Premiere Pro CS5

Premiere Pro is the heart of the Production Premium suite. It now features an enhanced, native 64-bit system architecture, and the Mercury Playback Engine, which dramatically ramps up performance for editing HD. There’s also improved support for a range of formats.

More than the other suites, Production Premium takes advantage of metadata. It’s useful for Adobe Story, a new script development tool, while OnLocation captures metadata as you shoot. Metadata streamlines searching for clips while you edit in Premiere Pro. Running Speech Search in Premiere Pro transcribes spoken dialogue then converts it into metadata. This makes locating footage simple -- as does the Face Detection feature.

Metadata also boosts Encore, allowing you to turn your DVD and Blu-ray Disc projects into web DVDs that now include a keyword-based search interface.

After Effects CS5

The 64-bit-enabled After Effects is much faster. Editing and compositing are greatly improved by the introduction of the new Roto Brush. Another new effect, Refine Matte, takes advantage of the capabilities found in Roto Brush and can apply them to any layer with a problematic alpha channel, such as keyed footage. After Effects CS5 also offers an Auto-keyframe mode, where modifying a property automatically turns keyframing on and adds a keyframe at the current time.

As with Premiere Pro, the variety of formats that After Effects supports has been extended, while support for XMP metadata is another new arrival.

Brilliantly for those working in motion-graphics and animation, enhanced colour management and new custom Color Look-Up Table (LUT) support ensures colour consistency across multiple devices. AE CS5 also includes Mocha Shape, Color Finesse 3, and Digieffects FreeForm plug-ins.

Click here for step-by-step guides to the new tools in After Effects CS5.

The roundup

So is it a must-buy? That all depends on your needs. In CS4, Adobe seemed to concentrate on improving integration between its applications. This time round, the focus is on improving each individual app, and the decision over whether this is a must-have upgrade for you or not depends on how much you will benefit from the special new tools of each program.

Some -- such as Roto Brush in After Effects or the Gap tool and Split Columns in InDesign -- promise to be huge time-savers. Photoshop’s Content-Aware Fill also offers a quick way to carry out a common task, while the new brushes it shares with Illustrator which mimic real paint effects will have a big impact on the digital art scene.

Many will benefit from the ability to explore iPhone app development in Flash.

Other changes -- such as the move to 64-bit for After Effects and Photoshop for Mac -- offer a big enough performance boost to convince many a wavering creative.