The Ultimate Production Premium CS

The Ultimate Production Premium CS

Working smarter, faster, and more efficiently is critical – when time is of the essence. For me, the silver bullet centers around a customized Adobe Production Premium workflow. Much of my custom workflow centers around Adobe Dynamic Link.

For those of you not familiar with Adobe Dynamic Link, wiki describes this as a feature “that eliminates intermediate rendering between programs”. Currently, Dynamic LInk integration exists between Premiere Pro, After Effects and Encore.

I love Adobe Dynamic Link, and I love the time I save using it when I work between After Effects and Premiere Pro. Having said that, I believe there is a marketing disconnect with the term ‘Adobe Dynamic Link’.

What do I mean by this? I think the best way to explain, would be to describe my concept of the ‘ultimate’ Adobe Production Premium Creative Suite. Production Premium includes: Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop, Audition, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional, Illustrator, OnLocation, Encore, Device Central, Bridge, and Adobe Media Encoder. Each of these applications has their own native file format. For example, .aep for After Effects, .psd for Photoshop, .sesx for Audition, and so on.

Currently, many of the applications integrate with one another to varying degrees. For example, you can bring a native Photoshop .psd file into Premiere, click Edit in Photoshop (or Edit Original), make changes, and the changes are automatically updated in the Premiere timeline. You can also select File > New Photoshop File to automatically launch Photoshop and create a file that matches your existing Premiere Pro sequence settings. Sweet.

But other applications in the Creative Suite require a more complex integration process, utilizing XML files as an intermediary instead of the native application format – ultimately causing a more convoluted roundtrip workflow. I’ve created two charts below to illustrate what I refer to as the ‘creative workflow applications’ in the Suite and assigned an overall ‘integration score’ to each.

Integration with After Effects
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Integration with Premiere Pro
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What would it take to create the ultimate Adobe Production Premium Creative Suite? Simple answer: intuitive native dynamic integration between all primary and support applications.

I have a dream…

// The Premise
For the sake of discussion, the premise is based on creating the ultimate workflow for editors, motion graphic designers, and vfx artists.

// The Applications
I’ve divided the applications in the Production Premium Creative Suite into 3 categories based on the role they play in the editor, motion graphic designer or vfx artist workflow. The categories are:
• Core Applications
• Creative Workflow Applications
• Productivity Workflow Applications

» Core Applications
As an editor, motion graphic designer, and/or vfx artist, your project would use one of these as your ‘core’ application:
• Premiere Pro
• After Effects

The Dream. Both of these applications would natively integrate with one another dynamically (no pre-rendering required) in a non-destructive manner preserving layers, sequences, effects, markers, etc.

» Creative Workflow Applications
The tools you use to augment the creative aspects of your project include:
• Audition
• Photoshop
• Illustrator
• Flash Professional

The Dream. All of these applications would natively integrate with both Premiere Pro and After Effects dynamically (no pre-rendering required) in a non-destructive manner preserving layers, sequences, effects, markers, etc.

This means when you work with any of these file formats in either Premiere Pro or After Effects you could natively update the original file, save the file, and it would be automatically updated in Premiere Pro or After Effects.

» Productivity Workflow Applications
These Creative Suite applications are used to augment your workflow providing specific input or output objectives when working with either Premiere Pro or After Effects:
• OnLocation:
on-set monitoring, shot logging and management, direct-to-disk recording
• Encore:
DVD and Blu-Ray mastering, rapid web ‘DVD’ deployment with searchability
• Media Encoder:
encode and output audio and video in a variety of distribution formats
• Bridge:
integrated media asset manager
• Flash Catalyst:
create basic interactive user experiences
• Device Central:
augments the creation of content for mobile phones, tablets, and consumer electronic devices

Flash Professional – the Odd App Out
Flash Professional can fall into both the Productivity Workflow Application category as well as the Creative Workflow Application category. Creatively, you can animate in Flash and bring it into After Effects or Premiere. On the other hand, from a productivity perspective, Flash can be used to add interactivity and bring your project to the web.

Personally, I feel that there is an ‘identity crisis’ within the Flash product line (Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst, Flash Builder). Many of the features of these products overlap one another. For the sake of end-user clarity, the concept of Flash ‘ABC’ might work better:
• Flash Animator – a creative animation tool
• Flash Builder – a development tool for interactive web and mobile device applications, and
• Flash Catalyst – the designer/developer application: a tool that helps talented creatives with limited programming skills build basic interactive applications, – or a tool that helps talented programmers with limited design skills create a basic interface. Either way, Flash Catalyst files could be handed-off to Flash Builder developers for added complexity. But I digress…this is another article.

// Usability
The key is simplicity. The expectation from end-users would be that all applications in the Production Premium Creative Suite dynamically (no pre-rendering required) integrate using native files. Based on this premise, menu items would be simple and intuitive. First, we would need to drop a few things that currently exist:

» Things To Do Away With
• The term Adobe Dynamic Link. Since dynamic integration is a given, there would no longer be a need for the term. Even though Dynamic Link actually refers to the fact that you don’t need to pre-render After Effects, Premiere or Encore files to work with one another – as the end-user, we don’t need to know this. All we need to know is that when we purchase Production Premium, all applications in the Suite natively integrate.

• Menu items that duplicate an action. For example: File>Edit Original and File>Edit in Photoshop in the same application.

» Things To Change
• New and Improved (simplified)
Premiere Pro and After Effects Menu Items
:

Import:
From the File menu, or by right-clicking in the Project panel:
• Import native CS file
This menu item would allow you to import any Production Premium CS file in its native format.

