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Wednesday, 10 November 2010 20:46

Adobe CS5 and NVIDIA FX 4800

Written by  David Hurd
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Photoshop has been a standard in the industry for years, and Adobe just keeps making it easier to create amazing graphics. It’s wonderful to use Photoshop on my new 24-inch EIZO ColorEdge monitor –– the monitor can be calibrated for different color space so that I can see exactly what my Photoshop output will look like, allowing me to work with confidence. Now there are new tools in Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 that really help to simplify complicated tasks. And with the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 card’s acceleration, CS5 is really fast as well.


Adobe Creative Suite 5 Production Premium combines CS5’s Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop Extended, Illustrator, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional, Soundbooth, OnLocation and Encore. As if that’s not enough, additional components include Adobe’s Dynamic Link, Bridge CS5 and Adobe Device Central, which integrates with new Adobe CS Live online services. That’s a lot of creative tools in one package.



In Photoshop CS5 Extended, you now have “Content Aware” tools that allow you to cut a person out of a picture while automatically filling in the hole to match the rest of the picture. If you want to remove a wire from a photo, you can use the same Healing Brush tool as you did in CS4, but without the blur problem. And, if you’re like me, sometimes you’ll shoot a set of panorama shots (to be stitched together later) without using a tripod. The result is a loss of vertical picture size due to the cropping necessary to trim away rough edges. Now, you can just select the rough parts and use the Fill tool with the Content Aware box checked –– and, like magic, the foreground and sky are filled in with the content that should be there. No more overly long and skinny panoramas. I like that a lot.


Cutting out a person from the background of an image has a lot to do with the quality of your selection tools, and CS5’s selection tools are awesome. The new Refine Edge command (with the Edge Detection box checked) lets you quickly refine your selection to include hair and other fine details that you’ll miss with the Lasso tool. Puppet Warp is another fun new tool, especially when you have an image with an arm or leg in a bad position. With Puppet Warp you can add points to the joints of a person or animal in your image to position them differently. This is a handy way to change the position of an arm or leg. And by saving a new frame after every tiny movement, you can animate your still photo and watch it in Premiere Pro.


Raw is a powerful format, and with CS5’s Camera Raw feature you can reduce the noise in a photo that was shot at a high ASA while maintaining most of its sharpness. Just reduce the Noise Reduction sliders for the Color noise, and take out what remains using the Luminance noise slider. And with HDR you can take several photos of the same shot at different exposures, stack them on top of each other, and tweak them into one very nice image. There’s even Ghost removal for removing the blur caused by movement between photos. If you didn’t shoot for HDR and only have a single image, use Image/ Adjustments/HDR Toning to simulate the cool HD look of HDR. It’s pretty amazing.


CS5 is a whole production system workflow. You can start by developing your script in Adobe Story, which is a new Adobe CS Live online service that lets you collaboratively write your script with other writers around the world. Your script information is then automatically transformed into relevant metadata for shot lists in Adobe OnLocation CS5, rough cuts in Adobe Premiere Pro, and searchable, engaging experiences for the Web. And while you’re on set, you can use OnLocation to calibrate, monitor and capture footage directly to disk and to log your clip data. In postproduction, CS5 offers native support for all of the latest camera formats, such as P2, XDCAM, AVC-Intra, AVCHD and RED, as well as for Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras. I tested Premiere Pro and After Effects with P2 clips in DVCPRO HD and footage from the Canon 5D. CS5 also has metadata capabilities, such as enhanced Speech Search to speed up editing and Face Detection to find assets. And how cool is it to use software to print a copy of what was said in your footage? It’s certainly much easier than transcribing it by hand.


Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 lets you mix and match any format and create high-quality effects directly in the timeline. You can even output your work for use with Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid editing software. If you use an AJA KONA 3 card like I do, you’ll want to download the latest drivers and the CS5 plug-in from the AJA site. This will allow you to use AJA presets for projects and sequences, and view your output on an external HD monitor. The clips should play back in real time using an AJA project, but to see real-time changes in effects like Color Correction, you’ll have to activate the timeline by pushing one of the arrow keys. Real time works in a regular Adobe project, but there’s currently no external monitor view. This is a tradeoff that’s being worked on, so there should be a fix soon.


Transcoding takes a lot of time for DVD projects, so to speed up the creation of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs, Adobe Dynamic Link gives you the ability to open Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 sequences directly in Adobe Encore CS5 without intermediate rendering. This can save you hours of transcoding time.


