OK, I’m not all about Avid now. I’m giving Adobe Premiere Pro some love too. With Apple no longer making a tool I can use, I’m exploring the other two main options for NLEs and seeing what they are capable of. Seeing how they might fit into my workflow needs. Now, while Avid does easily plug into my broadcast workflows, I do have other projects that would be cumbersome to work with in Avid Media Composer…even MC6. So those projects I used Premiere Pro to tackle.
Project #1 – Show Pitch/Sizzle.
I have a producer who is in development mode. Working on four to five show pitches in hopes of getting one of them picked up as a series. Them being low low budget, he’s forced to shoot it on his own, with a flip camera that shoots .AVI files. When I was first approached to edit these, I figured I’d use Avid to get back up to speed with that, and to beta test it while I went along. But, as it turns out, trying to convert those AVI files into something Avid could import was a huge issue. When audio did carry over, it didn’t stay in sync. It was way out of sync. And after 5 attempts to get things right, I gave up. I launched Premiere Pro, used the Media Browser to bring in those files and guess what? They worked perfectly right away. I cut them natively and they were always in sync. And because I worked with them natively, they imported instantly…no conversion time.
Now…I must mention that the computer I used for this was my personal machine. A MacPro OctoCore 8.0Ghz (Early 2008) with 12GB of Ram, and the Nvidia 285 graphics card that enables CUDA and speeds up the Mercury Engine…so it enabled PPro to deal with this format more easily. At one point I did move the project to a different machine (with the same version of PPro), but this machine was a Quad Core 3.0 and had an ATI graphics card. So the Mercury Engine was relegated to software only…and boy, did it become sluggish. Glad I only used that for changes.
But for this project, Adobe PPro CS 5.5 was perfect. Did quick edits on four show pitches, all shot with either the producers AVI flipcam, or in two instances, an HPX-170. Native import of the P2 files was nice to have. And editing that format was much smoother. I was able to do quick graphics (lower thirds), able to send a few VERY shaky clips to After Effects for smoothing out, and export directly to the MP4 format my producer wanted. And because this was all so quick, the low rate I was getting for the job actually worked out to be a better deal, as less time was spent transcoding the footage.
Project #2 – Family Home Video…shot with my Canon T2i.
The other project I decided to take into Premiere Pro was the family trip up the coast to San Francisco, along the coast. I’d been putting this off for a while, but finally, because I had a couple weeks of no work, decided to get it done.
Again, I brought the footage into PPro 5.5 natively…H.264 files that would choke FCP 7, and also chokes the new Avid MC6…although I hear FCX does fine with them. And again, because of my faster processors, amount of RAM, and the CUDA enabled Mercury engine, editing went smoother. When I took the project to my laptop (Dual Core 2.4Ghz MacBook Pro)…it was more sluggish than a turtle in the mud. So I really needed to stick to my main rig for this. Editing was smooth, easy, and when I was done, I was able to export a nice quality H.264 file for Vimeo for the family to see our exploits in SF.
Now for the nitty-gritty.
I am pretty comfortable working in the PPro timeline. Things act pretty much the way they acted in FCP. The way I can grab clips and move them, the way I can adjust audio in the timeline by dragging the levels up or down. I can even do a SELECT ALL DOWNSTREAM and move things down (Press T using the FCP keyboard setup, and hold SHIFT to get the double arrow to select all the tracks. Just T will get you one arrow that selects one track). Making titles was easy, doing my moves on stills was sure JOY as I have my AE controls, and EASE IN and EASE OUT actually work!
My editing time was sped up because I didn’t need to take time to convert media before I began editing. Very cool when under a tight deadline, and when your budget is low. The less time you spend editing, the more you make per hour. And the less you stay late getting the work done. And I could play back multiple layers without rendering. That was something new to me, and nice to actually see in person. I had 4 layers with a text layer on top of that for one of the pitch pilots, and it played with only one minor hiccup…but I attribute that to the AVI files. They were not optimal. PPro did well with them anyway.
I was able to use my Kona card for external monitoring (you need to use AJA sequence settings for this) so that I could see what I was doing on my external monitor. One tip for monitoring is that while you do use the AJA settings, in the Adobe Preferences, PLAYER, do not choose AJA, rather choose ADOBE. This enables things to work smoother. Dunno why, but it’s how it is done. But, initially this was pretty problematic. Nearly show stopping. Why? Well, because when you viewed the Program Monitor (Canvas…the timeline playback monitor) on the external monitor…it was smooth. But the window in the PPro interface was not. It stuttered badly. And since that is the primary window I look at, it was unworkable for me. Also, the Viewer…Source monitor…wasn’t viewable on the external monitor. ONLY on the computer display. And if you use the AJA player, you could ONLY see it on the external display…the Source monitor in the computer interface was black…empty. So it wasn’t the optimal viewing by any means. It was pretty poor actually.
