Synopsis: Adobe's Premiere has long been the flagship of desktop video editing programs. As PCs grow in computing power, Premiere adds features that improve its usefulness. The current version 6 remains the premier desktop editing tool, offering improved DV (digital video) capture and output and better editing tools, including an Audio Mixer, a Storyboard, enhanced effects, and export plug-ins for one-step Web output.
May 2001|Your favorite uncle calls and offers you $100,000 to set you up in the movie business. Great. Now you can buy the editing studio that you've always dreamed of. Then your fiancée shows you Adobe's Premiere 6.0, which gets you in the game for a mere $549. So, what are you going to do with the other $99,541?
Adobe's Premiere has long been the flagship of desktop video editing programs. As PCs grow in computing power, Premiere adds features that improve its usefulness. Now, in version 6, Premiere offers improved DV (digital video) capture and output, and better editing tools, including an Audio Mixer, a Storyboard, enhanced effects, and export plug-ins for one-step Web output.
Version 6 imports project files created from versions 4.2 or later on Windows or Mac OS, and lets you move projects between platforms. Our review copy also arrived with a demo of Total Training's Total Premiere CD, which should help most users work more efficiently.
Premiere opens with the familiar Adobe look: collapsible, dockable palettes. The Navigator palette customizes your view of the Timeline, and the Commands palette facilitates access to an editable list of commands. The History palette encourages experimentation, recapturing any previous state of the project.
To save computer overhead as you work, you can substitute low-resolution clips for your final, high-resolution clips. You can also work with an "offline" file when, for example, you expect to use source video that you have yet to capture.
Before you plan a four-hour documentary, be aware that most desktop systems have file size limits—the Macintosh needs OS9, QuickTime 4.1, and drives formatted as HFS+ to capture or export movies greater than 2GB (about 9 minutes of video in DV format). Windows systems need Windows 2000 and drives formatted as NTFS to capture or export files over 4GB (about 18 minutes of uncompressed digital video).
A Premiere project stores references to all imported clips, and records how you arranged those clips, along with any transitions or effects that you applied. You can add notes and labels to each clip, and use any field (including your notes) to sort the clips. You can organize your clips, graphics, and audio files in folders (directories) called bins, which you can export to other projects.
When you start Premiere for the first time, you select either an A/B or Single-Track workspace. A/B Editing is primarily for editors who work by dragging clips from the Project window to the Timeline. (It resembles conventional A/B Roll Editing, which uses two videotapes or rolls, A and B, plus an effects switcher for transitions). Alternatively, Single-Track editing facilitates trimming and positioning clips using more advanced techniques, such as, three- or four-point editing.
Premiere converses with your DV camcorder through an IEEE-1394 cable, also known as FireWire or iLink. All current FireWire interface cards support OHCI (Open Host Controller Interface), which lets both Windows and Macintosh systems automatically recognize these cards. Predictably, however, Windows users need Microsoft's OHCI drivers. If your Windows system shipped with other drivers, check the 1394 Troubleshooting Guide on the Premiere 6 start menu. This guide will walk you through the necessary steps to update your driver.
You can also import clips from videotapes, motion-picture film, audio, or still images—as long as they exist as digital files. Analog media, such as motion-picture film, Hi-8, and conventional audio tape, must be digitized, or converted to a digital format. Premiere uses your capture card (you'll find a list of compatible cards at www.adobe.com/premiere) to digitize analog material.
When you connect your analog camcorder's video and audio outputs to your monitor, Premiere uses the camcorder's codec (its compression and decompression algorithms) and analog video outputs to display the video, in real- time, as you work.
With a video capture card, you can grab a single clip, or import multiple clips with Batch Capture. Use the Movie Capture to create a list of "in points" (starting timecode) and "out points" (ending timecode) for each clip, as you view it, and then capture all the clips in your list automatically. You can save your batch capture list for reuse later. The Stop Motion feature even captures manual and time-lapse video from a connected camera or video tape deck. To examine a clip before importing it, open it in a Clip window, and then move it to the Project window when it passes your "audition." Premiere can capture audio that is either synchronized with its source video or indepen- dent of it.
