After being announced at NAB last month, Adobe has released CS6 to the public today. Most of the new features are well known at this point, but I am most looking forward to the anticipated increases in performance and stability, now that their native 64bit engine as had more time to fully mature. There are some cool new developments in this version to highlight though.
After acquiring Iridas last year, Adobe has added Speedgrade to their application suite. We have been using SpeedgradeDI at Bandito Brothers for the last five years, and were one of their first American customers, I believe. While the performance and capabilities are impressive, the interface has always been lacking. I am looking forward to when it reaches the point where it is as intuitive to use as Adobe’s other applications.
I have heard good things about Prelude CS6, another brand new addition to the suite, but I haven’t really wrapped my head around its capabilities. It is a media ingest tool, but most of those features are already available in Premiere Pro, so I guess they are just trying to make them more accessible to non-editors.
Speaking of Premiere Pro, the CS6 version has a few new features, most of which are under the hood. Adobe Mercury Transmit changes the way the application interacts with 3rd party I/O cards, which should improve both stability and performance on professional level workstations. More streamlining of the underlying media engine software will offer smoother playback, especially at larger frame-sizes and higher frame-rates. In my opinion, the biggest improvement in the CS5.5 release was undocumented: RT playback of multilayer 2K image sequences. This was very helpful on the last steps of the Act of Valor online, since CS5 used to drop frames after a minute or two of 2K DPX playback. I saw CS6 playing back 4K that way at NAB, so it appears that the software pipes continue to get bigger, to keep up with the new advances in hardware capability.
After Effects CS6 has a whole new ray-tracing 3D composite engine available, which I am sure is very helpful for advance visual effects work, but that is not something I usually delve into. I am most excited about a relatively simple feature, variable mask feathering. This single feature has been a major limitation compared to competing products for many years. The new 3D camera tracker will allow simple compositing shots to be done faster, or at least give you a starting point to work from. Better frame caching will also be helpful, to take advantage of all that RAM that is so cheap these days, as well as new card based SSDs.
Overall, it would appear that Adobe has not been sitting on their hands for the past year, but luckily their products have developed to a point where they no longer have gaping holes that absolutely require immediately upgrading to the newest version to alleviate basic workflow problems. I am sure I will adjust to the newest version eventually, but I see no driving need to upgrade currently active projects until they are completed. (Unless you are an After Effects artist, in which case, CS6 could change your life.)