Desktop DI Within Reach
Adobe Introduces Guild Members to Its Production Studio

by Debra Kaufman

Slide from PowerPoint demonstration illustrating Adobe Production Studio-enabled workflow in independent films. Part 1.

On June 8, a group of Editors Guild members came face-to-face with the Adobe Production Studio, a suite of integrated software products, including Premiere Pro 2.0, After Effects 7.0 Professional, Photoshop CS2, Audition 2.0, Encore DVD 2.0, Illustrator CS2, Dynamic Link and Bridge, at a seminar at the Guild’s Hollywood headquarters. With its Production Studio—especially Premiere Pro and its seamless link to After Effects—Adobe is staking out territory in the professional editing market.

This is a second unveiling for the nonlinear editing system. Adobe Premiere was one of the early similar editing systems, but other nonlinear editing systems pulled ahead and the early Premiere editing system became popular mainly among corporate/industrial filmmakers. The new Premiere Pro v.2.0 is targeted at the professional filmmaking arena and, as a PC-based tool, it is also nicely poised to take advantage of the new Intel-processor Apple computers.

Adobe Systems digital production evangelist Michael Kanfer and independent filmmaker Jacob Rosenberg presented the Adobe Production Studio-enabled workflows in indie films. In addition to introducing editors to the Adobe tools, Kanfer and Rosenberg encouraged them to explore and integrate new skills, such as color correction, enabled by Adobe Production Studio.

Kanfer’s background informs his enthusiasm for Adobe Systems’ creative tools. Rosenberg has worked as a beta tester for Adobe System products.
Acknowledging the popularity of Final Cut Pro (FCP), Rosenberg noted that Randy Ubillos, the creator of FCP, had first architected Adobe Premiere. “FCP and Premiere are similar,” he said. “They’re not edit line-based; it’s drag-and-drop. For the indie film community, it has tremendous potential.”

After a brief demonstration of Adobe Premiere’s multi-camera editing capabilities, Rosenberg knuckled down to the main issue: showing off the new features available in Premiere Pro v.2.0, and how After Effects can be used for color correction. “Our high-definition-based digital intermediate (DI) system cost $10,000,” he said. “A high-end DI at a dedicated DI facility costs between $250,000 and $500,000.” Rosenberg addressed one of the issues related to HD color correction. “Hollywood says you can’t color correct compressed material,” he said. “But the filmmakers passed foreign distribution on their first try. The right compressed codec is the way to go.” The compression codec for the HD master, he added, was Cineforms Prospect HD.

Slide from PowerPoint demonstration illustrating Adobe Production Studio-enabled workflow in independent films. Part 2.

What has enabled the “desktop digital intermediate” is the advent of the HD-SR format, a higher-end high-definition format that permits recording in full-color resolution. “The HD-SR format is a bonanza for lower-cost DIs,” said Rosenberg. “It offers full dynamic range, at essentially 2K, and uncompressed 10-bit imagery.” HD-SR has two modes, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4; the first offers half the color resolution of the latter, making 4:4:4 a more desirable format for color correction and finishing.

Rosenberg also pointed out the benefits of the “dynamic link” integration between Premiere Pro and After Effects and the use of LUTs, or Look Up Tables, that are used to calibrate the monitor so that what’s seen in the DI will match what is ultimately seen on the screen.

Editors at the seminar expressed interest in Premiere Pro and the Adobe workflow. “The last time I worked with Premiere was years ago,” said first assistant/visual effects editor Scott Janush. “It was used primarily by sound departments for capturing QuickTimes that everyone wanted to work with. But from what I saw here, I see Adobe Premiere Pro as a reasonably viable platform.”

“Premiere Pro looks pretty fantastic,” added editor Babette Dickerson, who won a raffle that evening for the Adobe Production Studio. “I’m very excited about using it, although I have a Mac at home. I’ll either have to upgrade to Intel-based Mac or get a new laptop. Usually when I work on a project, they already have their system. But if they don’t, that would be a good opportunity to use it.”

Adobe Systems’ Kanfer pointed out that low-cost HD-SR digital intermediates aren’t just for small-fry independent filmmakers. “Rob Legato [visual effects supervisor of The Aviator and Titanic] had the idea that once you could package video in HD-SR, why not use that for the whole workflow,” he said. “No one could tell the difference from a high-end DI.” Kanfer reported that Legato is doing just that for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed and Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd.

Kanfer described Legato’s workflow: Transfer 35mm to HD-CAM SR and then down-convert to DigiBeta and DV-CAM for editing in Adobe Premiere Pro. According to Kanfer, Legato does the visual effects with After Effects, conforms the project in Premiere Pro, color corrects it in After Effects and then outputs it to film. He had also used this “vertically integrated pipeline” for a Ford commercial, said Rosenberg.

“There will always be a need for the high-end house,” added Kanfer. “But not for everything. You can finish in HD for HD deliverables.” He also noted that editors are being asked to do more in the edit suite and need the proper tools. “Editorial is doing more than ever before,” he said. “This is a great tool to do that with. You have to know how to do the bells and whistles.”

Adobe Systems is investing a great deal of research and development into improving Premiere Pro. “We want to see what features you want,” Kanfer said. “We want to take Premiere to the level that it will be a tool that will gain the respect of the industry.”

One enticing feature is the dynamic link between Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, which enables a seamless integration between the two software programs. “The new version of After Effects has all kinds of great features that offer wire removal, dust-busting and graphics,” explained Rosenberg. “You don’t have to render comps anymore. You click into the Premiere timeline and it plays.” Rosenberg also pointed out that the latest version of Premiere Pro supports 10-bit color and secondary color correction and, by supporting the AAF format, enables third-party developers to write plug-ins more easily.

“The biggest bonus Premiere has is its integration with After Effects,” agreed Janush. “The round-tripping where you can hit the command and send the timeline to After Effects from Premiere saves money. We can do the same thing within Final Cut Pro or Avid, but we have to use Automatic Duck. I assume the integration within the Adobe suite would be a little bit cleaner too.”

Rosenberg also demonstrated audio clean-up with Adobe Audition. A stand-alone application, Audition makes non-destructive changes, which means the original file remains intact. He demonstrated the ability to reduce noise and delete feedback. “The spectral view ability to target and eliminate frequencies is fascinating,” said sound editor Tom Backman, who came to the meeting because he is interested in getting into picture cutting. “ProTools doesn’t do that. It’s very appealing—it’s genius, really. Doing a sound fix like getting rid of feedback in music is sometimes completely impossible, and yet Rosenberg was able to do it with Audition.”

Adobe Systems made a convincing pitch for Premiere Pro and its entire Production Studio suite of products. With a couple of indie productions already cut with Adobe Premiere, the company is making its push for greater acceptance. If this Guild seminar was any indication, Adobe is meeting a receptive audience in the world of professional editing.

Debra Kaufman is a freelance writer who is also West Coast Editor of Film & Video Magazine, and editor of DI Studio, an online newsletter on digital intermediates. She can be reached at

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