Amen Corner: Bundle Up(grades) for the Summer
Posted Jun 27, 2007

By the time you read this column, July will be upon us, bringing picnics, fireworks, and—if, like me, you grew up in a small town—a chance to ride the ladder truck or climb a 20-foot pole and grab money from the top.

July also brings with it a group of activities that houses of worship use as summer teaching and entertainment tools for children. For some it takes on the form of week-long events like “Vacation Bible School” or camps; for others it’s a series of hikes, swims, or other outdoor activities. Whatever the case, these activities need to be captured, edited, and displayed after the event or at season’s end.

Fortunately for our EventDV readers that may be called upon to use their talents to cut together 400 digital still images—and just as many digital video clips from a variety of cameras—into a coherent music video telling the story of the activity, Adobe and Apple have both released upgrades to their flagship video, motion graphics, and audio tools that will help meet these needs.

Adobe CS3 Production Premium Bundle. Adobe’s pulled out all the stops to integrate the tools from Macromedia—a company it purchased in 2005—into the latest release of Adobe’s flagship Creative Suite line. Dubbed Creative Suite 3, or CS3, the tools include old faithfuls from Adobe and Macromedia as well as several additional new or repackaged tools. The tools are broken into bundles: Web, Design, and Production.

The Production bundle has updates to After Effects, Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Flash, Premiere Pro (new to those who use the Macintosh platform, as Adobe had previously not ported Premiere Pro to the Mac OS X operating system), as well as several new products such as Soundbooth, OnLocation, and—for those on the Windows platform—Ultra.

The last two products were part of another acquisition Adobe recently made when it acquired Serious Magic, whose greenscreen technology was one of the most impressive low-cost keying tools on the market in recent years. OnLocation may be an especially beneficial tool to those who are called upon to videotape skits and other longform content at this summer’s activities at their local house of worship, as it provides a key set of tools such as waveforms, vectorscopes, and white balancers, as well as a direct-to-disk recording capability in which recorded clips can then be opened up in Premiere Pro or After Effects immediately upon completion of shooting.

Flash, too, will prove popular with those who need to put high-impact, low-bandwidth videos on the web. The Flash CS3 Professional tool has been enhanced with ActionScript 3.0, a scripting language that makes it easier than ever to integrate video clips in Flash’s native .FLV format into an interactive website or standalone application. In addition, Flash 8 Video, the Adobe video standard based on On2’s VP6 video codec, is one of the output choices from Adobe’s new Media Encoder tool, a new program that supplements all the video- and audio-based applications in the Production Premium CS3 suite.

The power of the Adobe Production Premium suite comes in its ability to move content seamlessly between all the applications. One example is the ability to use Photoshop Extended—a new professional version of Photoshop—to import an image sequence and then play it back directly from within Photoshop Extended as an animation, using the After Effects rendering engine. Then the image sequence can be output directly to Premiere Pro, where additional After Effects keyframe tools can be used to enhance the movie even further—all without opening up After Effects. In essence, Adobe’s created a way for the majority of the underlying technologies to be used by end users in the product they’re most comfortable using. Apple Final Cut Studio 2. At NAB 2007, Apple announced Final Cut Studio 2 and began shipping it in mid-May. Final Cut Studio, like Adobe CS3 Production Suite, builds on the power of integration between the various products in the suite (FCP, Motion, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro, and Compressor). One example is the ability to remove cycle hums or extraneous noise from a video clip by opening it directly in Soundtrack Pro 2. This is accomplished either with the traditional waveform and a series of filters, or with a new powerful visual interface that graphs out the sounds, allowing for rapid identification of areas that are causing distracting sounds—and then eliminating just that set of sounds from the graph.

Another good integration example in Final Cut Studio is the ability to take those 400 shots that were done during your youth campout and drop them into Motion’s new 2.5-dimension workflow; or, if you prefer, lay them all out on a timeline in Final Cut and then bring the timeline directly into Motion 2, where it will remain in sequence for rapid multi-dimensional manipulation without sacrificing linear timing. What’s more, the upcoming Leopard release of Mac OS X will enable Core Animation, which allows for very complex 3D animation sequences without the need for rendering.

Once the Final Cut Pro or Motion project is complete, dragging it into DVD Studio Pro means that the sequence can be seen instantly, without rendering. Any changes then made to the Motion project will also be updated in DVD Studio Pro or Final Cut Pro instantly, eliminating both time (the need to render a sequence before moving it into another program) and guesswork.

Tim Siglin, co-founder of Transitions, Inc., is a contributing editor to EventDV and Streaming Media. He has 18 years of film and video experience and heads a digital media business consultancy in Kingsport, Tennessee.