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Adobe Digital Video Collection: Cost-effective, Tightly Integrated

When choosing software for a digital media curriculum, there are always two major issues to consider: the presence of the software in the industry and user community and how “teachable” the software is. On both counts, Adobe’s Digital Video Collection is an attractive package to help students master digital video.

The Digital Video Collection includes four applications, Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop, Premiere and After Effects.

As a group, these four packages’ strongest benefit is Adobe’s uniform interface. Although there are differences in the interface to match the different functions of each program, once a student becomes familiar with the basic characteristics of the Adobe interface, each succeeding Adobe product is easier to learn. In addition to uniformity of interface, these four packages reap the benefit of being from the same company in other ways, including a fairly seamless exchange of files and maintaining the integrity of layers.

Individually, the packages also have advantages. Illustrator holds the lion’s share of today’s vector-based illustration market. While its use in creating digital video can certainly be questioned, the value of being fluent in Illustrator cannot be over-stated. If your only focus is on digital video production, you may find Illustrator the most underused application of the package. But if your focus is broader, the inclusion of Illustrator makes this package a economical.

Photoshop is everywhere. Every digital artist, whether a layout artist, Web designer, 3D animator, or video artist, uses this powerful raster tool. With each version of Photoshop comes more power and more versatile features. Unfortunately, this added versatility comes with a price: the days of a sleek image editing application are gone; so are the days of getting by with minimal RAM.

If you’re using an older machine with 64Mb of RAM, you probably will be more frustrated than empowered with Photoshop 6. The tools are also becoming so diverse and so deep, teaching Photoshop 6 can feel a bit like trying to teach someone to weed their flowerbed with a bulldozer. Its easy for a student to become bogged down in the myriad options and flexibility of the Photoshop toolset. Plan on spending some time becoming acquainted with this program’s dark corners and how to back out of them, because you’ll inevitably find your students there.

Still, with new features like resolution-independent vector outputs, the entertaining liquify command (a sort of image putty), and a new ability to effectively manage layers and text, you’ll find the added time learning Photoshop 6 has big payoffs.

It would be hard to claim that Premiere (the video editing component of the package) is the end-all-be-all of digital video. As the gap between high-quality broadcast video editing and desktop video editing has narrowed, several powerful and elegant packages have emerged, leaving Premiere to play catch-up. However, with version 6, Premiere comes into its own with the NLDV Firewire revolution. Using any G3 or G4 Mac, or any PC with a Firewire (IEEE 1394) card, Premiere allows for full NTSC video capture. The editing of this DV-compressed video will enable students to work with and output broadcast quality video from the start rather than the traditional 320x240 projects of yesteryear.

Perhaps the most powerful selling point of Premiere is its scalability as a teaching tool. Although Premiere 6 will permit Single-Track editing, it will also allow students to work in the A/B Editing workspace. Students should learn Single-Track eventually, but A/B editing is such an intuitive and visual way to edit that here at the University of the Incarnate Word, we often teach everything that our beginning 3D animation students need to know to assemble their 3D projects in one session. The transitions are easy to understand, timing and sound fall into place easily, and students see immediate success.

After Effects is just plain fun power. True creativity emerges when students get their hands on this compositing package. Although perhaps not the industry cornerstone, it is widely used. It is a great way to get students started in multilevel time-based media. The production bundle comes with robust filters that can be combined in dynamic ways to create a look and feel unique to each student. “Intelligent caching” makes workflow smoother and helps with RAM-challenged machines.

Both After Effects and Premiere are powerful programs that need large amounts of RAM. Adobe recommends miniscule amounts of RAM and storage space for these two packages, but its hard to maintain momentum when students can’t keep their machines from crashing, or can’t output their files due to lack of RAM and hard drive space.

Students well trained in these four packages will be well trained in tools seen everywhere in the industry. You simply cannot escape the reach of Adobe in the digital media world. If you are working with dated hardware, upgrading to this package may not be the best choice, but with good hardware, and time to explore its new and powerful features, the Digital Video Collection from Adobe is becomes a potent teaching package.

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