One of the experiences I used to meet with mixed emotions was Adobe’s yearly update of its applications. It was naturally exciting to have new toys to play with, but in previous iterations it always meant opening up the wallet.
Now that Adobe has moved over to its Creative Cloud subscription model, the updates lose a bit of the sting, since the total cost is spread out on a month-to-month basis. And while it is pretty close to the same amount of money, it’s easier to budget a monthly expense, and so it doesn’t hurt as much.
And then, of course, there are the shiny new toys.
Last week Adobe brought forth its 2015 update to Creative Cloud, full of much anticipated features, especially for the video end of the spectrum. As far as I can recall, this update probably had the lengthiest and most robust feature preview (especially at NAB), which meant some of the features were not only known, but heavily sought after.
So what does Creative Cloud 2015 have to offer for video, and how well do the new features translate?
Note: All the things I am looking at are what is relevant to me; there are surely other features I will not mention.
Of all the apps this version, Premiere Pro (Adobe’s non-linear editing software) probably received the most substantial updates, or at least had the most extensive big feature updates. It has definitely come into its own over the past few iterations, and since CS6 has definitely become one of the major NLE’s out there.
Perhaps the most notable feature is Premiere Pro’s built in Lumetri Color tool, which brings many of SpeedGrade’s (Adobe’s coloring tool) feature set directly into the editing space. Premiere Pro has had some of the standard color correction tools for awhile: Curves, Three-Way Color Corrector, etc., but it’s been difficult to really achieve a good color correction within the editor itself without sending to an external application. The last version (CC 2104) gained Lumetri Looks, which allowed users to add some of SpeedGrade’s presets from within Premiere Pro, but it still felt like a tacked on feature, since one could not really make adjustments within the editing space.
The new color tool, however, changes a lot of that in a significant way, and many may find that they can achieve the look they desire without having to send out to an external application. The Lumetri Color panel consists of several sections which can be individually enabled or disabled, and each has some great color correction tools.
The Basic Correction section will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has used Camera RAW adjustments, and allows one to quickly and easily correct exposure, white balance, etc. It also allows one to begin with an Input LUT which emulate various camera model color spaces and film stocks.
The Creative section has settings to apply Look presets, add the ever popular Faded Film look, and adjust saturation, sharpening, tinting, etc. In a lot of ways the Lumetri Color panel feels like the type of image editor one would find in a variety of smartphone image processing apps (e.g., Afterlight, VSCO, Instagram), which I think is actually a good thing since it makes the entire color correction experience feel very intuitive.
Curves offers the standard S curve tools with Luminance and RGB, but has a rather interesting Hue/Saturation Curve editor. Whereas many other color correctors align it on a horizontal plane, Lumetri Color uses a color wheel and allows you draw curves within the color wheel to make really precise adjustments for particular colors. It’s really quite an ingenious way of doing this.
Color Wheels enables a standard 3-Way Corrector, and lastly Premiere Pro finally gets a built-in Vignette with the standard controls. About time!
As big a deal as the color correction is, Premiere Pro now enables quick workspace tabs for various tasks: Assembly, Editing, Color, Effects and Audio. To be honest it has taken me a little while to get used to this, but after a little use the value of being able to quickly change workspaces for a particular task becomes readily apparent.
I previously wrote a fairly lengthy post concerning the philosophy of editing in relation to Premiere Pro’s Morph Cut, which is meant to help smooth transitions in a jump cut. I was originally hoping that this tool could potentially be used to help smooth transitions for looping motions (especially for nature shots, e.g., clouds), but after trying it out I discovered that Morph Cut require s faces to work. A little disappointing, but I’m still excited to try it out on an interview video.
For quite a long time After Effects has been feeling its age, especially as far as the interface is concerned. It has always seemed that no matter how much RAM you throw at it, the UI constantly feels sluggish.
This year’s release is short on what might be considered sexy features, but what has changed under the hood more than makes up for it.
Interestingly enough, about a year and a half ago the product managers for After Effects sort of threw out a teaser on their blog, asking a simple question of their users: would you rather we gave you shiny new features, or that we spend a whole year making After Effects faster. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such unanimity in a combox, as nearly every (if not every) response was clamoring for performance enhancements above all else.
