Thoughts Media Review Team
Join Date: Aug 2006
From Home Movies to Hollywood Blockbusters with Adobe Premiere Pro
Product Category: Video editing software
Manufacturer: Adobe Systems Inc
Where to Buy: Amazon (affiliate link)
Price: $699.99 USD
System Requirements: Intel Pentium III 800MHz or faster, Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 1, 256MB to run any one application, 2GB free disc space to install all applications, 11GB or larger dedicated large-capacity 7200RPM UDMA 66 IDE or SCSI hard disk or array for ongoing work, 1280x1024 32-bit colour video display adapter, DVD-ROM drive, compatible DVD record for DVD creation, stereo sound card, OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 interface for DV.
- Comprehensive list of features;
- Leap forward in functionality from version 6.5;
- Powerful & flexible user interface.
- Steep learning curve for the beginner;
- Windows XP only - no support for older versions of Windows or a Macintosh version;
- Requires powerful hardware for adequate performance.
Premiere Pro is the latest - and greatest - version of Premiere, Adobe's video editing platform. It delivers a very strong feature set, along with enhancements in almost every part of the product. It probably isn't for the beginner, though.
Read on for the full review!
This review forms part of a series of reviews of the products that go to form The Adobe Video Collection. Please click on the link to read an overview of the collection, along with further details of how to buy the product for less money.
The overview also includes details of the hardware that this product was reviewed on.
If You’ve Never Used Premiere Before
Premiere is Adobe's video editing product. It allows you to put clips together in a timeline, along with transitions and effects to enhance the appearance of the video and sound of the audio. You can have multiple audio and video tracks. Video tracks are visualised as a stack of clips from the top down. Where a track is partially or fully transparent, you can see the lower tracks of video. This allows you, for example, to create the appearance of a video clip that moves over another video clip. The latest version, Premiere Pro, has capabilities that stretch from making home movies through to making Hollywood blockbusters!
This is a very long review and there are some technical terms in it somewhere I've tried my best to keep it simple or to explain most of the terms. If there are any that you don't understand, please post a question to the forum.
Getting Started With Projects
When you first start Premiere Pro, it wants you to either open an existing project or create a new one. Unlike previous versions of Premiere where you could do some work without opening a project, Premiere Pro won't let you. Out of the box, Premiere Pro comes with eight presets – four for NTSC and four for PAL. The permutations are for standard & widescreen TV, 32 & 48kHz audio, as can be seen in Figure 1. It is entirely possible that these presets aren't going to suit your needs. For example, if you want a different number of video or audio tracks, you will need to customise the settings, and you do this from the Custom Settings tab, as shown in Figure 2. Once you've customised the settings, you can optionally save them as a preset for future use.
Figure 1: Creating a new project. Click on the image for the full size image. (31KB)
Figure 2: Customising a project's settings. Click on the image for the full size image. (22KB)
I thought that the best way to review Premiere Pro would be to take you through a typical workflow, from capturing the clips, assembling them on the timeline, applying transitions & effects, mixing the audio and then writing the finished project out. Before we get started, take a quick look at Figure 3. This is the complete interface to Premiere Pro. Throughout the rest of the review, I've got screenshots that focus in on various bits, but this is the whole enchilada!
Figure 3: The Premiere Pro interface. Click on the image for the full size image. 309KB
Capturing Video & Audio – The Old Way
Sometimes you just can’t beat the old way of doing things … well, other than improving the user interface to make it easier to do the things the old way In this case, I’m talking about manually working through a tape, logging the in and out points of each clip then performing a batch capture of the clips.
Figure 4: Premiere 6.5's capture window. Click on the image for the full size image. (14KB)
Figure 4 shows the Movie Capture window as it existed in Premiere 6.5. You would use this window to capture or log between the in and out points that you specify. The various controls in the bottom left-hand corner of the window allowed you to navigate through the tape. Choosing to log the in/out added an entry to a batch capture log file. This would be saved as a separate file. Once you’ve logged all of the sections that you want to capture, you then go to the batch capture window and tell it to record the various clips.
With Premiere Pro, several things have changed about this process. To begin with, the capture window is much easier to use. As you can see from Figure 5, the tape controls are laid out more logically, with step back/forward, rewind/forward wind on either side of the play button, rather than grouped together. The jog button, located below the shuttle, is a lot easier to use than the frame step feature in 6.5. Above the transport controls, you’ve got time codes for the current timecode, the in point, the out point and the duration, respectively. Each of these can be typed into, or you can drag left & right across them to decrease or increase the values. To the left of the transport controls are clip navigation aids, allowing you to go to the next scene, previous scene, in and out point, plus buttons for setting the in and out points.
