select the option to display notifications using Smoke (or whichever theme you prefer).

13. Enter your Boxcar login information below this and click Verify Login. If your login is accepted, click Preview and you should see a Growl alert on your desktop and iOS device.

14. Start a short render and wait for it to finish. If everything is setup correctly, you should see a Render Watcher alert on your computer and then your iOS device. If you don't see this, double-check that you followed the above steps correctly and that the name of the application is ticked in the Applications tab in Render Watcher or that you are exporting to a directory listed in the Watch Folders tab.

Render Watcher is just one of ten useful tools for editors, assistant editors and post production professionals in the Pro Media Tools suite. To find out more, see the features page, watch the overview video or download the free trial.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Feb 13 2012 to Tutorials, Adobe, Final Cut Studio

18 features Adobe should borrow from Final Cut Pro 7

Apple's recent obsolescence of Final Cut Studio has forced a lot of us to reexamine which editing platform we want to use for future work. Ironically, Adobe Premiere Pro is a much easier transition for FCP 7 users than Final Cut Pro X due to its similar interface, support for old FCP projects and ability to use FCP's keyboard shortcuts.

The transition to Premiere is easier than any other NLE but there are lots of little things that I miss from Final Cut Pro. Here's a list of some of them, in no particular order.

1. Cutting on the fly

The Ctrl+V keyboard shortcut in Final Cut Pro can be used to make a cut on the timeline at the current playhead position. While Premiere also has a keyboard shortcut for cutting (Cmd+K), it pauses playback when it does so. There is no way to cut and continue playing.

2. Sixteen angles in a multiclip

Premiere Pro is limited only to four multicam angles.

3. Audio mixer affecting clip levels

Unlike Final Cut Pro, the audio mixer in Premiere doesn't work on a clip-by-clip basis. Every adjustment affects the entire track.

4. Multi-colored markers and marker lists

It took such a long time for colored markers to be introduced in Final Cut Pro 7 that I was sad to see them disappear in FCPX. Premiere needs this too.

Final Cut Pro can also export text-based marker lists, which is a great way of sending markers to another application. If Adobe were to implement this, I would also recommend they include a way of importing markers from a list, which Final Cut Pro unfortunately lacks.

5. Choosing attributes to paste

Like Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere has a useful Paste Attributes command. However, unlike FCP, this function does not allow you to specify which attributes you would like to paste - it just pastes everything. This is often not what you want.

6. Close Gap command

Ctrl-G in FCP can be used to easily close a gap in your timeline. There is no equivalent keyboard shortcut in Premiere to do this in one step.

Update: This one seems to have been misunderstood by a lot of people so I'll repeat it with additional emphasis: there is no way to do this in one step. There are many ways to do this in more than one step.

7. Multiple open projects

Only one project can be open at a time in Premiere. There is no way to refer back to another project without closing the first one.

8. Partial renders

When you cancel a render halfway through, Premiere discards the entire render file, unlike Final Cut Pro where the portion you rendered remains valid.

9. Pitch correction when using JKL keys

Using the JKL keys to navigate through media in Premiere can sometimes be tricky because the audio becomes high-pitched and difficult to understand.

10. No way to scroll tracks vertically with the scroll wheel

Scrolling your mouse vertically scrolls the Premiere Pro timeline horizontally. This is useful if your mouse is only capable of vertical scrolling, but if you have a trackpad or a mouse with a scroll ball, there is no way to scroll vertically to see extra tracks. There should at least be a preference for this behavior.

(FCP tip: if you have a mouse with a vertical scroll wheel only, hold down Cmd when scrolling and it will scroll horizontally.)

11. No through edits

There is no indicator icon to show a through edit. A through edit is a cut within a clip where the frames on either side of the cut are adjacent to each other. It appears to the viewer as if there is no cut at all, and in most cases it is unnecessary and should be removed.

12. No ability to search for clips to reconnect

When media goes offline, you can browse to the location of the file if you know where it is but there is no way to search your entire hard drive.

13. Tracks have to be selected when cutting clips onto the timeline

When inserting or overwriting a clip to the timeline in Final Cut Pro, the tracks that the video and audio will end up on are controlled by the buttons in the patch panel that are normally marked v1, a1 and a2. If you don't want to insert a track, click the button in the patch panel to disconnect it.

In Premiere things work differently. The patch panels AND the tracks need to be selected in order for this to work. If you want to insert video on video track 2 without any audio and have disconnected the A1 patch button, having an audio track selected will insert a blank space into that track. It seems redundant for patch buttons and audio tracks to need to be selected in order for this to work as expected when only patch buttons are needed in other NLEs.

Walter Biscardi gives a video overview of this problem here.

14. No timecode overlay

Final Cut Pro 7 finally brought us a long-requested timecode overlay window. While Premiere does show timecode in the Info window, this is not a direct equivalent.

15. No temporary snapping toggle

In Final Cut Pro 6.0.2 and higher, if you drag a clip and press the N key to toggle snapping, snapping will be switched on or off only for the duration of the drag. Once you let go of the clip, snapping reverts to its previous value. I found this feature very useful.

16. No function to mark audio peaks

Final Cut Pro can place markers on a clip whenever an audio peak occurs. There is no such function in Premiere.

17. No dupe detection

While you can view how many times an entire clip has been used, there is no way to see if a particular frame has been used more than once. This is crucial for film projects that will be having a negative cut.

18. Fewer options for clip markers than sequence markers

Sequence markers in Premiere Pro allow you to set a name, description, duration and various other options. Clip markers cannot be customized at all.

This is a list of things I think FCP does better than Premiere. In some cases, Premiere has no equivalent feature. In others, the feature exists but I feel it is lacking. None of these problems have prevented me from editing successfully with Premiere, but things would be smoother and certain workflows much easier if these features were present. I'm sure Adobe has been getting a lot of feedback from former FCP users and I have high hopes for CS6.

Sound off in the comments if you can think of any more things Adobe should borrow from Final Cut Pro.

Posted by Jon Chappell on Sep 2 2011 to Analysis, Final Cut Studio, Adobe