With CS6, Adobe tidies up Premiere Pro, speeds up After Effects

Upcoming CS6 versions of Adobe's flagship video software change significantly, with a streamlined interface for Premiere Pro and performance improvements for After Effects.

Premiere Pro CS6 strips away much of the widgetry that cluttered its predecessor's user interface.
Premiere Pro CS6 strips away much of the widgetry that cluttered its predecessor's user interface. (Click to enlarge.) Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Quick access to software features is nice, but there can be too much of a good thing. That's what Adobe concluded when designing Premiere Pro CS6, the upcoming version of its video-editing software.

Adobe was pleased with the current CS5's Mercury Playback Engine, which on computers with higher-end Nvidia graphics cards provides a major hardware acceleration boost for some tasks. But the user interface was too cluttered, said Premiere Pro Product Manager Al Mooney.

"The car on top of the beautiful, powerful engine was not as nice to drive as modern editors wanted it to be," Mooney said. Adobe is revealing the features -- but not pricing and availability -- ahead of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) meeting next week in Las Vegas.

Premiere Pro CS6 gets an overhauled project panel that shows variable-size thumbnails. Each thumbnail can be scrubbed with a mouse swipe, with video editors setting in points and out points for when a clip should begin and end.
Premiere Pro CS6 gets an overhauled project panel that shows variable-size thumbnails. Each thumbnail can be scrubbed with a mouse swipe, with video editors setting in points and out points for when a clip should begin and end. (Click to enlarge.) Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

A cleaner user interface is timely. Adobe is competing fiercely to win over video editors disaffected by changes in Apple's Final Cut Pro X. But Apple has been shoring up weaknesses in its software, making it harder to get the derisive "iMovie Pro" label to stick, and the company has a lot of clout when it comes to building spartan but useful user interfaces.

Adobe also has a major performance change coming with After Effects, a separate package for video-processing tasks such as changing colors and contrast and adding moving text. AE now can store rendered frames of video in a memory or disk cache so that adding new effects is a smaller incremental change. Adobe believes this will liberate those who want to experiment with different looks for a video.

The two programs are the headliners for the Production Premium collection of Creative Suite 6. Other members Adobe announced include the new Prelude, for ingesting, copying, transcoding, and logging video clips and creating rough cuts; color editing with the new Speedgrade that arrived via Adobe's Iridas acquisition last year ; audio editing with Audition; script editing and scheduling with Story; and multiformat video output with Media Encoder. For more details, check Adobe's Production Premium CS6 site.

The new user Premiere Pro interface has the same two big screens across the top by default, a source monitor on the left for viewing individual clips and a program monitor on the right that shows the edited video. The video itself now dominates the two panels windows, with surrounding controls and displays drastically pared back.

The project panel, which in CS5 and 5.5 was a relatively static list of a projects's assets such as video clips, titles, and still images, now is a vital part of the user interface. It shows resizeable thumbnails now; the video can be previewed by sliding the mouse pointer across them to scrub through the video. The editor can set in and out points on the clips then and there with keyboard shortcuts, too.

Other changes to Premiere Pro CS6:

• A new system for trimming video -- the essential task of deciding which portions of a video clip are shown and how shortening it will affect other clips in a sequence.

• The addition of the Warp Stabilizer feature in After Effects CS5 to stabilize shaky camera footage and to ameliorate rolling-shutter problems.

• Broader Mercury Playback Engine support for some MacBook Pro laptops using the OpenCL interface for performing processing chores on a graphics chip. The feature works with models using the AMD Radeon HD 6750M and HD 6770M graphics chips and at least 1GB of video memory. The present 17-inch MacBook Pro and higher-end configuration of the 15-inch MacBook Pro qualify.

• Adjustment layers that can apply effects to multiple items in a sequence.

• Support for some higher-end new cameras, including Canon's C300, the Arri Alexa, the Red Scarlet-X, and Red Epic.

• A revamped, hardware-accelerated three-way color correction tool that lets editors adjust tint separately for shadows, midtones, and bright areas of a video.

• Multicam support that works with as many cameras as desired instead of CS5's limit of four. The initial version of Final Cut Pro X dropped multicam support, but an update restored it.

Updated 10:30 p.m. PT with details on Adobe Prelude and other Production Premium programs.

 

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