Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (beta)

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Beta: Faster Video Editing, Higher Demands

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Adobe Systems Premiere Pro CS5 (beta)
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Pros

  • 64-bit native, GPU acceleration, Extensive high-def support

Cons

  • GPU acceleration supported on only a few cards and CPU rendering is leisurely by comparison, interface text is too small

Bottom Line

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 has been dying for 64-bit support and finally gets it. But if you really want to speed up your video workflow, you may need to spring for an expensive graphics card.

Would you buy this?

RAM is cheap. Hard drives? Cheap. Big, beautiful LCD monitors? Cheap, cheap, cheap. You may have all the elements of a great video-editing setup, but for one thing: a video-editing application that can take advantage of all that inexpensive hardware. With the new Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 ($799 stand-alone, $1299 as part of Creative Suite 5 Design Standard), though, you'll have all the components necessary to make even high-definition video editing fly.

Well, almost all the components. In addition to being 64-bit-aware, Premiere Pro CS5 relies heavily on GPU processing. If you have one of a very select (and expensive) group of graphics cards, the application will greatly speed up rendering and real-time playback, and leave your computer's CPU to handle more-mundane tasks.

64-Bit Means More RAM

The 32-bit versions of Windows have been squeezing users: Those OSs can recognise only 4GB of RAM at most, even as applications and Windows itself have come to demand ever-increasing amounts of RAM. On a 32-bit system, once all your startup programs load, you may have little left over to run memory-intensive applications.

With the debut of Creative Suite 5, Premiere Pro--along with its companion applications Media Encoder CS5 and Encore CS5, and the separate After Effects CS5--is now 64-bit native. That shift is long overdue (about five years overdue, since Vista came on the scene), but I'm still surprised that Adobe won't even offer 32-bit versions of these applications; you must have a 64-bit OS to run them.

When I installed a beta version of Creative Suite 5 on my test system, a dual-Xeon workstation running Windows 7 64-bit with 8GB of RAM, I did not notice a substantial improvement in rendering speed--but then, my workstation doesn't have one of the approved graphics cards. Relying on CPU power, Premiere Pro CS5 didn't render any more quickly than Premiere Pro CS4 did. However, I had none of the RAM-related problems I've occasionally encountered with Premiere Pro CS4--none of the slow reading and writing of data to the hard drive instead of to RAM, fewer playback and timeline scrubbing hesitations, and generally smoother operation overall.

As with the 64-bit Adobe Photoshop Pro CS5, Premiere Pro requires that you allocate RAM manually--up to a maximum of 128GB. On my 8GB system, the default setup reserved 6.5GB for Premiere and 1.5GB for everything else. However, with only a simple, single-track project open, Premiere used merely 214MB of RAM--it did not take up the entire 6.5GB, and my system ran perfectly well with several other applications open. Only when I started adding several tracks of HD clips and effects did Premiere start gobbling RAM; the highest amount I saw was about 3.5GB.

Graphics Card Pick-Me-Up

One of the benefits of Premiere Pro CS5 is that Adobe is continuing the trend of using GPU power that it began with After Effects a couple of versions ago. The company says that Premiere Pro can "solve many computational problems in a fraction of the time a CPU would take to perform the same task" and thus can render HD video much more quickly--freeing your CPU to handle "background tasks." If I were Intel, I'd feel insulted by that.

That benefit goes only so far, though: Adobe has qualified just five graphics cards for use with Premiere Pro

--all of which use nVidia's CUDA technology. Four of the cards are Quadro workstation cards, ranging in cost from roughly $800 to more than $2000; the sole desktop card so far is the GTX 285, which sells for about $400. Only the GTX 285 and one of the Quadros will work in a Mac. SLI configurations aren't supported.

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