In addition to the new layout of the window, though, the workflow is also improved. With Premiere Pro, logging a clip doesn’t add those details to a batch capture window, it instead adds the details to the current project as an offline file. This ensures that all of the relevant capture information is retained within the project file. The big advantage of this is that you can give the source tapes plus the project file to someone else and they will be able to capture the clips automatically because Premiere knows which tapes the clips are located on and where in the tapes the clips can be found.
Figure 5: Premiere Pro's capture window. Click on the image for the full size image. (29KB)
In keeping with the more logical layout of the capture window, Adobe has also added a Settings tab (as shown in Figure 6) where all of the relevant parameters can easily be changed without have to search through project preferences, general settings, etc.
Figure 6: Settings for the Capture window. Click on the image for the full size image. (14KB)
Capturing Video & Audio – The New Way
Premiere Pro now does automatic scene detection capturing! Woo hoo!
OK – excitement over – what the heck does that mean!?! If you’ve got a DV camcorder, as it records the video, it lays down a timecode. So long as the timecode is consistent (and more on this in a moment), it is possible for capture software to work out from the DV data stream when you started and stopped each clip. This “scene detection” process allows Premiere Pro to automatically read in the video from your DV camcorder, spotting the stops & starts and splitting those scenes into separate files. No more manual playing through the tape looking for the in and out points of each section.
Now, this isn’t particularly new technology. There have been other tools available for a while, including Scenalyzer and the Matrox MediaTools application bundled with the RT series. However, the inclusion of this feature into Premiere Pro goes a long way to simplify the workflow process since you no longer have to involve any other tools. The facility is really easy to use – select the “Scene Detect” checkbox and click on the “Tape” button. Premiere Pro then does its stuff!
Now, I mentioned earlier that the timecode needed to be consistent. What does this mean and why is it necessary? For the timecode to be consistent, your tape needs to have a continuous and increasing time counter. This then ensures that when you ask Premiere to go to one minute, 42 seconds and three frames into the tape, it can always find the right place. It won’t be able to do that if there are multiple locations on the tape with that timecode.
The recommended method for laying down a consistent timecode on a new tape is to stripe the tape (also known as blacking the tape). This involves putting the blank tape into your camcorder, putting it into record mode and letting it go through to the end of the tape. The end result is that the tape now contains a timecode that runs continuously from the start of the tape to the end. The reason this works is because when you start using the tape for real, i.e. recording video onto the tape, the camcorder realises that there is a timecode on the tape already and doesn’t overwrite that part of the tape.
If you haven’t striped your tape (or used any other mechanism for ensuring consistency), the timecode will reset to zero every time you swap tapes or if you record over a bit of tape that doesn’t have any timecode on it. The only time a camcorder will know to continue on from a previous timecode is if your camcorder has an “End Search” facility or if you play the previous recording to the end but stop before the playback goes past the end of the recording.
No Change For Analogue
All of the above, though, is 100% dependent on there being a timecode stream that can be read, which means a DV connection. If you’ve got an analogue video connection (S-Video, Composite or RGB), you won’t have a timecode, which means you can’t use any of the above features. All you can do is press play on the camcorder, click on Record in Premiere and capture the clip through your video input card.
No Stop Motion Capture
Unfortunately, Premiere Pro isn’t all about improvement or new features. Some features have fallen by the wayside and one such casualty is the Stop Motion Capture feature. This allowed you to specify how many frames to capture in a minute, hour or day, plus whether or not there was a limit on the number of frames you wanted caught. For some reason, this facility did not get carried over. It is possible to have both Premiere 6.5 and Premiere Pro installed on the same system so if this is something you used, you might want to keep 6.5 around just for this reason.
Putting The Clips Together
Having captured the clips, the next step is to start putting your project together. Although the project window, which lists the resources that are available to you in this project, hasn’t changed significantly, there are some improvements that could alter your workflow processes.
