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Inside the Creative Cloud: Postproduction With Adobe’s New Premiere Pro CC

Adobe started to receive serious interest from the professional video community with the introduction of Adobe Creative Suite 6 Premiere Pro. Many of these editors were looking for the next generation of nonlinear editing software after Apple change direction with Final Cut Pro. Adobe responded with software that delivered both performance and a familiar look and feel.

This year Adobe has introduced the next version, Premiere Pro CC, as part of its Creative Cloud subscription model. Let me cut to the chase. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether Premiere Pro CC is good enough to either adopt the Cloud or to move beyond FCP 7 or Premiere Pro CS6, then let me reassure you. Yes, it is absolutely that good!

Installation

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. To install Premiere Pro CC, you will first install Adobe’s Creative Cloud desktop application, which manages aspects of your Creative Cloud account including installation and updating your software. As an individual or team subscriber, you have access to all of Adobe’s content creation tools; therefore, you should install as many applications as you find useful. I highly recommend downloading and installing not just Premiere Pro CC, but also Prelude CC, Audition CC, After Effects CC, SpeedGrade CC and Photoshop CC at the very minimum. When you do this, you also get Adobe Media Encoder CC, Maxon Cinema 4D Lite, and the Synthetic Aperture Color Finesse and Imagineer Systems Mocha plug-ins for After Effects.

If you already have CS6 versions of the software installed, the new CC software will not overwrite these files, but the Creative Cloud application will manage both versions for any necessary updates. If you don’t want the CS6 versions on your system any longer, you’ll have to go through the usual de-authorization and uninstall steps as you have previously done with Adobe software.

If you still need Adobe Encore for DVD/Blu-ray authoring, the CS6 version is still required, since there won’t be a new CC version.

With the exception of the FxFactory filters, most plug-ins that you have installed for CS6 will not show up in your CC effects palettes. These plug-ins must be moved to the CC plug-ins folders or re-installed from updates, in order to be accessible within the CC applications.

Adobe has promised faster software updates thanks to this new subscription model, and so far they have made good on that. At the time of this review, Premiere Pro CC has already been updated from version 7.0 to 7.0.1, which brought with it many new user features, as well as some bug fixes.

Features

Premiere Pro CC continues the enhancement of operator commands and features loosely referred to by Adobe as “editing finesse.” Essentially this means adding or changing commands to make editing more fluid, as well as integrating functions that are second nature to experienced Media Composer and Final Cut Pro editors. More of these were added in the 7.0.1 update. One example is the ability to move a clip vertically in the track hierarchy by selecting it and using the Option+Up/Down Arrow keystroke. Premiere Pro CC also sports a few minor user interface tweaks to get rid of a little more wasted space. Cosmetically the biggest thing most users will notice is the move to graphical half-waveforms, not unlike waveforms in Final Cut Pro X. Standard full waveforms are also available.

Adobe has integrated more compression codecs, like the ProRes and DNxHD families, but the design intent is to edit as much as possible with native camera media. There is no built-in transcode function, so if you prefer to work with transcoded media, use Adobe Media Encoder CC or Prelude CC to prepare your files before editing. However, it’s now easier to create custom sequence presets with ProRes or DNxHD as your render format. Premiere Pro CC and Adobe Media Encoder CC now take full advantage of these rendered preview files for faster exports, too.

Although I personally prefer to work with transcoded media, Premiere Pro CC is better than ever with a variety of native camera formats. Simply access the copied camera files using the Media Browser; import these into your project; drop clips onto the timeline and start editing. I slapped together a 1080p test sequence that included an array of files (4K RED RED, ProRes, C300 XF MPEG-2, GH2, 4K M-JPEG from a Canon EOS-1 DC, H.264 from a Canon 5D, AVC-Intra, etc.). The files all played fluidly in real time (using the half-resolution timeline playback setting), which is far better than I’ve experienced in Premiere Pro CS6.

Premiere Pro CC now changes the way editors cut media from one sequence into another. In the past, doing so caused the source sequence to appear within the target sequence as a single, nested clip that contained the original sequence. Now editors have a toggle to control whether a source sequence becomes a nested clip or whether individual clips edit across to corresponding tracks without being nested. This includes control of target track assignment.

The biggest feature for me is Link & Locate. In general, Adobe has improved the media management throughout Premiere Pro CC. Media linking at launch is faster and Premiere Pro CC is better at finding clips and staying connected. Nevertheless, there are times when editors need to change the clip-to-media connections. One example is when a project is color graded without the benefits of XML round-tripping. Here, the online editor may need to relink the graded files to an edited sequence built by the offline editor. Link & Locate makes it simple to match by timecode, file name or other criteria—making Premiere Pro CC very viable as a conform and finishing tool.