And speaking of fast, the NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 is an awesome card that really does pay for itself in the time you’ll save rendering. CS5 takes advantage of the Quadro FX 4800’s advanced feature set, including 1.5 GB of frame buffer, with plenty of horsepower for HD visualization.


Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine works hand in hand with NVIDIA CUDA technology that leverages the 192 core parallel compute engine in NVIDIA graphics processing units (GPUs). The 192 cores can solve many complex computational problems in a fraction of the time your computer’s 1-to-16-core CPU chip would take to perform the same task. For example, you can simultaneously edit a very complex, effects-laden project in Adobe Premiere Pro while your system’s CPUs render an elaborate After Effects composition in the background. You can also Batch encode complex projects in the background while you continue editing.


Here’s a real-world example of how an NVIDIA FX 4800 can change your CS5 editing experience on an NLE. Without GPU acceleration, the Mercury Playback Engine on a multicore system is playing back nine layers of DVCPRO HD footage in real time, with color correction and other effects applied. All CPU cores are being utilized equally and the timeline can play back smoothly. When you add GPU acceleration, the system performance gets even better. Using the GPU acceleration from the NVIDIA FX 4800 card, the workload is transferred over to the 192 cores, dropping the CPU usage down to only 5 or 10 percent. Even with this complicated timeline, more layers and effects could be stacked without affecting real-time playback. Now you can smoothly work at 4K and higher resolutions using proxy files; open projects quickly; and refine multilayer, effects-heavy sequences without rendering.


When you work with tapeless media in Adobe Premiere Pro, you’ll gain two key advantages. Firstly, you’ll save time, because with native support you’re able to start working with footage immediately, sometimes directly from the camera. This eliminates the time-consuming transcoding process required when you use the same media in other NLEs. Secondly, you’ll maintain the pristine image quality of your source footage throughout the production process. Native support also means that the metadata coming from the camera is retained for you to use later.


Now, let’s talk about the improved audio in CS5. You can expand your Adobe Premiere Pro audio-editing workflow with the ability to export audio as an Open Media Framework (OMF) file, which can be imported into Avid’s Pro Tools audio workstations. Adobe Premiere Pro also offers tight integration with Adobe Soundbooth CS5, the audio-editing solution designed for video professionals. This allows you to use Pro Tools for your more complex audio needs, such as bringing the final music mix back into Adobe Premiere Pro; utilizing Soundbooth to clean up and enhance dialogue tracks; and quickly adding sound effects and atmospheric audio cues to your projects. The “Edit In Adobe Soundbooth” command in Adobe Premiere Pro lets you send assets directly to Soundbooth. After your edits are complete, the files automatically update in the Adobe Premiere Pro Timeline panel.


CS5 also plays nicely with others. To move media and sequences between tools in complex production pipelines often requires format conversion, specialized plug-ins, tedious workarounds or a lot of manual work to re-create elements that don’t transfer. The ability to share projects and assets between Adobe Premiere Pro and Apple Final Cut Pro, as well as between Premiere Pro and Avid NLEs, such as Media Composer, means that you can also share files and timelines without conversion or rendering, while preserving commonly used effects and transitions. This is great for anyone who shares work with other brands of NLEs, and it could also open up new business from clients who rough-cut their own projects before bringing them to you for finishing.


The Face Detection metadata is a very handy content-analysis process that you run on clips to quickly locate those with human faces in them. Because these clips are more likely to contain spoken dialogue, Face Detection eliminates the painstaking process of having to play through each clip in a project to find interview sound bites. So, if you have 100 hours of footage, Face Detection will save you a huge amount of time. Additionally, if you’ve done any chroma keying, you know that a good keyer is essential, even if you have evenly lit the background screen so that it’s a uniform shade of whatever color you are keying out of the scene.


Remember Ultra from Serious Magic? Well, that company was acquired by Adobe, and the new and improved version of Ultra is now included in CS5. Ultra works on footage shot under real-world conditions that show uneven lighting, wrinkled backgrounds and frizzy hair. Ultra preserves shadows and can achieve complex keys on smoke, liquids and transparent objects. Its intuitive, easy-to-use controls make pulling accurate keys easy, and as the light in a scene changes, parameters can be animated to accommodate changing conditions. And, again, the GPU-accelerated Mercury Playback Engine dramatically increases performance that usually results in real-time HD keying.


I’ve only listed the highlights of CS5, so if you want to learn more there’s a huge amount of additional information on the Adobe site. Here’s some info on the helpful plug-ins that I tested and found to be very useful.




