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Edit Expertise: Suite News

Sep 23, 2008 12:00 PM, By Jan Ozer and Franklin McMahon

A sneak preview of the wide-ranging new Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium (CS4).

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Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium screenshot

The Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium package shipping later this fall includes After Effects CS4 Professional, Premiere Pro CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended (pictured), Flash CS4 Professional, Illustrator CS4, Soundbooth CS4, Encore CS4, OnLocation CS4, Device Central CS4, and Bridge CS4.

Like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, everyone who touches Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium will experience a different product as they inevitably bend the myriad new features to fit their own projects and creative goals. We enlisted Franklin McMahon and Jan Ozer to give their perspectives on the new wide-ranging suite — which includes After Effects CS4 Professional, Premiere Pro CS4, Photoshop CS4 Extended, Flash CS4 Professional, Illustrator CS4, Soundbooth CS4, Encore CS4, OnLocation CS4, Device Central CS4, and Bridge CS4.

Adobe's Web and Design suites are where you'll find Fireworks CS4, InDesign CS4, and Dreamweaver CS4, and a Master Collection suite includes every program. We'll stick to the production package for this overview. Here's a preview of what to expect from Adobe's heavy Production Premium box when it ships later this fall.


I'll have to complete many projects with Adobe's CS4 Production Premium to flesh out the details totally, but here's my first take. Note that this is a high-level first look of a beta product, not a knock-down, drag-out, take-no-prisoners review — which will come once we get our hands on a shipping copy.

At a high level, it feels as though the upgrade has a few very significant new features and a lot of little new features, on the order of enhanced keyboard shortcuts and a more robust timeline display. Some of the major new features that I don't discuss include a completely updated interface and Intel Mac compatibility for OnLocation, AVCHD support in Premiere Pro, and advanced metadata support. These are quite compelling, and I look forward to using them all in future projects.

Premiere Pro

I wanted to start with Premiere Pro's new audio-to-text function, which Adobe demonstrated back at NAB. As the name suggests, the new feature converts audio to text, and it lets you search for and play back sections based upon the text content. Downstream from the editor, the text will remain associated with the audio so that a web viewer could also search for and play back video based upon the textual content — although these functions aren't included out of the box. Rather, they'll require some custom Flash programming to produce.

Conceptually, the audio-to-text function has two levels of potential functionality tied to the accuracy of the transcription. First, if the transcription is reasonably accurate, you can use the text to more quickly locate relevant sections within the video. For example, in Figure 1, I was searching for the passage in which Congressman Rick Boucher started discussing a new bill he introduced to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Audio quality in this shot was fairly good for Boucher, but not so good for the interviewer (moi), who was miked up to another camcorder. As you can see in the figure, the Metadata panel makes it easy to perform simple word searches. When Boucher was speaking, the transcription was about 90-percent to 95-percent accurate; this was certainly good enough to help me quickly find the clips that I was looking for.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4

Figure 1. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 allows you to use transcribed speech to search for video snippets. Accuracy will vary based on the audio quality of the source material.

When I was speaking off-mic, audio quality was poorer, and accuracy dropped significantly — perhaps down into the 40-percent-to-50-percent range. The obvious conclusion is that the accuracy will vary with the source content, which isn't surprising because that applies to all speech-to-text technologies.

The second use of transcribed speech is for subtitles, open and closed captions, and pure transcriptions. Again, at 90-percent to 95-percent accuracy, you've got a great start — but you'll still need to devote some cleanup time to make the text totally usable.

Cleaning up the text within the Metadata window isn't an easy chore; you have to edit a word at a time and right-click to insert a word before or after a particular word or even to delete a word. I'm guessing that structure was necessary to maintain synchronization with the underlying audio. Or you can copy all text and paste it into a word processor, which is the best workflow if you don't need to maintain the linkage between the text and audio.

To create the text, perform the Transcribe to Text operation after capture via a simple menu item of the same name or by using the Transcribe button in the Metadata panel. You can also perform the task in Soundbooth CS4, the audio editor that comes in the suite. On a 2.66GHz dual-processor, quad-core HP xw8400 workstation, it took 2:50 (min:sec) to convert 2:22 of audio to text.

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Interestingly, when you run the transcription function, Premiere Pro transfers the job to the Adobe Media Encoder, which now runs as a separate application and can batch-process multiple tasks — including transcription and traditional encoding (Figure 2). To start encoding, export your timeline sequence as before, which opens Media Encoder.

For transcription jobs, for which the goal is clear, the Adobe Media Encoder starts working immediately; for other jobs, you have to choose a preset. Adobe added lots of presets to the new build, including many F4V presets for producing H.264 files for Flash deployment. As you can see in the figure, Adobe also added Watch Folder functionality, allowing multiple users with disk access to a common folder to share encoding capabilities.

Once you send the timeline sequence to Media Encoder, Premiere Pro is completely freed and ready to edit — a wonderful timesaver. You can also directly import and encode a standalone file, a Premiere Pro sequence, or an After Effects composition.

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