Sometimes the competition among software NLEs—and particularly those packaged and sold en suite—seems like a game of inches. Or maybe just a word game of inches. At least that's what I thought when Adobe rolled out Premiere Pro 2.0, heralding its much-broadened palette of format support with the rallying cry "Edit Everything!" Granted, it's been nine months since Apple announced Final Cut Pro 5 under the "Edit Anything!" banner, but did Adobe think we'd have forgotten Apple's slogan by now, or did they just think the array of innovations unveiled in Premiere 2.0 would make the comparison irrelevant?
Either way, that little instance of hyperbolic déjà vu is a minor point for such a major release as Premiere Pro 2.0, and while the format support it celebrates is an important feature (all the more so because Premiere, unlike Final Cut, enables you to work with all those formats in the same timeline), it's not even the most interesting aspect of Adobe's new release, nor is Premiere Pro 2.0 the only major product rev that Adobe is unleashing today. They've also got 2.0 versions of Encore DVD and Audition, the long-awaited After Effects 7.0, and a spruced-up product suite called the Adobe Production Studio that (in its Premium configuration) improves on the earlier Adobe Video Collection by incorporating the popular Adobe Illustrator CS2 vector tool. It also boasts heightened integration via the new Dynamic Link capability, which enables users to work with files in multiple applications without rendering, and make changes in a single application (like, say, a color change in Photoshop) that are applied to the project file everywhere it's accessed and edited. And as you might expect, another key new feature of the Production Studio—leveraging Adobe's earth-shaking 2005 acquisition--is integration with Macromedia Flash.
One of the heralded new features of Premiere Pro 2.0 is support for DVD authoring directly from the timeline. Adobe introduced this capability in Premiere Elements 2.0. As in Elements, it doesn't give you tremendous flexibility, and doesn't appear to be as advanced as the implementation in Avid Liquid 7, which incoporated this feature several revs ago. Premiere Pro 2.0 also promises native HDV editing, without creating massive CineForm files as in previous implementations, which is a significant technological feat since MPEG-2 transport streams are essentially groups of pictures (GOPs) consisting of one editable frame and a bunch of unviewable math, which must be laboriously process to make those frames into accessible edit points. It's also got a cool new multicam feature with support for up to four cameras and real-time preview. While Apple and Avid can handle significantly more cameras—allegedly up to 99—Premiere's advantage (over Final Cut, anyway) is support for multiple formats in a timeline, so if you have HDV from one camera feed and DV from the others, there's no issue with mixing formats or editing the video natively. Other formats supported by Premiere 2.0 include HDCAM, D5HD, and Windows Media (no DVCPro yet). You can also mix 24p and 60i in the same sequence, according to Adobe.
Premiere Pro 2.0 also boasts multiple nestable timelines, Flash export, and support for high-resolution images up to 4096x4096. Another intriguing issue is the "Feet+Frames" timecode options. This allows editors working with material sourced from film to use a time reference system better suited to their acquisition medium by displaying time code information in terms of feet rather than frames.
Adobe has also used this release to introduce an ingenious new utility called Clip Notes. Designed to enable the same sort of handy project review and annotation in Premiere Pro files that you get in PDF files, Clip Notes allows clients to place notes in a project at the exact frame where there comment applies (say, to adjust the color or re-frame a particular shot). The comments are saved in a compact metadata file that the editor can then open and find all the Clip Notes flagged in the timeline precisely where the frame in question is found. The most obvious appeal here is to corporate videographers for whom client review is a regular part of the process; similarly, event shooters who may work with editors in remote locations can use Clip Notes for much more efficient exchanges on particular in-progress edits.
Another feature included with Premiere Pro 2.0 is the Adobe Bridge file management tool we first saw with Photoshop CS 2, which provides organization and quick access to media and project files in multiple formats. The new version also includes three-way manual color correction and a Fast Color Corrector feature that makes it easier to adjust hue and saturation in multiple clips at once.
While there are far too many new features among the many applications found in the Adobe Production Studio (After Effects in particular) to do justice to them here, what's interesting is the re-constitution of the bundle from the previous Video Collection, which was arguably the standard-setter for multi-application postproduction bundles. Adobe still appears to lead the pack in the degree of integration offered; they've extended that here via Dynamic Link, which enables users to work with project files from multiple Adobe applications in other apps with the sort of fluidity that was only available to Photoshop project files in the previous version. The key here is that you need neither render nor import to work with files in different applications in the Studio set.
The Premium version of Adobe Production Studio, which retails for $1,699, includes full versions of After Effects 7.0 Professional, Premiere Pro 2.0, Photoshop CS2, Audition 2.0, Encore DVD 2.0, Illustrator CS2, Dynamic Link, and Bridge.
Adobe Production Studio Standard, which lists for $1,199, includes full versions of After Effects 7.0 Standard, Premiere Pro 2.0, Photoshop CS2, Dynamic Link, and Bridge.
On January 17, to coincide with the product's release, Adobe will begin a five-city tour to present the new Production Studio and train users in specific applications. Coordinated by the 4EVER Group, the tour will include stops in Philadelphia (January 17), Orange, California (January 18), Chicago and Dallas (January 24), and Atlanta (February 1). For more information, click here.