First Look at Adobe Premiere Pro CS5


If you had been reading the online forums and blogs for the last few months, you probably have been eagerly anticipating what Adobe had up its sleeve for their NAB 2010 announcements. Adobe has been craftily leaking technological developments, carefully not revealing when these innovations would become available. For all the readers keeping up with this geeky news, these advancements could be years off and CS5 could be an uninspiring upgrade. Adobe has kept to its ritualistic upgrade timeline of one every 18 months, so how much improvement will Premiere Pro CS5 be and more importantly, will it finally become a serious contender to the Avid and Apple crowd? I can say with confidence, Yes!

I've been beta testing the new and very stable Premiere Pro CS5 for a few weeks. While the different interfaces basically stay the same, the list of improvements is quite impressive. With any new software revisions, end-users anticipate a long list of bullet points featuring an inventory of new features and workflow improvements. Adobe does not disappoint with the number of new tools in the new Premiere Pro CS5, but it's what is behind the curtain that is bound to impress. The new Mercury Playback Engine is a proprietary technology developed by Adobe that dramatically speeds up video playback by using GPU acceleration. By utilizing the GPU, the host computers CPU is freed up for other tasks, greatly improving the production process. Adobe accomplished this by developing for Nvidia's CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture), a computing engine that lets developers accelerate their applications for the graphics chip set. They also developed CS5 for a 64-bit only operating system, which is currently Windows 7 64-bit or Mac OSX 10.6.

Premiere Pro CS5 requires specific nVidia Quadro FX display cards to utilize the Mercury Engine. You can get a full list of supported cards here. Imagine playing back several streams of multiple color corrected formats with filters, effects and titles from the timeline in realtime in native HD without rendering. Adobe has fired a shot across the bow of the Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes ships. By being the first to use native Canon H.264 codec to support Canon 7D footage, Adobe has catered to shooters who are seriously considering using a DSLR with HD playback as their mainstream camera. But DSLR is not the only native format supported: there are also XDCAM 50, AVCCAM, P2, XDCAM EX, XDCAM HD, AVCHD, AVCIntra and RED R3D. Transcoding is still an important feature, but to continue editing in the native format definitely has its advantages.

One advantage is that instead of transcoding different formats when importing, Premiere is able to work with an incredibly wide array of formats natively. The editor only has to determine the sequence setting required for the final output, including resolution, format and frame rate. Then Premiere's Mercury Engine will handle all the hard lifting. This changes the way Final Cut users are accustomed to, since most footage needs to be transcoded into a QuickTime file.

I am currently co-producing a documentary on Doo-Wop music and we have chosen to shoot using the XDCAM EX and XDCAM HD format. Sometimes we conduct several interviews in one day or during one road trip, so it is important to offload the data from the XDCAM media onto a MacBook Pro and review the footage in the field. With a reliable Lacie Rugged Firewire 800 hard drive, we capture the HD video and review it in CS5 natively. I must warn you that the MacBook Pro we are using is an older 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (It is a documentary, we'll take what we can get!), and have already noticed a significant improvement in playback and scrubbing.

  Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is available in both Master Collection CS5 and Production Premium CS5

With the new Adobe Story, I can create a shot list, log notes and manage the shoot more efficiently, improving the post process when working on a documentary or feature film. Simply transcribe the dialogue from the footage and edit the scene based on the transcript. By using the metadata from OnLocation, an editor can create a rough cut of the film or scene and send it over to Encore to create Blu-Ray/DVD chapters or web-based videos using F4V that are completely searchable.

Adobe's support for roundtrip editing now includes Final Cut Pro XML: now you can export and import the same file into Final Cut. This feature is important at two levels. First, there may be times when Premiere and Final Cut editors need to collaborate on projects. For example, most reality TV shows have up to 20+ editors on one series, and odds are that not every one of those editors is using the same software. The second feature is for Premiere editors to access Apple Color for advanced color correction. Don't get me wrong, Adobe has a powerful 3-way color corrector with secondaries, but if you can export a Premiere project and work within Apple Color (formerly Silicon Color's Final Touch), this makes Adobe's application an impressive centerpiece to any post production suite. If exporting into Final Cut is not an option and you don't want to use Adobe's color corrector, a great third party plugin is Synthetic Apeture's Color Finesse or the new Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve for Mac OSX. And this is before including After Effects, Photoshop, Encore, Soundbooth, Flash and others from Adobe's arsenal of programs.

Adobe has updated their keyer with the new Ultra Keyer. I may be dating myself, but my first experience with keying was back in the early 90's with the Video Toaster's luma keyer. As I look wistfully toward those bygone days of working with a white background and the hours spent setting up lights, moving the subject around until everything was just right, and just cursing under my breath (or out-loud), I laugh at how far technology has taken us since then. Anyone experienced with keying knows the most frustrating and time consuming chore is to fix the lighting. Ultra Keyer's fixes include tools for uneven lighting, wrinkled background and frizzy hair. Ultra Keyer preserves shadows and works around complex settings like liquids, smoke and even transparent objects. You can even preview first, second or both fields on a Program monitor and export individual frames to any format Premiere supports.

Another cool feature is the ability to drop effects into a sequence while playing in realtime while the video is playing. This will make it more convenient to edit effect settings while watching the clip playback. The interface stays basically the same with Premiere Pro with the exception of the Tools bar being moved onto the top of the screen in a permanent location.

Adobe has definitely upped the ante when it comes to performance and compatibility. So much so that Red users will have to seriously take a look at what is the best solution for editing large 2K and 4K files. With the right display card, the Mercury Engine will easily speed up the finishing process.

By the end of NAB, Matrox, AJA, Blackmagic, Red Giant and Boris FX announced support for CS5. The Adobe CS5 line of products will be available in May.