For a start, Premiere 6’s storyboard feature is no more, although there is a different way of achieving the same result. As with batch captures, storyboards entailed building a sequence of clips into an order and storing that order as a separate file. With Premiere Pro, if you change the project window’s view to Icon View (as shown in Figure 7), you can then drag the clips into the order that you want them to appear in the timeline (as shown in Figure 8) and then simply select all of the clips, drag them down to the timeline and, hey presto!, the clips are there in the right order. Simpler to achieve, within the same user interface and no additional files used.
Figure 7: Project window in icon view mode. Click on the image for the full size image. (104KB)
Figure 8: As above, after changing the clip order. Click on the image for the full size image. (89KB)
You will see from Figure 8 that gaps can get left in the layout as you drag the clips around. This is because Premiere doesn’t automatically reshuffle clips every time you move them. If you want the holes closed up, you can click on the wing menu button (the triangle just below the window’s close button) and choose the “Clean Up” option.
The “Automate to Timeline” feature that the Storyboard window offered does still exist – it has just been renamed to “Automate to Sequence”, as shown in Figure 9. There are a number of options that the window presents to allow you to get the clips down to the timeline in just the way you want. For example, you can put them down in the sort order or in the order you selected the clips. You can place the clips sequentially or at unnumbered markers (which is useful if you’ve already got some video or audio clips in the time line and worked out where you want these clips to go). You can insert them or overlay them onto existing clips. You can specify how much you want the clips to overlap. Finally, you can specify whether or not you want the default transitions applied.
Figure 9: Automate to Sequence window. Click on the image for the full size image. (16KB)
What’s A Sequence?
Ah – one of the best new features in Premiere Pro! If you’ve ever used virtual clips in a previous version of Premiere, then sequences are like virtual clips on steroids. If you’ve never used virtual clips, here comes a better explanation
A sequence is a collection of video and audio tracks, containing clips with transitions and effects applied. You can then take that sequence and … here comes the good bit … use it within another sequence as if it were a clip itself! Fantastic! It might help if I gave some examples of when & how you could find yourself using sequences …
Another cool thing about sequences is that they can each have a different number of video and audio tracks. This becomes particularly important if you are working on a project that requires different sorts of audio tracks (i.e. mono, stereo and 5.1) but I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here – more on audio later.
- Importing an existing project
If you import a project into a project, the timeline for that project appears as a sequence. If the imported project is a Premiere Pro project, you get all of the sequences from that project. The great thing about this is that it allows you to create stock projects (such as copyright closing sequences) that you can then easily add to a new project, thus ensuring consistency.
- Complicated transitions and effects
An example here might be that you’ve got a clip of people watching TV in a living room and you want to superimpose some video onto the TV. You could use one sequence to control the TV content and then place that sequence inside the living room sequence with an appropriate scale & move effect so that the TV content appears on the screen of the TV. Yes, you could do this without using multiple sequences, but the beauty of it is that once you’ve got the TV content sequence correctly scaled onto the screen of the TV, you can change the clips that appear without having to re-apply the scaling to the clips.
- A long project
Last year, I finished a mammoth project that had taken me three years to complete. The idea was to create a different video for each decade of our family history. I created a separate Premiere project for each decade, output the results as a video file, then created a master project that combined all of the decade files together with some titles and transitions. With Premiere Pro, it would be easier and better to keep each decade as a separate sequence and then use a master sequence to bring them all together.
One limitation of the way sequences are used within a project is that the aspect ratio of the video (e.g. 4:3, 16:9) is a project setting rather than a sequence setting. It would be nice to have this as a sequence setting because it would then be very easy to take, say, a 16:9 sequence and apply an effect to trim it or letterbox it down to 4:3, without having to go through the rendering & re-importing process I needed to use with my family history project.
The list of supported file formats has grown from the Premiere 6 list, but some formats, e.g. AutoDesk Animation, have fallen by the wayside. The complete list can be seen in Figure 10.
Figure 10: Supported file formats.
Of significant note is the support for Photoshop files. In previous versions, you were able to choose a specific layer to import, or merge the layers together. Premiere Pro extends this capability by offering the option to create a new sequence with each of the Photoshop layers appearing on different tracks. This is an extremely powerful feature as it gives you the possibility of then manipulating the layers within the sequence with effects like motion & opacity, and then using the sequence as the rendered version of the Photoshop file.
Another significant improvement in the support for image files is that Premiere Pro will now support files up to 4000x4000 pixels – without loss of quality! You can now use the motion effect to great effect by zooming into and out of images. This makes photo montages much easier to create and results in a much better picture quality.
