Adobe’s Creative Suite 4 (CS4)

You can’t really discuss any one component from Adobe without discussing the entire suite and how the programs work together. However, we can only fit so much info into such a small space that I’ll focus on the biggies, and then follow up with the ‘supplemental’ programs’those without the fanfare of Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere. So let’s look at the big three first:

Adobe is focused on interoperability in order to save time and increase workflow’sharing data between programs; moving between programs seamlessly. They’ve been doing this successfully since they put everything into the Creative Suites, and for CS4 they continue the trend.

Firstly, After Effects. Edited clips from Premiere Pro swap easily into AE, automatically creating a composite that reflects the original edit; a time saver unto itself. However, it doesn’t end there: Once the clips are in AE, a dynamic link is created in Premiere so that any processing or compositing that is done in After Effects gets updated in the edit. So, no more pre-rendering and reimporting, saving time and reducing errors due to human interaction.

After Effects talks to Photoshop in the same fashion with dynamic links, sharing blending modes, layers and the properties of those layers. But in both PS and AE, new 3D functionality has been incorporated, using the powerful display cards’ OpenGL to be able to paint on 3D objects in Photoshop, and then bring those objects into AE for compositing and additional animated processing.

Additional time-saving tools incorporated into AE include easier navigation, utilizing what they call Bread Crumbs, to find your way back through complex, nested composites. This is a nice addition since things can get quite convoluted’especially without a functional node-based interface. (Yes, there is a node-based interface, but it’s representational.) Furthermore, a quick search has been added to speedily find elements or effects by name.

Between AE and Premiere (also utilized in Soundbooth), a speech recognition engine generates transcriptions of dialogue from video clips. Words from the transcriptions can then be tagged and used editorially to mark places in the clip for easy recall. The transcription (which is saved as metadata in the file) can be used in AE and SB. The metadata will also follow the clip into FLV (Flash) files and act as search tags if you drag and drop or upload the clip to a website.

Speaking of Premiere and metadata, Adobe has modified its loglists into a more spreadsheet-like format for easy inputting of data, all of which is stored in the clips. This same method is used in OnLocation (a supporting CS4 program). On-set logging can be put into clips as they are captured. The data follows the clips into Premiere, and then is similarly accessed in After Effects and Soundbooth. By now, you can see how all of these pieces are starting to fit together.

Adobe expanded Premiere’s interoperability with Final Cut Pro and Avid, obviously recognizing that one needs to abide by industry standards in order to become a standard in the industry. Premiere can import and export OMF files as well as traditional EDLs. And not only that, it has presets for keyboard mapping so that FCP and Avid users can feel at home in the new environment.

Adobe has keyed into the fact that media needs to be created for many different platforms and many different sizes, especially with the massive amount of different kinds of mobile devices. Device Central works with Premiere and After Effects, and is packed with presets and the ability to set up multiple outputs at rendertime. Coupled with that, inside After Effects, safe frames can be shown for different mobile formats so you can choose the best composition and framing that will work with the most formats. You can even view the multiple formats as a contact sheet, seeing the comparison in viewport.

We mentioned the dynamic link between Premiere and After Effects, but the same connection can be made with Photoshop’Premiere recognizes the layers and parameters and they can be altered and manipulated. Speaking of which, Photoshop has new features specific to itself. In additon to the 3D features, Adobe has implemented a fancy-schmancy rescaling algorithm to preserve detail in different ways, including detecting skin-tonality as a reference. Some other really beneficial tools are photostitching using Photomerge technology and new windows for adjustment layer chock full of common preset functions.

Most of the CS4 modules have been recompiled for 64-bit operating systems to not only increase the processing power and speed, but also take advantage of large amounts of RAM.

I’ve being using Adobe products for decades and love them, so I’m a little biased. However, I do feel the Suite is a requirement for any reasonable production pipeline, and the tools should be required knowledge for any digital artist who wants to be worthwhile.

Website: www.adobe.com

Price: CS4 Design Premium: $1,799 / upgrade for $599. Production Premium: $1,699 / $599. Master Collection: $2,499 / $899.