Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS4

The CS4 release of Adobe Premiere Pro bolsters the software with some powerful and innovative features that will appeal to current users.

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Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS4
  • Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS4
  • Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS4
  • Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS4

Pros

  • Innovative Speed Search transcription function, overall faster editing, separate media browser, OnLocation interface overhauled

Cons

  • Still not as efficient an editor as Final Cut Pro

Bottom Line

The CS4 release bolsters the software with some powerful and innovative features that will appeal to current users — but they’re unlikely to be enough to woo over existing FCP or Avid editors.

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Beyond being available for the Mac once more, the last version of Premiere Pro was low on new features – so more than any other CS4 product, it’s due an upgrade. This is particularly so as it faces strong competition from Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid’s Media Composer.

The new feature in Premiere Pro CS4 that has drawn the most attention is Speech Search, which is currently unique to Adobe’s tools (so will almost certainly appear in Final Cut Pro 7 and Media Composer 4). Speech Search scans dialogue within footage and transcribes the words to create a searchable list.

It contains no grammar or pauses and is largely unintelligible if you try to read it, but it provides a quick way to find parts of a long video clip (or a voiceover). If, for example, you want to find the part of an interview when the subject talked about the economy in the middle of an hour-long piece, you place your clip in the Source panel, open the Metadata window, type ‘economy’ into the search box, click on the highlighted word, and the scrubber will move to that point in your source.

You can search across multiple clips – another great timesaver – and the quality of the transcription is impressive. For English speakers, there are UK, US, Canadian and Australian language options. The British setting had little problem with regional accents, but was sometimes stumped by unclear diction.

Adobe has also attempted to make working with media on your computer easier by adding the Media Browser panel, which provides a Windows Explorer-style area split into directory tree and directory contents area. For most media files, it’s just a less convenient version of the Mac OS X Finder or Windows Explorer – especially as you need to undock it to make it large enough to be usable – but for non-tape formats including AVCHD, P2, and XDCAM HD and EX, it lets you see their metadata and is actually useful. Support for files from Red cameras is due soon, but the mooted beta is not downloadable from the Red site yet.

While Speech Search is a useful tool, it’s the grand procession of under-the-hood and minor changes that will make the most different to many users. These range from support for more than one sequence type in a project – so you can access the same assets to create SD, HD and Web versions of a sequence – to the ability to apply effects to multiple clips at once, and capability to import PSDs with video and blend modes.

Despite the improvements, Premiere Pro just isn’t as quick to use as Final Cut Pro. On our eight-core Mac Pro, it seemed more sluggish and it lacks many of FCP’s efficiency boosters, such as visual insert options when you drag a trimmed clip to the main video window.

Premiere Pro has had the same interface overhaul as the rest of Creative Suite 4, but as many of the overall enhancements came from the video products, there’s less of a difference than with Photoshop or the print- and web-focused tools.

As before, Premiere Pro comes bundled with the OnLocation live capture tool and Encore for DVD creation. OnLocation CS4, which allows you to monitor and record from your DV or HDV camcorder to a laptop, has been released for the Mac for the first time and given an interface overhaul that places all of elements on a single screen – making it much easier to use.

However, it can’t support non-tape formats such as AVCHD and XDCAM. Encore CS4 can output projects as Flash movies, but unfortunately not as Flash projects. Premiere Pro also ships with the new Media Encoder, which is a standalone version of its encoding engine that can batch process and run in the background.

Adobe has just launched the Premiere Pro CS4 4.0.1 update, which adds AAF import/export, Apple Final Cut Pro XML project import, and OMF export – and is also necessary to work with the Red format’s massive files.

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