Understanding Premiere Pro Transitions

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Switchers from Apple Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro might miss the wealth of inexpensive transition effects offered by third-party and hobbyist plug-in developers. Native Premiere Pro transitions, like dissolves and wipes, can be applied just like in FCP. Drop the transition on a cut and you are done. Unfortunately third-party transitions don’t work this way, leading some users to conclude that they just don’t work or that Premiere Pro is less versatile.

(EDIT: This changed somewhat a day ago, when Noise Industries released FxFactory 4.1.1. Their transitions now are drag-and-drop enabled, just like Adobe’s default transitions. For other filters, like Sapphire Edge transitions, they must still be applied as I outline in the rest of this post.)

df_pprotrans_2The confusion comes, because Premiere Pro filters are based on a similar architecture to After Effects. Therefore, applying third-party transitions in Premiere Pro needs to be done in much the same manner as in After Effects. Instead of creating a transition between two adjacent clips on the same video track, third-party transitions work by creating a transition between clips on adjacent vertical tracks. In other words, not from A to B on V1, but rather A on V1 to B on V2 or the other way around.

Here are some basic tips to make Premiere Pro’s transitions work for you. (Click on any image for an expanded view.)

df_pprotrans_4Start by moving your B clip up one video level, such as from V1 to V2 or V2 to V3. The new Option + Up Arrow command works well in Premiere Pro CC. Extend the end of the A or B clip or both. This should create an overlap of the two clips equal to the length of the intended duration of the transition. Use the blade tool to add a cut on the B clip (on the higher track) at the end of the overlap.

Access your transition from the transitions group of that filter family. This will be contained within the main Video Effects folder, not the main Video Transitions folder. Drag-and-drop a third-party transition effect to the overlapping portion of the B clip.df_pprotrans_3

df_pprotrans_5Open the Effect Controls for that filter and set the background selection and transition direction. Set beginning and ending keyframes or set it to use or ignore the percentage value. Typically a transition goes from 0% to 100% over the length of the clip to which it is applied. Adjust the filter controls as needed. The example that I’ve shown is a Lens Flare Dissolve from the SapphireEdge transitions collection. With this effect, you can tweak some parameters in the Effect Controls window, but you can also pick from a wide range of presets using the SapphireEdge presets browser. Something worth noting is that the unrendered, real-time performance of this effect is somewhat slow in FCP X, but plays very well in Premiere Pro CC.df_pprotrans_6

Although these steps might feel cumbersome to some users when compared with FCP’s drag-and-drop approach, they are more or less the same as in After Effects. They also offer a greater level of control than in some simpler transition implementations.

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(UPDATE: If you are running an older version of FxFactory, there have been conflicts with SpeedGrade CC. Please download the FxFactory 4.1.1 update from the Noise Industries website to correct this.)

©2013 Oliver Peters

Offline to Online with Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X

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Most NLE makers are pushing the ability to edit with native camera media, but there are still plenty of reasons to work in an offline-to-online editing workflow. Both Apple Final Cut Pro X and Adobe Premiere Pro CC make it very easy to do this.

Apple Final Cut Pro X

df_offon_2Apple built offline/online right into the design of FCP X. The application can internally transcode optimized media (such as converting GoPro files to ProRes) and proxy media. Proxy media is usually a half-sized version using the ProRes Proxy codec. There’s a preference toggle to switch between original/optimized or proxy media, with FCP X taking care of making sure all transforms and effects are applied properly between both selections.

df_offon_3What most folks don’t know is that you can “cheat” this system. If you import media and choose to copy it into your Event folder, then source media is stored in the Original Media folder within the Event folder. If you create proxies, those files are stored in the Transcoded Media – Proxy Media folder within the Event folder. It is possible to create and place these folders via the Finder. You just have to be careful about exact name and location. Once you do this, it is possible via the Finder, to copy camera media and edit proxies directly into these folders. For example, your DIT might have created proxies for you on location, using Resolve.

df_offon_4Once you launch FCP X, it will automatically find these files. The main criteria is that file names, timecode and duration are identical between the two sets of files. If X properly recognizes the files, you can easily toggle between original/optimized and proxy with the application behaving correctly. If you are unsure of creating these folders in the first place, then I suggest setting these up within FCP X by importing and transcoding a single bogus clip, like a slate or camera bars. Once the folders are set by FCP X, delete this first clip. DO NOT mix the workflows by importing/transcoding some of the clips via FCP X and then later altering or replacing these clips via the Finder. This will completely confuse X. With these few caveats, it is possible to set up a multi-user offline-online workflow using externally-generated media, but still maintaining control via FCP X.

UPDATE: With the FCP X 10.1 update, you must generate proxies with FCP X. Externally-generated proxies do not link as they did up to 10.0.9.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

df_offon_5A more customary solution is available to Adobe editors thanks to the new Link and Locate feature. A common scenario is that editors might cut a spot in an offline edit session using proxy edit media – such as low-res files with timecode “burn-ins”. Then the camera files are color corrected in an outside grading session and rendered as final, trimmed clips that match the timeline clip lengths, with a few seconds of “handles”. Now the editor has to conform the sequence by linking to the new high-res, graded files.

