Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5 test and review

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Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5

Adobe's first serious attempt to address growing competition from the likes of Avid, Pinnacle and Sony came last year with Premiere Pro. To long-time DV enthusiasts, this was the seventh incarnation of Premiere, but Adobe considered the overhaul so significant that it not only renamed the program Pro, but also reset the version number to 1.0. Premiere Pro brought on-board many of the more professional features associated with competitors such as Pinnacle Edition (possibly the program's biggest threat, due to Pinnacle's highly aggressive marketing), and Apple's Final Cut Pro (the light version of which, Final Cut Express, has surely dealt Premiere a killer blow on the Mac platform). Interestingly, most of these pro features were concerned with the program's interface and workflow, rather than cutting tools or effects.
Despite being more businesslike in its approach than Premiere 6.5, Pro 1.0 left us disappointed. Most frustrating was the discovery that the program required a very powerful host PC to deliver anything approaching fluid performance. In our initial tests, V1 had bluntly refused to run on a PC with an AMD Athlon Thunderbird processor (due to its lack of SSE instruction sets), and staggered and lurched on a PC with a 2GHz Pentium 4 CPU. We were eventually able to review it comfortably on a 3GHz P4 laptop, but even then, from time to time, we felt that Premiere Pro was grumbling.
Indeed, while Adobe lists an 800MHz processor and 256MByte of RAM as minimum requirements, it also makes a point of recommending a 3GHz P4 processor and 1GByte of RAM - these recommendations should be taken seriously. This all seems rather perverse when Adobe is currently trying to hold on to an existing user base in a market where DV and FireWire are open standards, and most editors aren't tied to the software that came with their capture boards. With that in mind, we'd have expected Adobe to make the transition to Premiere Pro rather less painful - and certainly not force the purchase of a brand new PC to support it.
Another grumble came from the fact that editing methods had been brought more in line with competitors from Avid and Pinnacle, forcing existing Premiere users to spend time re-learning the interface if they upgraded - again likely to reduce the chances of keeping customers loyal. With Premiere 1.5, none of our major gripes about V1 seem to have been addressed. System requirements are still formidable, and none of the old working methods (notably A/B roll editing) has been restored.
This isn't a full point update, so we can't expect any mind-blowing additions to the toolkit, but Adobe has followed the current market trend of adding High Definition support - import, edit and export of HD content at resolutions of 480p, 720p and 1080i using supported third-party hardware, plus capture of 24P progressive scan content from Panasonic camcorders such as the AG-VX100E DV. These formats are yet to break real ground in the UK, and we were unable to test V1.5 in this environment.
Bézier path curves for motion effects and keyframes are new, too, and there's closer integration with Photoshop and After Effects. The program offers CMX3600 EDL-import capability (earlier versions were limited to export only) along with in/out support for AAF (Advanced Authoring Format) - the multimedia file format that simplifies the exchange of digital media (with metadata) across platforms and between systems and programs.

Premiere Pro 1.5's system requirements are hefty, and this paired with the learning curve when moving from V6.5 to Pro won't do much to encourage users of V6.5 or earlier to upgrade. Project management tools are useful, and Bézier curves in the motion editor are nice, but High Definition support isn't likely to have a huge impact on the UK market for some time yet. Overall, Pro 1.5 is a relatively minor upgrade, so some V1 users will choose to wait for V2 before upgrading. But, Pro 1.5 does its job well, and our intensive usage across three big projects resulted in no tantrums and no crashes. So, possibly, the real appeal of Premiere Pro 1.5 to existing Pro users might be increased stability and a relatively bug-free environment.
There's no denying that Premiere Pro is a very able editor, though we don't find it as tactile and friendly as Edition, or regard its advanced audio tools as anything like as accessible or intuitive as Vegas's. On the whole, V1.5 moves Premiere Pro in the right direction, but without undoing some of the backward steps taken by the original version.


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