SVG@NAB Perspectives: Adobe’s Mooney on Embracing VR and the Power of Proxy Workflows

The NAB Show is always an opportunity to get a preview of what new tools are coming to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, and this year was no different. With the next release of Creative Cloud set to debut in “early summer,” Adobe hopped aboard the virtual-reality bandwagon by add VR-production tools to its Premier Pro NLE software, including “field of view” mode for spherical stitched media. However, the latest release of Premier Pro will be about much more than VR: Adobe has added a host of other new features, including the ability to edit immediately during ingest, Lumetri color tools, and proxy workflows that enable users to work with heavy 8K/HDR/HFR media and allow editors to switch between native and proxy formats freely — even on lightweight machines.

SVG sat down with Al Mooney, senior product manager for video editing, to discuss the new Premier Pro features, how the new proxy workflows will make editors’ lives easier, and Adobe’s virtual-reality roadmap.

What virtual-reality and 360-video production tools has Adobe added to Premier Pro this year?
We have an answer for VR at this show, and this show is so much about VR. I will be honest with you, I think the buzz might be a little overly hot right now, but I definitely see uses for [VR] today, and I do see a big future for it. I don’t think it’s 2½-hour episodic or dramatic content, but I think there’s a future for it. We were aware of many customers’ actually doing VR [on Adobe Premier Pro] anyway even though [we didn’t support it]. That was not a particularly pleasing experience. So we just built a quite complex piece of technology presented very simply for the user. But it’s basically just a button, you apply a few settings, you click, drag around in the sphere.

Adobe’s booth in South Lower Hall has been packed with demos all week long.

Adobe’s booth in South Lower Hall has been packed with demos all week long.

There’s also a bunch of third parties as well to add functionality. For example, we’re not doing titles in the sphere, but Nettle does that. We’re not currently [supporting] head-mount display like Oculus, but third parties do. If it’s stereoscopic content, you can preview it in Analglyph. So, if you don’t have a headset, you can just do a really quick preview of what the depth looks like in Analglyph.

I’m genuinely excited that we got the feature in, and it’s better than I thought it might be, to be honest, because this was a major challenge, but the engineering [team] just knocked it out of the park. And it will continue to evolve.

Our attitude is that we’re proceeding with caution on this one. We’re following the industry in this case; we’re not going to try to lead the industry with VR. At the same time, it’s interesting that we do seem to be the only NLE with support for it right now, which is great.

How do you see the VR– and 360-video–production market evolving in the coming year?
I think it is really interesting how accessible VR has become. The [high-end 360-video] rigs aren’t cheap, but I have a $350 [360-video camera] in my bag, and the results are pretty good. Someone can very easily shoot video, edit it in Premiere Pro, upload it to YouTube, so people can have the click/drag experience or the phone experience. The workflow’s actually fairly complete. The only thing we’re not doing at this time is effects and the stitching itself.

What else will be new in Premier Pro when the latest version of Creative Cloud is released?
Lots of highlights this year. The new Lumetri color tools, which we’re consistently expanding, are great. One of our strong themes has been enabling editors to be truly great with color when maybe they weren’t as [skilled] before. If they don’t want to go out to a high-end, potentially complex grading application, we have built what they need into Premier.

I like to call it the liberalization of color — even though I know that’s a bit lofty. For example, there’s a whole slew of new beautiful presets and single-click looks for look labs. There are new HSL Secondaries, which are very powerful and quick [for making] a mask. But the nice thing is, once that mask is made, the parameters you manipulate are the same familiar parameters as they were earlier in the creative section of the panel. There are intuitive things like temperature and tint and contrast, and it’s not complex or cumbersome.

This is part of our theme over the past couple years of enabling people to be more successful in the different disciplines. An editor doesn’t just edit anymore; an editor has to be great with color, successful with audio, and even do some motion graphics. We have applications to do all of those things, but what we’re trying to do is bring some of that technology into the editorial experience.

Also, users are now able to edit [during] ingest. We never really had that [functionality]; we always just left the ingest side of things to the user. Now we have all that built in.

Describe how the new proxy workflows in Premier Pro will make life easier for editors.
We have been working on this for several years, and we finally now have media management built into Premiere Pro. That’s working in conjunction with Adobe Media Encoder. People have been screaming out for this. There is a two-fold trend occurring right now. One: files are getting bigger and bigger all the time, and now everyone’s dealing with 4K and even 8K for capture plus HDR and higher frame rates. At the same time, everybody wants to work on simple [hardware] like a MacBook Air or a Surface Pro.

So, to handle those two divergent trends, we’ve built a really robust proxy workflow. We’re still very much a native NLE, and we are supporting multiple new formats this year, like the Red Dragon 8K and all that. But we’re also allowing a bit more flexibility by allowing [users] to bring in full-res media, generate lower-res HD lightweight proxies, cut with them whenever you need, and then go back to the full frame for something like critical color or whatever it might be. It’s a single click. It’s a simple preset that we’re going to put in the app that lets you put those proxies in your Creative Cloud files directory, so you can work across a couple of different machines when using the proxies.

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