In this review, I took a look at Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium (also available in a Standard version), which is for users needing applications for professional rich media, video, animation, DVD, Blu-ray, and other digital content creation. Included in this Suite are the following: After Effects CS3, Premiere Pro CS3, Photoshop CS3 Extended, Flash CS3 Professional, Illustrator CS3, Encore CS3, Soundbooth CS3, OnLocation CS3, and Ultra CS3. Support applications include: Adobe Bridge CS3, Adobe Dynamic Link, Adobe Device Central CS3, and Adobe Acrobat Connect. You also get Adobe Video Workshop with over 13 hours of training.
Overall Enhancements and Design Applications
Even though this is the Production suite, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Flash are included to help in animation and video development. Because these are design and web applications, however, we have covered them in our reviews of Adobe Creative Suite 3 Design Premium and Adobe Creative Suite 3 Web Premium instead. In addition, we covered the overall suite enhancements in the Design review.
Premiere Pro CS3
The latest version of Premiere isn't really flashy in terms of features, but it does provide some nice tools to improve your creativity and workflow. The coolest new feature is Time Remapping, which allows you to adjust video playback speed to accentuate specific moments. You have precise control by placing keyframe speed values at specific frames to specify ramps and holds on or between keyframes giving you dynamic shifts in video playback speed over time.
Editing is enhanced via the new Ripple Edit tool, multi-camera editing, and color correction features. Ripple editing lets you adjust the individual cuts in your edit and have the adjacent material automatically stay aligned. It's quick, easy and does what it should. Anyone doing multi-camera shoots is going to love the new multi-camera editing features. I'm surprised this functionality wasn't introduced in an earlier version. Setting up shots is simple and editing them is even simpler. After you've set up your multi-camera footage, just playback your timeline and click on each camera (shown in the Multi-Camera Monitor) as you would like to see the final footage (you can also use keyboard shortcuts to switch shots). Your real-time selections are then automatically put together as an edited sequence. Color correction is also a simple process – sometimes just a single mouse click will do. But there are plenty of available parameters you can tweak to adjust both standard and high definition material.
Collaboration has also been enhanced because of the Adobe Media Encoder, the Project Manager, and Clip Notes. The Encoder allows you export your completed cut in various file formats and provides a number of custom presets: YouTube, Google Video, PSP, DVD and Blu-ray discs. The Project Manager lets you consolidate a project down to only the elements used in edited sequences. This is useful for archiving and sharing. With Clip Notes, you can export a self-contained Adobe PDF file from a sequence. The file contains video and a notation interface that can be used to comment on the content.
Some additional enhancements to Premiere come in the form of separate tools called OnLocation and Ultra. OnLocation allows you to do direct-to-disk recording, thus making your material immediately available for editing in Premiere. It also provides a wide array of monitoring and quality control features that help you to get the best quality shots possible. Ultra is a sophisticated chroma keying application complete with the ability to create virtual sets, virtual camera motion and more.
My only gripe about Premiere is the lack of AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) support. This is a popular video format and should be supported. Hopefully, that support will come in a future update.
After Effects CS3
The new version of After Effects is where the real fun begins with CS3. Most notable are the addition of the following features: Shape Layers, Puppet Tools, and Brainstorm. Similar to Illustrator, After Effects allows you to create shape layers via built-in polygons, stars, rounded rectangles and custom shapes via the Pen tool. You can even import paths from Illustrator and use text as shape layers. From there, you can create sophisticated animations by manipulating any component of the vector graphic. Very nice.
The new Puppet tools take this concept even further by allowing you to animate any image. Similar to rigging (or adding bones) in animation software, the Puppet tools let you add pins (typically at the joints of an image of a character or person). You can then drag these pins to different positions at different keyframes to bring an otherwise inanimate image to life.
For a quick way to get the creative juices flowing, After Effects provides Brainstorm. This feature lets you select one or more layer properties and (with the click of a button) presents you with nine different variations of those property settings. You can apply Brainstorm multiple times for an infinite variety of options and then save the results for application to your material.
Of course, After Effects CS3 also provides a variety of other new features worth mentioning, including 3D compositing and animation, visual effects, animation presets with Bridge, masking and keying tools, Clip Notes, exporting to SWF, and color management settings. Overall, this is an excellent upgrade to an already powerful application.
At first, I was disappointed to see that Adobe no longer included Audition with the Suite, but after working with Soundbooth for a while I understand why they took this route. While Audition is now a full-fledged MIDI and digital audio sequencing application (as well as sound editor), Soundbooth is specifically geared to handle audio for video. And where many video professionals may have found Audition a bit daunting, Soundbooth is very easy to use and provides a very intuitive workflow (especially when integrating with the other applications in the Suite).
Soundbooth provides the usual audio editing functionality, but more notable are the AutoComposer tool, the wide range of filters and effects, the audio cleaning tools, and the audio healing capabilities. The AutoComposer tool automatically creates a custom soundtrack for your video. You choose a Score (similar to the style of music you want to use), adjust a few parameters (such as length, intensity, instrument levels), and you get a piece of music that fits the length of your video. This is similar to the functionality of Sony Cinescore, but Cinescore is more powerful. The only drawback I found was that you had to open a reference video inside of Soundbooth. I would much rather have AutoComposer available from within Premiere itself, which would allow me to create a custom soundtrack while working on my current edit.
Soundbooth provides a large variety of filters and effects that can be applied to your audio. These include delay, chorus, flange, compression, distortion, equalization, reverb, mastering, and more. Using the Effects Rack, you can apply up to five effects at one time. Each effect can have different settings and you can save the Rack configuration as a preset so you can easily use your favorite filter configurations in the future. More slots in the Rack would be nice though.
Soundbooth also includes some special filters that can clean up noise from audio material such as background noise, clicks and pops, and rumble. These work quite well, but my favorite feature is the ability to do spectral audio healing. By utilizing the various tools in the Remove a Sound area, you can visually select any sound from the Spectral View by dragging your mouse over it. You can then have Soundbooth automatically heal (remove) the sound or you can manually lower the volume of the sound.
Encore provides a lot of powerful options for the final output of your project. You can export to standard DVD, high definition Blu-ray, or even Flash. Most exciting is the fact that you can easily export to all these formats from the same project build. The Flash output comes in the form of a full functioning, menu based, interactive SWF file with FLV video. This saves an unbelievable amount of time.
Another timesaver is the integrated set of text design tools that mirror the functionality of Photoshop. Of course, you can import a menu created in Photoshop and you can even export an Encore menu to Photoshop for more advanced edits. My favorite new Encore features, however, are the Flowchart and Slideshow editor. The Flowchart provides a graphical view of your Encore project. Using your mouse, you can visually connect menu and video elements to design the DVD play order you want for your project.
If you're a photographer, you will really enjoy the new Slideshow editor, which allows you to create a dynamic montage (complete with music, transitions, and effects) of a group of still images. Just select a group of photos in Bridge, open them as a Slideshow in Encore, apply transitions and effects (including slide timing, pan and zoom, etc.), add an audio file, and then drag and drop it into your Encore project.
Most Powerful Multimedia Suite on the Planet
What brings this Suite together is the integration between all of the applications via what Adobe calls Dynamic Link. All of the new features are wonderful, but being able to edit audio from within Premiere by quickly switching to Soundbooth and back or being able to easily edit imported Photoshop files from within After Effects creates a very optimal workflow. In my opinion, that integration is what makes Adobe Creative Suite 3 Production Premium a joy to work with and currently the most powerful multimedia suite on the planet.