You'll notice from Figure 10 that you can import Premiere 6 files & Premiere Pro projects. Backwards compatibility is very strong in Premiere Pro and it works really well. If you import a Premiere 6 project, for example, it gets added to your existing project as a new sequence. This is also what happens when you import a Premiere Pro project – which is great if you want to incorporate the work from one project into another one. Sequences rock!
Under the hood, the other change that has been is one that probably won't immediately be apparent to the user. Previous versions of Premiere worked in the RGB colour space, dealing in terms of different red-green-blue levels. However, DV works in the YUV colour space, where Y is the luminance or brightness component and U & V are the chrominance (colour) components. You may have come across YUV if you have any video appliances that use component video (e.g. high-end DVD players). It is possible to convert between RGB & YUV but it takes processor time, so by eliminating that step, Premiere gets faster. There are a couple of other benefits but they really are getting into the nitty-gritty technical detail :wink:
With previous versions of Premiere, the timeline allowed you to have transitions between clips on the Video 1 track only. This was typically arranged by having a 1A clip and a 1B clip, with the transition shown between them, as illustrated in Figure 11. Premiere 6 introduced a new concept, called single-track editing. The transition shown in Figure 11 is also shown in Figure 12 with Premiere configured for single-track editing. Users generally found this mode hard to use because of difficulties with aligning the transition over the two tracks concerned. When Adobe announced that Premiere Pro would only be supporting single-track editing and A/B editing was gone, there was a lot of concern and anguish.
Figure 11: Video transitions in A/B editing mode.
Figure 12: A transition in single-track mode.
However, it soon became clear that Premiere Pro actually delivers the best of single-track and A/B editing. The reason why Premiere Pro needed to move to just single-track editing is because A/B editing was restricting transitions to just the Video 1 track. By adopting single-track editing, Premiere Pro now supports transitions on any video track – compositions just got much more sophisticated!
Building a transition in Premiere Pro is really easy. You start off by taking your two clips and putting them next to each other on the timeline as shown in Figure 13.
Figure 13: Adjoining clips ready for a transition.
In order for a transition to be applied, there needs to be additional material after the end or before the beginning of the clip. In other words, where the two clips touch is initially assumed to be the centre of the transition and you therefore need additional material on either side. To apply a transition to a timeline, you drag the transition down from the video or audio transitions portion of the Effects Pane onto the clips. As you locate the pointer near to the clip join, Premiere Pro changes the pointer to allow you to have a transition that ends with the first clip, that centres across the two clips or that starts with the second clip. I've created a short video clip (see below) that shows this in action, while Figure 14 shows what it looks like after you’ve dropped the transition across the two clips.
Click here for the video clip (15KB) - no sound. Please save the file before playing in order to avoid any problems.
Figure 14: The applied transition.
Selecting the transition causes the Effect Controls pane to show you the settings for that transition and this is where Premiere Pro re-introduces A/B editing but just for the specifics of the transition, as shown in Figure 15. However, the user interface is really powerful within this window. I’m not going to highlight every individual control – a lot of the interface should either be familiar if you’ve used transitions before, or will be familiar because it is carried over from the timeline (e.g. the ability to zoom into the timeline for more detail).
Figure 15: Changing the settings for a transition. Click on the image for the full size image. (33KB)
What is not immediately obvious from this screenshot, though, is that you can:
During any of these changes, the monitor window is updated to show the effect on the clips being used, as shown in Figure 16. The net result of this change to the way you apply transitions is a leap forward in ease of use, precision of application and sophistication in the layering of tracks that you just didn’t have in previous versions.
- Perform a ripple trim on either of the source clips, thus changing the portion of the clip that is used in the transition;
- Slide the transition so that it either starts earlier or later in the timeline whilst retaining the original duration;
- Trim the transition so that the duration of the transition changes, along with either the start or the end point.
Figure 16: Sources for a transition during updates. Click on the image for the full size image. (59KB)
There are some casualties that you might notice if you are a previous Premiere user:
- No Quicktime transitions. Most of them could be achieved in other ways, but the implode and explode ones were quite nice :P;
- No animated icon of the transition. Although the icon was small, it often gave a hint of what the transition did;
- No use of the Info pane to give an explanation of what the selected transition does.
By default, every video track has two effects – motion and opacity – and every audio track has one effect – volume. Selecting a track causes the effect controls window to show the effects that are applied. In Figure 17, because the audio & video are linked, selecting one causes both tracks to be selected and therefore effects for both tracks to be displayed.
