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New Editing Techniques 
    with Adobe Premiere Pro  (1/2004)

    by Douglas Dixon

Premiere Pro
Timeline Editing
Drag and Drop Editing
Video Effects
Audio Editing
Adobe Family Integration
The Adobe Video Collection
References

Adobe Premiere has been the long-time flagship desktop digital video editing application. But in recent years Adobe has been slow to update it to add new features to take advantage of newer computer hardware and operating systems. By the last incremental step to Premiere 6.5, released in August 2002, Adobe had taken the old Premiere software code base about as far as it could go. It was time for a major leap.

In August 2003, Adobe shipped its answer -- Premiere Pro -- the next generation Premiere. This is not just a step up from a 6.5 to a 7.0 version; this is a completely new beast. Premiere Pro is a total rewrite, a brand new application designed to address the needs of today's professional video production.

   

One major decision Adobe has made with its product line is to focus on the Windows XP platform for new development, so both Premiere Pro and the new Encore DVD authoring tool are PC-only and XP-only applications that take advantage of the full Windows XP digital media infrastructure. Adobe has made the business decision to move away from supporting the Macintosh, based both on the sales of Premiere, and Apple's aggressive development and pricing of Final Cut Pro and Final Cut Express as part of its own drive into digital media.

Premiere Pro

Because it is totally rewritten, Premiere Pro is more of a 1.0 application, albeit created in the Premiere style. What this means to current Premiere users is that you cannot expect that Premiere Pro works exactly like the old Premiere. Instead of having a baseline of all the old features in the new release, with Premiere Pro the old features remain only when the development team explicitly re-created them in the new application. For example, the Storyboard is gone, although partially replaced by the Icon view in the Project window, and the Project Settings window did not make the first release, so it's more difficult to check that your settings are consistent across the project.

   

In exchange for this dramatic change, Premiere Pro offers much more powerful video and audio processing capabilities. Premiere Pro now provides a "render-free" editing experience, with rendering only required for the final output. It supports multiple-processor and hyper-threaded systems, of course, and provides real-time preview without waiting to render. And it supports a full range of formats, from DV to SD and HD, Web, and DVD. It also exports Advanced Authoring Format (AAF) files to exchange projects with other professional editors and Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) for interfacing to audio hardware and systems.

Premiere Pro processes video in native YUV color space, eliminating processing overhead and quality loss from color conversions. It finally supports DV scene detection to split an input tape into separate clips. You can use proxy video for offline editing, and then batch capture full-resolution versions for the final edit.

Premiere Pro also provides stronger media management, for tracking and recapturing offline clips. Input media is imported at its native resolution, with its aspect ratio adjusted to match the project. This makes it easier, for example, to create pans over large stills.

Premiere Pro includes built-in export to formats including DV, AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, Windows Media 9, RealVideo 9, WAV and AIFF audio, and a variety of still image formats including Photoshop (PSD). Through the Windows XP architecture, Premiere also can export to a variety of other formats as supported on the target system, including QuickTime.

For fast export to DVD, Premiere Pro includes a Print to DVD option to burn a project directly to DVD. Or export to Adobe Encore DVD to add menus and other DVD features.

Timeline Editing

The most dramatic interface improvement in Premiere Pro is support for multiple and nested timelines. You can create components of your project in separate timelines (called Sequences), and then nest them as elements in a master timeline to build up your project. Sequences can be docked as tabs in the Monitor and Timeline windows, or you can drag them out as separate windows. This not only makes it easier to organize your work in more complex projects, but also allows you to apply effects in one operation to an entire nested sequence. You also can easily try out different versions of a project by copying a timeline.

On the Timeline, however, the most visible change is the demise of A/B editing. Premiere Pro supports only single-track editing, with clips and transitions overlapping in each track on the timeline. This can be a significant change for some users, but supports a more efficient workflow.

       

Transitions in single-track timeline - in Effects palette on left
    Effect Controls with A-B like view - preview in Monitor

The key thing to understand about single-track editing is to make sure that you include sufficient handles, or excess frames, at each end of your clips in order to have enough overlapped material for transitions. Since you can't visualize overlapping clips very well in a single track, Premiere Pro provides a remnant of the A/B view in the Effects Control window to fine-tune the transition between overlapping clips.

Drag and Drop Editing

The Premiere Pro interface has been redesigned to reduce the need to switch between different tools. Trimming is as easy as dragging the edges of a clip, or you can use the separate Trim window for more precise editing. You can perform basic operations with drag and drop editing by using keyboard modifiers:

- To delete or move a clip, just click and drag to Lift a clip: Delete it and leave a gap on the timeline, without affecting the adjacent clips. Or hold down the Ctrl key as you click to Extract the clip: Ripple Delete it and close the gap by sliding down the rest of the timeline contents.

- To overlay or insert a clip, again just drag and drop to perform the basic operation: Overlay it on top of the current contents of the timeline. Or hold down Ctrl as you drop to Insert the clip, and shift over the rest of the timeline contents.

That's not too hard to remember: just drag and drop to affect just the clip, or hold the Ctrl key to ripple the edit along the timeline. This trick even works when you are doing a drag and drop to perform two actions in one operation: you have the option to hold or release Ctrl both when dragging, and then when dropping, so you can lift or extract and then overlay or insert all in one smooth operation.

To make this process even easier to learn, Premiere Pro changes the cursor icon at each point in an edit operation, and also provides a dynamic text message hint in the status area at the bottom of the screen.

