How To's | Technology

Adobe Premiere Pro: Solid Performance, Professional Workflow

1 Apr , 2012  

Written by Peter Bohush | Posted by:

Final Cut Pro X, look out. Adobe’s Premiere Pro 5.5 is stepping into the spotlight. Check out Peter Bohush's video tutorial as well!

Adobe’s Premiere Pro 5.5 editing software, which anchors Adobe’s Production Premium suite of applications, has emerged from a decade in the shadows. In 2011, Apple all but abandoned the professional post-production market by replacing Final Cut Pro 7 with FCP-X, which introduced technical advancements, but also a new design that conflicted with established industry workflows.

Where to find an alternative application offering not only the needed features but also the assurance of ongoing technical support and development? Adobe Premiere Pro stepped back into the spotlight. When editors took a look at Premiere Pro, they were pleasantly surprised to find it as a worthy choice for editors at all levels, from indie YouTubers to big budget feature films.

In fact, the recent feature films Hugo and Act of Valor were edited with Premiere Pro, and like The Social Network before, utilized Premiere Pro’s built-in integration with Adobe’s other apps After Effects, Photoshop and Audition, to speed up their workflow.

Putting aside the brouhaha surrounding Apple’s perceived missteps with FCP-X, Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5 is a great application in its own right. It’s difficult to review without making comparisons to its FCP cousin, but any editor not fully committed to an Avid system should give a serious look to Premiere Pro.

Any editor who’s worked with other editing apps will find Premiere Pro’s interface familiar and will quickly adapt to it. In fact, Adobe makes it easy. A simple menu allows users to assign the keyboard shortcuts to mimic Final Cut Pro or Avid. This is like a guy I knew who called his second wife by his first wife’s name. It was just easier for him to remember, and she was cool with it. It seemed to make for a happier marriage for them.

The Speed of Mercury

Premiere Pro 5.5 is a 64-bit application, which means it can use all the processing power and memory of your system. These days video project files are bigger than ever, especially when editing files shot on cameras such as the Red or Alexa. Adobe directs as much computing resources as possible to playing and rendering these files, allowing Premiere Pro and After Effects to play through them in high resolution, even without rendering them. This gives editors the ability to stack tracks atop each other, add effects and transitions, mix file formats, and still preview and play their work without waiting for the system to render out preview files.

The advanced 64-bit processing power is made possible by Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine, built using the CUDA parallel processing architecture developed by NVIDIA, a graphics card manufacturer. CUDA, which stands for Compute Unified Device Architecture, is a programming architecture that offers speedier computer processing by using both the computer’s CPU and its graphics processing unit (GPU), or graphics card. The GPU is like a booster engine that results in the computer being able to offer real-time previewing and editing of multiple layers of high-resolution footage, including Alexa and RED 4K video.

That’s all great to know if you want to bore your friends at cocktail parties. The main thing is that your big video files will play like they’re supposed to, in real speed at high resolution, and you’ll get your editing done faster.

Plays Every File Known To Man

Well, not exactly. But an awesome feature of Premiere Pro is its native support of Red R3D, DSLR, MTS, GoPro MP4, AVCCAM, XDCAM HD, DPX, P2, XF and other camera recording formats. No logging and transcoding. Just drop the files into the project and they’re ready to go.

Note that there is some sleight of hand going on behind the curtain. All these different video file formats play in Premiere Pro with a drag-and-drop ease. However, to do this Premiere Pro grinds away in the background making preview files of everything and storing them in a media cache folder on your hard drive. They have filenames ending in .pek, .ims and .cfa. On a large project I was working on, I found this folder contained more than 11,000 files and took up 37 GB of space. This would be similar to the space taken by transcoded ProRes files in Final Cut Pro. But it was just a little surprise to find my hard drive space being chewed up. If you don’t want that to happen, the cache folder location can be reset in Premier Pro’s preferences.

Keep in mind that there is no cache file ‘clean up’ feature in Premiere Pro — these files will sit on your hard drive in two big folders forever, like a fat cousin who plops on your couch at your Christmas party and won’t leave. So it’s a good idea to manually set the location for the media cache folders with every new project. Final Cut Pro works similarly, with the exception that FCP automatically creates a new folder for each project’s cache files, making it easier to know which files to trash on clean up day.

Plays Nice With Others

Premiere Pro seems to be friends with everything and always plays nice. With Adobe’s Dynamic Link function, editors can send shots to After Effects, or import After Effects comps, and see them dynamically update in Premiere Pro when changed in After Effects. This eliminates the need to render out a static file in After Effects and re-importing into Premiere Pro for every little change. With dynamic link, Premiere Pro and After Effects essentially share the same live file.

Premiere Pro also offers a live link to the metadata of Red R3D files, via the RMD (Red meta data) file that tags along in the Red file folders. No need to open Red Cine-X to make color and exposure adjustments to the Red cam files. Do it right in Premiere Pro and it links right up. Conversely, changes made to a Red cam file’s color and exposure can easily be seen in a Premiere Pro project by clicking the ‘Link to RMD’ button. These color and exposure changes are ‘non-destructive,’ meaning they aren’t burned into the video file forever, but rather are ‘attached’ to it and can be changed without having to save or render out a new video file.

In combination with After Effects, Premiere Pro can import edit projects from Avid and Final Cut Pro as well. Importing an XML output from the Avid or FCP projects can be imported into After Effects, which will prompt the user to point to the source files. Assuming the editor was working with low-res proxy files in FCP, for example, After Effects will replace these proxy files with the original native files. Then it’s a simple export directly to a Premiere Pro sequence and everything opens up, ready to continue the edit on Premiere Pro.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Adobe’s hiring of Wes Plate, whose Automatic Duck technology helped ease the interactions between After Effects, Avid and FCP, means that an even easier, more robust import/export feature will get built directly into Premiere Pro in the near future.

A Welcome Return

My first computer-based editing system was an HP desktop running Adobe Premiere 4 on Windows 98. Coming back to Premiere Pro 5.5 thirteen years later was like seeing an old friend. Except it was one who got better looking with age instead of older and balder.

Cutting a feature film and some shorts, I really appreciate Premiere Pro’s tight integration with After Effects and Photoshop. It handles the ginormous Red camera files with ease. And Media Encoder is a quick and easy way to export my finished projects for the web, DVD or to send to the professional visual effects house.

Free Upgrade! With the impending release of Creative Suite 6, Adobe is offering a free upgrade path if you purchase Premiere Pro 5.5, alone or as part of the Production Premium 5.5 suite. Buy before May 6 and get a free upgrade to version 6. Check out the product here: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 for Mac [Download].

Related Media: Adobe Premiere Pro Tutorial: Dynamic Linking


Free Upgrade! With the impending release of Creative Suite 6, Adobe is offering a free upgrade path if you purchase Premiere Pro 5.5, alone or as part of the Production Premium 5.5 suite. Buy before May 6 and get a free upgrade to version 6. Check out the product here: Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 for Mac [Download].