Adobe Creative Suite 3 (CS3) Review

With six different editions of the Adobe CS3, there is an offering for everyone. Here at Funkyfresh we teamed up to review two of the suites. CS3 Web Premium features all the essential web applications and CS3 Production Premium is geared towards video post production. We found both versions of the suite compelling but not perfect. With everything packed in these suites, including a hardy stack of manuals, you certainly get what you pay for. CS3 Web Premium has no equal. CS3 Production Premium is a very competitive offering.

After two important acquisitions of Macromedia and Serious Magic we wanted to know how all these applications would mesh together. For example, could Adobe really integrate Dreamweaver in the Creative Suite without screwing it up' The answer is a resounding 'yes'. Adobe has succeeded in adding features and enhancements to the individual applications while integrating them all into a standardize suite interface. Not an easy job to do.

When it comes to serious web development, you either do it the hard way, coding by hand, or the easier way: Dreamweaver. In CS3, Dreamweaver becomes a full member of the Adobe family with tighter integration with Photoshop, Illustrator and the entire Adobe suite. With Web 2.0 all the rage these days, users can now develop these capabilities with Dreamweaver CS3. The included Spry framework adds all the AJAX goodness web designers need to build sexy Web 2.0 website and applications. Of course, any good Web 2.0 is built around solid CSS formatting and Dreamweaver CS3 delivers. New CSS layout and management capabilities make creating and managing CSS based sites a breeze. With the ease of use CS3 provides in visual CSS layout, we want to move our remaining tables-based web pages over to the new standards compliant CSS faster.

The changes in Fireworks are more subtle. The tight integration between Dreamweaver and Fireworks remains the same. Complete roundtrip support of graphics created in Fireworks or Photoshop means smooth workflow between Dreamweaver for active editing. The biggest improvements are in Hierarchical layer organization, multipage support and RIA layout prototyping. The last feature seems to be Adobe's way of positioning Fireworks going forward. With Fireworks CS3, Adobe has added new tools for rapidly laying out user interfaces with pre-defined UI objects such as buttons, checkboxes and window controls. In twenty minutes, we were able to design a visual user interface mock-up for a client. In the past, that same process might have been double.

What's a web page without some sizzle' Flash provides the steak. We're excited to see great new support for high-end coding and management in this release. ActionScript 3.0 brings a rich object-oriented programming language to the Adobe Flash Player. A new world of customization using the language improvements, API, libraries, and extensive new user interface components makes Flash CS3 a worthwhile upgrade onto itself.

These are very interesting times for the digital artist because we have myriad devices and platforms to publish to and our clients want to be everywhere. Whether it's a cell phone, iPod, IPTV device or HDTV they want to be there. It's not unusual for us to shoot HD and stream in Flash. You basically need to be able to deliver your content anywhere, anytime. Adobe CS3 Production Premium includes all the tools you need to be able to do just that.

A typical project might go something like this. A client needs a couple of sound bites and some b-roll for a corporate video. We send a crew out to get the footage and capture on P2 or Firestore drives. The footage is imported into Adobe Premiere and edited. By the way, using the latest Raylight codec we were able to drop MXF wrapped files directly into Premiere. Next, we may create some animated logos, titles and composites in After Effects. We render it out hard copies to Blu-ray for HD, DVD for MPEG2, and Flash for streaming on the web. To make it real easy for the client to approve the finished product we create a custom web page in addition to a protected directory for both HTTP and FTP access. Any requested thumbnails and pics are created using a macro we set up in Photoshop. The CS3 suite can handle all this and then some.

At AVT Pro we use a variety of NLEs including Avid, Final Cut, Sony Vegas, Premiere and others. No matter which NLE is used to edit the project the tools we use for delivery and approval are always Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash. Owning a suite like CS3 is so attractive because once you learn the workflow and your way around one product it easily translates to another. For example, if you're proficient in Photoshop you'll more easily pickup After Effects than say a competing product like Combustion from Autodesk that uses a completely different workflow. The CS3 suite integration helps speed the process between applications and allows you to work fast while keeping better track of digital assets.

Some of the applications in the CS3 suite are stronger than others. The must have applications across all six suite combinations include; Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator. Premier, Encore and After Effects are all solid offerings with worthy competition. The utilities 'Ultra' and 'On Location' from the former Serious Magic are extremely handy. Sound Booth is not a powerhouse sound editing package but useful for common tasks and the 'round trip' editing integration with Premiere makes it efficient and painless.

The improvements and refinements included in Adobe CS3 Web Premium are considerable. The new user interface and integration of the former Macromedia applications are impressive. The new features will please the most demanding of designers. At $1599, it can be a pricey ($499 for the upgrade) decision for the casual designer, but for anyone serious about web design, there is no better alternative than Adobe CS3 Web Premium.

CS3 Production Premium is an excellent suite of products for post production and includes pretty much everything you need to deliver broadcast quality work. We say almost because we kept going 'out of suite' for our audio editing software of choice despite the integrated Sound Booth package. The more full featured Audition, formerly Syntrillium's Cool Edit Pro, should really be a part of this Premium suite. That would make the $1699 hit ($799 upgrade) more palatable.

Visit Adobe for more information.


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