Review: Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 (Part 3)
Special effects, audio and putting it altogether
Special effects, transitions, and titling
So far so good, but Premiere begins to shine where special effects and titling is concerned. Good transitions can add a bit of pizzazz to most productions (although use 'em sparingly, especially if compressing your footage for the web, of course) and Premiere comes with a plethora of them. With these preset transitions, again, you can simply drag n' drop them onto the relevant clips then instantly see your footage wipe, twirl, spin in a 3D fashion, zoom, slide, fade or perform some other visual trick as it moves from one clip to another.
With a tad more work you can customise your own transitions.
Premiere's integration with Photoshop means that you can manipulate Photoshop files and individual layers of Photoshop for titling, and customise your own transitions using Photoshop with relative ease.
You create a new Photoshop file from within Premiere. The file, which opens in Photoshop, conforms exactly to your Premiere project settings, and any changes you make in Photoshop are automatically reflected in Premiere. There's a good example in the Total Training tutorials that come on Adobe's free "Video Workshop" DVD, showing how easy it is to customise your own wipe transitions using a Photoshop file with a simple grayscale gradient.
A variety of filters, that will be familiar to Photoshop users, are also available in Premiere Pro - like filters for noise, grain, colour, contrast and levels adjustment, or for highlighting flat or shadowy images. As with the audio filters it's often difficult to know how well these effects stand up when played back on high end systems. A good television or specially calibrated monitor is pretty essential if you really want to keep close tabs on the final output. There's a lot you don't see when only using the small screen on the Premiere desktop for playback. Even out-of-focus shots can look sharp.
Fear not the effects
Premiere Pro's effects dialogue box appears more daunting initially than it actually is. At first, it seems both minimalist in design and yet complicated as you start drilling down through the submenus. Understand the concept of keyframes and how they effect a clip over time and things being to fall into place.
Applying an effect is a matter of dragging the icon from the effects window (by default accessed via a tab on the project window), dropping it on your clip in the timeline and setting values for the effects in the dialogue box (by default accessed via a tab in your monitor window).
Common special effects for altering the scale, position and opacity of a clip over time, are always present at the top, with any other effects that you have added appearing below these. Toggling open the submenu or submenus, you move through the clip setting your keyframe values, either by using sliders or typing in the numbers. As you make adjustments the changes show up in your source window. Some effects are more complicated than others, but the controls are well thought out and make it easy to experiment.
A new feature in Premiere Pro are Bezier keyframes for generating smooth special effects. The controls are fiddly, but the results are good. It's notable that even though rendering 3D effects are processor intensive and sluggish, at least on my trailing-edge PIII machine, you can still preview effects in realtime.
Premiere Pro also offers an elegant titling facility, for adding subtitles and credits. Less impressive are the accompanying set of templates but that's a small quibble. In spite of their clipart roughness, they are probably fine for those in a hurry to caption projects, particularly of a non-professional nature.
Premiere Pro's audio support is more than up to the task for most essential editing audio jobs like recording sound, mixing, adding smooth transitions between clips, and applying a variety of special effects and filters. Premiere Pro also supports 5.1 surround sound and more audio tracks than you are ever likely to need (99 to be exact). The audio special effects are applied in much the same way as video special effects - so no surprise that both the sets of effects and transitions reside together in the same special effects bin.
Just as with video special effects you set keyframes values for individual clips in the effect controls window. Again, you can use Bezier controls to ensure smooth changes in your effects, and "ease in" or "ease out" on a keyframe.
Although Pro is the best organised interface yet in the Premiere series, you will still find desktop space gets busy. You can customise the workspace for certain jobs and apply a hotkey to swap workspaces fast. The preset workspace for editing audio (Shift F11) is a good example: it brings all the audio tools to the fore (Shift F9 jumps back to the default editing workspace).
A new window, not mentioned yet, is the audio mixer. Here you can mute or solo individual tracks as you change the volume and pan settings, and apply up to five effects to a whole track, choosing from a drop down menu of available effects.
Premiere Pro's effects include the DeNoiser filter (for removing noise), bass and treble (for beefing up or toning down the sound), as well as reverb (for bouncey, echoey sounds), bandpass (for a tinny, low-fi sound), lowpass (for a muffled, sounds-from-next-door type quality), the fun multitap delay (to make your audio reverberate), among others. My only quibble here is that the virtual buttons are awkward to turn with a mouse.
For complex audio jobs and a more complete toolkit for working with your own audio compositions Adobe Audition is worth a look. Naturally, it integrates well with Premiere, including the ability to jump to Audition from within Premiere to edit the original Audition .avi. Premiere also supports VST (Virtual Studio Technology) audio plug-ins, as used by Audition.
Premiere Pro is designed especially with DV in mind, with increasingly more support through updates for HD (for the record HD, SD, P24, are all supported). HD requires a more powerful system and a bigger budget. I like the look of HD, but I'm not there yet.
I'm not complaining, DV is a joy to work with. DV files are often small enough to import, edit and output the uncompressed footage using Premiere's "Export to Tape" command. You may want to export your completed project to a video file compressing with the chosen CODEC on your computer. You can also burn to DVD, and Adobe also comes with a Media Encoder - not unlike Microsoft's free media encoder - for creating lower resolution Windows Media (.wmv) clips for streaming over the web and networks. You can export a selected area, a single clip, or the whole project. You can choose to export sound but not video and vice versa, a single or series of frames as an animated .gif or Filmstrip file for playing around with in Photoshop.
You can also output, and import for that matter, your projects as EDLs (Edit Decision Lists) or AAF files.
So is Premiere Pro 1.5 enough, or do you need the whole Video Collection suite of software? If you are a film or video-maker and were to take one piece of software from the bunch then Adobe Premiere would be it and would probably do a great job for all but the most demanding video projects. Premiere Pro has solid audio tools and is well-equipped for many special effects, more than are apparent on first impressions. If you are serious about creating and cleaning up your own soundtracks then you should have a look (listen?) to Audition or a standalone audio editor. It's a similar story with After Effects. Premiere can turn out polished-looking effects, but if effects are a big part of your project then you will need to turn to a special effects editor. After Effects is a longtime favourite for more elaborate image compositing and motion graphics work. But more on that later.
Microsoft Windows XP, Pentium III 800MHz, 256MB RAM, 800MB of available hard-disk space for installation,
Microsoft DirectX-compatible sound card, CD-ROM drive, CD recorder (CD-R/-RW) required for CD creation, 1,280x1,024 32-bit color video display adapter, DVD recorder (DVD-R/RW+R/RW) required for export to DVD
For DV: OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 interface and dedicated 7200rpm UDMA 66 IDE or SCSI hard disk
For third-party capture cards: Adobe Premiere Pro certified capture card
Internet or phone connection required for product activation
Pentium 4 3GHz, 1GB or more
Multichannel ASIO-compatible sound card for surround sound support
OpenGL video display card recommended
Review: Premiere Pro 1.5
Adobe Premiere Pro1.5 (part 3) - fear not the effects
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