Review: Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5
How does the "pro" video editing software shape up?
When you consider that Adobe's video editing software Premiere Pro 1.5 could be almost as much as the cost of the computer that you will edit the video on (check Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 prices: UK, USA, Canada), you might wonder what exactly you are getting for your money. Quite a lot, is the simple answer. Premiere Pro is to video what Photoshop is to still images. It's one of those programs that you can use at a very basic level to do simple edits of your home videos while you can do amazing things if you take the time to learn how to use all its functions.
When I first tried Premiere last century the technology for editing video was still immature and video editing was often a painful experience, only for those prepared to persevere. But each year computers get faster and cheaper. Issues like dropped frames, artefacting, lack of disc space for your video footage, or computers running too slow because of lack of processing speed or RAM are melting away.
A succession of upgrades have seen Premiere develop into a robust, versatile video editing suite. Changes in PC operating systems have also helped. For example, Microsoft Windows XP was developed much more with video in mind than earlier versions of Windows, something Adobe say they took full advantage of when they stripped Premiere down and relaunched it as Premiere "Pro".
Competition has also sharpened what was once the leading video editing software. Apple's Final Cut Pro has pushed Adobe out of the Mac video editing market (Adobe still offers a Mac version of its special effects program After Effects), Pinnacle, the video card specialist, has muscled in with a suite of products for video editing, while competing products are also available from Ulead and Sony.
The obstacles to making a film, whatever level it be, just keep falling away. Apple and Microsoft even offer lite video editing software built into their operating systems, the former of which was famously used for the surprise hit documentary Tarnation.
But back to Premiere. What does it offer?
Interface design has always been one of Adobe's strong suits, especially if you are used to the company's other software - the look and feel is consistent with Adobe software like Photoshop and the other software titles that come with the Adobe Video Collection 2.5.
The workspace is easily customised using floating or dockable palettes, and tabs between different windows, and keyboard shortcuts are used extensively to free space.
When you start up Premiere Pro 1.5 it asks first if you would like to start a new "project" (a .prproj file), work on one of your recent projects, or chose to open a project file somewhere on your system or network.
When you make your selection the default editing workspace (screenshot) appears with three main windows: the "project window" (screenshot) on the left is a kind of holding area where you import your various footage files to. To the right of this is the monitor window with two screens for viewing and editing your source footage and final composition, and in the lower portion of the screen is the timeline where you can place and edit your clips on video and audio tracks.
The other main video window that you work with is the capture window (screenshot) for importing footage from camera or VCR. The controls for the capture window mimic a hardware edit bay with VCR style buttons, shuttle jog to scroll through footage and buttons for moving frame by frame, scene by scene (the beginning and end of a scene is where you started and paused or stopped the camera when you were filming). You can also type in the 8-digit time code and Premiere will go direct to that frame on the tape.
The underlying technology controlling the camera via your computer is called device control, and it is widely supported by DV cameras when they are connected to your computer by firewire cable.
Capturing is a matter of clicking the record button, watching the video play on your computer until it reaches the point where you want it to end, and hitting the stop button to create a new footage file.
That's the most obvious method. Premiere Pro also supports batch processing of video clips: you break down your taped footage into clips by scrolling through your recording setting in-points and out-points for your footage, but without initially capturing it to disc. When you are ready, you then select the offline clips that you want to capture from your log, put the relevant tape in your DV camera/VCR, choose batch processing and go off and do something else while Premiere Pro takes care of the capturing. Using a log might be particularly useful if you are handling large amounts of video and audio files, and you don't want to stuff your computer with files that you are not working with immediately.
For the full auto-pilot capturing experience, you can also tick the little box for "scene detect" when capturing and Premiere will create a new video file whenever it detects a new scene. Premiere will automatically name the files numerically (scene 01, scene 02, scene 03, etc.) or you can type in new file names and log information (clip name, log notes, shot, description) as the footage is streaming in. It's a smart feature, especially if you know that you want to download a big chunk of footage off a particular tape and the scene breaks make logical beginning and end points for your clips.
Stop motion disappointment
One change that isn't mentioned in the press notes is that Premiere Pro doesn't carry "stop motion capture". The previous version, Premiere 6.5, did. What is stop motion capture? It's also known as time-lapse. The stop motion capture setting was particular useful for animators (like Wallace and Gromit type claymation creators), or those who wanted to capture a series of frames of something that moves slowly over time, like flowers growing. The stop motion capture allowed you to control the exact frame-rate as well as the number of frames in total you captured. Instead of using the camera controls, you left the camera permanently on and instructed Premiere to capture direct to disc. It's disappointing that Adobe decided to drop this popular feature, especially since most DV cameras do not support true time-lapse. They usually carry a feature called "interval recording" which doesn't have the same control. They actually record several consecutive rather than single frames every set interval, giving a very different result.