An Interview with Adobe's Bill Roberts

Posted on by Larry

This evening, at the Adobe MAX conference, I had an extended on-the-record conversation with Bill Roberts, Director of Product Management for Video and Audio Solutions at Adobe. (Bill is one of the key driving forces behind the entire Creative Cloud suite of products at Adobe.) Bill started with Adobe three years ago, specifically to take charge of the future development of all their video applications: Premiere Pro, Audition, After Effects, Prelude, Adobe Media Encoder, Encore, and Speedgrade.

After listening to the Adobe keynotes this morning, and the Executive Briefing this afternoon, I wanted to get a lot more detail and hard facts on what Adobe was planning.

NOTE: Unless I’ve put quotes around it, I’ve paraphrased many of Bill’s answers in the interest of condensing our 90-minute conversation.


I started off by asking: “Why was so little said at the keynotes this morning about Adobe’s audio and video applications?”

First, Bill said, historically, Adobe MAX was a web programmers event, not a video event; this year’s event focuses more on creativity than programming. Our video event was the 2013 NAB Show, last month, which is where we first rolled out these products. We tailor our product showcases to match the event.

Second, Adobe is best known for print and web products. The keynotes this morning launched new versions of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator and a variety of web applications. This was their day to take center stage.

Third, last year, the Creative Cloud was the place to download an application or store a file. This year, we wanted to explain that the Creative Cloud was actually much more. That’s why we spent time today talking about Behance, an online digital portfolio.

“Behance is like Linked-In for creative professionals. It’s where design and motion graphics professionals can talk with their peers, find work, collaborate, and share ideas.”

“If I were to describe our video product family,” Bill said, “I would call it a ‘train on the track.’ We know where it is going, it has a clearly defined path, and its speed is increasing.”


I shifted gears to The Cloud. “There is a lot of discussion online about whether The Cloud is relevant for video professionals because the files are so big, bandwidth so constrained, and privacy/security issues are paramount. Is The Cloud even relevant?”

That depends, Bill replied, on what you are storing to The Cloud. If you are storing source media files, today, probably not. There are lots of issues with storage, bandwidth, and infrastructure. And today’s explosive growth in shooting ratios, requires a rapid and never-ending need for increased storage. The future for Adobe may lie in creating infrastructure, but not now.

What we are seeing now, is that editors are not sharing source media via the cloud, but sharing project files, and linking them to media which is stored locally for every editor.

New with the CC release of Premiere Pro is easy relinking of files. “Relinking is part of the media world for a while to come. But, ultimately, storing multiple versions of source files – one for each editor – needs to go away.

NOTE: Another big concern for the Creative Cloud is encryption and security. Adobe has a page on their website devoted to this issue. Here’s the link to that page.


Bill continues: What we see Adobe Anywhere providing is the next step up from sharing project files. Computers and storage have both become cheap enough that we can move basic computing functions from the local computer to the server.

When we store the source files on a server located on the customer’s premises, an editor can request that file from the server. Instead of copying the file to the local hard disk, the server streams it directly from the server into the editing application so that the editor edits the stream directly in Premiere. The files are created in real-time, as they are needed by the editor. No proxies, no local media, accessible from anywhere.

What Adobe Anywhere does is provide a server/editor architecture which is hosted by the customer, using their servers, storage and editing platforms. What we provide is an ability to move the main compute function to the server, which allows editors anywhere in the world to access the media files, without needing to store them locally.

NOTE: Most of the pilot implementations of Adobe Anywhere use VPNs to handle transport and security. This allows the customer, not Adobe, to make sure their files are safe.

June 17 is the release date for all our Creative Cloud programs, including the video software. “We are actually ahead of the curve at the moment, so I’m not too worried about meeting that date.” However, Adobe Anywhere will probably follow a few weeks after that June 17 release, “because we want to make sure we get it right.”


I asked Bill about the concerns I’m reading online about Adobe going “all in” with subscriptions. “Couldn’t Adobe,” I asked, “continue with both package and online versions?

Bill said that, this morning, at the keynotes, Adobe’s CEO said that subscriptions allow for more consistent revenue, but there’s also a very big reason from the development point of view. The cost of maintaining two separate product lines, one boxed and updated annually, and the other available online and updated much more frequently, causes major reconciliation problems between the two development teams. It also requires twice the developers to accomplish the same amount of work.

NOTE: The Sarbanes/Oxley law has very stringent requirements on how software is updated and how sales revenues from both the initial sales and upgrades is accounted for. Under the law, it is not possible to do incremental updates without major accounting hassles.

