Adobe Prelude CS6 review
Adobe Prelude CS6, a new application in Adobe Creative Suite's multimedia-oriented Production Premium bundle, is designed to streamline the process of reviewing, logging, ingesting, and adding metadata to tapeless media—video footage derived directly from a card, camera, or hard drive. It transfers, transcodes, and verifies the media upon ingest and can copy those files to various locations simultaneously. It allows you to export the logged and organized clips directly into Premiere Pro CS6 and Final Cut Pro 7 video editing applications. (Final Cut Pro X will import XML files exported from Prelude, but there's no automated export function from Prelude directly to FCP X.)
While Prelude CS6 nominally replaces Adobe's OnLocation program, which was part of previous Production Premium suites, it has very different functions. It helps you ingest and manage large amounts of recorded content from various sources and lets you organize the clips and also add directorial notation and rough cuts to pass on to an editor. You might say it’s the director’s tool for managing and selecting the dailies—the footage shot on any given day. However, unlike OnLocation, it will not allow you to tether your camera to your MacBook Pro or record directly to disk, and you cannot use it as a live scope. These OnLocation features are no longer available in any Adobe product in the CS6 suite, so you will have to rely on an older version of OnLocation or third-party software for these functions.
Full or partial ingest
The ingesting process in Prelude CS6 consists of logging and transferring footage from your camera, media card, or a hard drive, and preparing it for hand-off to your post-production workflow. A partial ingest merely reads the media from its source and allows you to organize it and prepare rough cuts and subclips in Prelude CS6 for an easier editing workflow. This is useful for quick edits in a rush job where hours of captured footage or media already on a production hard drive doesn’t need to be transferred or transcoded.
Prelude CS6 gives you the option to transcode media files on the fly while ingesting to your hard drive.
A full ingest allows you to completely transfer all video footage files to your designated hard drives and transcode them for a simpler handoff for editing. This is particularly useful when your project’s media comes from several camera sources that don’t match—such as from P2 cards mixed with DSLR footage. The ability to transfer the transcoded files to more than one location is helpful for security and backup of your original footage. I did find however, that the verification option slows down the process significantly. In my tests, it took at least twice as long to transfer/transcode my media files with verification turned on, but it's a safeguard that makes the extra time worthwhile.
For example, Prelude revealed an error via a pop-up dialog box while reading the MOV files from my DSLR’s SD card. This must have been an issue with the card itself or the Canon formatting, as I tried it several times both with and without verification, and it refused to read the media.
I had to put the card back in the camera and launch the Canon utility to pull the final four video clips off the card remotely through a USB cable, but then Prelude CS6 ingested the media files off the hard drive just fine. I had previously run the Canon utility to download the media onto my hard drive and it just skipped over the files it couldn’t read without any warning. Had I trusted the Canon utility alone without verification, I would have assumed all the files had transferred correctly, reformatted the media, and lost four files.
Prelude CS6 reads and transfers most file types including RED R3D, ARRI Raw, and AVCHD among others, and transcodes to several transferrable formats that any non-linear editor can read. However, it cannot read image stacks such as DPX sequences. My tests with the Sony media from an EX3 worked fine, as did other file types from various cameras that I already had on various external hard drives.
Transcoding works well—in some of my tests I converted all footage on a project to 30fps H.264 QuickTime MOV with a fixed 1080p file size and it performed flawlessly with a combination of file types ranging from a Sony EX3, Canon 60D, and several GoPros.
Thumbnail hover-scrubbing and selecting I/O points on ingest
If you are previewing a lot of clips on a media card or other source and want to select only certain portions of longer clips to ingest, then the thumbnail view will help you sort through them quickly. Available only during preview for ingesting media files, the thumbnail view provides some of the same features available in the Premiere Pro CS6 project panel. There, you can adjust the size of the thumbnails, perform a live hover-scrub over any of the clips, and grade a rough edit clip by selecting it and using the “I” and “O” keys to choose the in/out points.
Setting In and Out points on individual clips in the media directory window.
I was disappointed however, that this feature is only available during the ingest preview/selection process and not in the project panel itself. It would be particularly useful when organizing big projects with multiple camera sources to do quick previews and selections without having to open each clip in a monitor to preview after it’s ingested into the project. I can only assume (and hope) that the next update of this product will have this feature accessible in any state, as with Adobe’s other video products such as Premiere Pro.
Create rough cuts for a quick Premiere Pro editing workflow
One of the most impressive features of Prelude CS6 is the ability to create subclips and assemble them into a rough cut sequence that opens in Premiere Pro CS6. This allows the director of a shoot to quickly grab select shots and rough edits of individual clips and assemble them into a timeline to hand off to the editing team for post-production.
While creating a rough cut, comments can be added into the Timeline in full runtime.
Creating a subclip is as easy as playing a clip in the timeline or using the J-K-L keys to scrub through the clip and hit the “1” (number one) key on the keyboard to set the in point and then Alt+”o” (the letter o, not zero) to set the out point. This subclip is automatically generated and added to the media bin. You can then create a new rough cut (similar to a sequence in Premier Pro) and drag the completed subclips into the rough cut timeline in the order you want them to appear. You can add comments, speech transcription markers, and more along the timeline and this process works like a living storyboard that actually organizes the media that the editors will use in post-production.
The beauty of exporting a rough cut project for editing is that the editors don't have to import or manage full raw media files in their NLE, but only the segments they need to focus on, from Prelude.
Subclips can be created from media files, allowing you to set edit points for the rough cut.
Adobe Prelude CS6 is not sold separately, but comes as part of the CS6 Production Premium, Master Collection, or Creative Cloud subscription. This is a first generation release and appears to be very stable. The ability to ingest, organize, and do rough edits on media clips prior to handing off to editing in Premiere Pro makes the Production Premium suite that much more valuable as a professional workflow. Unfortunately, there are no direct replacements for OnLocation but a couple of prosumer options for Mac users may be Phone Sweets' VeeScope Live or Divergent Media's ScopeBox 3.