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Malaysian-born filmmaker debuts short film at Sundance

Short film shot on RED in 4k edited on Macbook Pro using Adobe Premiere Pro software

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Diffan Norman is not just a filmmaker, he’s a multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and designer. His nine minute short film Kekasih, which won the Audience Choice Award at Kelab Seni Filem Malaysia, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. Norman credits his Adobe workflow with helping him realize his vision for the film.

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Poster by Iman Raad

Adobe: Tell us about your background.
Norman: I’m originally from Malaysia. I earned my bachelor of fine arts degree at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, California. I started out directing music videos and short films. My first short film, Wanita Cosmos, was about a Malaysian woman who is chosen to travel into space. It was shown at ResFest, The International Film Festival of Rotterdam, The 27th Clermont Ferrand International Short Film Fest, and The New York Asian American International Film Festival.

I eventually moved to Los Angeles and became absorbed working with boutique studios, including Brand New School and National Television. I initially worked as a freelancer, but ultimately took a full-time job as senior animator and designer at National Television. We produced commercials, print ads, and other motion graphics work for clients. I like to think this was where I earned my Master’s degree.

Adobe: When were you first introduced to Adobe software?
Norman: In 1994, a friend and I played in a band that never existed and we wanted to make an album cover for our cassette recordings. He had Photoshop on his computer and we were completely blown away by the facet/cell filter. When I got to college I learned After Effects. I didn’t know anything about motion graphics and was very attracted to what After Effects could do.

Adobe: How did you decide to make Kekasih?
Norman: I started out in DV filmmaking and animation. After Otis I worked for about five to six years in boutique studios in and around Los Angeles that mainly produced live and animated commercials, and music videos with a particular appreciation for motion graphics. After my father’s passing, I realized I wanted to get back to what I originally set out to do. I wrote the script for Kekasih a few years ago, and my father and I would discuss the theme of the film, as well as details such as whether it should be animated or live action. After he died, I cleaned out his office and found a copy of the script on his desk. That’s when I decided to make the film.

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Adobe: What was your process?
Norman: I needed financial help to make the film, so I applied for and received a multimedia grant from The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS). The organization gives out two grants, one at the beginning of the year and one at the end of the year, and the requirement is that you make a short film. In addition to the funds I received from the FINAS, I also helped finance it myself. We got two veteran actors, Nasir Bilan Khan and Fauziah Nawi, who don’t usually do short films, to participate in the project. They liked the story so much that they jumped on board.

Adobe: How were Adobe tools used in the production of Kekasih?
Norman: We shot the film on a RED camera and edited it using Adobe Premiere Pro. I’d used Premiere Pro on Wanita Cosmos, which was drawn in Photoshop and animated in After Effects. I hadn’t edited anything in a few years, but I wanted to use Premiere Pro for the film because of the intuitive RED workflow.

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Adobe: What did you like most about working with Adobe video tools?
Norman: Premiere Pro let me watch 4k footage without losing quality, easily add sound, and output the film quickly. Being able to edit RED footage on a Macbook Pro using Premiere Pro was really fascinating.

Overall, the Adobe products allowed me to take ideas that I had in my head, such as the animated inspiration sequences in Kekasih, and make them happen. I’m most attracted to the immediacy that Adobe products enable. I have the ideas, I have the tools, and I can do it. For Kekasih, I created everything in Adobe products – the graphics, trailer, postcards, animated sequences, Instagram teaser, and the film itself. I cannot imagine doing all of this without Adobe products. I’ve also just joined Adobe Creative Cloud, and I’m looking forward to working with even more tools to explore different looks, styles, and creative directions.

 

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Sundance veteran offers up lyrical documentary film

Film about American music history comes together beautifully with Adobe video workflow

The feature-length documentary This May Be the Last Time doesn’t only detail the history of the Seminole community’s ancient songs of faith and hope, it also explores their connection to Director Sterlin Harjo’s own personal history. It’s his first documentary project, but not his first time premiering at the Sundance Film Festival or his first experience working with Adobe software. Together with his filmmaking partner Matt Leach, Harjo is fully immersed in the Adobe video workflow and the duo are happy to share how it has supported their efforts and fueled their creativity.

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Photo credit: Sterlin Harjo

Adobe: Tell us about your backgrounds.
Harjo: I’m from Oklahoma and I’m a member of the Seminole and Muscogee (Creek) tribes. I’ve been making films since my early- to mid-20s. I was invited into the Sundance Feature Film Program when I was 23 and received a lot of support through the Sundance Institute. My first short film Goodnight Irene premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 and I’ve had two other films—Four Sheets to the Wind and Barking Water—that also debuted at the festival.

