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Adobe Premiere 6.5 (12/2002)
by Douglas Dixon
Adobe Premiere has been the long-established leading video editing application (www.adobe.com/premiere) for Windows and Macintosh. For video professionals, and for others ready to step up to a more professional tool, Premiere offers professional features and a clean and robust interface for working on digital video projects. In August 2002, Adobe shipped the latest version, Premiere 6.5, with features including real-time preview, a new Title Designer, and support for MPEG-2 export and DVD authoring.
I had the pleasure of working with Adobe on the Premiere beta program, and was impressed with the level of activity and enthusiasm among the beta users. Premiere has always offered strong support for third-party hardware and software, as well as integration for working with within the Adobe digital video family (After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator). Premiere 6.0, introduced in January 2001, added support for DV and Web formats, and significantly enhanced the user interface for both novice and professional users. And now version 6.5 updates Premiere to take advantage of recent developments in hardware and software performance.
This new version 6.5 is a "point" release, refreshing Premiere to the latest operating systems -- Microsoft Windows XP and Macintosh OS X - and taking advantage of faster processing speeds with features like real-time preview and MPEG encoding. This is not a total rewrite to a major new "7.0" type of release, but instead is an upgrade and enhancement to the existing product. For people already familiar with Premiere, there are no gratuitous changes to the interface. All the existing features still work the same as you are used to; in fact the product ships with the old manual, plus an addendum that describes the new features.
Premiere 6.5 on Mac OS X
Besides the expanded support for digital video devices and real-time hardware, the 6.5 product includes the new Adobe Title Designer with more than 90 Adobe PostScript fonts, plus support for import and export in the new Windows Media 9 format, and exporting directly to MPEG format for DVD authoring. The product also includes additional goodies such as additional After Effects filters, audio processing tools from TC Works, and updated Sonic Desktop SmartSound Quicktracks.
Perhaps the most visible addition to Premiere 6.5 is support for software real-time preview. As the processing power of desktop and even laptop systems has increased, it is now possible to preview your timeline in software, without needing assistance from a hardware card. You can see the visual effects of your edits immediately, including transitions, effects, and titles, instead of needing to wait to render each time you want to experiment with a change.
Premiere provides built-in presets with real-time preview enabled for DV editing. On recent fast machines, you can enable it for all your projects as well. Premiere scales the preview to take advantage of the available system horsepower, and degrades quality and frame rate gracefully on less powerful machines. With DV projects, you also can view the preview through a FireWire / IEEE 1394 connection, and display it on an external monitor.
However, the availability of real-time preview still does not mean the end of rendering. When you output your final production, you still need to have Premiere render the final output frames in order to generate transitions and effects at full quality and to have the final frames prepared for real-time output to DV or for Print to Video.
Adobe's posted system requirements for real-time preview are a G4 processor (G4 dual recommended) on Mac and a Pentium III 800MHz (Pentium 4 dual processors recommended) on Windows.
Adobe Title Designer
Premiere 6.0 included a simple Title editor for formatting text and graphics with rolls and crawls. Version 6.5 adds the new Adobe Title Designer, a much more sophisticated tool for broadcast-quality title sequences that includes features similar to Adobe Illustrator and InDesign. (The old Title editor is still available for compatibility with old projects.)
The Title Designer includes high-quality text and drawing tools, plus management of styles and properties, and transformations and animation. Besides the basic text formatting options such as fonts, sizes, and colors, it adds typographic controls such as kerning, leading, baseline shift, slant, and rotation. You also can apply edge treatments such as outlining, embossing, and bevels, and control transparency, drop shadows, and gradients. You even can map a texture patterns onto text.
Adobe Title Designer
Besides the regular shapes such as rectangles and circles, the Title Designer includes the Adobe-standard Pen tool for drawing free-form vector shapes. And, text can follow a path that you draw.
To simplify your work, you can group shapes to manage them together. Adobe provides hundreds of pre-defined text and object styles, or you can create your own object styles and custom formatting to save and load across different projects. A swatches palette provides a preview of the appearance of each style.
Finally, to animate your titles, the Title Designer provides built-in roll (vertical) and crawl (horizontal) motions, with control of the duration and speed. You also can apply more sophisticated motion effects, with keyframes, in the Timeline.
To get you started even faster, the Title Designer includes more than 170 professional template designs, including rolls and crawls. You can preview the templates to pick a good match for your project, and then modify and it for a custom look.
MPEG Export to DVD
With the exploding interest in desktop DVD authoring, Premiere 6.5 now supports exporting directly in DVD-ready MPEG format, to use with Mac and Windows DVD authoring tools. However, you should use MPEG only for the final exported clips; although you can import compressed MPEG clips into Premiere, but it's not a good idea to edit them because any further processing or re-compression will cause visible degradation.
On Windows, Premiere includes the Adobe MPEG Encoder for exporting, and Sonic DVDit! LE for DVD authoring. The MPEG Encoder, powered by Main Concept (www.mainconcept.com), includes presets to export to common DVD and Video CD formats, NTSC and PAL, as well as advanced options to set encoding options down to the subtlest detail. You then can import these files into the included Sonic DVDit! LE (www.dvdit.com), and author great-looking DVDs with interactive menus and custom titles and graphics.
On Macintosh, Premiere interfaces with Apple's DVD Studio Pro (www.apple.com/dvdstudiopro). If installed, DVD Studio Pro adds the QuickTime File Exporter module to your system, so you can export to MPEG directly from Premiere. You can then import the files into DVD Studio Pro, which can use chapter makers set in the Premiere Timeline. Of course, you also can export files in DV format to use with Apple's iDVD.
