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Thursday, 08 March 2012 14:47

Adobe CS5.5 and DaVinci Resolve 8 Updates

Written by  David Hurd
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A few months ago I reviewed Adobe’s Creative Suite 5 and the DaVinci Resolve for Mac only to have both companies come out with major new software upgrades. Here are the important changes that you should know about.

Adobe Creative Suite 5.5

While the CS5.5 Production Premium Suite contains unchanged editions of Illustrator, Photoshop Extended, Encore, Bridge and OnLocation, most of what we use as editors has changed. There are now new versions of After Effects, Premiere Pro, Flash Catalyst, Flash Professional, Device Central and Media Encoder. Also, Audition is back in the lineup and now runs on Apple Mac OS X as well as Microsoft Windows.

Premiere Pro CS5.5 has been upgraded to handle the latest workflows. There’s native support for Canon XF Series camcorders and enhanced support for RED cameras. Additionally, there are helpful new additions like histograms, an eyedropper to select white balance, and five-point curves to adjust red, green, blue or Lumina values. In the filters section, Directional blur, Fast blur, Additive dissolve, Invert and the new Film dissolve have been added to the list of accelerated effects.

DSLR users will be happy with the new Merge Clips command that lets you create a single clip from aligned audio and video tracks, with no reprocessing required.
You can also remove a selection of multiple layers of the timeline using the Extract command. And After Effects now has the Warp Stabilizer for removing camera shake and rolling-shutter effect caused by progressively scanned CMOS sensors.

Adobe has been listening to user feedback, and it now offers a pen tool to add keyframes to the rubber band directly on the timeline, rather than having to go into its Effects Properties panel. The company has even made switching over from another editing system easier by allowing you to use keyboard shortcuts from Avid Media Composer 5.5 or Apple’s Final Cut Pro 7 instead of the Adobe shortcuts.

In After Effects, the Light Falloff settings reduce the intensity for objects that are further away from the source for a more natural look. You can use camera layers to simulate depth-of-field effects (and choose what will be in focus) and you can create rack-focus effects by using key frames. There are also new cool 3D features, and you can compose a scene in 2D and use the Create Stereo 3D Rig command to produce three new compositions (for left and right eyes and the stereo 3D combination) while you easily adjust the depth and convergence.

The CS5.5 version of Media Encoder is even better at delivering content in multiple formats. You can create folders that point at multiple targets so your media is automatically encoded to a selection of file types when placed in the Watch folder. Also, you can drag and drop sequences directly from the Premiere Pro project panel to add them to the Adobe Media Encoder Queue.

Adobe has created a new Audition engine that’s reported to be considerably quicker at processing. You can now do roundtrip editing with Premiere Pro CS5.5: You can export clips, sequences or work areas to Audition, then export them back into Premiere Pro when you’re finished working on them. You can also keep the multi-track layout or mix down to mono, stereo or 5.1 surround sound.

In addition to the existing DeClipper, DeClicker and Speech Volume Matching tools, Audition’s audio-cleaning section has a new DeHummer filter for removing background rumble and a DeEsser for removing excessive sibilance. There’s also a History panel to roll back edits and the ability to work natively with 5.1 surround-sound projects.

The thing that really sets CS5.5 apart from other editors is their Mercury playback engine. Using NVIDIA CUDA technology for acceleration, you can really speed up rendering by adding the proper graphics card. In addition, CS5.5 adds the support for more than one graphics card to be used for CUDA processing. With the addition of a Cubix bus expander and multiple NVIDIA cards, you can have hundreds of cores available for processing in real time.

All of these cutting-edge products are the result of Adobe responding to customer feedback.

KB Covers

During this review I had the pleasure of using keyboard covers for After Effects and Photoshop from KB Covers. They are extremely thin and flexible; they stick to my keyboard very well; and all of the shortcut keys are labeled, making it a lot easier to hit the right key. Oddly enough, they shortcuts seem to improve the feel of my keyboard rather than hamper my typing — and small things like this can make a big difference. KB keyboard covers are inexpensive and a great way to fight the learning curve on new products.

oct_davinciresolvesystem_sfwDaVinci Resolve 8

DaVinci Resolve is the world’s most advanced color-correction tool because it’s used on more Hollywood feature films, commercials and television shows than any other system. While the previous version is great, the updated version adds a lot of new features that you should know about.

The new features in DaVinci Resolve 8 include multilayer timeline support with editing, and XML import and export with Final Cut Pro. The new XML import and export (combined with the multilayer timeline in DaVinci Resolve 8) lets you import complex sequences from Final Cut Pro, color grade them and export them directly back into Final Cut Pro, with all the new graded shots and layer structure intact. It’s kind of like Apple Color on steroids. If the Final Cut Pro edit is changed, DaVinci Resolve 8 will automatically relink all the clips so the grades are preserved. Editing can also be performed inside DaVinci Resolve 8 so you can adjust and relocate your clips.

In addition to CUDA technology, the new DaVinci Resolve 8 now includes OpenCL processing to allow use on iMac and MacBook Pro Series computers. Now iMacs and MacBook Pros can be used for real-time grading, allowing you to use the computer hardware that you already have. DaVinci Resolve 8 run on a MacBook Pro is also a perfect on-set color-grading tool.

With its own control surface, and the Wave panel that I use from Tangent Wave Ltd., Resolve 8 now supports the Avid Artist Color control panel with ALE export to relink graded DNxHD files back into Avid editors.

If you have noise in your footage, DaVinci Resolve 8 can help. The system includes a new high-quality CUDA noise reducer that eliminates noise and helps to make images perfectly clean. The DaVinci Resolve 8 noise reduction is incorporated into the Color Correctors so it can be used in any corrector node, and it’s limited to inside or outside windows or color qualifiers so you can actually use noise reduction creatively.

The same holds true if your handheld shots have too much wiggle. DaVinci Resolve 8 includes a new multipoint Advanced Stabilizer that fixes unstable shots. The Stabilizer is intelligent and uses dozens of stabilization points to totally lock every part of the image. This results in incredibly stable images.

If there’s any flaw in the DaVinci Resolve, it would be the learning curve. It’s so powerful and flexible that it takes a while to learn how to use all of the controls. The good news is that for colorists new to DaVinci Resolve, there’s a new Curve Grading feature that works like the one that you’re used to, which will help you to get up and running quickly.

DaVinci Resolve 8 Curve Grading takes this interface much further. You can customize the curves to get greater control with hue vs. hue, hue vs. sat, hue vs. lum, and lum vs. sat controls. For the fastest grading speed, curves can be adjusted from the mouse or control panel. Also, because of the Resolve 8’s superior algorithms, you can expect to see better-looking images in your final product.

For colorists working in stereoscopic 3D, DaVinci Resolve 8 includes a powerful new automatic image alignment tool that automatically aligns images between cameras to produce a perfect 3D image. With the new Automatic Stereoscopic 3D image alignment, hundreds of individual image points are analyzed, and the image is perfectly aligned between the eyes to produce an incredibly sharp and vibrant 3D image. Alignment only takes seconds per shot and it’s completely automatic, so you don’t have to set anything.

An upgrade to Resolve 8 is free for DaVinci Resolve owners, so if you already own a Resolve system, there’s no reason for you to not take advantage of this free offer.
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