Leach: I studied film at Oklahoma University and when I graduated I started doing music videos. One was on MTV and another was shown at South by Southwest. I also worked in news and advertising for a couple of years, working on a variety of projects, until I met Sterlin.

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Photo credit: Royce Sharp

Adobe: How did you two connect?
Harjo: Matt and I went to school together but we never met. We were both living in Tulsa and working in the film industry, so we got together and started trying to figure out how we could combine our talents. There was a new company in town called This Land Press that was publishing a magazine featuring long form journalism. We pitched them on creating some online video work and ended up doing some online documentaries and videos with the same journalistic style. We had been using Final Cut Pro, but we were shooting with DSLR cameras with a more “run and gun” style and fast turnaround times, so we made the switch to Adobe Premiere Pro.

Leach: We ended up doing a 12 episode TV show called This Land that was all edited on Premiere Pro. With just a two man operation, it was the only way for us to work quickly and deliver the quality we wanted in the given timeframe. I originally learned Premiere Pro in 2000, so going back to it was familiar, and a lot better. It enabled us to do more of the work we wanted to do quickly and affordably. Premiere Pro has made all the work we’ve done in the last three years possible.

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Photo credit: Jessie Harjo

Adobe: How did you decide to make This May Be the Last Time?
Harjo: It was a story that I had always wanted to tell, so I pitched it to the team at This Land Press and they were excited and wanted to do it. Originally, it was just about the songs of the Seminole community and their story and history. As we made the film it became obvious that one of the main stories that needed to be told was my story and my connection to the songs. I feel like the finished film is part musical and part documentary.

Adobe: How did the process differ from your past films?
Harjo: It wasn’t actually that different. We shot the film in just six months and we were editing the whole time. This was the first really personal film I’d done about me and my family. Most documentaries take at least two years to shoot. But because I’m a narrative filmmaker I took a fiction storytelling approach and it went much more quickly. It also helped that I knew the material and most of the people we interviewed were people I know personally so a level of trust was already established. I felt like I’d been researching this film my whole life.

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Photo credit: Shane Brown

Adobe: What other Adobe products do you use?
Leach: For This May Be the Last Time we used Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects, and Media Encoder. The poster for the film was created using Photoshop and Illustrator.

Harjo: The poster is really beautiful. It was made by a friend of mine, Ryan Redcorn, who does really amazing work.

Adobe: When did you begin using Adobe Creative Cloud?
Leach: We started this project just before Creative Cloud was announced, so we were hesitant to switch in the middle. We ultimately ended up making the switch so we could use After Effects CC for a lot of the graphics shots. We also used the latest versions to finish up the last tweaks to graphics and photo animations. The Detail Preserving Upscale Effect in After Effects CC was particularly useful for the archival footage in the film because it helped us keep everything sharp.

Harjo: We shot the film with a Canon C100 and there were a lot of handheld shots. Warp Stabilizer in Premiere Pro CC really saved us on some shots.

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Photo credit: Shane Brown

Adobe: What do you like about Creative Cloud?
Leach: It’s really helpful just to be able to have access to everything online through Creative Cloud. If we’re out in the middle of nowhere and someone sends us a file we can easily download the relevant application in just a few minutes. Creative Cloud isn’t just for low budget filmmakers. When we started working on the film there weren’t many people using Premiere Pro, but now almost all of the editors I talk to are using it.

Harjo: The efficiency we get from Premiere Pro alone is worth the cost of Creative Cloud. The ability to bring files into Premiere Pro without spending an extra five hours converting, combined with the hard drive space we save is really amazing.

Watch the trailer: http://vimeo.com/83448294

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Rams Broadcasting Network creates winning entertainment

Small team produces hours of professional football content each week using Adobe Creative Cloud

The St. Louis Rams have celebrated victories and suffered losses during the 2013 football season thus far—however, videos produced by the Rams Broadcasting Network are always a big win. The network creates everything from videos introducing cheerleaders and players, game-winning plays, interviews with coaches, and more entertaining content that make it fun to be a fan. Video Manager Chris Slepokura sat down to tell us more about the Rams’ content strategy and how the videos are produced for broadcast, online, and mobile delivery using Adobe Creative Cloud software.

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Adobe: Tell us more about who you are and what you do.
Slepokura: I’m the Video Manager of the Broadcasting and Creative Department we call the Rams Broadcasting Network. We produce content for the web, in-game video boards, and three TV shows that are air on our local affiliates. All of this content is edited with Adobe Premiere Pro CC. We also use Photoshop CC for photo editing, After Effects CC for motion graphics, and Illustrator CC for graphics, logos, and so on, to make it all happen.

