The changing landscape of CS5 for Broadcast (part 2)
As I spoke previously, the landscape of broadcast has been changing. That perfect storm of change is forcing broadcasters to think differently about the how’s and why’s to get media out. As a recap, here are several of the issues facing media outlets today:
- Moved from analog to digital
- From standard definition to high
definition (two flavors, not one by the way).
- We’ve gone from a couple of formats
(betacam and DV) to an ever growing list of formats.
- The world has gotten even more media
saturated meaning that content has to be even better.
- Broadcasters don’t worry about one
screen (TV), they worry about three (TV, online, mobile)
- The world has moved from tape based
(remember those?) to file-based formats.
- And oh, by the way, we’ve had an
incredibly challenging economy that means capital expenditures
(improving your equipment) have been difficult to say the least.
For this second of two parts, I will offer up some feedback that I’ve gotten from media executives around some of these challenges and how CS5 is addressing their needs.
To be completely transparent, I am going to say that I’m paraphrasing what I’ve heard from media executives (hey – I don’t have a photographic memory!) and that the companies will not be explicitly named. It needn’t be stated (but I will!) that Adobe works with EVERY major media company in the world given the impact and breadth of Adobe’s software portfolio.
"Premiere Pro has provided tremendous flexibility to allow us not to worry about the production element of the broadcast pipeline. As we transition to HD cameras, we can count on Premiere Pro to be there to support it."
First off the move to HD has not necessarily been complete. While nearly all of the acquisition going on is now HD (SD cameras are almost completely gone), transmission can still largely be SD in many markets. This can present several issues. One of Adobe’s key customers is dealing with SD and HD stations. Consequently, they’re dealing with unique issues with cameras and production. What if you have SD and HD cameras. What if (shudder) one of them shoots 4×3 only? Adobe tools and Premiere Pro specifically can handle all of these things without difficulty, which leads us to our next point.
"As we continue to amortize our hardware, it’s absolutely essential that our editing bays be able to use media from all different kinds of sources, be it tape or file based, or even user-generated content."
That brings us to one of the significant key advantages that many broadcast companies have come to truly appreciate about recent iterations of Premiere Pro - namely, the ability to mix and match different codecs on the same timeline. Think about it, if you’ve invested $10k in a 16×9 DV camera a few years ago and now are transitioning to a file based HD format, there are reasons why you want to get more life from that camera. Two reasons are the photojournalist knows that camera inside and out and will get great images every time and also that camera cost $10k - get more life out of it!
Premiere Pro can seemlessly handle and mix different codecs, frame rates and aspect ratios on the same timeline without transcoding, without rewrapping and without waiting. It’s completely transparent to the editor, because they shouldn’t have to think about what any of the media is, they should just interact with and use it, right?
"Allowing our editors to be able to edit without distraction is probably our number one need. The Mercury Playback Engine empowers our editors to be creative and without restrictions. This is a killer feature."
Let’s knock off one of the big ones now shall we? As I’ve said previously, we can sum up the CS5 release with one word: Performance. A phrase that I’ve seen several times in describing CS5 has been "Game Changer." It’s always interesting how performance can be a game changer for our industry and it’s true that CS5 is a game changer when it comes to performance. The Mercury Playback Engine has got a lot of broadcasters and media companies really excited. One point I think it important to mention is that it isn’t about how much real-time as much as it is about enabling workflows that heretofore hadn’t really existed. Native DSLR editing, real-time 2k RED editing, LongGOP formats, etc. These are the things that I think the Mercury Playback Engine really do well. When you come back to performance, it equates with time saved and possibly a higher production value. Right now, Premiere Pro stands atop of the NLE mountain when it comes to sheer performance and playback ability.
"Natively supporting our chosen tapeless format is what really drew us to look at Premiere Pro more closely. The potential time savings that can be realized in the news market is huge."
In addition, the fact that Adobe is supporting all of the flavors of a given codec (in all cases both 1080 and 720) gives them a lot of comfort when it comes to their final output. Quality also is a concern and Adobe’s ‘resolution independent play back engine’ has allowed users to deliver these mixed timelines at the highest quality, without even thinking about it. A lot of news companies have embraced XDCAM variants and with CS5 we now support 50Mbit XDCAM as well as the 35Mbit version. Canon’s entered the tapeless camera business and we support the XF format. Yes, that’s supported already. Flip cameras and their ilk – YES. DSLR’s you say? But of course! I actually see some news agencies as loving this camera (albeit with some caveats) as it can do both stills and video – it’s just the audio that’s a bit unprofessional. In fact, Premiere Pro can use Apple’s ProRes or even Avid’s DNXHD in the timeline. Right now, there’s nothing I can think of in terms of a file-based or tapeless format that Adobe does not support and that’s great news for broadcasters and users everywhere.
"Our evaluation of CS5 has shown tremendous performance benefits with a 64-bit OS. As we change out our hardware, this is going to make a major difference in our ability to complete our work on time with the quality we demand."
I’ve said to people that if Adobe had just done 64-bit and not the Mercury Playback Engine, it would have been a killer release, and it’s true. I’ve guessed at a 50% performance increase on my 3 year old Mac laptop. Not only do I get more out of it, but everything launches faster too. Premiere Pro CS4 would take a while to launch on a slower system, but with CS5, it’s up quickly. Snappier, check. Quick launch, check. Faster, oh yeah! Media companies and their artists demand functionality, but sometimes the idea of snappy and a quick feel get lost in the shuffle. I’m excited to say that isn’t the case with CS5.
"Dynamic Link for us has finally arrived with CS5. While it’s worked adequately in the past, it just didn’t provide the performance that we needed. Now, it does and we’re planning on using it in our upcoming projects."
Integration has been a hallmark with Adobe products. We’ve been shipping products with Dynamic Link for 4 versions now and it continues to be a big draw for smaller companies. Granted, there is still more for us to do as we engage in larger network systems, but the ability to seemlessly move media from After Effects to Premiere Pro to Encore remains a compelling feature. What’s changed this version that has affected the performance is again 64-bit. When I first checked out Dynamic Link in CS5, I was blown away. On a desktop system or speedy laptop, I can do a simple lower third composition in After Effects and play it in real-time inside of Premiere Pro without any RAM preview! If you’re a user of After Effects, you just got excited right? I know I was when I saw it. We’ve still got more good things we hope to do for Dynamic Link in the future, but users seem very satisfied with the improvements we’ve made for CS5.
Clearly, there is more that we could address. The ability to output multiple file types in the background through Adobe Media Encoder is something that I think many content companies are going to discover as well. We’ve started to really see more content going to mobile and with the new Flash enabled phones and devices popping up everywhere, it will be extremely interesting time for viewers.
CS5 is in many ways a ‘broadcast release’ in my mind. It was focused on high-end workflows and features. But, here’s the coolest thing: Every user has benefited from the kind of enhancements that have made it into CS5. Post production, event videography, etc. We’ve discovered that if you’re focusing on workflows and professional customers that you will have happy customers. While it’s premature to say (only a couple of weeks of shipping), I’d say you can expect more of the same focus and attention on these kinds of things in the next version.
As always, I would welcome your comments and feedback!