Adobe Premiere Pro CS6: Features, pros and cons

The mainstay of Creative Suite’s video-oriented Production Premium edition, Premiere Pro has had a more thorough makeover than most of its stable mates. Here, the dark user interface isn’t but you can now adjust brightness of the whole UI for comfortable contrast with your footage and panel text.

Editing is a more open affair in CS6, with a default two-up workspace that sets the larger Source and Program monitors side by side above a frame containing the Project panel, Media Browser, Info panel, Effects and Markers panel at the lower left, and the Timeline panel, tools and Audio Meters panel at the lower right. The Program monitor or the Source monitor can spring into full-screen cinema mode with a key press.

It's hardly a revolution on the Final Cut Pro X scale, but ii it doesn't suit you, you can always switch back to the CS5.5 style from the Window menu. Redesigned buttons for the Source and Program monitors come with a button editor to customize the layout.

Other enhancements in Adobe Premiere Pro include a new-style Time Ruler. There arc more changes down below, as the Project Panel now shows resizable 16:9 thumbnails of all clips and imported After Effects project files. Corner icons on the thumbnail indicate whether the clips contain video or audio.

There are two related bonuses here: you can scrub through these thumbnails by mousing over them, and you can set in/out edit points on the thumbnails (either using the mouse and I and O keys, or with standard J, K, L transport shortcuts). You could theoretically create a rough cut just from clips in the Project Panel, leaving your Source monitor unused.

The media browser also offers thumbnail scrubbing and J, K, L editing for streamlining footage before ingest, which is another time-saver. Productivity gains should also accrue from some enhanced trimming methods. Besides shortcuts on the keyboard and numeric keypad to apply clip trimming on the timeline, a live Trim mode turns the Program monitor into a dedicated display showing the outgoing and incoming frames of a trim, with frame counters and controls prominently displayed.

Applying effects has been streamlined, too: a double-click is now all it takes to add an effect to a selected clip. The biggest change in this area, however, is the introduction of Adjustment Layers. This feature works slightly differently from its Photoshop namesake: in Premiere Pro, you add an adjustment layer as a new item on the timeline and apply effects to it. Everything under the layer is influenced by the effect at one time.

It's great for applying one effect across several clips or, because effects are stackable, for applying several effects to the whole sequence very quickly. You can also resize and adjust the position of adjustment layers to selectively apply effects.

The Warp Stabiliser from After Effects CS5.5 also makes its debut in this release of Premiere Pro. It has been tried out with a handheld 3600 pan shot. Even taking advantage of GPU acceleration, there was around four minutes to wait while the shot was analyzed. However, this took place in the background. Played back, the results were initially disappointing: although stabilized, the clip was also heavily cropped. The Borders section of the Warp Stabiliser effect controls allowed changing the framing to 'Stabilise only', which provided a more usable clip. The previous calculations had evidently been saved, as the second clip was delivered in a much-reduced time. Premiere's Effect Controls also allowed us to adjust smoothness fur a better result.

The same clip was also tried in Apple's Final Cut Pro X, which also offers analysis for shaky footage. The process took around the same time to complete, with very similar results- again, some post-calculation adjustment was necessary.

Rolling shutter repair is another matter. This new effect addresses the smearing caused by CMOS sensors in video-capable DSLRs and some video cameras, where vertical lines 'sway' when the camera pans. Using some specially shot footage from the Cannon 5D MkII, a visible improvement was seen just using the default setting, with even better results after changing the scan direction post-analysis. FCP X also offers a fix fur Rolling Shutter problems - it was still very effective, but the process took somewhat longer than Premiere Pro.

While catering for the DSLR element of the video market, Adobe is also keeping up with the ability to ingest and work directly with popular high-end film and broadcast camera formats without transcoding. CS6 adds such native support for HD (1920 x 1080p) and 2K (2880 x 1680) Arriraw files shot with Arri Alexa cameras at a variety of frame rates. The existing native support for RED video (.R3D) and metadata (P. M D) now includes footage shot with RED Scarlet-X and RED Epic (up to 3K) cameras. Canon XF MPEG-2 50 Mbit/sec format footage is also natively supported, so newer models like the Canon Cinema EDS C300 and possibly the new C500 cameras will be compatible.

Multicam support has remained important to Adobe and - perhaps in response to its belated addition to Final Cut Pro X — it's no longer restricted to four cameras. FCP X 10.0.4 allows up to 64 angles, which should be enough, but the ability to support as many streams as you want (system permitting) is still a point for Premiere Pro CS6.You select clips in a Bin, choose Create Multi-Camera Source Sequence to set things up, then use the Multi-Camera monitor, a grid that scales according to the number of cameras in use, to switch views and record the choices to the sequence. The same monitor can be used to edit and reset the views fur sequence.

The Mercury Playback Engine, which brought an accelerated video and effects workflow to Premiere starting with CSS, has also been further refined. If you have a recent MacBook Pro running OS X 10.7 Lion, you can now get GPU-accelerated performance, thanks to new support for AMD Radeon HD 6750M and HD 6770M graphics cards with a minimum of 1GB \IRAM. Such hardware offers the productivity boosts of uninterrupted playback during tasks like resizing panels and real-time effects adjustment.

A whole set of effects can be accelerated with these cards, denoted by an icon in the Effects panel. For example, you can get instant results when vector keying with the Ultra keyer, applying blend modes and working with the enhanced Three-Way Color Corrector. That last tool really benefits from GPU acceleration. Results are shown in real time as you work and a new Uninterrupted Playback feature let us apply color correction as our footage was playing.

Even if you don't have the hardware, you'll probably see a greater benefit from the way the most-used effect controls has been repositioned and expanded fur more prominence. The UI has been streamlined — for example, with the ability to group the three color wheels together under a master control lock. You can also use the new Send ToSpeedGrade command to send completed sequences directly to Adobe's new color grading software, if you have it installed.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6's continued support for RED and now Arri and Canon cinematography cameras keeps the pressure on Apple at the high end. 'Infinite' multi-camera support and Rolling Shutter Repair will also sway some users, while everyone will benefit from the revised user interface, greatly enhanced effects and trimming workflows, and even faster Mercury engine and GPU acceleration.

Overall, this is a very attractive, even essential, upgrade for Premiere users, and an even more tempting alternative to FCPX for newcomers. With Apple issuing a series of updates to put its new-generation package back in contention, there's never been such a hard fight fur video editors' cash.

Price: £810 including VAT
Seller: Adobe
Requirements: Multi-core Intel processor, OS X 10.6 .8, Adobe-certified GPU or MacBook Pro with AMD Radeon HD 6750M/6770M (1GB VRAM) recommended, 4GB RAM (8GB recommended)
Pros: Improved effects workflow, Enhanced Mercury Playback Engine, New editing tools
Cons: Range of GPU support could be wider, Expensive if bought alone compared to FCP X

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