Adobe: How long have you been with the Rams?
Slepokura: This is my fourth season with the team. I was brought on as Video Producer to help build out a fledgling broadcasting operation. Over the past three years, we’ve grown tremendously. From just me acting as a lone editor to now seven workstations and six editors we have the ability to create amazing content our fans can enjoy.

Adobe: Can you tell us more about the content you’re producing and how Adobe Premiere Pro fits in?
Slepokura: Our main focus is TV content because we produce three shows. To create the content, all assets are stored in a centralized server that each workstation can connect to. We use Premiere Pro and import media from our server in raw format. We previously used Final Cut Pro, and we had to constantly import and wait for a while for media to transcode to ProRes. That pain is gone now, because we can import into Premiere Pro immediately without transcoding. It makes the workflow much quicker so TV shows are ready to go sooner to make deadlines.

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Adobe: Can you estimate how much time you are saving now that you’ve moved from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro CC?
Slepokura: We ingest media at different times, but I would estimate the entire production team saving about two hours per day. Even if we saved just an hour a day, that time ads up. We all shoot, ingest, and edit. If we have a home game on a Monday and we shoot a ton of footage, then it takes longer to ingest, so consequently we’re saving more time on those days. Regardless, just working with raw files in Premiere Pro saves a ton of time. We can also sketch out and present ideas and discuss them with my boss on the spot. He’s always accessible and amenable to a lot of back and forth. Adobe software makes it possible to be more immediate, not to mention very fun, loose, and collaborative. That brings out the best in everyone.

Adobe: What cameras do you use?
Slepokura: We have a RED EPIC and also shoot on Canon EOS C100s and C300s. They are all digital, cinema-based cameras. To make things look different, we also use a camera slider, jib, Contour helmet cams, and other cool equipment.

Adobe: When you switched from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro, how was the transition?
Slepokura: Everyone picked up Premiere Pro really quickly. The learning curve is similar if you know any type of video editing software. We knew we had the option of mapping the Final Cut Pro keyboard shortcuts in Premiere Pro, but passed on that because we wanted the whole team to know the Premiere Pro shortcuts. It has been great because we use After Effects a lot and the commands and shortcuts are similar.

Adobe: Tell us more about the TV shows. What type of content do they feature?
Slepokura: Rams 360 is a sports documentary that follows a week in the life of a player. It recently won three Emmy awards (Editor-Sports, Audio, Sports Regularly Scheduled Program). Another show is RamsNation, a magazine-style program with five segments that may include a wired segment with a player or coach, a community appearance, or a fun interview with a cheerleader. The third show, What to Watch, is a type of pre-game show in the studio with hosts and a ton of graphics and highlights. These are typically shown on FOX Sports Midwest, our local FOX network, and our local FOX/CBS station. We repurpose the content for the website as well.

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Adobe: Tell us about the in-game footage. How quickly are you putting things up?
Slepokura: We come to each game with pre-produced material: graphics, highlight videos, interviews, cheerleader profiles, opening videos, and sponsor elements. There are 22 time-outs in football and those breaks need to be filled with our best creative content. While the fans are watching the video boards our production team is filming our next “Wired” segment and also capturing b-roll for Rams360.

Adobe: How are you using other Adobe applications?
Slepokura: Our motion graphics designer uses After Effects and Photoshop a ton, as well as CINEMA 4D to create 3D graphics. The integration with CINEMA 4D in After Effects CC has been a great addition. The workflow is a lot smoother.

Adobe: What do you like about working with Adobe Creative Cloud?
Slepokura: Creative Cloud lets us easily access all the applications we need on all seven of our connected computers. We love it because it is so much easier to download the software via the cloud than use a disc and worry about licensing complexities.

Adobe: What future plans do you have?
Slepokura: We want our videos to reach more fans so we can gain new fans. Give them access to their favorite players so they can connect with them on a more personal level.

Adobe: Compared to what other teams do, is what you’re doing typical?
Slepokura: I don’t know what every team is doing, but we’re trying to be cutting-edge, and I believe we are. Keeping things in-house, and utilizing the newest and latest technology keeps our content fresh.

Adobe: How does your schedule change from in-season to off-season?
Slepokura: Off-season, we are not producing the same deadline-driven TV shows. Instead, we are stockpiling content for the shows: building graphics for in-stadium; graphics for TV shows; or doing lots of pre-production that goes on creating new elements for the season. It is not the same workflow, so it’s a little bit of a breather though there is still a lot to accomplish before the season begins. NFL Draft, Scouting Combine, mini-camps, community appearances, etc., are events we cover in the offseason. So, the good news is, the fun never ends!

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Check out the St. Louis Rams sizzle reel
Learn more about the video apps and services in Adobe Creative Cloud
Download a free trial of Adobe Creative Cloud

 

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