Premiere 5.1 Review


I just completed a 4 minute "music video" for my youth group (see   and click "Video of Church Youth Retreat") and I must say, it was the closest thing to a "pleasant" experience that I've had editing video since get getting into this mess, although P5.1 is not without its bugs and quirks and there are some features of MSP5.02 I like better (MSP5.2 has been released, but I haven't had a chance to play with it).

Main Problems and Work Arounds

The biggest problem with using P5.1 is that by default, it uses NetShow instead of ActiveMovie. That's fine and dandy, except that absolutely no one in the <US$1000 video card market has released drivers that are compatible with NetShow. This can be turned off, so that P5 uses ActiveMovie, and this does seem to work.

Rendering preview often crashes. You learn to save before rendering a preview. While this is certainly a bug, it is a plus from Media Studio Pro, which might crash at any instant without warning.  The save feature is pretty neat: it will keep automatic backups of however many versions you want.  With MSP, I saved nearly every 5 minutes.   With Premiere 5.1, I only feel the need to save before doing a preview.   Premiere 5.1 has a feature to automatically save every so often, but I found this to not be very useful.  It would always save right when I wanted to stop a clip from playing to set an in or out point and would respond the whole time it was playing but merrily continued playing the clip.  I turned it off within 5 minutes of first turning it on.  They need to add some intelligence and not try to save while the user is trying to do something or playing or capturing video.

The Plus Side

On the plus side, P5 keeps track of the clips rendered for preview so that it can use them when you render the final movie. If you've been previewing transitions and effects as you go, making the final movie involves no rendering at all!  This works much better than the so-called smart render of Media Studio Pro, which never did seem to do the right thing, and the instant something went wrong, would forget about all previously rendered footage.

Video capture in P5 works better than it does in FASTCAP (the application supplied with AVMaster). What I mean is, capture starts almost immediately instead of several seconds after you hit record. I never successfully used capture in MSP. Never could get it to capture sound. P5 also has a time limit feature so that you can have it stop automatically. I'd rather that it stopped at a particular size instead of time since captured clips still can't be edited past 1GB because they don't interleave audio per frame. I wish they'd add to enhancements: interleave audio at 1 frame on captured footage so that you can edit a full 2 GB, and provide a way to capture to multple successive files so that you can do 1 hour captures if you want.  I suspect both of those involve more driver work than Premiere work though.

In Media Studio Pro, I've tried to set up a greater than 10 minute project on the time line, then just render, say 5 minute segments and play them together with FASTCap to get uniterrupted > 2GB video.  Because of MSP's inability to tell time, there would always be an audio glitch.  I was never sure if it was MSP's or FAST's fault.   Now I know for sure it was MSP's.  With Premiere 5.1 I did this, and it was totally glitch free.  I do wish they enhance their batch render so that I could specify in the dialog the time ranges I want to render so I could set up for doing this only one time.  Instead, I have to go through and manually set the work area by dragging each time I want to render the various segments.

The Work Flow

The work flow of Premiere 5.1 is very different from Premiere 4.2 and MSP5 and I can say that I definitely like it now that I've got the hang of it. Its a little confusing when you first read about it, but the power there is so great that its worth learning. I don't want to go back to MSP's way of doing things (which is pretty much the say Premiere 4.2 did things). To do my music video thing in MSP, I'd go through and put cues everypoint I want to include a scene while in the scratch pad. Then, back in the timeline, I'd cut up the scenes with the scissors, adjust the length for the beat of the music, and place them on the timeline, frequently going back to the scratch pad to check the in and out points.

With P5, I pull an avi into the monitor window (similar to the scratch pad, but open all the time), find an in point, mark an in point on the timeline where I want the clip to go, then mark an out point in either the clip or the timeline, and the appropriate portion of the clip gets inserted into the timeline. Then I find another point in the source clip I want to use and repeat. It works so great, I don't ever want to go back. There's also a tool that shows the in and out point of the clip on the timeline at the same time and lets you drag left and right to adjust them both simultaneously.

