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CS3 Production Premium for Motion Graphics and Interactive Enthusiasts, Part 1

Not on the front lines of video production? No worries; there's plenty here for you By Kevin Schmitt

I was somewhat skeptical about what the forthcoming Adobe CS3 Production Premium bundle would offer outside of Flash and After Effects; after all, I have precisely zero skills when it comes to the "front end" of production (shooting, capture, editing, etc.). My interests lie squarely down the line (motion graphics, interactivity, Web distribution), so my initial thought was that the entire bundle might be of limited total value to someone like me. However, after seeing and using a pre-release version of the suite for myself, it turns out that there are a lot of hidden gems in surprising places.

Now, with my interests/allegiances clearly stated in the intro, suffice it to say that if you're looking for hot-and-heavy breakdowns of what the situation is with programs like Premiere, OnLocation, and Ultra, it's highly likely you'll be disappointed. What these pieces are intended to be is a roundup of some interesting tidbits that might not be obvious from Adobe's press materials, as well as general items of note for folks like me who skew towards motion graphics and interactivity. We're also going to do a bit of the ol' "getting to know you" for the Mac faithful, who have heretofore never seen Encore or Premiere Pro on their chosen platform (and will, sadly, need to wait a bit longer for OnLocation and Ultra, which both remain Windows-only?though "Boot Camp-able"?for this release). So, with that preface/caveat/warning firmly in place, let's get to the goods.

General Notes

Let's start with the little nuggets that either apply to the entire suite or are simply uncategorizable. First, let me take a moment to say that it's obvious Adobe is moving in the direction of two distinct interfaces for the products that sport the the CS(#) moniker. There's the spankin' new CS3 design interface, which encompasses Photoshop, Flash, InDesign, and Illustrator, and is known by its now signature dockable panel sets. Then there's the production interface (fig. 1), which actually hearkens back to the last Production Studio product. If you've used After Effects 7 on either platform, you're familiar with Adobe's production interface, which is also characterized by dockable palettes (albeit slightly different ones than found in the CS3 design UI), as well as the ability to change the brightness of the interface and the ever-so-useful "press tilde to expand" behavior of individual panels. The production interface is common to After Effects, Premiere, and Encore, but with the inclusion of Illustrator, Flash, Photoshop Extended, OnLocation and Ultra (the latter two of which still sport interfaces left over from when they were Serious Magic products), you've got a pretty serious mix of sometimes disparate interface types going on. And once the Master Collection ships, you can thrown in the old-school Macromedia interface still tiredly worn by Dreamweaver and Fireworks, and you've got a veritable interface bonanza. However, it's pretty clear that the CS3 design and production interfaces are where things are headed, and I suspect much of the UI smorgasbord will be history by the time CS4 rolls around.

Figure 1: The Adobe production interface, as seen in After Effects CS3.

Mac users may be unfamiliar with Dynamic Link, Adobe's render-free integration feature that allows you to share data between Premiere, After Effects, and Encore, so it's definitely worth a mention, especially if you expand it to include all the ways that the programs work together (which is where Photoshop comes in as well). This is something of a big deal, because it opens up (for example) Premiere's editing capabilities for use in After Effects, or allows you to import an After Effects comp as a motion menu in Encore and have it auto-update when you make changes. Encore also uses native Photoshop PSD files for its menus and buttons, which also auto-update when you make edits in Photoshop. For me, though, the kicker is the ability to copy and paste assets from the Premiere timeline to After Effects, and vice-versa (fig. 2). If you've ever gone through the pain of trying to string together clips in After Effects, you'll appreciate this feature immensely. I'm no editor, but it's much easier to use Premiere if you need to do some basic editing before moving into After Effects, and with the ability to copy and paste a sequence between the two, it's a no-brainer to introduce Premiere into your workflow.

Figure 2: A string of clips in Premiere (top) copied and pasted to make a perfect doppelganger in After Effects' timeline (bottom).

Switching gears a bit, if you're into Flash Video, you may be interested to know about how Premiere, After Effects and Soundbooth can not only export sequences as FLV files (or XML documents containing marker information in the case of Soundbooth), but can also embed cue points so you can "chapterize" or assign interactivity to your clips once you've moved over to Flash. There's really not a whole lot more to say than that, so let's forge ahead.

The last common element I'll mention is the inclusion of the Clip Notes feature. Available from After Effects and Premiere, Clip Notes lets you set markers in your timeline and then export a QuickTime or Windows Media file, which is then embedded into a PDF document. That PDF then goes to whomever needs to see it, and then they can make notes or comments directly in Adobe Reader (fig. 3). Once the document has been annotated, they then export out a small file to send back to you, which you can import back into your timeline to make changes or edits from. It's a pretty slick process, though one wonders why there's no FLV option for the video clip, seeing as Adobe is heavily pushing Flash Video in just about everything else they do.

Figure 3

And with the common elements out of the way, let's take a look at the individual products in the suite. 

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Related Keywords:adobe, cs3, production premium, premiere, soundbooth, flash, after effects, photoshop, illustrator, encore, ultra, onlocation

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