Adobe announced a sizable portion of improvements and innovations in Adobe Creative Suite 3, the newest version of its integrated flotilla of tools for content creators. Don’t look for any earth-shaking changes in Premiere Pro, which is by now a fully mature application. But the tricks up Adobe’s sleeve this time out include video layers in Photoshop, shape layers in After Effects, an easy-to-use time-remapping function in Premiere and, with the addition of Serious Magic’s technology to the line-up, serious production tools.
New to the “Production Premium” version of Creative Suite, aimed at video pros, are OnLocation CS3, a renamed and HD-capable version of the production recording-and-monitoring tool DV Rack, which became an Adobe product with the company’s purchase of Serious Magic last October, and Serious Magic’s chroma keyer, Ultra CS3. Also new is the inclusion of Flash CS 3 Professional and Soundbooth CS3, the new audio-for-video-pros tool that Adobe developed as an in-box replacement for the more hardcore Audition application, which is now sold separately.

The Creative Suite 3 release also represents a return to the Mac platform for Adobe applications, which had been unavailable on the Mac since Adobe relaunched (and recoded) Premiere as Premiere Pro in 2003. The bad news is the Serious Magic apps will not work on the Mac-Adobe is advising Mac users to fire up Bootcamp and Windows if they want to use OnLocation, and Ultra is a Windows-only product.

Photoshop CS3 Extended, which is included in the suite, now allows compositors to work on layers of full-motion video using the Photoshop toolset, rather than After Effects. After Effects has been updated to support all Photoshop layer styles, including reading a .PSD file that includes the new system of video layers. (The standard version of Photoshop won’t include them.) And the Vanishing Point tool, which allows perspective planes to be defined in an image, now supports export to 3ds max or Vanishing Point Exchange files.

Adobe reps suggested that users who had gotten used to thinking about After Effects as “Photoshop in motion” may want to consider it “Illustrator in motion” with the addition of shape layers, a tool for creating vector graphics inside After Effects, rather than importing Illustrator jobs. A wide array of shape-animation controls (like the new “puppet tool” for easily manipulating shapes and layers) and presets should make it easier to try out motion-graphics ideas on the fly-especially with the addition of Brainstorm, a tool for quickly plowing through a multitude of visual combinations to home in on exactly the right look.

On the finishing side, Adobe Encore allows interactivity to be created just once and then authored for DVD, Blu-ray and Flash formats, and the new Adobe Device Central offers a wealth of information on specs for encoding content to be readable by mobile devices, including iPods and cell phones, along with a “smart testing environment” that simulates various conditions of mobile-phone viewing, including a loss of backlight or the glare of sunlight and memory requirements and responsiveness under real-world networking conditions.

Creative Suite 3 Production Premium is slated to ship this summer for Mac OS 10.4.9 and Leopard and Windows XP and Vista. The price is a cool $1699 for the full package (unchanged from the previous version, which didn’t include OnLocation, Flash Professional, Soundbooth or Ultra), $1199 for an upgrade from any of the point products, and $799 for a suite-to-suite upgrade.