Yep. The headline says it. I’m making the switch to Premiere Pro CS6.
We generate a ton of content at fxguide and fxphd and all of that involves editing in one form or another. Like many others who use OS X as their platform of choice, we’ve been disappointed in the “efforts” coming from Apple to develop a robust and solid editor we can rely on. So starting on May 1st, I began using Premiere Pro CS6 full time in order to determine if we, as a company, want to make the switch over. I plan to write about the experience over the next several months, highlighting the ups and downs of the transition. As the guinea pig for the fx family, I’m looking forward to the experience.
As a bit of background, it’s worth going over the material we generate, as this basically defines whether or not the production problem would be solved by Premiere Pro. Our needs generally break down into two basic categories: screen recordings from fxphd profs and magazine-style edits such as Background Fundamentals or fxguidetv. We also do audio podcasts and the team uses either Final Cut Pro or Soundtrack.
Screen recording edits
For fxphd, the screen recordings can be in any number of sizes, but generally are in the 16:9 or 16:10 aspect ratio. The profs edit the class material together and upload a 100% quality H.264 master QuickTime movie with high quality AAC audio. Final prep of the material is done in our Chicago office, where we run them through our pipeline for final distribution. This process generally includes:
- Audio cleanup – noise reduction and compression to even out levels.
- Adding animations at the start and end, as well as an fxphd watermark
- Minor audio/video edits
- Compression to final distribution size and specs
The other type of edit we do is more of a television show type edit. It includes some on-camera segments, maybe an interview which was filmed with two cameras, some screen recordings, and maybe some other type of material (such as trailers or other footage). This material can come from numerous sources in a variety of formats. A “typical” edit might include footage from:
- EPIC/SCARLET R3D files
- 5D Mark III .MOV files
- Screen captures
- Footage from feature film trailers (QuickTime .mp4 files)
- Material provided from post houses (Full res JPEGS, ProRes QuickTime files, etc)
How we hope Premiere Pro fits in
One of the problems with using Final Cut Pro is that sequence playback is optimized for 16:9 formats such as mastering at 1920×1080 or 1280×720. There are workarounds for this (such as changing the sequence size at final export), but they’re workarounds. In my early experiences, PPro seems to handle this much better.
Mixing various file types (such as ProRes, R3D and H.264) can also lead to playback performance issues. For this reason, before beginning an edit we generally go through an intermediates process where we convert all our material to ProRes LT, keeping the original source resolution. This also helps reduce the CPU strain of transcoding the H.264 files on the fly. PPro is much better at handling multiple formats within the same timeline — at least that is my impression after using it for just under three weeks.
The biggest reason we’re looking at migrating is the fact that Adobe seems truly committed to making PPro a reliable, professional product. The software is actively being developed and the team has been focused on adding features targeted towards users making a living on the product. In fairness, Final Cut X is being actively developed as well, but I personally feel the commitment is much stronger at Adobe. I also like the openness of Adobe — the product doesn’t seem to be developed in a vacuum and the team is active in the user community. The walled off Apple, while very effective for many of their products, isn’t reassuring to the pro user.
One wildcard in this equation is the upcoming release of Smoke 2013. I’m excited about the prospect for sure, but at this point, it’s not a shipping product. It may be great for “finishing” type things — but creative cutting in it could be lacking. Maybe it is still hard to configure and use. These can’t be answered at this point in time, so we felt it best that I go out and dive into Premiere Pro. Even in relationship to Smoke, my push to learn PPro will be useful from a research standpoint so we can more accurately judge what we do moving forward.
Anyway…it’s gonna be a fun summer. Hope you enjoy the ride with me.