The Topaz Labs Plug-In Bundle has seven plug-ins that are super-helpful for real-world situations: Topaz Adjust lets you control the amount of “pop” in your image via exposure, detail and color adjustments; Topaz Simplify lets you make art out of any image; and Topaz Detail gives you sharpening without the usual artifacts.


Dealing with a noisy photo? Topaz DeNoise eliminates noise while preserving detail, while Topaz DeJPEG fixes JPEG artifacts and optimizes web photos. Both plug-ins can really improve a bad photo and make it usable for pan-and-scan video use. Topaz ReMask lets you quickly mask and extract photos, and then you can use Topaz Clean to smooth and stylize the edges of your images. At about $180, the Topaz Labs Plug-In Bundle will quickly pay for itself.




Premiere Pro CS5 is loaded with a bunch of standard plug-ins, but to make exceptional images, you’ll need more firepower. Boris FX Continuum Complete 7 AE brings over 200 filters to Macintosh and Windows versions of Adobe After Effects and Premiere Pro CS5, CS4 and CS3. Each filter harnesses the power of multiple 64-bit processors and modern graphics cards, like the NVIDIA FX 4800. OpenGL and 64-bit compatibility provide faster screen redraw as well as rendering.


Boris Continuum Complete (BCC) 7 AE has some cool new stuff, such as its three-way color grading, noise reduction, audio-driven key frame generation, and still image and video morphing. The new three-way color grade provides options for masking as well as motion tracking an area. The Beat Reactor technology, available within a number of the plug-ins, automatically sets key frames to the clip’s audio track to help you cut to the beat. And the BCC 7 Optical Stabilizer will smooth out a jittery, handheld shot in a very organic way, sometimes making bad footage usable.


BCC users can upgrade for under $300 and new users for under $1,000. This may sound like a lot of money, but I think you’ll find that it’s worth every penny to have the tools to create the effects your client is looking for.


Digital Anarchy’s Beauty Box is the next generation in skin-retouching plug-ins for After Effects, Final Cut Pro and Premiere. Got a rough looking actor? You can say goodbye to manual masks or frame-by-frame retouching because Beauty Box makes the process of retouching video in After Effects CS5 and Final Cut Pro easier than ever. And by using advanced techniques like Face Detection, this skin retouching plug-in automatically identifies skin tones while preserving important facial features, so you’ll get smoothing without going too soft.


CoreMelt V2 is a set of about 200 plug-ins that I use in FCP Studio, and most of them also work in CS5 After Effects. Lock & Load X steadies your rough footage, while ImageFlow creates beautiful montages from photos or video. You should definitely go to the company’s site and watch the demos.


Noise Industries (NI) makes FXFactory Pro, an FCP-based system of 150 plug-ins that now work in CS5 After Effects. NI also supplies the basic engine that many companies use to write plug-ins, and with so many different companies writing plug-ins, there’s a huge selection to choose from. You can buy each set of plug-ins separately, starting at about $50, which is good for budget-minded users. The engine is free to download, and NI even offers some free plug-ins to get you started. Check out their site.


As you can see, the amazing Adobe CS5 is all about speeding up your workflow and creating a system that’s outstandingly useful. It works with the latest formats and can be supercharged by adding an NVIDIA FX 4800 card. And since Adobe is a major player, many cool FX plug-ins are available for CS5 applications, plus you can transfer projects between FCP and CS5. I’ve been using FCP for three years now on a Mac Pro 8 core, but with the addition NVIDIA’s FX 4800 card to my system, the CS5 can now get the job done a lot faster than FCP –– and time is money.



Adobe CS5 Production Premium

MSRP: $1,699, upgrade from $599



My review system consists of Mac Pro dual quad core, 8 GB RAM, NVIDIA FX 4800 to EIZO 24-inch monitor, AJA KONA 3 to TVLogic 17-inch monitor, and a Mackie 1402-VLZ mixer to Genelec 1029A audio monitors, all on Monitor in Motion stands. Also, an ATTO R380 SAS controller to 16 Seagate SAS drives in two Ci Design cases, a Logic keyboard, a Wacom Intuos tablet and two APC UPS.


David Hurd operates David Hurd Productions in Tampa, Fla. Many of his past reviews can be seen on his site at



MSRP: $1,799, street price $1,425





Topaz Labs Plug-In Bundle

MSRP $180



Boris FX BCC 7

MSRP $995, upgrade $295



Digital Anarchy Beauty Box

MSRP: $199



CoreMelt V2 with Lock & Load X

MSRP: $399



Noise Industries FXFactory Pro

MSRP: $399, but offers some plug-ins for free


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