Category: Video editing
System Requirements: Multicore Intel processor, Mac OS X v10.5.7 or v10.6.3; Mac OS X v10.6.3 required for GPU-accelerated performance, 2 GB RAM, 1280×900 display with OpenGL 2.0–compatible graphics card
Review Computer: 2.2GHz 13″ Macbook Pro, 2GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 9400M with 256MB of DDR3 SDRAM
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $799.00 ($299.00 upgrade)
Availability: Out now
The big news with Premiere Pro CS5 is that it’s a 64 bit application and has a new rendering engine (dubbed “Mercury”) that greatly increases rendering speed with certain NVIDIA cards. But I edit my short films on a Macbook Pro that’s approaching its two year birthday, and I’ve been using Final Cut Pro for longer than that. So what’s this other professional video editing software like?
Pretty impressive, once you get past the alien interface.
When I started using Final Cut Pro, it reminded me a bit of the dual-deck SVHS rigs I learned how to edit with back in the 90s. Premiere Pro (PP5) shares some of those elements: a timeline, two panes for viewing preview and edited footage, and a window for sorting footage, effects, and audio into “bins.” There are other stylistic choices: transitions are under the “Effects” menu, in and out points can be dragged using handles as well as set with hotkeys. But there are a lot of little differences that show you PP5 has a different way of thinking about the process goes.
I’ll give you an example that confused the heck out of me at first, but now I think is really genius. I wanted to create a title card for an archival copy of a play I shot. PP5 gives you a Title Creator with a set of options that wouldn’t feel out of place in InDesign: Small Caps, Kerning, Fill, Drop Shadow, the works. I created the first one with the title of the show and added it to the timeline. Then I went to create a second one with the name of the writer/performer, so I duplicated the title card. But when I went to erase the title, it seemed like it would let me select but not delete the text. It took me several minutes to realize that I wasn’t dealing with a bug. PP5 was showing me the (transparent) title card superimposed over the video where the playhead was, which would allow me to adjust the titles as I was creating them, rather than creating them, dropping them into the timeline, then adjusting them.
And there are a lot of other things PP5 does to save time. The biggest—and to me, most astonishing—was that I could edit an HD file shot on a tapeless camera while the file was still on the camera’s hard disk. I just had to locate the file (shot in AVCHD) on the camera, and PP5 let me work with it as if it were a file on an external drive. Which is, of course, what it is. But I was prepared to have to import and transcode the hour-long video (which would have taken hours), then import it to the timeline for editing. Supporting digital formats natively like this is going to be a huge time saver.
After investing untold hours into FCP training, bits of PP5 are still confusing—not because they’re bad, but because they’re different. However, after just a little bit of use, you begin to see that Adobe hasn’t made something different just to be different, but have thought about the way video editors work, and have considered that maybe there’s a better way, or a less time-consuming way to do the same task.
For those starting out as pro-level video editors, or those who are working with digital formats, Premiere Pro CS5′s 64-bit capabilities and Mercury rendering (if you use a compatible NVIDIA card) make this software a serious contender for the high-end user, but even for the indie filmmaker, its ability to work natively with digital HD and DSLR formats make it extremely attractive.
See our other Adobe CS5 product reviews.