Adobe Premiere 6.0
You only have to check out atomfilms.com, or even getoutthere.com to see how quickly video has succumbed to the DIY ethic. There’s a whole generation of youngsters growing up for whom today’s tools and techniques for making videos are as natural as buying a guitar and trying to make it as a rock star was for their parents’ generation. With Premiere, Adobe finds itself competing with Apple for the hearts and minds of Mac users – with iMovie bundled as standard with FireWire-equipped Macs, and Final Cut Pro (£700) finally making it to market to great acclaim. The principles behind Premiere are the same as virtually all other non-linear video-editing applications. Digitized video clips, audio clips and images are imported, adjusted and then combined to create a composition – with the addition of titles, transitions and other effects. Final compositions can then be output in a number of different formats for a variety of delivery media – from broadcast quality, printing to tape, recording onto DV, or as QuickTime or MPEG files for delivery on DVD, CD-ROM, and even the Web. DV boon
Premiere 6.0’s DV support is the biggest enhancement to the program, and it’s excellent. There is now a wide range of affordable DV camcorders available offering broadcast-quality video, and most of them have FireWire output. FireWire (IEEE1394 as it’s technically known, or iLink as Sony has named it) enables video to be captured from the camcorder to the computer digitally, quickly, and at high image-quality. One of the highlights of Premiere’s DV capture capability is that you can select the exact make and model of your DV camcorder to ensure that its device control is optimized to your particular equipment. Once configured, you can control the camera from the computer, fast-forwarding, rewinding and playing to locate the clips you require. The logging feature allows you to set the in and out points to define the clip you wish to capture, and then save this information for later. This is a great – instead of performing each capture individually, it’s much more convenient to skim through a tape and select a number of clips, which can then be captured as a batch process. There’s a wide range of settings available to determine the compression method, screen size, etc – which allows you to tailor the captures to the type of project you’re working on. Premiere DV capture-settings feature support for non-square pixels, and for the 16:9 widescreen aspect-ratio. You can also playback through a DV device, allowing you to preview compositions at full-quality on a TV monitor, or even the screen of your camcorder. If your camcorder supports DV in as well as DV out – like the Sony DSR-PD150 that I tested on – then you can also record your compositions back out to the DV tape quickly and easily using the Export to Tape command. Premiere’s magnificent DV support makes it almost worth the upgrade price alone, beating the meagre capture options of MotoDV hands down. For the first time, Premiere now lets you choose between two modes of operation for editing – single track or A/B. The latter will be familiar to previous Premiere users, while single-track editing may be a more familiar workspace if you have used other video-editing tools. But the differences are cosmetic – the program works largely identically in both modes. Refined workspace
The workspace in Premiere has been refined to make it easier to manage assets, streamline workflow, and to bring it into line with other Adobe products. There are a number of new palettes, including a Transitions palette, for better organization and application of transition effects; a History palette, similar to the one found in Photoshop; and an Effect Controls palette, which lets you control the parameters of the effects being applied to a clip, and see the effects immediately in the Monitor window. Imported files, such as Photoshop graphics, can now be edited in their source application using the Edit Original command. The Timeline, Monitor and Project windows remain the most important components of Premiere’s interface, and all have been enhanced significantly. The Timeline is where clips are arranged and sequenced chronologically, transitions applied, and audio tracks added. A new keyframe track allows the setting of keyframes for the application of Effects, giving a greater degree of control. There is also more visual information provided on audio tracks. The Monitor window is where clips are previewed, and in and out points set. You also use the monitor to preview your compositions. The Monitor display is flexible and can be toggled between a single display, and a dual display – which can be used to show both source clips and preview compositions side by side – or for Trim mode, where you can set the out point of one clip and the in point of the following clip. Premiere 6.0 also supports split – cut edits, where the audio and video tracks of a clip can be given different in and out points. Project pane
