Are your ears burning? joked Adobe's Colin Smith, after finishing his whirlwind demonstration of the new features in Video Collection 2.5, just released this week.
The software bundle is a well-stocked, post-production toolkit. At a cost, before VAT, of Â£915 or Â£175 upgrade (around US$999 and US$249 in the States), the standard version of the suite comprises of four editing programs: Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 for editing video, Adobe Audition 1.5 for editing audio, Adobe After Effects 6.5 for making special effects and compositing, and Adobe Encore DVD 1.5 for designing and publishing DVDs.
Considering that the one-hour tour also looked at ways in which you can incorporate Illustrator CS and Adobe Photoshop CS files into your project (Photoshop is included in the Video Collection 1.5 Professional bundle only), my ears should have been burning red hot. Instead they were just glowing warmly as the grey matter between them sifted over the myriad possibilities that these tools present us.
It helps to have someone who knows his way around in the driving seat - I recommend turning up to any of the free "roadshows" that Adobe, or any other software company brings to town as a way of familiarizing yourself with their new product. Roadshow presentations are usually conducted at a more leisurely pace and there's plenty of opportunity for posing questions to the presenter.
So what's in "The Collection"? There's lots of good stuff, much of which I expect to cover in future columns.
Some noteworthy new features in Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 are the integration of Photoshop style colour filters which allow you make adjustments to the colour temperature of your footage or the shadows and highlights filter which allows you to balance out footage with hard contrasts.
In the new versions of After Effects and Premiere Pro you can also store your favourite effects in a preset library.
After Effects is a great program for doing flashy looking motion graphics and flying stuff across the screen but it can be a time-consuming business trying to tweak and finesse those compositions. So the inclusion of 60 new effects filters (add smoke, sparks, light rays, etc.) and 250 text animation presets are potentially big time-savers, especially for those editors who have to churn out corporate videos, yet still make them look good at the end of the day.
You can also modify animation presets that come in AE, in effect using the presets as a starting point for a library of your own, customised animations. Another thing is text in AE is vector-based which means that you can manipulate it easily, including editing text just like you were using a word processor. No need to launch Photoshop. I'm sure we'll see many of these oven-ready animations soon: get them while they're fresh.
Adobe's focus on integration and consistency in design always helps reduce the learning curve when you come to a new program afresh. It's surprising how a similar look and feel between programs can afffect your comfort level. Audition 1.5, based on the Cool Edit audio program that Adobe bought off Syntrillium in May 2003, is a product that is still undergoing metamorphosis into the Adobe mould.
One example of this is the decision to include two pointer tools in the tool bar that do the same job but handle slightly differently. One is for those who prefer the original program's pointer and the other for those who prefer to use a more classic Adobe pointer tool. I'm sure there will be a third group who will be wondering to themselves why Adobe created two tools for the same job.
This quirk aside, the three headline new features in Audition 1.5 are support for burning CDs directly from inside the program, support for ReWire, which allows two ReWire-enabled applications to work together, and support for VST, the industry standard for audio effects.
Audition includes a nifty facility called Frequency Space Editing, which allows you to remove or modify a sound, like a voice or an instrument, by drawing a marquee selection tool over a visual representation of your audio (there's lots of visual representations of audio to chose from). Also, very impressive is its pitch filter which, for example, corrects out-of-tune singing, and a time stretching filter that allows you to make an audio clip longer or shorter without effecting the pitch (an amazing tool, although we were only listening to all these effects through the small music system speakers provided by the hotel which made it difficult to detect any audio artefacts).
Designing an interactive interface for your disc in Adobe Encore DVD appeared to be a relatively easy affair. Deceptively easy? I don't know. Encore DVD isn't a program I've used before, and although the interface had that familiar Adobe look, I'm going to reserve judgement.
What struck me as being indispensable was Encore DVD's Project Checking feature, which you run before you press your discs. It tells you if you've got navigation problems (links that go nowhere, broken first play, overlapping buttons and so on). It will also report if your video is encoded at too high a bit rate, or if the project is too large to fit on your chosen disc. It is the kind of facility that could save you a lot of unnecessary pain.
The integration between the various programs in the suite is another selling point. You can have a project from After Effects or Audition and drop the project itself on to the Premiere timeline. When you want to make changes to the After Effects or Audition composition you then click on the timeline in Premiere, launch into the other program, make modifications and the edits are reflected back in Premiere. Assuming that your computer is powerful enough, with at least 256 MB per program, you can move between the various programs in the suite, editing and tweaking at will.
This analysis really just touches the tip of the iceberg. Suffice it to say that on their own, these programs get the creative juices going. As a bundle, the sum appears to be worth more than the individual parts.
IntelÂ® PentiumÂ® III 800MHz processor (Pentium 4 3.06GHz or multiprocessor recommended)
MicrosoftÂ® Windows XPÂ® Professional or Home Edition with Service Pack 1
256MB of RAM to run any one application (1GB or more recommended)
Additional RAM required to run multiple applications simultaneously
1.8GB of available hard-disk space required for installation
10GB or larger hard disk or disk array recommended for ongoing work
5GB of additional hard-disk space recommended for extra content
1,280x1,024 32-bit color video display adapter with 16MB of VRAM or more (dual monitors recommended)
Microsoft DirectX-compatible sound card (multichannel ASIO-compatible sound card for surround sound support recommended for AdobeÂ® PremiereÂ® Pro)
Speakers or headphones recommended
CD-ROM drive, compatible CD recorder (CD-R/-RW drive) required for CD creation
DVD-ROM drive, compatible DVD recorder required for DVD creation
For DV: OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 interface and dedicated large-capacity 7200RPM UDMA 66 IDE or SCSI hard disk or disk array
Microsoft DirectX 9.0b software required (included)
QuickTime 6.5 software recommended (not included)
Optional: Surround speaker system for 5.1 audio playback
UK: Â£915 or Â£175 upgrade, before VAT
US: Adobe Video Collection 2.5 for Windows XPÂ® estimated street price of US$999 and US$1499. Upgrade for US$249. Individual point product upgrade US$799.