Whoa! Hang on just a minute there! Opacity? What's that then? It essentially defines how opaque that specific track is (i.e. not transparent). If a clip has 100% opacity, you won't be able to see anything of the lower tracks that are obscured by this track. As you move the opacity value down towards 0%, the track becomes more transparent. If there isn't anything below a partially transparent clip, you see the black background showing through.
Figure 17: The Effect Controls window. Click on the image for the full size image. (15KB)
The huge difference between the Premiere Pro way and the old way is that with the new way, it is much easier to manage the keyframes for the settings because you can see all of them at once. With previous versions of Premiere, you could only see the keyframes for one effect at a time. The keyframes were displayed over the video track in the timeline, which meant that you had a lot of to-ing and fro-ing between the Effect Controls window and the timeline.
Figure 18: Drilling down into the Motion effect. Click on the image for the full size image. (6KB)
If you click on the “twirl down” icon, as shown in Figure 18, all of the settings for that effect are revealed. For each of the settings, you can change the value for the whole of the occurrence of the effect or you can enable keyframes and thus modify the values over time. This level of functionality is broadly similar to that offered by previous versions of Premiere – most of the difference is in the user interface – it is now a lot easier to manipulate the keyframes and see how the whole of the effect is mapped out. One useful improvement, though, is with regard to the keyframes themselves. In previous versions, Premiere would linearly move from the value set by one keyframe to the value set by the next. With Premiere Pro, it is possible to “ease” out from a keyframe, ease in to a keyframe or hold a keyframe’s value. Some of the variations are shown in Figure 19. The path between the first two keyframes is the traditional linear migration. Keyframe 2 then has an easy curve out leading to an easy curve in for keyframe 3, which then has a fast out, leading to a slow in for keyframe 4 which has a hold in. Finally, keyframe 5 has a hold in, with a normal out. The representation of this on the effect controls window can be seen in Figure 20.
Figure 19: Keyframe options.
Figure 20: Keyframes in the effect controls window. Click on the image for the full size image. (4KB)
Another improvement in the user interface can be experienced with effects that support direct updating such as the Motion effect. If you look at Figure 18, you can see a square with a mouse pointer to the left of the Motion title. Clicking on the title bar causes handles to be displayed over the clip, as shown in Figure 21. Dragging any of the edge handles alters the scale height or width, whilst dragging the centre target changes the position. This makes it a lot easier to adjust these settings by eye.
Figure 21: Motion handles. Click on the image for the full size image. (79KB)
Not all of the effects have been updated to use the new user interface. Some of them still display a settings window, which means that it is still tricky with these effects to get the desired results with keyframes because you have to keep on changing from one window to another. Hopefully, Adobe will get everything consistent with the next release.
Adobe have included SteadyMove from 2d3 in Premiere Pro. This video effect allows you, within certain constraints, greatly reduce shake that you might have in your video clips. It has two controls – smoothness and max correction. The former controls the smoothness of the apparent camera motion while the latter controls the zoom and crop of the smoothed sequence. In order to achieve a stabilised shot, you need to have some pixels outside of the visible area that the image can be moved by. There is a pay-for upgrade available which gives you more control over the output but the freebie version is, I think, quite effective if you aren't too demanding. I've created a clip (see below) that shows some footage that was taken while riding a horse – not the most stable of platforms! I've applied three different levels of smoothing but not altered the "max correction" setting.
Click here for the video clip (4MB) - no sound. Please save the file before playing in order to avoid any problems.
The full range of tools at your disposal now to correct colour is just mind-blowing, including but not limited to:
An example of the monitor tools can be seen in Figure 22. Premiere Pro comes with a colour correction workspace layout that sets up the reference display next to the monitor display. It is possible then to step through the video watching the scopes as you do so.
- Colour corrector effect that allows you to adjust the black & white balance and colour, and limit chrominance and luminance values;
- Colour match effect that allows you to match the overall tone in a clip to other clips in the sequence;
- Waveform monitor that allows you to measure the luminance component so that you can ensure you are within the broadcast limits;
- Vectorscope that allows you to measure the chrominance component so that you can ensure you are within the broadcast limits.
Figure 22: Colour correction monitor tools. Click on the image for the full size image. (54KB)
The Colour Corrector effect is extremely powerful and, as you can see in Figure 23, has a huge variety of controls that you can change … and they can be keyframed! A really useful feature is the split screen preview. As you can see, I've enabled this and reduced the saturation from 100 to 30. The net effect, as shown on the right-hand side of the frame is an almost complete loss of colour.