For more fun, you can hold the Alt key at the same time to have the operation only affect the selected target tracks, instead of the entire timeline. You also can select multiple clips and apply edits to all of them at once.

As a result of these editing improvements, the Tools palette has been greatly simplified from previous versions of Premiere. It no longer has a profusion of pop-out alternate tools, but only a small set of necessary tools for timeline track adjustments, especially Ripple and Rolling and Slip and Slide edits. Other new efficiencies include the ability to customize the height and display of individual tracks in the timeline, and customizable keyboard shortcuts and workspaces.

Video Effects

The effects architecture in Premiere Pro now provides independent customization and keyframes for individual parameters. The new Effects Control window not only shows the effects applied to a clip, and their individual parameters, but then expands to provide a custom timeline for applying keyframes. You can enable keyframing for any individual parameter, and then drop individual keyframes at any point in the timeline to modify its setting at that point. Motion effects also can be set by drag and drop in the Monitor window, and motion paths can be smoother, with sub-pixel positioning and ease in/out settings.

   

Motion effects - in Video Effects palette
    Keyframeable individual parameters
    Title overlay in motion, changing scale, and opacity

As a new effect, Premiere Pro also adds 3-point color correction, to adjust highlights, midtones, and shadows, or match colors. It also provides a variety of built-in waveform and vectorscope displays to help monitor color and brightness.

   

New Color Correction -
    Effects palette on left, adjustments in Effect Controls palette

Audio Editing

For audio work, Premiere Pro now can import and export up to 24-bit 96 KHz audio files. You can edit multi-channel audio, including 5.1 surround, with surround mixing and Dolby Digital AC-3 export (through a trial version of the Minnetonka Audio SurCode encoder).

You can edit individual tracks to the sub-frame or audio sample level, and apply audio effects to individual tracks. Audio tracks also can be combined and processed together as submix tracks, for example to apply different effects to voice and music tracks.

   

Audio editing - Audio effects with Dynamics filter - 
    Select in Effects palette on left
    Adjust filter controls in Effect Controls palette
    View audio waveforms in timeline
    Audio Mixer with real-time feedback

To support this audio processing, Premiere Pro needs to pre-process or "conform" input audio files to the project format by converting them in the background. This is required to play, mix, and display the audio, which means you will need to wait a while for longer files, as Premiere Pro fills clips by silence until the conforming completes.

You can use the improved Audio Mixer to capture audio (such as voiceovers) directly to the timeline. You then can set levels in real time as you listen to audio playback.

Premiere Pro supports the VST audio plug-in standard, so you can add new effects plug-ins. Premiere Pro ships with 17 such effects, including Equalize, Dynamics, DeNoiser, and Pitch Shift.

Adobe Family Integration

Premiere Pro shares common interface elements with other Adobe tools, including tabbed windows and floating palettes. It also provides ever stronger integration of file and data formats with the other Adobe applications.

Premiere Pro can import layered Photoshop files either as a single flattened file, or with each layer arranged on a separate video track.

After Effects 6.0 can import Premiere Pro projects with video and audio layers on its timeline, including nested sequences, and conversion of motion and opacity keyframes, crops, and cross-dissolves.

Premiere Pro and After Effects can use Edit Original to open audio files in Audition for further editing. Audition can then open the editing session (project) associated with a WAV file.

For DVD authoring, Premiere Pro exports AVI and MPEG files for use in Encore DVD. You can choose your preferred workflow: use Premiere to compress to DVD-ready MPEG format, or import and compress AVI files in Encore. With AVI files, use Edit Original in Encore to open and edit the file in Premiere. With MPEG files, markers in Premiere will be used as chapter points in Encore.

The Adobe Video Collection

The new Premiere Pro is part of a major overhaul of Adobe's digital media product line, including Premiere for video editing, the new Adobe Audition for audio editing (a re-branded version of Cool Edit Pro acquired from Syntrillium), new After Effects version 6.0 for compositing and effects, and the new Adobe Encore DVD for DVD authoring.

You can buy these programs individually, or bundled together in the new Adobe Video Collection. Premiere Pro is priced at US $699 (estimated street price), or $199 to upgrade from any version or platform.

All four programs also are available together bundled in the Standard edition of the Adobe Video Collection for $999, or the Professional edition for $1499, also including Photoshop 7.0 and the professional version of After Effects.

Premiere Pro also is available bundled with video hardware, especially realtime editing systems that provide video capture, acceleration, and output. Matrox has announced support for Premiere Pro with its RT.X100 Xtreme and RT.X10 Xtra systems, and Canopus with its DVStorm2 and DVRaptor RT2. ADS Tech is also shipping its PYRO Professional 1394/FireWire card with full versions of the latest Adobe products, Premiere Pro, Encore DVD and Audition, for $499.

With this new release, Adobe has leapfrogged Premiere Pro into the forefront of next-generation Windows XP video editors. For users, this means a smoother and more efficient editing experience, with real-time preview, drag-and-drop manipulations of clips in the timeline, and better organization of projects in multiple timelines.

Since this is a brand new software product, you can expect some glitches in delivering all this functionality and power. Clearly, Adobe needs to optimize the background processing, especially for conforming audio. But this powerful new platform positions Adobe to continue to improve Premiere Pro in future versions.

References

Adobe - Premiere Pro
    www.adobe.com/products/premierepro

Minnetonka Audio Software - SurCode for Dolby Digital
    www.minnetonkaaudio.com
    www.surcode.com