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A Prized Bundle
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A Flexible Finish
American Cinematographer Magazine
A Prized Bundle: Adobe's Video Collection

by Douglas Bankston

Adobe Systems Video Collection is a Windows-based software bundle that crams its box packaging with the company's most popular programs - and these programs have been improved. The Video Collection Standard Edition, which retails for $799, includes After Effects 6.0 Standard edition, Premiere Pro, Audition and Encore DVD. The Professional Edition ($1,499) features After Effects 6.0 Professional, Photoshop CS, Premiere Pro, Audition and Encore DVD. Adobe recently sent the Professional Edition to AC for evaluation.

The Video Collection supports OpenGL and is designed for Windows XP Home or Professional operating on a minimum 800MHz Pentium III processor. A 3.06GHz Pentium 4 processor or multiprocessors are recommended. I installed the collection on a Windows XP Pro dual-1GHz Pentium 4, dual hard-drive machine with a Matrox Parhelia graphics card outputting to dual monitors. (I suppose I like things in twos.)

After installing all the programs, I opened all of them and compared their layouts. All handle their windows and tools in the same way, reminding me of Photoshop, a program I use extensively. Even though I had never worked with a couple of these programs, familiarity with the other programs makes their use rather intuitive - a very important and time-saving aspect. If I can get through the basics of a program without cracking its manual, it automatically gets high marks from me.

This brings me to Premiere. The Premiere nonlinear editing program has been around for many years and has its share of fans and detractors. I found previous versions to be clunky and awkwardly arranged. With tools buried in submenus of submenus, a task that really should take three steps instead takes five.

With Premiere Pro, Adobe has completely rebuilt the program from the ground codec up. Imagine my surprise when I first opened the program to find a layout and architecture very similar to Avid Xpress and Final Cut Pro. Toss that manual! Having worked in Avid and FCP, I instantly knew my way around. Many of the features of those two programs can be found in Premiere Pro. It's as though Adobe pulled some of the better features of Xpress and FCP, implanted some Photoshop stylings and flipped the switch. Voila, Premiere Pro is alive.

To make sure I was on target with my assumption, I dusted off my copy of Premiere 5.0 that I had uninstalled years ago. After reinstalling, I compared the two. Not quite Pong versus today's  Playstation 2 video games, but you get the picture.

As test material, I used digital-video footage I shot of my son's messy first attempt at eating cereal with a spoon. Fortunately, in Premiere Pro, I could choose NTSC or PAL when creating a project, and it supports a variety of standard definitions and even high-definition video with an HD capture card. The timeline is more user-friendly than previous versions, and it is both expandable and nestable, if you need to free up space or have multiple timelines. A nifty feature of the clip bin is the ability to highlight a clip and press the arrow play button in the clip bin's thumbnail window. I could watch my son spit out that cereal without having to drag the clip to the timeline or open a separate view window. Clicking  "Properties" from the menu will open a graphic data rate analysis window as the clip plays, handy if you have compression-rate concerns for your project.

Editing is handled in real time. I dragged a dissolve transition to the timeline and dropped it on an edit. Playback of the dissolve was immediate. Depending on the effect applied to a clip, rendering time can become an issue. I applied a heavy dose of advanced color correction to a two-minute clip that resulted in a long render, though the preview was in real time. The advanced color-corrector effect features user-definable white and black levels, as well as the usual adjustments for the RGB channels. Also, one color can be selected and changed in the clip and that will carry through to each frame. This and the scores of other effects are key-frameable throughout a clip, enhancing their versatility.

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© 2003 American Cinematographer.