On the other hand, all DV camcorders and decks record video and audio in digital format. Alternatively, Premiere can import Type 2 AVI, MOV, and Open DML (Windows only) video files. Audio formats include AVI, MOV, AIFF, WAV (Windows only), the Macintosh Sound Format (Mac OS only), and Sound Designer I & II (Mac OS only).
If you prefer to edit faster, try using low-quality clips, which use smaller files. As you work, create a table of scene sequences called an Edit Decision List, or EDL. You later redigitize and render your clips at your final resolution or move the EDL to a high-end editing system.
You can import most graphic formats (except PNG), including Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop (3.0 or later) images directly into a Premiere project. Premiere converts (or rasterizes) Illustrator paths into pixel-based images and rasterizes empty areas as an alpha channel. The latter can become transparent when you superimpose it over other clips using the White Alpha Matte key.
You can also import an animation file, such as an animated GIF, or combine a sequence of numbered still-image files into a single clip.
Premiere's main work area uses three named windows:
• The Project window is where you import, organize, and store references to clips. It lists all source clips in the project.
• The Monitor window can include two views—Source and Program. The Source view shows the original video clip and the Program view displays the current state of your edited program.
• The Timeline window provides a time-based, schematic view of your program, including all video, audio, and superimposed video tracks. It graphically shows the placement of each clip in time, its duration, and its relationship to the other clips in the program. Changes that you make in this window appear in the Program view.
Premiere provides other specialized windows for creating titles, mixing audio, and storyboarding. Most windows and palettes include specialized menus, and all windows have context menus that adapt their content to the current task.
Markers indicate important points in the Timeline and help you position and arrange clips. Each clip can contain up to ten "numbered" markers and up to 999 unnumbered markers.
Timeline markers can include a comment, a Web link, or a chapter link. For example, when you embed a link to a URL in your movie, and launch that movie from a Web page, the embedded URL jumps to the specified location. Chapter links, like the chapters of a book, divide a QuickTime or DVD movie into addressable segments.
Grab your first clip, and drag it into the Timeline. Grab your second clip, and place it at the end of the first clip to create a straight cut. Continue adding clips by dragging them into the Timeline to assemble a rough cut of your edit.
The Timeline is where you edit video clips, add transitions, apply titles, add and edit audio clips, and apply special effects. You can scale and position clips, and change their duration (type a negative value to play a clip in reverse) or speed.
You can also change the number of frames displayed per second for a clip, specifying whether or not to change the speed of action. When this results in too few frames, Premiere makes up for the missing frames by repeating the last frame, or by "frame blending," which interpolates between frames to create intermediate frames that smooth the motion.
The good news here is that the project itself contains only references to your original movies, not the movies themselves. This keeps the project size small, and protects your original clips as you edit.
Once Upon a Storyboard
The Storyboard (which replaces the Library of earlier Premiere editions) lets you lay out all the shots in a script in the order that you want them to play. To rearrange clips, just drag and drop them into different locations. You can "print" the rough edit to your monitor, or "Automate the clips to the Timeline." Then save your storyboard to reuse later, or edit the storyboard file in a text processor.
To tighten up your edit, you can trim unwanted frames from any clip. If the clip has synchronized audio and video tracks, Premiere trims both tracks unless you toggle off the Sync mode.
Select a rolling edit (which maintains the combined duration of the two clips you are editing), a ripple edit (that maintains the durations of all other clips by changing the program duration), a slip edit (which shifts the starting and ending frames of the edited clip), or a slide edit (that preserves the duration of that clip and the program, itself).
Transitions are visual effects that take you from one clip to another, such as, gradually fading out the first while brightening in the next. Premiere includes over 75 transitions, including cross fades or dissolves, wipes, and page peels, as well as many After Effects transitions, and you can add QuickTime transitions. You can even use a bitmap image as a transition mask, so that one image replaces the other. The program also allows you to adjust a number of settings for each transition, including direction, start and end values, the border, and anti-aliasing.
