Each new NLE release is eagerly anticipated and Premiere?s new flagship Pro 2 is no exception. Could Adobe catch up with Final Cut and eat into the professional market? Can it match Sony?s Vegas for speed and generous effects? Checking his post-box every day for the last two weeks was Premiere addict Steve Turner.
I can?t get no?
It?s been an anxious few weeks wait. Would it arrive before the deadline? Would I have time to play with it? Would it be worth it? Well the answer was yes on all counts.
I can?t believe I?m tragic enough to be pumped at the prospect of getting a new NLE but there you go. This is a big one ? not make or break for Adobe but certainly a credibility moment. While Photoshop leads the graphics world, Premiere has been the professional bridesmaid for quite a while. It clearly leads the con/prosumer market, but you need the professionals to get real street cred. So will this bridge the gap?
Single edit screen
Out of the box
And what a box it is! Adobe kindly sent out the premium edition of the new Production Suite that includes the whole Adobe kit and the idea is to have a fully integrated production system in one package. To start, I fell at the first hurdle as you need Windows XP with service pack 2 so on the ?net and download, install, have lunch and a nap while waiting, and start again. I never did SP2 because it caused Photoshop and various programs to misfire but that?s history as everything seems fine (for now).
There are five DVDs to load but you can, as I did, choose which bits to load. It was clever enough to know I already had a copy of Photoshop CS2 and we skipped that. Enter the usual 50 number serial code and we?re off. Inside 30 days I?ll have to face the activation bit (it?s a pain if your editing PC is not on the net and you have to use the phone). Still it should minimise piracy as the serial number is useless if you can?t activate it. What annoys me though is you have to re-activate it each time you use something as simple as system restore.
The new paint job
As I waited for the overnight delivery to take several days to arrive, I checked the early feedback on the forums. Apart from being amazed at what people find to whinge about (and how few try things before going online) one of the most common threads was the new look. Premiere has been labelled as old and tired so they?ve got out the spray cans and given it a new ?look?.
The big move is interactive palettes that grow and shrink as you move them. They can be undocked and dragged then settled back into a new possie and everyone else moves over to make way. The cranky alarm went off because I just could not get the bits where I wanted them. I started to agree with the web critics and then an accidental find – if you undock and drag a palette out to the windows desktop it will sit wherever you put it. Yeah! It?s just like Photoshop for users of twin monitors.
Like Pro 1.5 you can save various versions of your desktop to recall quickly. I have custom desktops for: twin screen editing, full screen playback and audio mixing. Next will be a DVD one but I didn?t get quite that far yet.
Twin monitor screen
The kid grows up
I can report Premiere has passed through its teenage years and become a grown up program. There?s only one omission ? any guesses? All revealed later.
Pay attention ? it?s a long list of proper equipment. Finally there?s professional machine control (a big reason Final Cut got the pro market first) so you can digitise from whatever obscenely expensive kit you?ve got. Via an appropriate SDI (standard digital interface) video card you can do HD and SD video uncompressed!
Good luck with that ? first you must buy the fastest PC on earth. But it?s there and it?s feasible and at least future proofed. It also does DVCPro and DVCPro HD. Pro 2 offers native HDV. This means there?s no recompression after capture so like DV only the effect/transition bits have to be rendered (or not if you have a suitable card). Excellent but once again get a high spec PC first. Loads of RAM, hyper-theading, dual core, RAID arrays (I thought RAID died along with SCSI drives but it?s back) and all that other stuff only the ten year old tech at my local computer store really understands.
All the angles
I really wanted to see the multi-cam support and man does this work! I had a breakdown trying to interpret the help files (I could have used the printed manual but, hello, I?m a normal bloke ? I?d phone a friend first). It?s a bit complicated. Here?s the reader?s digest version.
Put four clips on four video lines. Select all and right click. Select ?synchronise?. You can link to the start, a marker, the end, or a timecode. Obviously you?ve got them in sync first. Then you create a new sequence and drag the first sequence from the project bin to the video line of the new sequence.
The four tracks are combined on ONE video line. Right click and enable ?multicam?. Click the little arrow on the top right of the monitor window and select ?multicam monitor?. I actually had to go to bed and get up the next day to find that bit!