But then a couple days ago AJA released the 9.1 drivers for the AJA card, and the 9.1 drivers for the Adobe Plugin, and with that came the option in the Player Preferences for “AGGRESSIVE CACHING,” meaning that (according to the release notes):
“When this Option is enabled, AJA’s Plug-ins will read further ahead in the timeline during playback operations. The feature should be used to mitigate minor frame dropping issues. Particularly, this feature was created because some DSLR clips can take a very long time to open, and subsequently cause frames to drop when they are played back.”
That new driver and plugin solved all the monitoring issues. Now I could see smooth playback on the Program monitor and my external monitor…as well as see what was on my Source monitor in the computer and on the external. But one thing I noticed is that when I use AJA settings, editing and playback aren’t as smooth as when I choose the native format settings, or use other Adobe settings. Now, I know that AJA does support the Mercury Playback Engine with their hardware I/O, but the amount of GPU support you get from that is limited…it does take a hit. That’s why things were a bit sluggish. I do hear that Adobe is working with AJA and others to improve this.
OK, now for the bad. My biggest issues with Premiere Pro was the overall working in the timeline. There were too many things that just slowed me down. The biggest issue I had was patching the source tracks to the timeline tracks. When I dragged the source video to V2, or V3…that track wouldn’t enable…meaning, it wouldn’t light up…become selected. I’d have to click on that track after I patched my source. So too many clicks. Avid automatically enables the track you patch to. And in FCP, once the source is patched to the timeline, it is always connected, and patches to the layer you move it to…until you manually unpatch it. So…too much clicking to get stuff patched.
No matter how you have your Audio and Video tracks selected in the timeline, audio will always be put into tracks 1 and 2 if you simply drag from the Source to the Timeline. If you INSERT EDIT, or OVERWRITE EDIT, it will follow your patching. But no matter what, if you drag to the timeline, audio will always go to A1 and A2.
Here’s an example video.
I cannot adjust my audio levels on my source clips. Not while they are in the Source monitor. That’s a problem. They might be too hot and breaking up, so I’d like to lower them. Or, I’d like to universally preset the audio levels on that clip so when I cut multiple parts of it into the timeline, the audio is already good. As it is now, I can only adjust the audio AFTER I cut it into the timeline. So I have to adjust the levels for every clip I add, and always after I add it. Annoying, and slows me down.
On the topic of audio…the audio mixer works unlike any NLE audio mixer I have ever used. The sliders will affect the WHOLE TRACK, not the individual clips on that track. So if I lower A1 by 6db, the entire track is lowered by 6db. Unlike in FCP or Avid where the audio mixer relates to the CLIPS in the timeline and in the source monitors…the Adobe mixer doesn’t interface with the clips in either location. It only interfaces with the timeline as a whole. See, when I am in FCP or Avid, and I have my playhead parked on the timeline on several layers of audio, and clips, when I adjust the levels of say, tracks 10 and 11, the mixer adjusts the levels of the CLIPS that it is parked on. This way I can mix the levels of my clips. With Premiere Pro, you can only adjust the audio of the clips on the timeline, by dragging the levels on the clips themselves. And if they are mono, you need to do each and every individual clip. Unlike in Avid where I can gang all the tracks I want to adjust in the Mixer, or, enable all the tracks on the timeline and adjust the audio keyframe of one clip, and all the other tracks that are selected move as well. So this is a major stumbling block for me as well. Audio mixing needs to be addressed.
Audio output…so far it is limited to stereo out. That is a big issue for me as well as I need to deliver QT masters with between 8 and 16 channels of embedded audio. Before today only FCP did that, but with Avid MC6 coming out with this same ability, we now have two options that enable me to deliver what I am required to deliver. This is a feature request I have filed with Adobe. If you have feature requests, you should file some too. I hear they are eager to get them.
The trimming capabilities are worse than even FCP…which I didn’t think possible. So trimming should be absolutely avoided in PPro. Heck, I avoided it 95% of the time in FCP as well, as it was poorly implemented.
Batch capturing is spotty, at best. I was able to capture video with my Kona card, and that was cool. But what I do to save time is log clips as I scan the tape, then set the application to then batch capture all the clips while I then go each lunch, or do some other menial task. Adobe PPro’s batch capture with the Kona 3 was so unreliable, that I’d have to sit and babysit it. It’d miss a clip several times, and often I found myself capturing one clip at a time. Booo…a working lunch! Tapeless? Adobe shines! Tape…which I still capture a good bit of…not so much. Rememeber guys…tape isn’t gone, not yet. I’ll have the need to capture from tape for quite some time now…being a documentary editor.
Overall I did like it. And do feel that it is the next step up from FCP 7. There are just a few stumbling blocks in terms of general editing that have me shaking my fist at the computer screen and swearing out loud. Small things like needing to click several times to patch audio and being limited in the ways I can mix audio…and I do a LOT of audio mixing. The small things do count…but so does the ability to work native. So if I am faced with tight deadlines and tapeless footage, PPro is high on my list. Tape capture…That’s Avid-land.