Figure 23: Colour correction in action. Click on the image for the full size image. (131KB)
Eh? Speak Up, Laddie!
It isn’t only on the video side of a project that Premiere Pro has been improved – there have been significant improvements in the way that audio is handled as well. Probably the first change you’ll notice is when you import any audio into a project – Premiere Pro immediately starts conforming that audio. What Premiere is doing here is re-sampling the audio so that all audio in the project is at the same sample rate and bit size. By doing this, it ensures that the maximum quality is achieved. However, it is at the expense of additional disc space so you will need more than ever now.
Next on the list of changes is the way that audio tracks are handled. With previous versions, you had stereo tracks and their output was mixed together based on the overall volume. With this version, you can have a mixture of mono, stereo and 5.1 tracks. In addition, there is now the concept of a master track. The idea here is that the various audio tracks are routed and mixed into the master track. The properties of the master track are set when you create the sequence. By default, the initial sequence will have a stereo master track but it is easy to change that when you create the project, or you can create new sequences with different audio settings.
Clearly, with such track flexibility, you need a mixer to match and Adobe have delivered. Figure 24 shows the mixer for a project that contains a mono track, a stereo track, a 5.1 track and a stereo master track. You might be wondering what Premiere Pro does with all of the 5.1 surround information if you've only got a stereo output track. The answer can be seen in Figure 25, which is an excerpt from the Preferences window. Essentially, you can take just the front channels or mix the front and rear, the front and LFE (low frequency effects), or the whole lot (front + rear + LFE). The one downside is that this is set in the preferences (which is global to Premiere Pro) rather than the project settings. The reason why this could be a problem is that if you give all of the project files to someone else, they might get a different outcome if their 5.1 mixdown preference is different from yours.
Figure 24: Audio mixer with stereo master track. Click on the image for the full size image. (29KB)
Figure 25: Mixing 5.1 down to fewer tracks.
If, on the other hand, your master track is 5.1, then life gets really interesting, as can be seen in Figure 26. The track meters almost look identical to Figure 24, except that the master track has more of them. The biggest different can be seen just above the mono & stereo tracks. Instead of simple left/right panning knobs, you've got a more complicated panning interface. This allows you to precisely position the output of that track within the 5.1 arena. The small knobs to the left of the panning space allow you to control how much that track contributes to the centre and LFE channels.
Figure 26: Same track configuration but 5.1 master track. Click on the image for the full size image. (13KB)
The icons just above each of the tracks allow you to mute the track, "solo" the track (so everything else is muted) and to record over the track (not available for 5.1 tracks). Electing to record over a track gives us evidence of the next improvement in Premiere's audio capabilities – support for ASIO. Audio Stream In/Out was developed by Steinberg as a driver interface for delivering low-latency transfer of digital audio. By supporting ASIO, Premiere Pro is also able to record from multiple sources simultaneously on separate tracks. Clicking on the microphone track enables that track for recording and you can then choose the source, as can be seen in Figure 27. It should be realised that this menu is presenting different combinations of the mono sources available on my Sound Blaster Audigy 2 card. Not all of these permutations are at all sensible. For example, choosing any of the mix inputs results in feedback because Premiere then plays that back when it feeds into the mix which then gets recorded by Premiere which … you get the idea 8O
Figure 27: Different stereo input permutations.
It is significant, though, that you can set Premiere up to capture multiple tracks of audio at once – truly a leap forwards from previous versions!
Having got the audio into your project, what can you do with it then? Well, this is where it gets a little bit more complicated. The reason for the complication is because you can manipulate the audio in two different ways – one via the timeline and the other via the audio mixer. Now, that doesn't sound complicated, until you realise that if you add an audio effect to the timeline, it doesn't appear in the audio mixer, and vice-versa. I guess Adobe has a reason for the software working this way but, for now, my recommendation would be to use one method or the other and then stick to it. Using the timeline gives you visual & fine control over the settings with keyframes. Using the audio mixer allows you to use a more organic process for changing the values, i.e. twiddling graphical knobs whilst the playback takes place. The choice is entirely up to you. There are a few effects that can only be applied to the timeline, e.g. swap channels, fill left & fill right – all of which only apply to stereo tracks.