Windows Media and Web Integration
On Windows, Premiere 6.5 now both imports and exports Windows Media format (www.microsoft.com/windowsmedia). You can import Windows Media video footage and music tracks, and edit them directly within Premiere. Previously, Windows Media was mostly a write-only format for content delivery, but it is starting to be opened up to be used more as a capture format for audio and video clips that you then want to edit.
Because Microsoft released the latest version of Windows Media in September 2002, after Adobe shipped Premiere, Adobe has posted a plug-in update on its web site to support the Windows Media 9 (which you may have heard as code-name Corona).
As before, on Windows, you also can export to Windows AVI files, Apple QuickTime (www.apple.com/quicktime), and to the Web using the RealMedia exporter (www.realnetworks.com).
On Macintosh, Premiere can export to usual QuickTime file formats and compressors. In addition, with the QuickTime File Exporter module installed (from DVD Studio Pro), you can access the same capabilities as QuickTime Player Pro, with export to Windows AVI files, and extensive control over exporting to QuickTime streaming formats.
The Premiere 6.5 product includes several new audio processing tools from TC Works (www.tcworks.de), plus additional SmartSound QuickTracks from Sonic Desktop (www.smartsound.com) to automatically create music and audio effects.
On Windows, Premiere includes three Direct-X plug-ins from TC Works to sweeten audio: Dynamics, EQ, and Reverb. These provide convenient control-panel interfaces so you can experiment with audio clips as they are playing, varying the effect dynamically in real time. You can use the TC Dynamics effect to boost the sound quality of an audio track with compression and expansion. Use TC EQ to equalize an audio track by manipulating specific frequencies to highlight particular sounds or to minimize noise. Use TC Reverb to add ambience to audio tracks by simulating the acoustics of sound in different environments.
TC Works Dynamics
On Macintosh, Premiere includes TC Works SparkLE, a stand-alone utility that provides real-time two-track audio processing and editing. With SparkLE, you can play and edit high resolution sound files in a variety of popular formats and without any additional audio hardware.
Premiere also includes 27 SmartSound QuickTracks from Sonic Desktop to use to automatically create music and audio effects in a desired style. You select a style and specific composition, and then SmartSound Maestro will create a custom version to fit a specific duration in the Timeline, with a smooth opening and ending. You can use these as openers or as background pieces, with music and sound styles such as string quartets, jazz, Motown, rock, techno, and new age.
Premiere's strength has been as a robust, reliable tool that provides an efficient editing environment. For experienced editors, it provides fast keyboard shortcuts and multiple editing modes. For newer users, it provides simpler interface options such as the Storyboard and extensive assistance from tooltips and the Help file.
For new users and professionals, the extensive Undo capability and History Palette permit you to experiment without fear because you can always back out your recent changes. And with the new real-time preview makes experimenting even better, since you can preview your changes instantly and quickly try out new options.
Premiere offers great flexibility in customizing the interface to your editing style, and even the ability to save and reuse multiple layouts. The Project Settings dialog provides an integrated view of your current settings: capture, project, content, and output, as well as the ability to save and reuse common settings. You can use the built-in presets, or customize and save and reuse your own preferred settings.
Premiere also provides extensive hardware support for both video hardware (especially DV cameras), and third-party capture cards and accelerators. You can find Premiere bundled with a wide variety of hardware boards, from FireWire / IEEE 1394 boards to capture and accelerator products from companies like Matrox (www.matrox.com/video) and Pinnacle (www.pinnaclesys.com). These products can provide a single hardware solution for DV and analog video capture and output. Some include a convenient break-out box with connectors for DV, high-quality analog video capture, and analog video output.
In addition, some of these products provide hardware acceleration for common video editing functions, providing real-time preview of more complex multi-track productions with several layers of transitions, effects, and overlays. Again, these will accelerate previews to speed up your workflow, but you will still need to render the final production before exporting it.
Premiere also is a comfortable fit for people who are already working with other Adobe digital media tools. Premiere offers tight integration with After Effects, Photoshop, and Illustrator. You can use Edit Original to edit native Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects files, and then, after saving the changes, Premiere instantly updates the content in place. These tools also are available bundled as the Adobe Digital Video Collection for professional digital video production.
Video Editing Products
The video editing market continues to develop rapidly. With Premiere 6.5, Adobe has stepped up Premiere to the current state of the industry. Premiere is a robust and comfortable tool for digital video editing, designed for enhancing your workflow when doing serious work. Premiere 6.5, full version for Mac or Windows is US$549 (MSP) and US$149 to upgrade. You also can save money by purchasing the full version of Premiere in a bundle with other Adobe tools, or bundled with hardware cards. French, German and Japanese versions of Premiere were due to ship within 90 days of the English release.
In comparison, the lower-end consumer tools, available for around $100, are fun to get started with for simple productions. These include Pinnacle Studio (www.pinnaclesys.com), Roxio VideoWave 5 (www.roxio.com) and Ulead VideoStudio (www.ulead.com/vs). The consumer products evolve more rapidly, and are updated more often with new technology, graduating from Web export to DV capture with scene detection, MPEG export and native editing, integrated DVD authoring, and even automated editing.
In the professional market, at around US$500 to $700, Ulead continues to enhance MediaStudio Pro (www.ulead.com/msp), and Pinnacle has introduced Edition with background rendering (www.pinnaclesys.com).
Adobe - Premiere
Main Concept - MPEG Encoder
Apple - QuickTime
Microsoft - Windows Media
RealNetworks - RealMedia
Sonic - DVDit!
Apple - Studio Pro
TC Works - Audio
Sonic Desktop - SmartSound Quicktracks