Bill continued saying that subscriptions allow for easy incremental updates, bug fixes, and new features. Then, every few months, we will create an “anchored state” of the software that you can always revert to, if you need to go back a version. This is one reason that all Creative Cloud subscribers will get every CS6 application as well as the CC version. “You can always revert back to CS6 if you need it, or are working with someone else who uses that version.”

UPDATE – May 7, 2013

There is a lot of discussion about how long the software will work when not connected to the internet, for those users that need to work in a stand-alone environment. I was told by Adobe this morning that, while monthly subscriptions need to check back with Adobe’s servers every 30 days to make sure the software is still paid for, annual subscriptions are able to work off-the-net for up to 180 days before they need to check back in with Adobe’s servers. Again, if the software stops working due to an expired license, all your data remains stored locally and is totally untouched.


“It seems to me,” I asked Bill, “that Premiere Pro CC is, essentially, Final Cut Pro 7 designed for more modern hardware.”

“Three years ago,” Bill replied, “when I joined Adobe from Avid, I set the objective to make Premiere Pro the Photoshop of video. I wanted it to be an essential creative product.”

“My first goal was to put the right team together. My second goal was to look at the competition and see what we can do better. Our user interface was not intuitive. I wanted to find out what our competitive weaknesses were and make them better.”

“Premiere Pro CC is the fastest NLE on the market for file-based workflows. It stands on the shoulders of our competition and improves on them. Adobe anchored its work in the professional editing environment and focused on editing faster and telling stories better.”

“We didn’t want to create new paradigms. We wanted to take the existing paradigm and improve it. Personally, I think we are better than Final Cut Pro 7.”


Audition is an audio editing program that I like and use daily. I asked Bill whether Audition was part of the Creative Cloud?

“Audition is part of the Creative Cloud. Adobe doesn’t want to displace ProTools, however, we can be Avis to Avid’s Hertz. Audition is anchored in broadcast, news, and documentaries. You can edit, clean-up, and mix great stories with it.

“We are happy with where Audition is at the moment. The key question we are wrestling with is where do we take it in the future?”

NOTE: It is worth mentioning that Bill started his career in radio, and uses Audition for his music podcasts.


Turning to a new subject, I said that two of the video products that have not seemed to get a lot of love in this go-round are Adobe Media Encoder and Adobe Encore. How come?

“That is a very interesting question. We did not do any work on Encore in this release. The CS6 version of Encore fully supports Premiere Pro CC, and, in fact, we will have a video showing how the two work together at the release.”

“However, while optical disc creation is still important to many people, it is not a growing market. Adobe thinks that the current state of Encore CS6 meets the demands of the market today. It is not worth investing engineering resources into improving Encore at this time. And we spent a LOT of time talking with customers and within the company to arrive at that decision.”

Adobe Media Encoder (AME) is a different case. Not only is it a stand-alone product, we also provide an OEM version for other developers to use, plus five different versions used in different Adobe products. “This was crazy.”

Internally, this year, we restructured the development team and standardized on a single version of AME. When AME CC comes out, it will support ProRes. It will support DNxHD. It will be a great transcoding platform for Prelude.

“Run a test with AME CC and you’ll discover how much faster the latest version is. It will be on par, or better, than any major competitor.” And we are not stopping there. Wait till you see what it looks like next year.


I asked Bill to sum up his feelings about this product release.

“Honestly, this is my third year at Adobe. I was involved in every single aspect of this feature set. It’s the first [development] cycle where I had a full team of experts.”

“I am as proud as I could be of what the team has delivered. The teams outdid themselves — they did an amazing job. The NAB Show was amazing, and I can’t wait for the launch.”

28 Responses to An Interview with Adobe's Bill Roberts

← Older Comments Newer Comments →
  1. Butch says:

    I mean the check every 30 days or every 180 days.

  2. Chadwick says:

    If I may, the wrench analogy is flawed. Wrenches dont get updated. There’s no need. If a wrench develops a problem it’s basically unusable. It gets junked and replaced.

    A more apples-to-apples auto mechanic analogy might be the diagnostic tools used to troubleshoot error codes. Those tools get updates as new cars are released and/or new issues are discovered.

    Premier Pro etc will need updates. Whether its bug fixing, or new camera formats, or whatever. Software is just like that.

    Just like with diagnostic tools, some people only like to upgrade when absolutely forced to do so (like a customer rolls in with a broken down model not covered by the existing tool (or a client brings an partially completed edit file your existing software can’t open), others like to stay current. I’ve done both.