New File:
From the File menu, or by right-clicking in the Project panel:
• a divider line similar to existing bar in Premiere’s menu would separate the following items:
• New Audition File
• New Photoshop File
• New Illustrator File
• New Flash File

Alternatively, we could add a single primary menu item, and product related sub-menu items:

• New CS File

• New Audition File
• New Photoshop File
• New  Illustrator File
• New Flash File

New files would open in their respective applications matching the format of your current sequence in Premiere Pro or your current composition in After Effects. For example, a new Photoshop file would open in the proper aspect ratio and screen size. A new Audition file would open with the same sample rate, bit depth, and channel mix (mono, stereo, or 5.1) as your Premiere Pro or After Effects project file.

Edit File:
From either the File menu, or by right-clicking on the file in the Project panel, or by right-clicking on the file on the timeline:
• Edit Original

This would assume preferences would have an option to Edit all CS files in their native application, or select which applications you want to Edit using their native application. Edit Original would eliminate all Edit in *Application Name* menus. For example, Edit in Photoshop would be replaced by Edit Original. Using Edit Original, After Effects and Premiere would know to automatically open the file in its native application.

Export File:
Export becomes a ‘gateway’ that manages the final output format. For all video and audio formats, Export would send the file to Adobe Media Encoder – after all, that’s its role in the Creative Suite. This way, Media Encoder could be working in the background, while we start on our next project in either After Effects or Premiere.

Export would also have the option to hand the file off to another Creative Suite application that handles a specific output need. For example, handing off a Premiere file to Encore. In Encore, you create the DVD or CD interface, navigation, and then master a DVD or CD (in the case of Audition), or web DVD. This concept would hold true for handing off a file to Encore, Flash, Flash Catalyst, or Device Central.

In the case of the ‘creative workflow applications’ – like Photoshop and Illustrator, Export would serve as a means to use the creative elements of the project as the starting point for either an After Effects, Premiere, or Encore project. For example, in Illustrator I could create my motion graphic elements, and then go to File > Export > Export to After Effects. After Effects would launch, creating a new .aep file, and ask how I want the Illustrator file imported – as layers or as a composition. My Illustrator file would be automatically loaded in the projects panel to be used in my new After Effects project.

In the case of Audition, the concept would be the same as what I described for Illustrator. File > Export > Export to Premiere would launch Premiere, creating a new prproj. file, and ask how I want the Audition file imported – as a multitrack .sesx file or a mixdown .wav (or .aiff) file.  My Audition .sesx file or .wav file would be automatically loaded in the projects panel to be used in my new Premiere project.

In general, the concept of Export is the exact opposite of the New *application name* File:
New: creates a new external application file to be used in the current application.
Export: sends the current application file a be used in a newly created external application file.

Here’s how this would work:

From File > Export:
• a divider line similar to existing bar in Premiere’s menu would separate the following items:
• Export to Premiere (using the application’s content, this creates a new Premiere Project file from After Effects, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash)
• Export to After Effects (using the application’s content, this creates a new After Effects Project file from Premiere, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash)
• Export to Audition (using the application’s content, this creates a new Audition Project file from Premiere, After Effects and Flash)
• Export to Media Encoder (instead of the current Export > Media > Queue process)
• Export to Encore (instead of File > Adobe Dynamic Link > Send to Encore)
• Export to Flash Professional* (instead of the current Export > Adobe Flash Professional (XFL)
• Export to Flash Catalyst (using the application’s content, this creates a new Flash Catalyst file from After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash)
• Export to Device Central (using the application’s content, this creates a new Device Central file from After Effects, Premiere, Audition, Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash)

*Creating a SWF would be now handled by Adobe Media Encoder instead of the current Export > Adobe Flash Player (SWF) that we see in After Effects. Since Adobe Media Encoder handles all audio and video encoding, it makes sense that it would handle encoding SWF files as well.

» Application Specific Menu Items

Premiere Pro contains an After Effects specific menu item: Replace with After Effects Composition. While many people aren’t aware of this menu option, or don’t use it regularly, it provides some great time saving features. I’ll share creative ways to use this featuring in a future edition of When Time is of the Essence. Bottom line? Replace with After Effects Composition stays!

In Reality…
Earlier I asked, “What would it take to create the ultimate Adobe Production Premium Creative Suite?” The simple answer I provided: intuitive native dynamic integration between all primary and support applications. But the truth is, it’s much more complex than this.

From a programming perspective it would be quite difficult for Adobe to achieve my vision of the ‘ultimate’ Production Premium Creative Suite. Because Adobe applications were created at different times over the last several decades, and in many cases – based off of original code from multiple companies (Adobe, Macromedia, Syntrillium Software, CoSA, etc.) – ultimately it could require a complete re-write of the entire Suite.

Short-term, it may not be a reality. Long-term, I believe it is.

But I do think there are some short-term alternatives. First, as programs are re-written – like Audition – start including concepts from this integration model. Additionally, until the particular application has true native integration, XML serves well as a translator between applications. This is basically what Adobe did with the CS5.5 release of Audition – but not in the most elegant manner. But wouldn’t it be nice if it still appears to be the native application, even if XML translation is going on behind the scenes? I don’t need to know it is an Audition XML file in Premiere – I just need to know I have seamless integration with Audition. In reality, maybe this is what Dynamic Link is doing. Dynamic Link could serve as the XML ‘translator’ between applications. Perhaps After Effects is sending XML metadata to Dynamic Link, and Dynamic Link translates this into data that Premiere can use. But as the end-user, all we see is that we have an After Effects .aep file in the Premiere project panel, ready for us to use – without pre-rendering. Ultimately, isn’t that what we really want?

Your thoughts?
Based on the type of projects I do, my dream for ‘the ultimate’ Production Premium Creative Suite would substantially increase productivity and efficiency, helping me work faster and smarter – when time is of the essence.

What would you add or change if you were building ‘the ultimate’ Production Premium Creative Suite?

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