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April 23rd, 1999

Review
Premiere 5.1 Makes The Upgrade Grade

Adobe Premiere 5.1
Contact and Other Information
Manufacturer: Adobe Systems, Inc.
Description: Video Editing
Address: Adobe Systems, Inc.
345 Park Avenue
San Jose, CA 95110-2704 U.S.A.

Price: US$549.00
Telephone: 408.536.6000
Fax: 408.537.6000
System Requirements
PowerPC® processor
MacOS software 7.5.5 or later (System 7.5.1 with Radius Video Vision only)
16 MB of application RAM
30 MB of hard-disk space for installation
CD-ROM drive

Premiere 5.1

Like many video professionals, we hesitated before jumping on the Premiere 5.0 bandwagon. Horror stories of missed deadlines and lost projects, plus the lack of Media 100qx drivers, kept some of the many Media 100qx owners using version 4.2.x. Adobe has for some time now made the 5.1 upgrade avalable, and Media 100 has recently released the 5.1 version of their 'QX' drivers. The 'QX' is the lowest end of the Media 100 family of video editing packages, and one of the highest end of Premiere approved video capture cards. 'QX' relies upon Premiere, and special drivers as software instead of the faster, upgradeable-to-realtime Media100 software.

Not wanting to get stuck learning new software (and hardware configurations) on a deadline, we chose to wait until there were no current projects going on. Then, one day after the upgrade, there was a call from a local advertising company which needed a three-minute mixture of still pictures, three video clips and a voice-over.

With three days to complete the job and an almost foreign system to work on, we felt a bit nervous about taking the job, but what better way to learn? After checking that all defaults were set for decent quality, we attempted to capture the three video clips.

This proved to be simple. There was not much difference in capturing between Premiere 4 and 5. We linked the three clips together with various transitions and a few sample pictures that were left over from a previous project. Playing from the time line didn't work perfectly. There were a few problems with frames stuttering. This was, most likely, caused by not turning off unnecessary system extensions. The test clip was rendered out. Everyone was quite pleased with the speed of the render. We estimated about a 2x increase over Premiere 4.2. Playback of the rendered clip was perfect with Quicktime's MoviePlayer. The problem with stuttering frames was fixed by optimizing the system extension set. There have been no further problems playing back from the timeline, and no unwanted audio drifting-the biggest improvement in this upgrade.

With the test clip playing back fine it was time to start the actual project. All the pictures were scanned into Photoshop and prepared for animating. After experimenting with 5.1's animating features we found it lacked the precision of After Effects, Adobe's special effects software. We decided to animate the pictures in After Effects, making sure to match the render settings to those we set in Premiere. There were now about ten Quicktime movies (including the three captured clips).

Trimming the clips was very straightforward. Premiere's new window configuration took very little time to get used to. The new monitor window makes trimming the clips much easier than in previous versions of Premiere but the upgrade is a bit confusing for users of older versions. Tying the clips together was just as easy, because the new timeline window has numerous enhancements over previous versions. The ability to "hide" tracks on the timeline lessens clutter in the timeline window. 5.1's timeline now displays video and audio tracks in a much more understandable way: the same way After Effects displays video tracks, and Photoshop displays its layers. The top video track in the timeline is the top layer of the video.

The new tabbed palettes are great for those who lack extra desktop space. The ability to dock and remove palettes makes customizing the interface a breeze. The new and much-needed Navigator palette works almost like the Photoshop Navigator palette. It's a logical way to navigate within the timeline. The ability to rearrange the order of transitions in the transition palette is an excellent time-saving feature for anyone who hates looking for that cross dissolve transition in a list of 75 others.

The on-line help is very easy to use and, in many cases, actually helpful. This is so rare an achievement that Adobe deserves special congratulations for it. The printed manual on the other hand was quite disappointing. The very first thing we noticed was Adobe's re-use of the same picture, over and over. One would think Adobe could afford to make some different pictures. The manual is also hard to read, although it does have depth and plenty of screen shots. It is over-technical for beginners, yet cumbersome for advanced users. It should be reconceived, rewritten, and redesigned-perhaps in two parts. If Adobe's software is to be perceived as being at the cutting edge, the content, design and printing quality of its manuals should display the innovation and wit required to be in synch with today's leading graphic artists.

In conclusion, there are improvements to just about every part of this program. Premiere 5.1's major enhancements aren't easy enough to figure out for users of previous versions, so allow time to make the transition from 4.2, because the learning curve is steep. The effort is worth it: 5.1 is in nearly every way a better program. People who are new to Premiere and digital video will be amazed at its power and usefulness. We believe this is an upgrade worth having.


Final Score (Maximum score is 5 Gadgies)
4 Gadgies
Pros The enhancements to the interface and performance
make this a a great upgrade.
Cons The learning curve may be steep for many users.

Don't upgrade to this if you have some tight deadlines looming, but make the transition when you can.

Adobe Links

Adobe's Premiere 5.1 Web Page

Purchasing Links for Adobe Premiere 5.1

Outpost - US$549



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