With Premiere Pro CC you’d start the process in the normal manner by ingesting and cutting with the proxy files. When the cut is locked, create a trimmed project for the sequence, using the same handle length as the colorist will use. This is created using the Project Manger and you can select the option to make the clips Offline. Next, send an EDL or XML file for your locked cut, plus the camera media to the colorist.

df_offon_6Once you get the graded files back, open your trimmed Premiere Pro project. All media will be offline. Select the master clips and pick the Link Media option to open the Link Media dialogue window. Using the Match File Properties settings, set the parameters so that Premiere Pro will properly link to the altered files. Sometimes files names will be different, so you will have to adjust the the Link and Locate parameters accordingly, by deselecting certain matching options. For example, you might want a match strictly by timecode, ignoring file names.

Press Locate and navigate to the new location of the first missing file and relink. Normally all other clips in the same relative path will automatically relink, as well. Now you’ve got your edited sequence back, except with media populated by the final, high-quality files.

©2013 Oliver Peters

Adobe Premiere Pro CC

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Adobe started to receive serious interest from the professional video community with the introduction of Adobe Creative Suite 6 Premiere Pro. Many of these editors were looking for the next generation of nonlinear editing software after Final Cut Pro changed direction. Adobe responded with software that delivered both performance and a familiar look-and-feel. This year Adobe has introduced the next version – Premiere Pro CC – as part of its Creative Cloud subscription model. Let me cut to the chase. If you’ve been sitting on the fence about whether Premiere Pro CC is good enough to either adopt the Cloud or to move beyond FCP 7 or Premiere Pro CS6, then let me re-assure you. Yes, it is absolutely that good!

Installation

Let’s dive into the nitty-gritty. To install Premiere Pro CC, you first install the Creative Cloud desktop application. This manages aspects of your Creative Cloud account, including installation and updating your software. As an individual or Team subscriber, you have access to all of Adobe’s content creation tools; therefore, you should install as many applications as you find useful. I would highly recommend downloading and installing not just Premiere Pro CC, but also Prelude CC, Audition CC, After Effects CC, SpeedGrade CC and Photoshop CC at the very minimum. When you do this, you also get Adobe Media Encoder CC, Cinema4D Lite and the Color Finesse and Mocha plug-ins for After Effects.

df_pprocc_5If you already have CS6 versions of the software installed, the new CC software will not overwrite these files, but the Creative Cloud application will manage both versions for any necessary updates.  If you don’t want the CS6 versions on your system any longer, you’ll have to go through the usual de-authorization and uninstall steps as you have previously done with Adobe software. If you still need Adobe Encore for DVD/Blu-ray authoring, the CS6 version is still required, since there won’t be a new CC version. With the exception of the FxFactory filters, most plug-ins that you have installed for CS6 will not show up in your CC effects palettes. These plug-ins must be moved to the CC plug-ins folders or re-installed from updates, in order to be accessible within the CC applications.

Adobe has promised faster software updates thanks to this new subscription model and so far they have made good on that. At the time of this review, Premiere Pro CC has already been updated from version 7.0 to 7.0.1, which brought with it many new user features, as well as some bug fixes.

Features

df_pprocc_4Premiere Pro CC continues the enhancement of operator commands and features loosely referred to by Adobe as “editing finesse”. Essentially this means adding or changing commands to make editing more fluid, as well as integrate functions that are second nature to experienced Media Composer and Final Cut Pro editors. More of these were added in the 7.0.1 update. One example is the ability to move a clip vertically in the track hierarchy by selecting it and using the Option+Up/Down Arrow keystroke. Premiere Pro CC also sports a few minor user interface tweaks to get rid of a little more wasted space. Cosmetically the biggest thing most users will notice is the move to graphical half-waveforms, not unlike waveforms in Final Cut Pro X. Standard full waveforms are also available.

Adobe has integrated more use of compression codecs, like the ProRes and DNxHD families, but the design intent is to edit as much as possible with native camera media. There is no built-in transcode function, so if you prefer to work with transcoded media, use Adobe Media Encoder CC or Prelude CC to prepare your files before editing. However, it’s now easier to create custom sequence presets with ProRes or DNxHD as your render format. Premiere Pro CC and Adobe Media Encoder CC now take full advantage of these rendered preview files for faster exports, too.

Although I personally prefer to work with trancoded media, Premiere Pro CC is better than ever with a variety of native camera formats. Simply access the copied camera files using the Media Browser; import these into your project; drop clips onto the timeline and start editing. I slapped together a 1080p test sequence that included a myriad of files (4K RED One, ProRes, C300 XF MPEG2, GH2, 4K M-JPEG from a Canon 1DC, H.264 from a Canon 5D, AVC-Intra, etc.). These all played fluidly in real-time (using the half-resolution timeline playback setting), which is far better than I’ve experienced in Premiere Pro CS6.