Engineering

Under the hood, Adobe has re-engineered both the audio and the video engines that drive Premiere Pro CC. The audio changes are to bring it more in line with Audition CC, which has now become a 64-bit application. The video changes introduce the same deep color science used in SpeedGrade. The SpeedGrade CC application itself has become a bit more “Adobe-fied,” but still operates like the CS6 version. This means the color correction flow is from Premiere Pro CC to SpeedGrade CC with no round-trip back to Premiere. Adobe has sought to enhance the interaction between the two, by integrating the Lumetri color effects from SpeedGrade into Premiere.

Lumetri effects are color preset files (.look format) that may be used as color look-up tables outside of SpeedGrade. These Lumetri presets can be made up of several layers of primary and secondary corrections, but they may be applied as a single effect. Premiere Pro CC installs with a set of stylized presets (bleach bypass, warm, cool, cinematic and so on) that are common to both SpeedGrade CC and Premiere Pro CC. In addition, users can create custom grades in SpeedGrade that may be saved and/or exported as .look files.

When you apply a Lumetri preset in Premiere, you get one of the built-in styles. If you apply the Lumetri filter (rather than a preset), a dialog box opens to link to a saved .look file. Either type of effect can be applied to individual clips or to a whole track or sequence using an adjustment layer. I’ve already used this feature for one client, by creating a series of custom presets for their project with SpeedGrade CC. I then e-mailed the .look files, which they in turn applied to their Premiere Pro CC sequence.

Performance

There have been tangible performance boosts with each new version of Premiere Pro since CS4. This is even more true with Premiere Pro CC. It uses the Mercury Playback Engine, which is a combination of technologies, including 64-bit optimization and GPU acceleration. In CS6 and before, GPU acceleration was limited to CUDA-enabled NVIDIA cards. Adobe had added some OpenCL-based acceleration with CS6, but this only applied to a few Apple MacBook Pro models. In Premiere Pro CC, Adobe has expanded OpenCL acceleration to now include such desktop GPUs as the ATI 5870.

I ran a number of render and export tests on my Mac Pro comparing CS6 and CC versions of Premiere. These tested software emulation, and CUDA (Quadro 4000) and OpenCL (ATI 5870) acceleration modes for the Mercury Playback Engine setting. My test sequence was 7:24 long and made up of five ARRI Alexa ProRes HQ clips. I applied a Fast Color Corrector filter, which is an accelerated effect. My timeline render and export formats were both ProRes 422.

In these tests, Premiere Pro CC was generally twice as fast as CS6 on direct comparison using the same GPU cards and modes. Renders using the Quadro 4000 card were only slightly faster than with the ATI 5870, and export times (using the rendered preview files) were about the same. Surprisingly, even the export times between CC and CS6 differed. In this case, Premiere Pro CC (via Adobe Media Encoder CC) was almost four times faster. My guess is that this relates to better optimization when ProRes is used.

Conclusion

There have been a few bugs at launch (like problems with multicam sequences), which Adobe is addressing. That’s to be expected with any software application. I like all of the “A” company editing products and use them professionally. Each has its pros and cons, but Premiere Pro CC is definitely the best direct replacement for Final Cut Pro “legacy.” It’s fast, handles a wide range of native media and is versatile in many situations. Although some might find the user interface a tad stark, it’s one of the most fluid to reconfigure and resize. Minor user tweaks that will make editors smile, like the ease in altering track height, received a bit more love in this version.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC becomes the logical solution for editors who are most comfortable with a track-based interface. Furthermore, it integrates well into a multi-editor, multi-suite facility. I’ve worked with it in a SAN environment and it’s easy to move projects and media between different volumes and editors. One selling point for a facility is easy project management to create consolidated projects with trimmed (I-frame formats only) media for archiving. A single, self-contained project file with all of your edit data is also welcome. There are too many small enhancements to innumerate, but the bottom line is that Adobe definitely has a winner in Premiere Pro CC.

Product: Adobe Premiere Pro CC
Score:

Pros: Improved playback performance with a wide range of native camera media. Support for ProRes and DNxHD codecs. New Link & Locate functions for better media relinking. Lumetri “looks” presets based on deep color science from SpeedGrade CC.
Cons: Some initial bugs with multicam sequences. Software is available only via an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription.
Bottom Line: This is a strong offering by Adobe that could make Premiere Pro the go-to NLE for a wide range of professional editors. The Creative Cloud subscription model opens up the entire Adobe portfolio of content creation software for the same cost.
MSRP: $49.99 per month for new Creative Cloud members. Other plans available.

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