The Project window has been overhauled, and it’s now much easier to manage the assets that are used to make a composition. Clips can be arranged into folders (called Bins) renamed and arranged accordingly. For instance, you could put audio, video and graphics into separate bins. Using the Export Bin from Project allows you to share bins from project to project, acting as a library of common elements. A preview facility lets you play clips, and provides details of the clip – such as dimensions, frame rate and average data rate. You can also set the poster frame that is displayed in the timeline so that you can quickly see at a glance the contents of a clip – useful if all your clips fade in from black. Premiere offers a rapid storyboarding feature that allows a rough-and-ready edit to be assembled quickly. Clips are dragged from the Bin to the Storyboard window, where they can be arranged, and in and out points defined for each clip. Finally, the Automate to Timeline command automatically transfers the sequence of clips to the timeline to produce a rough composition ready for further refinement. This feature can be taken a step further by allowing you to synchronize the cuts to a piece of music. Productivity plus
All these features will make Premiere an easy and more productive tool to work with, but do not necessarily offer more creative potential. However, there are a few new and enhanced features that do increase the creative options of the program. Perhaps the most significant of these is the support for After Effects filters, with 25 filters from After Effects bundled. Effects such as Directional Blur, Drop Shadow and Transform will open up new possibilities to Premiere users. Combined with the ways that Effects are applied and the excellent Keyframe control, it may seem that the divide between After Effects (AE) and Premiere is shrinking. However, Premiere has few of the motion effects and animation capabilities of AE, and the spatial control is not as good. Premiere’s key strengths are still editing and sequencing a number of clips. Spruced up
Audio control has been given a serious revamp in the new version, with Adobe clearly of the opinion that Premiere is a capable audio mixer in its own right, as well as recognizing the importance of blending audio and video together. The new Audio Mixer tool lets you blend multiple audio tracks and adjust the properties of each track – turning your desktop into a mini mixing-desk. Each audio track of your composition is represented separately with its own UV indicator, pan control, a gain slider, and mute/solo buttons. As your composition plays you can adjust levels interactively, with these control points then added to the timeline automatically. They can also be manually edited from within the timeline. Since Premiere 5.0, the Web has emerged as a viable delivery platform for streaming video, and the upgrade addresses this with a special Save for Web output option. This launches a version of Terran’s Media Cleaner that’s been customized especially for Adobe, and allows you to export in a number of Web formats – such as QuickTime, RealMedia and Windows Media Player. MPEG-1 and MP3 are also supported. While this method works well, advanced video-users will feel the benefit of using the full version of Cleaner 5 for its batch post-compression and customization capabilities. A nice touch in Premiere 6.0 is the settings viewer. This allows you to see at a glance the settings for capture, project, clips, and export, so that you can spot any inconsistencies. Additional Web integration comes from the ability to define events on the timeline, so you can launch URLs at relevant points during Web playback. This feature lacks the capability to define hotspots and other EventStream capabilities that Cleaner 5 boasts. But, if you’re using GoLive, you can see and work with embedded metadata such as URLs and Chapters.
Premiere 6.0 is an extensive upgrade that offers fundamental productivity and workflow benefits to users. It also brings the tool up to date with the current movements in digital video. For Windows users some of the additional functionality (such as DirectX for enhanced sound capabilities, and OHCI support for direct FireWire device control) make Premiere a tasty option. This may also benefit Premiere’s uptake on the Mac for those wanting a cross-platform tool. However, the waters of the Mac market are clouded considerably for Adobe by the emergence of the highly rated Final Cut Pro (FCP). Premiere lacks FCP’s multiple timeline capability; imported Photoshop files do not retain their layers; and there’s no HDTV (High-Definition TV) capability. However, it wins hands-down on its DV integration, titling and effects capability, and audio support. QuickTime and FireWire are Apple’s gifts to the world, but that doesn’t mean they know how best to use them. It’s almost too close to call, but I think Adobe has done enough with this release to make it a better all-rounder for most users’ requirements. For existing users, the upgrade is well worth it.