As you’d expect, previous introductions like real-time previews, Windows Media support and Adobe’s Title Designer are still present, but there are several new additions to Premiere Pro’s feature set that will speed up project creation. Not least of which is the rather late addition of scene detection to the capture tool.
A key improvement is the sequence tool. Sequences are given their own tabs above the timeline and the preview pane, letting you shuttle back and forth with just a single click. You can drag and drop a sequence onto any point of the timeline, so they’re ideal for items that are used repeatedly in your project, like credit rolls or intros, and only take up a single video and audio track, helping to keep complex projects more manageable. You can also use sequences as building blocks to create new sequences – called nesting – and while Premiere Pro doesn’t let you apply an effect to multiple clips like Avid Xpress DV, you can apply an effect to a sequence containing these clips instead, which is a useful workaround. What’s disappointing is that Premiere Pro doesn’t carry over any rendered files when you place a sequence in a new timeline, leaving you to repeat the rendering process again.
Also new to the fold is the pathing tool, for determining the route that objects take across the screen. By selecting motion in the effects palette, you can quickly create a keyframed path simply by dragging the clip in the preview pane, selecting the next point on the keyframe timeline, dragging the clip to its new position and so on. Handles appear for easy resizing, and you can also add rotation and stretch to the clip at the same time, although 3D adjustments aren’t included in this particular effect. While you can choose the characteristics of the various keyframes (slow, fast, curve or hold in/out), there’s no Bezier option for the path, so creating a smooth curving path takes a fair amount of effort.
If you’re into colour correction, then Premiere Pro has more than enough tools to keep you satisfied, almost to the point of having too many – which is likely to cause more problems than it fixes in the hands of a novice. There are tools for adjusting tonal areas, like highlights, mid-tones and shadows, as well as full Hue/Saturation/Lightness or RGB options to choose from. However, those of us who aren’t professional colourists can stick to the basics. Whatever your skill level here, the split screen option is a nice touch, allowing you to view before and after results at the same time.
There’s a similar function for the timeline and trim windows, which comes in handy for transition placement, or clip trimming and ripple editing. When overlaying clips, or adjusting the overlay point, the Out frame of the previous clip is shown in the Preview pane next to the In point of the successive clip, making it easier to see what’s going to happen when you take your finger off the mouse button. Another nice touch is the transparency effect added to clips as you drag them over the timeline, letting you see what lies beneath.
Also new is the support for Adobe Photoshop files. I’m not talking about simple BMP or JPEG imports here; I’m talking full support for layered .PSD graphics. It might not sound like much, but Premiere Pro’s ability to separate the layers of a .PSD file offers massive potential for creativity, like the pseudo-3D effect that’s currently so popular for TV intros.
When exporting your finished project, it’s a given that any NLE will provide output across FireWire to DV tape, as well as the ability to create video files using the installed video codecs. But these days, that’s not enough to impress; we need Web export and DVD tools, too.
Although Premiere Pro doesn’t provide the output to Macromedia Flash-type .SWF files like Pinnacle’s Liquid Edition, it does have an improved encoder module, which is a more comprehensive version of the MPEG encoder built into Premiere 6.5. This provides a one-stop shop for all your RealMedia, Windows Media, QuickTime and MPEG1 and 2 encoding needs. With this, you can jump to encoding presets, or get into the nitty-gritty of encoding, with a full range of options that covers multi-pass encoding, interlaced/progressive encoding, constant or variable bit rates, and even AC-3 encoding for DVD output. Unfortunately, there’s no batch encoding option, which is the first thing I’d like to see in future versions.
Those who were expecting an integrated DVD authoring tool like Pinnacle Edition 5’s will be disappointed. In fact, you don’t even get the extremely basic Sonic DVDit! LE that was bundled with Premiere 6.5. Instead, you get the more practical Export to DVD tool, which takes you through four no-nonsense steps before burning your project straight to disk. No fuss, and ideal for one-offs or test runs before client sign-off. If you want to get menu-driven, you’ll need an external authoring tool like Adobe Encore or Pinnacle Impression DVD.