Like a father who watches his children come into the world, form personalities of their own, grow up and develop an impressive array of talent, I have witnessed the Adobe family of products come of age. It seems like only yesterday that I brought home Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and Adobe After Effects, some of my first creative bundles of joy. But my goodness, that’s been more than 20 years ago. Later, I’d make room for Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe InDesign. I have even watched an adoption or two – when my favorite audio production software, Syntrillium’s Cool Edit Pro, became part of the Adobe family, taking on the name Adobe Audition, and Serious Magic’s DV Rack (a video recording and analysis tool) also joined the lineup as Adobe OnLocation. In fact, I fondly recall Version 1.0 of all of Adobe’s applications. All these many years later, I could not be more pleased how my creative family members, assembled in the CS4 Master Collection, have matured and contributed so much. At the risk of sounding sappy, they have formed “loving sibling relationships” and are now quite the team.
A MULTI-PLATFORM FAMILY
The applications in the CS4 Master Collection are now available for Mac and PC. That’s an important point because it has not always been that way. For example, until the CS3 release, Premiere Pro was PC-only. Further, OnLocation, an application that allows video to be analyzed and captured directly to hard drive, is making its debut in the Mac world with CS4.
Many of the latest Adobe products take advantage of 64-bit processing which means twice the traditional processing capacity and the capabilities to install more RAM which is, of course, essential for running multiple applications or editing high definition video. The bad news, however, is that many of us got caught in the Windows OS flux, had to buy a new PC, and found ourselves in the Vista void.
Just a few months ago, 64-bit drivers were non-existent and most software was not even available for the 64-bit platform. In contrast, the latest Apple OS has offered unabated, stable firepower. This is to not argue one platform over another, but to say both operating systems are now in play with multimedia in ministry, and you need to know now how the current day Windows OS issues affect you before plunking down big bucks on a new computer or software. While I will address 64-bit processing in a future column, let me point you to an excellent Adobe white paper that can be found at http://www.adobe.com/products/creativesuite/production/pdfs/cs4_production_premium_64bit_wp.pdf
THE TEAM THAT COVERS ALL BASES
While we’ll highlight some of the major software players in a moment, let me bring you up-to-speed with what is in CS4 Master Collection now: InDesign CS4 (page layout), Photoshop CS4 Extended (visual arts), Illustrator CS4 (graphic art design), Acrobat 9 Pro (Electronic document/PDF creation and management), Flash CS4 Professional (animation/video), Fireworks CS4 (web prototyping and efficiency), Contribute CS4 (online connectivity and updating), After Effects CS4 (special effects), DreamweaverCS4 (web site creation), Premiere Pro CS4, OnLocation CS4 (video capture and editing), Soundbooth CS4 (audio), Encore CS4 (DVD creation), Adobe Bridge CS4 (file management), Adobe Device Central CS4 and Version Cue CS4 (asset management).
As long-time readers know, I most enjoy showing how to actually use software, not just telling you what’s in the box. But for now, I want to share with you what I consider excellent developments with some of Adobe’s heavy hitters.
For newcomers, Dreamweaver CS4 is to web design what InDesign CS4 is to print publishing. Both programs are used to develop the infrastructure in which creative elements (developed and refined in Adobe Photoshop CS4, Illustrator CS4 or Flash CS4, for example) are placed. In the past, unless you had an intimate knowledge of HTML, with past versions of Dreamweaver, knowing where to start was even a challenge. I am excited to report that developing a web page or a web site is now much more intuitive. Dual views allow HTML code and the design to be seen simultaneously. The Dreamweaver CS4 experience is much closer to the traditional drag and drop world of print design. Furthermore, I found it easy to build very rich web pages which included inserted Flash video and pictures. I clicked on a picture in the application and edited it with Photoshop CS4 without having to open the photo editing application independently. Such seamlessness is a trait of all Adobe products. In summary, Dreamweaver CS4 can now be used to develop church web pages by someone who has only a modest knowledge of how web sites work in general.
Dozens of layouts and templates are included, making the experience even more pleasant. One should remember, however, that this program provides only the web site frame work. The contents have to be designed in other applications.
Premiere Pro CS4, OnLocation CS4, Encore CS4
Most amazingly, a new attribute of this video editing application is that the software transcribes the audio and makes it possible to search the text and then immediately pinpoint the video! Can you imagine how beneficial this feature will be to track down phrases in sermons or quotes from church teachers?
Even before this feature, Premiere Pro has been, in my opinion, the most intuitive of all video applications, and has for a long time been my pick. Furthermore, a feature I’m pleased to see is support for the latest tapeless cameras. I had no problem dragging a file from my new, small HD camera onto my laptop hard drive, importing it into Premiere Pro CS4 and editing it, without having to do any preparatory work so that the program could read the file. In addition, using OnLocation CS4, I can record directly to my computer. Previously this application was PC only. The ability to use the software to ensure proper camera settings, to capture video, and to log clips real time using the metadata feature, is a winner, saving countless hours of time. Just think, you could record your Sunday morning worship services straight to hard drive, import it into Premiere Pro CS4 for quick editing, and easily set chapter markers for a smooth burn to DVD using Adobe Encore CS4, which, by the way, now supports any myriad of formats, including high definition Blu-Ray. And while working to wrap things up, you can even set the encoder to output multiple formats including content for cell phones and players such as Apple’s video iPod.
I cannot stress enough the importance to check the software’s entire minimum system requirements. Believe every word. Ideally, you should have a great deal more horsepower than just the bare minimum to operate the software effectively. Encoding even a five minute HD video using the Windows 32-bit Vista OS, on a dual core laptop PC with a 1.8 GHz processor and four GB of RAM took several hours to process. In addition, as I worked with the Adobe lineup, my experiences with Windows Vista were often not pleasant, even with Service Pack 1, as the infamous spiraling circle of wait appeared often as the OS had to “think” about what to do. Clearly, this isn’t Adobe’s fault, but it certainly doesn’t do the software or us producers any favors. I look forward to working with a more multimedia-friendly Windows OS soon but Windows 7 appears months away.
Photoshop CS4 Extended
I probably have the most experience with Adobe Photoshop. In the early days it came from designing a monthly magazine. Now I create all of the images used during the worship service at my church. That weekly project includes backgrounds for sermon points and song lyrics. It is easy to recommend Photoshop CS4 Extended because one can start out simple and easily learn more along the way. I have enjoyed importing layers created in Adobe Photoshop CS4 into Adobe After Effects CS4 and Premiere Pro CS4 so I can manipulate them in amazing ways for motion backgrounds. One of my favorite new Adobe Photoshop CS4 features is called Content-Aware Scaling. For example, I have been able to take a picture of kids in front of the church and bring them closer together, but leave the building in the background the same. The software does this magic without any work on my part. Simply amazing. This latest version allows a lot more non-destructive editing, especially with feathering and tweaks made in the adjustments panel. The new 3D editing features are also outstanding.
In summary, I have used and reviewed countless web, print and video software over the years. I have found the most reliable, user-friendly and best-integrated family of multimedia to be from Adobe. The biggest downside that I see? The price can be steep. To which I answer, you get what you pay for and you can save countless hours of time by going with the industry standard. If you cannot swing for the CS4 Master Collection which has a street price of $2,500, you can buy the applications you need ala carte or in bundles grouped for web design, print or video production. You can find out more at www.adobe.com