Adobe Creative Suite 5 expands and extends its graphic reach

CS5 offers a plethora of new features. We look at what's new in its five major applications.

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Premiere Pro

As with most of the other products in CS5, Premiere Pro -- Adobe's video editing product -- has most of its big fix-ups under the hood.

The most radical change, and the most useful, is the newly rewritten Mercury media playback engine. The more processor cores you have to throw at it, the better it'll perform -- and it takes advantage of Nvidia's CUDA parallel-processing technology, which uses your GPU to accelerate real-time effects performance. The bad news is that only a very small subset of Nvidia cards are supported: the Quadro FX 3800/FX 4800/FX 5800/CX and GeForce GTX 285. (Note that this doesn't preclude you from using GPU acceleration in, say, Photoshop -- just Premiere.)

Another major change, but one that I suspect won't be a deal-breaker for the program's core audience: 64-bit Windows is required to use Premiere Pro from now on. This allows the program to routinely make use of more than 4GB at a time. You'll need it.

Adobe CS5

Video effects in Premiere Pro can be accelerated

Anyone who uses even a moderate amount of effects processing in video -- which, these days, might well be everyone -- will quickly appreciate what the 64-bitness and Mercury's rewrite will give them. GPU acceleration means a lot less time wasted rendering footage just to see accurate results for one change, or having all four CPU cores gobbled up by a single effect. (Rendering in Adobe Media Encoder is also GPU-accelerated.) Not every effect can be sped up this way, but Premiere at least lets you know which effects are accelerated and which aren't.

GPU acceleration is doubly valuable when you're working with HD video -- and Premiere Pro comes with tons of native format support for HD cameras. This includes video cameras like the Red line of high-end digital cinema systems. These sport their own proprietary file format (bad) but can shoot imagery that gives full 35mm a run for its money at a fraction of the cost (very good). Premiere Pro's new maximum image size is 10240 by 8192, which shouldn't pose any format problems for a while yet.

Another new addition for the effects-centric filmmaker (and actually part of Premiere's brother application, After Effects) is the Roto Brush -- a compositing/rotoscoping tool that uses a Photoshop-like interface to make separating an object from its background a lot easier. Roto Brush attempts to detect how the edges of an object (and the edges of its matte) move between frames, so you generally only have to do touch-up work between frames instead of re-creating the matte from scratch each time.

After Effects, like Premiere's other brother app, Media Encoder (which handles rendering of video to output in parallel with other tasks), can be set to share memory with Premiere so that you can efficiently run them side by side.

Many of the other changes in Premiere are aimed not simply at editors, but at moviemakers. The clearest incarnation of this is the auxiliary application Adobe Story, a combination of Web service and Adobe Air-powered program designed to close the gap between a screenplay and the actual footage shot and logged in for editing. You can take an existing script or create a new one from a template, break it down by scene and shot, associate specific takes or video files with those elements for easy editing, and collaborate with others on the results.

Some things are missing: For example, you can associate characters with a project (e.g., for lines of dialogue), but you can't yet generate a call sheet for that scene with props and such, which seems like the next logical step.

Adobe After Effects CS5: Roto Brush

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