Adobe MAX 2021 and new Premiere Pro Features

Adobe’s MAX creativity conference is being held online for the second year in a row this month.  With this comes the release of new versions of many of their products.  One interesting thing worth noting in this regard is that their versioning of each video application is being incremented to version 22, regardless of the previous version.  This will make the version numbers consistent across the different applications, and match the year that the release is associated with.  Last year Premiere Pro 2021 was released, but it was version 15.0, while After Effects was 18.0.  Unlike Adobe’s ridiculous move to redesign their applications icons to all look the same (so you can’t easily tell the difference between an AEP file and a Premiere Project), this broad consistency change seems like good idea to make it easier to track versions across time.

The application I am most interested in is Premiere Pro.  Last year’s version 15 release added a new approach to captions, which they have continued to flesh out with more automatic speech to text tools, and added better support for new titling options as well.  Other later improvements to version 15 throughout the year included more control over project item labels and colors in collaborative environments, HDR output on UI displays via DirectX, and automatic switching of audio devices to match the OS preferences.  The new version 22 adds a number of other new functions:

HEVC and H.264 files are now color managed formats, which means that now Premiere correctly supports HDR files in those codecs.  This was a huge hole in the existing HDR workflow, as Premiere could export HEVC and H.264 files of HDR content, but couldn’t import them or view them.  But now that has been resolved, opening up a whole host of new HDR workflow options.  Adobe also added support for hardware accelerated decoding of 10 bit 4:2:2 HEVC files on new Intel CPUs, which is a new format for recording HDR content on high end DSLRs, that is not currently accelerated on NVidia or AMD GPUs.  This should allow processing of HDR content on much smaller and lighter systems than are currently required with the existing ProRes based HDR workflows.  They also added color management for XAVC files in SLog color space, and better support for Log files from Canon and Panasonic as well.

One other feature Adobe has announced for Premiere Pro 2022, that hasn’t been released to the public version, is fully redesigned import and export windows, which consume the entire UI, for no apparent reason, and do not include all of the functionality of the previous approaches.  I believe it might be more consistent with Premiere Rush’s UI, and may be similar to Resolve’s export options.  The main thing I am missing is the source settings in the export window, which previously allowed you to crop and scale the output in different ways.  These results can be achieved by adding export sequences that include the content are trying to output, but this is not as simple to do on a large scale, and can’t be included in presets.  Obviously I am not a fan of these changes, and see no upside to the new approach.  Currently the older import and export UI controls are still available in Version 22.0, and are still available in the Beta versions, if you send your sequence to Media Encoder. Hopefully these functions will be included in the new approach to exporting before it comes out of beta.

The “Lumetri” scopes have also gotten some attention, as they become more significant for HDR processing.  The vector-scope is now colorized, and any section can be zoomed into by double clicking.  The histogram is much more detailed and accurate, offering a more precise view of the underlying content.  The Lumetri Curves effect UI now scales horizontally with the panel for more precision.  I would prefer to be able to scale it vertically as well, but that is not yet supported.  Adobe has also implemented a more powerful AI assisted Auto Tone function that sets all of the basic controls based on an analysis of the content.

Another new feature coming out of beta is the Simplify Sequence functionality.  This creates a new cleaned up copy of an existing sequence.  The clean version can remove inactive tracks and clips, drop everything to the lowest available track, and be further fine tuned by locked layers.  This is a great tool, that was implemented in a well though out and non-destructive way.

Also arriving in the beta version is a feature called Remix.  Originally introduced in Audition, Remix will adjust the duration of music tracks while using AI to preserve the tempo and feel of the original asset.  I believe it does this by attempting to remove or loop repetitive sections, and it visually displays where the automatic edits are being made right on the clip in the sequence.
After Effects is another application I use, although less and less over time as Premiere gains many of the functions that used to require jumping over to AE.  But the big news there is that Adobe is introducing Multi-frame rendering, to help users tap in to the potential processing power of multicore CPUs.  On my high core count systems I am seeing a 3x speed increase when rendering the composited scenes for my Grounds of Freedom animated web series.  My main 5K composited scenes used to take 3-5 hours to render, and that looks like it will be cut to 1-1.5 hours, which is fantastic.After Effects is also adding a speculative render feature, to try to prepare for smoother playback when your system is idle.  I am less impressed with that feature so far, based on the type of work I do, but I am sure it will be great for some users.  I tested out GridIron Nucleo Pro for AE7 back 15 years ago, and they were playing with both of these functions back then.  Similarly, I was never a huge proponent then, because my AE work isn’t necessarily processing intensive, it is simple tasks done on lots of frames, so I/O is my bottleneck.  The old multi-frame render options got bogged down managing that much data, but they seem to have sorted that issue out by now, because a 3x increase in real world speed is nothing to scoff at.  Adobe also has added a composition profiler, that tells users how long each layer is adding to the render time, with that info available right in the layer stack.

Adobe also just completed their acquisition of cloud collaboration tool FrameIO, and as an existing FrameIO users, I am eagerly awaiting to see what develops from this.  But apparently there are no new details to announce yet.

Photoshop is of course getting a number of new features, mostly centered on AI powered tools, and collaboration with iPad and web users.  The power of Photoshop for iPad will soon be available directly in a web browser, for collaboration with people through the new Creative Cloud Spaces and Canvas.  Users will be able to share their work directly from Photoshop, which will generate a public link to the cloud document for browser based feedback or editing.  The AI based object selection tool has now been improved to show users what object boundaries have been detected, anywhere they hover their cursor over the image.  There are also improvements in the interoperability between Photoshop and Illustrator, allowing Illustrator layers to be pasted into Photoshop, and retain their metadata and even vector editability.  Illustrator is also getting an AI enhanced vectorizing tool, to better convert bitmap imagery to vector art.

Lots of new functionality coming to Creative Cloud, as well as lots of tips and tricks that can be learned from the various sessions that are available through out the free event, that anyone can sign up to attend online, so be sure to check it out.


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