Adobe Systems Incorporated
345 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA 95110
Adobe Premiere is a very popular software video editor. The 6.5 release is the first major upgrade to this tool since the version 6.0 release almost two years ago. During the intermission, competitors have released editions of their products with software-only real-time previews. These applications show previews of transitions and effects without the time-consuming step of rendering; and they don’t need support from costly capture cards to do so. With version 6.5, Premiere joins the software-only real-time preview club.
We installed Premiere 6.5 on a number of computers and found that hardware was critical to the performance of the application. The install did not overwrite nor uninstall the previous version of Premiere, nor did it install the previous version’s plug-ins into the 6.5 version. Installation went without a hitch.
Premiere users, wave goodbye to hitting Enter to preview the work area. If you have real-time preview enabled, you now hit Enter to preview the timeline from the position of the edit line. The Help file explains that the preview "degrades gracefully" given "inadequate resources." We first installed Premiere on an ancient 900MHz AMD machine with 128MB of RAM, which meets the minimum specs, but just barely. A simple cross dissolve yielded 8-9 frames per second (fps) stuttering previews in the 320×240 preview window. When a title with a drop shadow was added on top of that, the preview frame rate plummeted to less than 3 fps. In comparison, Vegas Video 3.0 (released over a year ago) averaged over 12 fps on a similar project. A more modern 2.2GHz Compaq Presario 8000T with a Gig of RAM saw improved, but not spectacular performance increases. It wasn’t until we tried a 1 Beyond dual-processor AMD 1800+ system that Premiere really took off. We saw similar results with other transitions and even complex video filters, like the new Lightning filter. Surprisingly, we discovered that Premiere delivered real-time preview also of a set of non-Premiere effects. Every Boris FX effect we tried in Premiere, even the complex ones, were previewed in real time. Clearly, the scalability of software previews is important and you should take Adobe’s recommendation for a dual-processor system seriously.
SiliValley scuttlebutt had it that the main reason for Adobe’s delay in bringing 6.5 to market was that Pinnacle’s TitleDeko would not be bundled with Premiere any more, forcing Adobe to greatly improve the titler. Users of previous editions will hardly recognize it. The interface for the new titler (based on Inscriber CG) looks like a cross between TitleDeko and After Effects. We were able to create a reasonably nice looking title by choosing from a bevy of templates – and view it in real time on the timeline – in less than half a minute. Beyond the templates, the titler now has tools for more serious designers. Attributes and effects are listed in an After Effects-style control panel that was very efficient and easy to use, yet had a plethora of options. The titler is definitely the high point of this app.
Wait! There’s More
Adobe has seen fit to port five special effects filters from their After Effects product into this version of Premiere: Channel Blur, Blend, Lightning, Ramp and Twirl. These all worked in our test, previewed in real time as promised and were very attractive. Though you’ll probably use the flashy Lightning and Twirl filters on rare dramatic occasions, you may find uses for the other subtler effects often.
The Mac version of 6.5 now can output the timeline directly as a Quick Time file, although we did not test this. The Windows version, however – and not the Mac version – can output MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 files using the almost ubiquitous Main Concept encoder. We tried several times to output a minute of our timeline into DVD-compliant MPEG-2. This crashed Premiere on the Compaq each time, even after re-booting the computer. We got the same results when attempting VCD-compliant MPEG-1. We continued editing the video, and tried again and it magically and inexplicably worked. Once working, encoding a minute of video that contained a super’ed title and a dissolve took one minute and 54 seconds. The encoded video was of the same high quality we’ve seen with Main Concept in the past. We were very impressed to find that a very extensive list of MPEG variables were exposed to the end user, including important VBR parameters, complex GOP details and don’t-touch-this-unless-you-know-what-you-are-doing Matrix Coefficients. Optionally, a user can choose to have the MPEG files automatically deposited into a Sonic DVDIt! LE (included) project. As this item goes to press, Adobe has announced that it will soon distribute a plug-in for Premiere that will allow it to output Windows Media 9 files as well.
Forwards and Backwards
6.5 opened and ran project (ppj) and batch list (pbl) files created in 6.1. It didn’t accept TitleDeko (tdk) files, which is not surprising, as TitleDeko is no longer bundled with Premiere. It could import files created in the earlier Premiere titler (ptl), but couldn’t preview them in real time. Moving in the opposite direction, Premiere 6.1 opened projects (ppj) created in 6.5, but couldn’t recognize title files created in 6.5’s titler. So although we found good cross-compatibility, we very seriously recommend that you don’t upgrade to 6.5 in the middle of a project.
Adobe enters the 21st century and joins the real-time software-preview editing crowd with a solid competitor. Its most outstanding feature is, however, the titler. Premiere veterans will not have to spend much time, if any, to learn the new version, as most of the improvements are internal, such as better control of DV camcorders. Overall, Premiere 6.5 seems a useful upgrade for established users, and an attractive package for those entering the mid-level video editing market.
Minimum System Requirements
Pentium III 800MHz processor (Pentium 4 dual processors recommended)
Adobe Premiere certified capture card