Well, that is what After Effects delivers in the 2015 release. One major architectural change that probably doesn’t make it onto a product spec sheet but makes an enormous difference in workflow is how the UI has been dispatched from the CPU and now accesses the GPU, which means that as your CPU is churning away the interface can still stay quick and responsive. In actuality the difference is measured in fractions of seconds, but those fractions of seconds quickly add up and make the experience of After Effects so much better.
Also notable is in what is no longer with us: the dreaded RAM preview. The new architecture makes use of uninterrupted previews, which means one can click on things outside of the composition without interrupting playback, make changes, add effects, etc., and After Effects will continue the preview, constantly loading frames into RAM. Whereas Spacebar preview and RAM preview were distinct in the past, they are now unified.
Below is a quick run-through of uninterrupted preview using Mir and a 4-Color Gradient. It is actually a lot smoother than this when not trying to screen capture at the same time.
The uninterrupted preview can- to be honest, take a little getting used to after years of RAM preview. And to be honest again, I find its implementation not completely stable. Spacebar starts up the preview and ends it, but sometimes I have found it requires two clicks rather than one to stop, and I have yet to determine if this is a bug or part of some workflow pattern I haven’t yet mastered.
One other feature I am very excited for is how After Effects and Premiere Pro can now hook into the Library system that Photoshop, Illustrator and InDeisgn share. This means that any assets placed into a Library are now accessible within After Effects and Premiere.
For me this means one thing: After Effects is one step closer to have a swatch panel. I still find it inexplicable that After Effects doesn’t have this built in. What I have usually had to do in the past is to create a PSD containing little boxes of all the colors I want, and then use that as kind of a swatch library. However, with Libraries I now can simply load all the swatches from my artwork created elsewhere into a Library, and then use that Library as a kind of pseudo-swatch library.
It’s the little things.
Still disappointing is that After Effects has yet to implement any sort of robust organizational system, which feels more and more ridiculous with every release that goes by.
One other handy little update is that expressions will continue to be calculated even if you end up breaking them, which makes relinking them quite a bit easier. After Effects also now gives you a dialog about broken expression that is actually helpful, since it will now take you directly to the expression (or expressions) that are broken.
Of course, one feature I have been really looking forward to is the new Character Animator, which was formerly known as Project Animal. This utilizes the webcam and facial tracking to ease the creation of character animation. I’ve played around with this a little bit, and while I think it’s pretty cool and has a lot of potential. I also think it has quite a long way to go before it replaces any sort of robust character creation. Somewhat disappointing is that Character Animator exists as a stand-alone app right now, without any robust integration with After Effects, which severely limits its current usefulness.
(To be fair, the lighting is bad and the audio not configured, but I can’t be begrudged a little fun…)
The technology is really promising, however, and I’m extremely excited to see where this goes. One potentially useful feature that may allow for greater integration is After Effects’ updated facial detail tracking tool, which can capture details of facial features and covert that tracking data for use within Character Animator.
Adobe has continued to update its catalog of mobile apps, and two that are particularly relevant to video are Adobe Clip (which has been around since CC 2014) and the new Adobe Hue.
Adobe Clip is essentially a quick and dirty NLE on your phone, which allows for rough cuts of clips you might capture on your phone, grab from external media, etc. It can create quick videos like the mobile editors, but it can also function as a rough assembler for later work in Premiere Pro. Once you sync the project with Premiere Pro, all the edits (and even looks!) are automatically converted into a project and you can hit the ground running.
The one I am most excited about, however, is Adobe Hue, which lets you create LUTs out of images you take with your phone or even already have on your device. It can capture the look of what your phone sees, convert that into a LUT, and then apply that as a look in Premiere Pro or After Effects. I have only had limited time to try this out, but the creative possibilities are exciting.
All in all, the 2015 release of Creative Cloud is very exciting on the video end of things, and the features range from potentially workflow altering (like Lumetri Color) to time-saving (like After Effects’ architectural overhaul) to creatively engaging (like Adobe Hue). If you work with video, give Adobe’s video tools a go. And if you are already a Creative Cloud member, hurry up and download.