Next you go to the start, select your first camera angle and hit record then play and happily play TV director by switching cameras with the numeric keys. As a TV director happily playing software reviewer I?m very impressed. It?s real time and infallible. Make a mistake and you just go back a few seconds and start again. Too easy. By co-incidence I shot a wedding for a family friend?s niece a few weeks ago. The ceremony was done with two cameras and after syncing I ran them in real time. To cut the old way took hours so this is a big leap forward and will no doubt be a selling point.
Pedal to the metal
Accelerated GPU effects
I was looking forward to another new bit. GPU (Graphics Processor Unit) effects and transitions are included. I?d never thought of this until I looked at Pinnacle?s Liquid Edition 7 last month. I was really impressed with the power of its GPU powered bits. I fired up Pro 2 and was a little disappointed to find very few GPU accelerators under the bonnet. The page turns are very nice thank you but I really struggled to think of a use for them (they were all the rage in the 90s).
Then I read on the Premiere forum that the real gain is to GPU accelerate all your transitions and effects. This switch is in the ?playback settings? menu off the monitor window. Here?s the test ? is it greyed out? Then your graphics card can?t do it. Mine couldn?t so I cheerfully pre-spent the fee for this piece (it was an expensive card David ? got that!) on a newer card. There?s a list of suitable cards on the Premiere website. No grey so now all is GPU powered and yes you can see the difference ? some keen web dudes have done comparisons and the results are worth it.
While the very clever ten year old installed the card, I also added an extra gig of RAM (2 gig now). The multi-cam monitor played back in very pixelated form and as I had intended adding more anyway this seemed like a good time. The extra RAM did allow a larger multicam monitor. Then the young person with too large a brain pointed out I needed a personal power station to run all this so in went a new power supply. Funny how the lights dim while I?m editing now.
Not too much actually. Price is an issue, and there are two small problems. Professionally I?d like to have seen a built in ability to export to .omf files. omf is the standard for audio export for post work ? usually on Pro-Tools. Adobe wants you to stay in their shop and you can now import/export to Audition (I didn?t get time to test this yet) but Audition is new and Pro-Tools is the industry leader and another reason why Final Cut had the lead for professionals. You can get an omf export program called ?Automatic Duck? but I don?t know whether there?s a Pro 2 version yet.
I was looking forward to the demise of file ?conforming?. If you use Pro 1.5 you know what I mean. Yep it?s gone but here?s ?peak generating? where Pro looks at the clips audio and creates the wave pattern for it. Not as time consuming but does slow the process down a tad. I think it?s for the page scroll thingy.
The DVD bits
Most good NLEs do DVD from the timeline and now Premiere does to. It?s really easy and possibly the best I?ve seen BUT you?re limited to a small library of pre-made menus. So far, I can?t see if you can import your own, but logically you wouldn?t because that?d blow away the market for Encore. You can tell the software to automatically place the new DVD markers or you can yourself. Then the menus already know how many and where they are ? how clever is that? ? no having to set up each link. Change the title on the template and burn.
Example of a DVD menu
Another excellent change. You can choose how the timeline marker moves across pages as you play. It can reach the end and reveal the next page or do what it did before and stop at the end and wait until you stop playback before redrawing. Or the cool new one is that the marker remains stationary and the timeline moves under it as you play. It always remains where you are on the timeline. Now this needs bags of RAM (2 gigs is good now) and to redraw the audio wave files eats loads of that too. I read that?s why it works out the audio peaks first but that?s unconfirmed at the moment.
Here?s a really clever innovation. You can export a .pdf version of the edit and the client can view it on their PC. Then they can add notes that are time-code specific. Cool! You can get accurate fast feedback for any changes by email. Their notes are embedded in the timeline, which can be imported back into the project. It?s the new tech world?s version of the time-coded VHS and notepad! I love this idea.
Premiere has come a long way. Once I remember testing 5.1 and promptly went back to version 4! I waited until 6.5 before changing again but there?s no danger here. Pro 2 is so well future proofed it should last for years (well a couple at least!). Current 1.5 editors will like it and newcomers can watch the excellent DVD that comes with it (even though it?s American). I look forward this year to shooting for TV with HDV cameras and editing at home still. I?m sure that will age me even faster, but that goes with the territory, and after all Rochelle?s used to the sound of head banging on desk.