Premiere comes with 17 effects that can be used in the mixer – and they are VST effects! Virtual Studio Technology plug-ins allow you to extend the audio capabilities beyond the ones that are included – and they aren't bad either! Invert, delay, multitap delay, lowpass, highpass, bandpass, notch, parametric EQ, bass, treble, channel volume, denoiser, dynamics, EQ, multiband compressor, pitch shifter and reverb – and all of them are available for mono, stereo AND 5.1 tracks (with the exception of channel volume which isn't available for mono tracks). Each audio track can have five effects stacked within the audio mixer. This limit doesn't apply if you add the effects to the timeline.
The final area of audio manipulation within the audio mixer interface is the topic of submixes. As with the tracks, you can have mono, stereo and 5.1 submixes. They allow you to send the output of previous tracks or mixes through a submix and then on to another submix or to the master track. Indeed, a track can be sent to the master track and to a submix, thus allowing you to determine how much influence the submix has over the original track – what is called the wet/dry mix.
If you've ever tried to sync audio with video before, you might have been frustrated by the limitations of only being able to get down to the frame level (25 frames per second with PAL and 29.97 frames per second with NTSC). That too has been fixed by a new feature in Premiere Pro – you can switch the timeline units between frames and audio units. In the latter, you can get the timeline to work in terms of the sample rate or in milliseconds.
Outputting the Final Project
So, you've captured your clips, assembled them into sequences, applied the transitions and effects, mixed the audio … now what do you do with it? You've got a few more choices than you had with previous versions of Premiere Pro
The first is an enhancement for an old favourite – export to tape. Premiere Pro can now, when exporting to DV, position the DV recorder at a specific timecode and, therefore, slip the project output into a specific part of the tape.
The second is direct recording to DVD from within Premiere. Now, don't think for a minute that you are going to get a very sophisticated disc with this tool – you still need a DVD authoring tool if you want at least some control over the appearance. What Premiere offers is the ability to burn the project onto a DVD at a user-specific encoding rate with the option to set chapter points where you've got timeline markers and for the playback to loop. That's it. No fancy graphics, no fancy interface – just a nice simple means of burning your project onto a DVD. You can edit the encoding parameters if you like but the presets are probably going to be adequate.
The third is the Adobe Media Encoder. This single tools allows you to export your project in the following formats: MPEG-1, MPEG-1 (VCD preset), MPEG-2, MPEG-2 (SVCD preset), MPEG-2 (DVD preset), QuickTime, Real Media and Windows Media. Once you've picked a format, there are a number of presets that make it easier for you to get your export working. For example, if you pick MPEG2-DVD, you get the same list of presets that you get with the DVD recording tool. If you pick QuickTime, you get a mixture of PAL & NTSC presets for different bandwidths. The list of presets if you pick Windows Media is very extensive indeed, including the high quality Windows Media 9 codecs. Figure 28 & Figure 29 show the sort of settings that can be altered with this tool. As I've said, you are likely to stick with the presets provided unless you've got a particular audience whose needs aren't met with the presets.
Figure 28: Export summary for Windows Media, high quality. Click on the image for the full size image. (33KB)
Figure 29: Export summary for PAL DVD with 5.1 audio. Click on the image for the full size image. (37KB)
As you can see from Figure 29, it is now even possible to create a DVD with a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack – something that was unheard of with this level of computing power not so long ago. There has been some confusion amongst users over exactly what you get for your money and what tools you need to do what. If you want to create any sort of Dolby-encoded audio from within Premiere, you are going to be using the SurCode encoder, for which you get three free tries and then you need to buy it if you want to carry on using it. If you have stereo sound, you can create PCM audio from within Premiere. If you want Dolby Digital stereo encoding, you can get that with Adobe Encore.
I'll be talking more about the SurCode encoder and surround sound technologies in a separate review.
Phew! I hope you are still with me – if you are, well done for reading this far. I hope you've found the review useful.
Premiere Pro is a complete rewrite of the product. In fact, you could almost think of it as a new product with the same name. Adobe has done a fantastic job of introducing new features and new ways of doing things. The product needs a lot of processing power if you are going to get the most out of it, so don't skimp on the spec of your computer.
If you already use Premiere, or if you are looking for a mid-to-high level of sophistication, I can heartily recommend buying Premiere Pro. If you are new to video editing, this product might have too steep a learning curve, unless you've either got the patience to master it or the money to buy Total Training's training package