Superimposing Video Tracks
Premiere "superimposes" clips in a higher track (tracks numbered 2 through 99) over any track with a lower number. Creating a transparent area in a superimpose track lets parts of lower tracks show through. For example, if the convertible in track 3 had a transparent background, it could appear to travel over the scenery of track 2; if the sky in track 2 were transparent, then the sky in track 1 could appear to change from day to night over time.
By default, Premiere makes title backgrounds transparent, so that you can make title text roll (move up or down) or crawl (move left or right) over a scene. You can apply color, transparency, gradient color, and gradient transparency to the type, and add graphic objects or shadows.
Fades and Keys
Premiere's "rubberband" fade control lets clips fade in and out. Click the rubberband and drag to adjust fade levels. Use the Opacity rubberband to create opaque, transparent, and semitransparent regions in the clip.
Adobe Premiere now provides 15 keys (methods for creating transparency) that you can apply to a clip. You can use color-based keys for superimposing, brightness keys for adding texture or special effects, alpha channel keys for clips or images already containing an alpha channel, and matte keys for adding traveling mattes or creative superimpositions.
Animate any clip by creating a motion path in the Motion Settings dialog box. Then specify rotation, zooming, delays, and distortion to create more complex motion. Save your best motion settings for later use with other clips.
What's a movie without special effects? Premiere's Sample Gallery includes a number of video effects from Adobe's After Effects, plus a variety of audio effects. You can make the effect start and stop at specific times, or make the effect more or less intense over time. You can even apply the same effect multiple times to the same clip with different settings. You can temporarily turn off one or all of the effects in a clip.
Adding and Editing Audio
When you add a clip that contains audio to the Timeline, the video portion automatically goes into the video track and the audio portion automatically goes into the corresponding audio track.
As in previous releases, you can edit sound in the Timeline. A "volume rubberband" adjusts the volume level at any point during the clip. You can also cross-fade two audio clips automatically, so that one fades out as another fades in, and create cross-fades.
Alternatively, in version 6, use the Audio Mixer Window, to edit audio in a more traditional audio environment while the Timeline plays. Each track of the mixer also contains a pan/balance control, so that you can pan a monophonic clip from left to right, or balance a stereo clip. You can also mute one channel, or even swap channels, in a stereo audio clip.
For the tone-deaf producer, Premiere 6 includes SmartSound software that lets you approach audio creation visually. SmartSound provides fully orchestrated, specially formatted music and sound effect files that let you manipulate the audio from visual cues. SmartSound also includes a library of 30 royalty-free, movie-quality selections.
Final Output to Tape or the Web
Finally, you can turn any program in the Timeline into an independent video file by exporting the complete program, or any range of frames either directly to videotape, or to a variety of video, audio, or still-image file formats. These include Save for Web, Advanced Windows Media (Windows only) or Advanced RealMedia Export, AVI, Animated GIF, QuickTime, MPEG, or Windows Media. Audio output formats include AIFF, MP3, and Windows Audio Waveform (Windows only).
To add that final touch, export any frame, still-image, or image sequence, and edit the clip in Adobe Photoshop, using its Filmstrip tool, to paint directly onto video frames—a process known as rotoscoping.
Premiere also supports QuickTime Streaming, Windows Media, RealVideo, and RealG2Streaming. You can also create Progressive Download video using several Save for Web export plug-ins. You can also create MPEG-1 or -2 video, MP3 audio, and animated GIF's.
To export a Web-ready clip, Premiere launches Cleaner 5EZ from Terran Interactive. Cleaner has tools for the expert, but promises quality results for any amateur who accepts default settings ("even if you don't understand every question the wizard asks"). It also creates Quicktime or Realtime output.
Other Palm-Prints in the Sidewalk
Obviously, no program this sophisticated is quick to master. Although you can produce video your first day on the job, expect to invest time and effort for real mastery. The Adobe CD offers to install a Tutorial, but we clicked "yes" twice, and have yet to find the Tutorial in any menu, nor on our hard drive or the original CD.
For personal use and simpler corporate presentations, Ulead's Video Studio 5 delivers many of Premiere's features, with an understandable loss of sophisticated control, and may be a good choice, at only $99. However, Adobe Premiere 6.0 retains its flagship status for video professionals.