    I the past, Adobe suite upgrades were expensive enough that our small agency would often build in the software costs to new machine leases every 3 years. That pattern had us looking at nearly $5K to get the existing CS3/CS4/CS5.5 boxes to CS6. Then, of course, we’d have to start over again when the next version was released.

    In addition, with Apple’s lackadaisical approach to the Mac Pro, we decided to update our main video suite based around a beefy PC (which we can do since Premier is cross platform). Under the usual licensing scheme, we’d have a brand new Master Suite (not an upgrade) to buy.

    Or we could pay $40/mo and stay current all the time across all supported platforms.

    We did the math, and our shop comes out ahead over 3 years.

    Plus, if we need to add staff, we add a $40 monthly overhead instead of a $2K initial buy-in.

    Does the subscription model have problems? Yes. But for my situation, Adobe has been smart enough in their pricing that cost isn’t one of them.

  3. Aaron Evans says:

    I’m glad to see individual licenses for students and teachers are available at discounted rates.

    Any word on whether academic institutions will get discounted bulk licenses or whether it will be the full price for every seat? I think CC will be great but I’m trying to help my school navigate into CC before I graduate as they will be unable to upgrade if the price goes up from what they have been paying for CS6 and so on.

  4. Leo Hans says:


    you have to spend $40 a month for every suite and every copy of the software.

    Previously, you had to add $2000 for a new suite, but after that initial investment, you have no extra to pay if you don’t want to.

    Now you have to pay a service and you don’t know how much will last the price in that amount. If Adobe wants to raise the price, who can’t stop it?

  5. Butch says:

    Ok, fair enough not a wrench a drill gun. In my opinion a drill gun is a more analogous than the diagnostic tool in this scenario.

    Essentially 9 out 10 jobs you’re going to use all the same bits and there are lots of attachments. If you were a general contractor how do you think you might feel about being told you weren’t allowed to buy drill gun, you’d have to lease it FOREVER. You’d be offered parts and upgrades, but the monthly rate could also go up at any time.

    …Oh yes by the way if enough people decide that they want 5 bits a year and the leasing company decides that’s worth worth an additional 10% per month on top of your monthly even if you don’t want the bits, guess what? Your rates are going up.

  6. Leo Hans says:

    And for Cable TV comparison: You can change your Cable TV provider or even your ISP, but to migrate all of your work to another platform is a huge step.

    And then, people complaints about Apple moving to FCPX.

  7. Michael LaPoff says:

    I for one am very unhappy with Adobes decision to go only subscription.

    I have no problem with the yearly amount of money. I use Waves audio plug-ins and they have an annual maintenance agreement. They get a yearly cash flow from me but if something happens I still have the software. Buying a house verses renting. It may be the same cash flow but one builds equity the other gives you nothing. Buy a car or lease a car. Same cash flow but one you own a car at the end the other you have nothing.

    I am an independent and not a cash rich company. Unfortunately I have had seasons in my life where downturns in the economy and health issues have caused us to have to tighten belt very tight. Under Adobes model if I can’t pay (and pay and pay and pay) I’m out of work. I can’t let that happen.

    I have been using Adobe products since version 1 (actually Letraset Color Studio (Pre Photoshop)) and earlier. I like Adobe products a lot and am on CS6 but Adobe products are not the only ones on the block. Adobe’s decision is going to force me into other products that I can pay for and own.

    In reality the only two that are going to be hard shoes to fill are Photoshop and After Effects. Maybe it’s time to take a look at Smoke 2013. Photoshop will be a tougher one. I hope some software developers see the void Adobe will be leaving and seize the day. I for one can not risk tying my work flow into and trust my future to the good people at Adobe.

  8. Allynn says:

    I am at a University and our IT department is in talks with Adobe over bulk licensing. I’ve had no word yet but they said we should know *before* the June 25th deadline (to buy personal licenses at the Academic discount). Have you talked to any Adobe reps or is there someone at your institution who has contact with them (or at least negotiates software contracts)? That would be the first step, I think.


    • Larry says:


      I am not sure I support this petition. I am also not sure that I don’t. For that reason, I’m posting this for others to make their own decision.


  9. Butch says:

    I understand Larry and I think everyone else does as well. Thanks for not just deleting the post. I appreciate it.

← Older Comments Newer Comments →

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Larry Recommends:

FCPX 10.5 Complete

NEW & Updated!

Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.

Access over 1,900 on-demand video editing courses. Become a member of our Video Training Library today!


Subscribe to Larry's FREE weekly newsletter and save 10%
on your first purchase.