So Premiere Pro and After Effects are still the main reasons to buy Adobe’s video bundle, but the supporting acts are myriad and extremely capable too. We have already covered what’s new in Photoshop CS3 Extended and we would need a whole separate review for Illustrator CS3.
Encore CS3 hasn’t changed a huge amount from the previous version, apart from two important aspects. One of these is the complete integration with Premiere Pro CS3 which we’ve already discussed. The other is that it now supports the authoring of Blu-ray discs, although not HD-DVD (assuming you could even find a burner anyway). You can create Blu-ray in MPEG-4 H.264 as well as MPEG-2, with project presets for 720 x 576, 1,280 x 720, 1,440 x 1,080 and 1,920 x 1,080. There’s a choice of interlaced fields or progressive frames as well, and video content can automatically be transcoded at a data rate from 15Mbits/sec to 40Mbits/sec. You can also output DVD and Flash SWF versions of your Blu-ray project – extremely useful when trialling ideas with a client.
A new addition to the Production Premium bundle is Ultra CS3. This is a single-purpose app aimed at creating a virtual studio, for those times when you don’t have the luxury of a real studio. You simply shoot your ‘talent’ against a green or blue screen, and then use Ultra to superimpose them against a realistic-looking studio background. You could just use a still image and Premiere Pro’s keying, but Ultra comes with a selection of themed virtual studios, viewed from different vantage points, and you can also add moving video to a screen embedded in the background of some of these for creating remote reporter interviews.
There are three extra sets of virtual studios available, each costing $399. Ultra’s keying works best if you shoot a little of the green screen background on its own, before your studio personality enters the frame. But you can also use the Add Key Point tool if you don’t have this available, and the results are still very good. We found Ultra easier to use and more effective than Premiere Pro’s own keying. It all sounds pretty handy, although the output options only include AVI, frame sequences and QuickTime, not MPEG, so working with HDV captured in Premiere could be problematic. With the previous version costing £349 on its own though, Ultra CS3 adds still more to the value of the CS3 Production Premium bundle.
Another new addition is SoundBooth, an entirely fresh sound editing application, which replaces Audition. SoundBooth is much more focused on the video editor than Audition, which still harked back to its CoolEdit roots in multi-track music mixing. SoundBooth instead puts the accent on tasks like noise reduction, click and pop removal, and mixdown effects, making these much more accessible. It also offers automatic loop-based score creation, similar to Smartsound QuickTracks, which won’t replace a real composer but is great for a quick and dirty soundtrack for a corporate video.
The last new addition to Production Premium, OnLocation, used to be called DV Rack HD, version 2 of which cost more than £300. It’s a tool for recording video straight to disk in a studio, with monitoring facilities built in, but wasn’t included in the beta software we used for this review. So we can’t tell you much about it, other than that it increases the value of the bundle still more – and it’s included with the standalone Premiere Pro CS3 as well.
With so much included in the box, it’s hard not to call Adobe CS3 Production Premium great value, even at the whopping £1,500 price. For a start, you get at least £500 worth more software for your money than you did with the previous version. From the upgrade point of view, After Effects users will get the most benefit from the new CS3, although there’s enough in the new version of Premiere Pro to lure regular users as well – particularly the time remapping and greatly extended output options. As with all suites, though, CS3 is only good value if you use enough of the bundled apps on a regular basis. But with the standalone Premiere Pro CS3 now also including Encore and OnLocation CS3, that’s better value too. In a nutshell, Adobe CS3 Production Premium costs an overwhelming amount, but you get an overwhelming amount of software for your money.