Adobe has a history of making major changes to user interfaces or adding new innovative ways of doing things.  Everytime they do so, there is a huge hue and cry from the user community about how Adobe has lost touch with their users, how horrible and inefficient the new interface is, how buggy it is or is going to be, etc.  Photoshop 4 is a case in point.  Of course a year later everyone talked about how great the new interface was and how much more productive they are (OK, there are a few fudy-dudies out there, but you get my point).  Then Photoshop 5 came out and everyone seemed to hate the new history palette and complain about how slow and resource hungry its going to be.   Of course, it turned out to be fast, disk and memory prices collapsed, and everyone's happy.  The same is going to be true of Premiere 5 once they work out all the kinks.

Minor Quirks

Double clicking on a clip in the timeline brings it up in the monitor but playing it often plays it backwards. With AVMaster codec, its nearly always. This may apply to ActiveMovie only.  The work around is to just play the  preview instead.  I imagine this would be more of a pain if you are doing a lot of compositing, but then I generally do my compositing in After Effects.

Preview doesn't keep up 29.97fps. I assume NetShow drivers will fix this --- I hope.

For some reason, if you have DirectDraw overlay on and exit P5, the overlay won't work again until you reboot (at least this is true in AVMaster). So I just normally run with DirectDraw turned off, except that sometimes preview get displayed on the screen anyway! Playing a clip in the monitor window "fixes" this usually.

Sometimes while doing capture, the video stops displaying on the external monitor.   This never happens if the monitor window and the project window are closed.  I think its related to switching form monitoring the live feed to displaying a frame in those windows that messes it up.  It may be AVMaster specific, but no other video application I've used seems to have this problem.  Playing a short clip or closing the above mentioned windows usually clears it up.  For AVMaster, the "Big Red Button" successfully resets the board.

You can't move a marker (cue in MSP). But you can attach a one digit label to ten of them.

In the timeline, goto next marker stays at the same marker you're already on and sometimes you can't delete the marker you on. Going to the monitor window, these operations work just fine. I suspect that the time displayed for a marker in the timeline may be off by a frame sometimes, but haven't proved it.

The export module for mpeg can only convert a rendered clip. You can't string an hour of clips on the timeline and create a single mpeg from them. You have to output a single AVI first (which of course is limited to 2 GB).  The same appears to be true for ASF, which has the added restriction of only using the MPEG-4 codec.  At least, if there is a way to change the codec, I can't find it.

The keyframe controls for P5 seem awkward and limited compared to MSP5. I suspect Adobe does this on purpose to create a market for After Effects.  For doing anything more than overlaying a title, the tiny  preview window is pretty much useless.  I really wish they'd merge the After Effects and Premiere products into one unified one.

When I had a moving path in track 1a that didn't fill the frame and there was a transition to track 1b, Premiere would hang trying to render it.

Moving paths first downsample to 640x480, then upsample to the zoomed resolution, resulting in very blurry video.  The Pan filter doesn't suffer from this.


When Media Studio Pro 5.0 came out, it was so buggy, it was completely unusable.   Adobe had no reason to rush Premiere 5.0 out to compete with it.  Most serious MSP users went to Premiere 4.2 a long time ago.  It took two release until Media Studio Pro released a product that was marginally useable, but still had major problems like not being able to tell 30fps-drop frame time accurately, causing audio and video to not sync up properly (the workaround was to set some places to 30fps and others to 29.97fps to create enough error to counteract ulead's errors!).  Adobe rushed out 5.0 before its time and it, like MSP 5.0, was unusable.  It has taken Adobe only a single release to make it usable however.  Hopefully, there will be a 5.1.1 soon to fix the minor quirks.  If Adobe lives up to their past with other products, there will be a couple of such fixes (PhotoShop is up to 5.0.2 and FrameMaker is up to 5.5.6).

My prediction is everyone will continue complaining about the totally new user interface until they've used it a while.  Then they'll never want to go back.   Given Adobe's history of user interface improvements, if they sent out a press release stating they found that programmers are more productive if they name all their variables in Swahili, I'd be headed to the bookstore for a how-to-speak Swahili book that day.  They've got it right in the past, and I think they have got it right here too.