Premiere Pro CS4 review
Premiere Pro CS4 imports and natively edits content from Panasonic P2 cameras in DVCPRO, DVCPROHD, and AVCHD formats, as well as from Sony XDCAM EX and XDCAM HD cameras directly. As these don’t require transcoding, significant amounts of time can be saved that would otherwise be spent transferring your footage from tape. In addition, you can view and scrub video direct from the camera or USB drives in Premiere’s source window.
Final Cut Pro 6 offers native support for these formats too, but Adobe has taken on board its experience with Bridge to bring some control over this proliferation of tapeless assets. The Media Browser scans for digital assets on internal and external hard drives, including mounted tapeless cameras, CDs/DVDs, or mapped network volumes. From the Media Browser, you can drag clips/shots to the Project and Timeline panels, double-click to open and preview them in the Source Monitor, or add them to a sequence in the Timeline panel.
As the Media Browser understands the directory structure of the P2 and XDCAM formats, it will only display the importable shots/takes/clips rather than making you search for usable content. Unfortunately, not all formats are as well supported out of the box. An AVI that our Mac could open easily in QuickTime Player didn’t show a thumbnail and produced an ‘unsupported compression’ error when we tried to preview it using Source Monitor.
Metadata is more important than ever in modern production workflows. As well as supplying information about the shot and the footage itself, it’s also used for routing jobs, billing projects and handling viewing/use permissions. Premiere Pro converts native metadata from the likes of the Panasonic P2 and Sony XDCAM formats into standard XMP metadata, able to be used in data-centric workflows in the rest of the production process. Changes you then make to metadata in Premiere Pro or Bridge are written as XMP to the original file asset on disk, so XMP-aware software can immediately see those changes.
Speech to text
Metadata is also the foundation of the big feature in Premiere Pro, speech to text. After importing a suitable file in the Media Browser, you choose Transcribe To Text from Clip➝Audio Options and in the ensuing dialog box, select a language from the pull-down menus. This opens the new Adobe Media Encoder, with the audio file in the source file and the speech transcript as the target format. It depends, of course, on the length of the clip, but we were quickly presented with a fairly accurate transcript in the Metadata panel. We could then click on a word to play that section in the source monitor.
This feature lets you tab from word to word to correct, insert, combine, and delete words, but the killer function emerges when you want to search. Clicking on the RapidFind box (or Shift-F) and typing in a word that you know is in the audio will instantly highlight the word in the transcript. This doesn’t just apply to one file. If you convert all of your project’s dialogue tracks to text-based metadata, you can search for keywords and phrases to quickly find the content you’re looking for. Then there’s the ability to set in and out points on the source file based on words in the transcript. Obviously this has great potential for rough-cut editing.
Furthermore, the transcript is embedded in the XMP metadata when you render out from Premiere Pro. The results are impressive, but the source material has to be good enough in terms of recording quality and clarity of speech. Inaccuracies will probably occur, but these can be quickly corrected in the Metadata panel.
There are a number of editing enhancements, but the most useful is the use of a Clip Speed/Duration panel, which allows you to specify a single speed value to be applied to all clips. Also useful is the ability to apply a video and audio transition on multiple clips simultaneously, by first setting up defaults and dragging this preset on to clips in the timeline. You can Shift-select multiple clips and drag an effect on to them to apply it simultaneously to them all, or save multiple effects as a preset and use this instead.
Premiere Pro CS4 has at last caught up with Apple, matching most of the useful features of Final Cut Pro, but thanks to increased integration with the rest of the CS4 suite, it becomes more than just a video-editing platform. The editing and tapeless enhancements are welcome, but only the transcription facility makes this an essential upgrade.