The other significant change is that Premiere Pro has now radically altered the way it outputs. Recording back to tape follows the same process as before, but the media encoder has been broken out as a separate app. So there is no longer the facility to export a file straight from the timeline. Instead, exporting media adds an entry to the Media Encoder's batch list. This is a little more complicated, but it has some major benefits. Aside from being able to queue up lots of encoding jobs in succession, you can also load up Premiere Pro sequences and After Effects compositions directly. So you can encode multiple Premiere Pro timelines as a batch - a major productivity boost over having to load and encode each one manually. The one downside we encountered was that it is now much harder to grab a frame of video.
The Media Encoder also plays a part in another of Premiere Pro CS4's major new features - speech recognition. This isn't a unique Adobe capability, as Avid Media Composer 3 gained a similar facility in 2008. But it's nonetheless a potentially useful addition. The speech recognition works in tandem with another new feature, the metadata panel. This displays XMP metatag information for a selected file. Click the Transcribe button at the bottom and the audio track will be analysed and converted to text. This is then attached to the file as another metatag with each word linked to its location within the file.
In our experience, the transcriptions were not very accurate. But they were just about close enough to be useful in some circumstances. For example, if you have a clip containing multiple takes, and only the last one is good, you can find it without having to listen through every single attempt. But the inaccuracy will reduce the feature's benefits for finding a particular point in a long monologue. You can correct individual words, but that is going to be extremely laborious. The Find box also supports searching the transcripts. In the project window, you can look for files containing a given word, and in the Metadata window the word can be found within the file. But you can't search for consecutive words or whole phrases.
Also aiding file location is the new Media Browser tab, which brings the search and import of assets within the Premiere Pro interface itself. You can open the files you find directly into the source window to play back their contents. If you then add them to a Sequence timeline, they will automatically be imported into the project. Alternatively, you can highlight a bunch of files in the Media Browser and import them. Either way, the workflow is streamlined, which is always welcome.