Experiencing Production Video For The First Time

Adobe CS3 Production Premium

This is not a review of Adobe CS3 Production Premium—most of my expertise with Adobe video software is with After Effects, which I use for my most spectacular multimedia for the web. However, for Christmas I wanted to finally produce my wedding video, two years after the event. Back in 2005, when we were planning the wedding, I insisted that I could produce the video myself and we could save the videographer money for the honeymoon in Paris. I didn’t win many discussions about the wedding plans, which is as it should be, but I did win that one and so I used two camcorders (one shooting in high definition) to record the ceremony and reception. That was all well and good, but immediately upon returning home we had work to worry about and needed time to settle in, and one year passed and then another without making any headway on the wedding video. My wife abandoned hope that I would fulfill my promise to produce it, but it was always in the back of my mind and on my to-do list.

I got a copy of Adobe CS3 Production Premium, which is physically imposing: it’s one of the only CS3 bundles to still have printed manuals, so it comes in a box larger slightly wider than a car battery. It comes with Premiere (video production), After Effects (special effects), Encore (DVD and Blu-Ray authoring, plus DVD menu construction) and Soundbooth (a relatively recent addition for sound production) along with Photoshop, Flash and Illustrator for creating graphics and Flash. For the wedding video I worked mostly in Premiere and Encore, making my way through with relative ease compared to the quality of the final product. Here’s some of my impressions of the experience:

  • The hardware demands of Photoshop and other graphic applications don’t compare to video. My computer is a top-of-the-line MacBook Pro, but working with video made its fan hum louder than I’ve ever heard it. There were times it couldn’t handle the load, and times when it kept going but just barely. My internal hard drive is also pretty well full, which made matters worse. The ceremony video was around 30 minutes and the reception was 40 minutes, so I spent a lot of time away from the computer when it was rendering the final product for Encore—and again when Encore was burning the DVD. It was a taxing and stressful experience, but it just illustrates the amount of RAM and processor strength needed to do this kind of work. No wonder the big studios require whole farms of rendering machines.
  • Anyone can do iMovie and iDVD, but high-quality work requires more professional software. Don’t get me wrong, I think iMovie and iDVD (and similar applications, such as Adobe Premiere Elements) are wonderful—I grew up creating simple graphics with SuperPaint, but nowadays kids can create complete videos with the same ease thanks to these applications. They all come with templates and graphics that allow you to make an entire DVD that looks great. However, if you want to create DVDs or Blu-ray disks that are just as good as the commercial videos you buy at the store, you’ll want something more powerful. That used to be Avid workstations and other expensive gear, but many studios now use off-the-shelf software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe’s suite of applications. Both of them are what you need to go from good to great.
  • The Production Premium apps feel different than the other Adobe apps. If you’re a Photoshop user, you probably remember the addition of those wonderful “scrubby-sliders” with Photoshop CS2: dragging on a setting’s name will change that setting. (Quick tip: hold Shift when doing this to increase the drag rate tenfold.) However, scrubby-sliders have been in After Effects and other Adobe video apps for years. Despite this, the video applications look and feel much different from Photoshop or any of the other Adobe creative applications. Gray title and menu bars dominate the workspace. The default workspace is a full-screen grouping of panels, monitors and timeline that look like Flash if you opened every panel and spread them all over your screen. I’m not used to such a messy workspace but video seems like a different medium to work with and it’s helpful to have all that in front of you. I might tweak my Flash workspace so it has more panels in sight at all times—I think it would help with motion-graphic work like this.
  • It’s unbelievably easy to do amazing work. Thanks to Soundbooth and Premiere, I was able to extract the audio from my video clips, clean up the ambient noise, bump up the vocals and make some mediocre audio sound a lot better. I didn’t use a microphone, but when I was done it sounded like I had. Encore had excellent tools for building DVD menus and mapping out the buttons’ behavior. The wonderful thing about Production Premium is that it takes such a complex thing like video and make professional work accessible, even for someone like myself who has little experience with video.

The video ended up turning out wonderfully and my wife and I spent Christmas Eve watching it. The most thrilling part of it was the anticipation of adding improvements to the DVD (such as photo slideshows, which are easy with Encore) and doing more video work in the future! Doing something creative with a totally new medium was one of the most exciting things I’ve done in recent memory.