Impressions of Premiere
So last night I made a little thing which has apparently been watched by 11,000 people in the past ten hours. I know. I’m just as baffled as you are.
Anyway. There’s a little note on the Vimeo page that you may or may not have noticed, saying I put that together with Adobe Premiere 5.5. Which is true. It was a learning exercise. I’d never launched the program before, much less used it in production, and there’s no better way to learn an NLE than be NLEing.
I’ve had some questions about what I thought of the program and how easy or not-easy it was to adapt to. Thought I’d answer those here.
First things first: Premiere is not very good, really. I mean, it’s basically fine, it’s workable. But it’s not as good as FCP 7 was, in my extensive experience of having used it for ten hours.
The biggest feature that Adobe likes to talk about is their “Mercury Playback Engine” thing, which apparently gives you real-time performance of twenty streams of 4K R3Ds off a USB stick, or some damn thing like that. I can’t say anything about it. I was using the program on my laptop, which doesn’t support any hardware acceleration. So whatever.
One way in which Premiere is really not fast, though, is output to QuickTime. In FCP 7, if you’ve got a fully rendered timeline and you want to output a QuickTime in that same format, the program just copies the frames from one part of your drives to another. It’s wicked fast. But in Premiere, I had a fully rendered timeline, but it still needed to churn for fifteen minutes to output a QuickTime. What exactly is the point of having a fully rendered timeline, then?
It may well be user error, to be honest. I wasn’t there to learn every little in and out and quirk and detail of how the program worked. I was just doing a project. So maybe there’s a way to set the program up so it doesn’t take so long to output. But if so, then why wasn’t it set up that way by default?
Anyway, there are some annoyances. The UI is uglier than sin. Not that FCP 7 was ever going to win any awards for aesthetics, but at least its UI is mostly unobtrusive. It gets out of your way. Premiere seems to be proud of all its little buttons and dials. See? See? You can loop playback! I gave you a button for it! Along with forty other buttons! All far too large!
There’s apparently no full-screen playback. At least none that I found. I was working on a 720p project on a laptop with a bigger-than-720p-but-smaller-than-1080p screen, and I just wanted full-screen playback. In FCP 7 that’s not a problem; it’s a keystroke away. But Premiere evidently does not do it at all. Closest you can get is to fullscreen your player, and the player’s got all these buttons and shit on it.
Media management in Premiere is exactly as it is in FCP 7. That is to say, there isn’t any. You’re gonna be doing all your media management in the Finder.
It’s crashy as hell. In eight hours, I probably had one just-fucking-give-up bomb out to the desktop, which is bad. But worse, I had about six hard-lock-ups. And worst of all, one of those was during a save! That was scary. FCP had its quirks — “General error,” anyone? — but it never, ever crashed on me.
The title tool sucks. Title tools always suck. If you use two different fonts in the same piece of text — say, for italicizing a word — the program gets confused and won’t let you change the font of any part of that piece of text ever again. So throw that title out and start over.
The DVE controls are basically identical to After Effects, which is fine. Not great — I couldn’t find the animation curves, but I also didn’t look very hard — but serviceable.
I couldn’t figure out how to duplicate a transition. I had some snipped-up audio on track two, so I needed to just put simple one-frame crossfades on the ins and outs to keep them from popping. I settled on having to drag a damn crossfade from the effects bin to the timeline, double-click on it, click the duration and then type “one” and “enter” about twelve times, twice for each bit of dialogue. If I’d had even one more line, it would’ve driven me apeshit.
The After Effects integration is cool, but tricky. I had two shots with heads and tails on them, and a 12-frame cross-dissolve between. I wanted to color correct both shots separately, so I clicked each one and did the “replace with comp” trick. When I got back from AE, I found my cross-dissolve was gone, and my heads and tails had been lost. Had to redo some work there, which sucked. That, again, might’ve been user error, dunno. But it shouldn’t really be possible to make that user error. If a shot’s got heads and tails on it, those should be preserved when you bounce to AE!
Oh, and talking of AE, there’s a real pain in the ass regarding rendering. FCP renders individual frames. You can interrupt a render any time you want, and you won’t lose anything. It has no problem rendering half a shot. Premiere evidently can’t do that. I was rendering a particularly long shot when I noticed a mistake in another shot. I interrupted to fix the mistake right then without even thinking about it, assuming Premiere would just pick up the render where it left off. Nope. Had to do the whole shot over. Mother_fuck._
Anyway. This isn’t meant to be comprehensive. Some people just asked my impression of Premiere from the point of view of an FCP editor. In a nutshell, it’s this: Premiere is more-or-less a lateral move from FCP. It doubtless has some nice features, but for pure creative editorial, it’s not as good. But it’s not much worse either. So … meh. Whatever.