Premiere Pro CC now changes the way editors cut media from one sequence into another. In the past, doing so caused the source sequence to appear within the target sequence as a single, nested clip that contained the original sequence. Now editors have a toggle to control whether a source sequence becomes a nested clip or whether individual clips edit across to corresponding tracks without being nested. This includes control of target track assignment.

df_pprocc_2The biggest feature for me is Link & Locate. In general, Adobe has improved the media management throughout Premiere Pro CC. Media linking at launch is faster and Premiere Pro CC is better at finding clips and staying connected. Nevertheless, there are times when editors need to change the clip-to-media connections. One example is when a project is color graded without the benefits of XML roundtripping. Here, the online editor may need to relink the graded files to an edited sequence built by the offline editor. Link & Locate makes it handy to match by timecode, file name or other criteria – making Premiere Pro CC very viable as a conform and finishing tool.df_pprocc_3

Engineering

Under-the-hood, Adobe has re-engineered both the audio and the video engines that drive Premiere Pro CC. The audio changes are to bring it more in line with Audition CC, which has now become a 64-bit application. The video changes introduce the same deep color science used in SpeedGrade. The SpeedGrade CC application itself has become a bit more “Adobe-fied”, but still operates like the CS6 version. This means the color correction flow is from Premiere Pro CC to SpeedGrade CC with no roundtrip back to Premiere. Adobe has sought to enhance the interaction between the two, by integrating the Lumetri color effects from SpeedGrade into Premiere.

Lumetri effects are color preset files (.look format) that may be used as color look-up tables outside of SpeedGrade. These Lumetri presets can be made up of several layers of primary and secondary corrections, but may be applied as a single effect. Premiere Pro CC installs with a set of stylized presets (bleach bypass, warm, cool, cinematic and so on) that are common to both SpeedGrade CC and Premiere Pro CC. In addition, users can create new, custom grades in SpeedGrade, which may be saved and/or exported as .look files.

df_pprocc_6When you apply a Lumetri preset in Premiere, you get one of the built-in styles. If you apply the Lumetri filter (rather than a preset), a dialogue box opens to link to a saved .look file. Either type of effect can be applied to individual clips or to a whole track or sequence using an adjustment layer. I’ve already used this feature for one client, by creating a series of custom presets for their project with SpeedGrade CC. I then e-mailed the .look files, which they in turn applied to their Premiere Pro CC sequence.

Performance

There have been tangible performance boosts with each new version of Premiere Pro since CS4. This is even more true with Premiere Pro CC. It uses the Mercury Playback Engine, which is a combination of technologies, including 64-bit optimization and GPU acceleration. In CS6 and before, GPU acceleration was limited to CUDA-enabled NVIDIA cards. Adobe had added some OpenCL-based acceleration with CS6, but this only applied to a few Apple MacBook Pro models. In Premiere Pro CC, Adobe has expanded OpenCL acceleration to now include such desktop GPUs as the ATI 5870.

I ran a number of render and export tests on my Mac Pro comparing CS6 and CC versions of Premiere. These tested software emulation, CUDA (Quadro 4000) and OpenCL (ATI 5870) acceleration modes for the Mercury Playback Engine setting. My test sequence was 7:24 long and made up of five ARRI ALEXA ProResHQ clips. I applied a Fast Color Corrector filter to these, which is an accelerated effect. My timeline render and export formats were both ProRes422. In these tests, Premiere Pro CC was generally twice as fast as CS6 on direct comparison, using the same GPU cards and modes. Renders using the Quadro 4000 card were only slightly faster than with the ATI 5870 and export times (using the rendered preview files) were about the same. Surprisingly, even the export times between CC and CS6 differed. In this case, Premiere Pro CC (via Adobe Media Encoder CC) was almost four times faster. My guess is that this relates to better optimization when ProRes is used.

Conclusion

There have been a few bugs at launch (like problems with multi-cam sequences), which Adobe is addressing. That’s to be expected with any software application. I like all of the “A” company editing products and use them professionally. Each has its pros and cons, but Premiere Pro CC is definitely the best direct replacement for Final Cut Pro “legacy”. It’s fast, handles a wide range of native media and is versatile in many situations. Although some might find the user interface a tad stark, it’s one of the most fluid to re-configure and resize. Minor user tweaks that will make editors smile, like the ease in altering track height, received a bit more love in this version.

Adobe Premiere Pro CC becomes the logical solution for editors who are most comfortable with a familiar track-based interface. Furthermore, it integrates well into a multi-editor, multi-suite facility. I’ve worked with it in a SAN environment and it’s easy to move projects and media between different volumes and editors. One selling point for a facility is easy project management to create consolidated projects with trimmed (I-frame formats only) media for archiving. A single, self-contained project file with all of your edit data is also welcomed. There are too many small enhancements to innumerate, but the bottom line is that Adobe definitely has a winner in Premiere Pro CC.

UPDATE – September News

Adobe has just announced a big update scheduled for mid-October that affects its Creative Cloud video applications. There are many improvements throughout, as well as a new application – Prelude Live Logger for tablets. The biggest feature to affect Premiere Pro editors is the new Direct Link (to SpeedGrade). This enables a seamless back-and-forth grading workflow between Premiere Pro CC and SpeedGrade CC. Simply click the Direct Link menu option and your Premiere Pro sequence is flipped over to SpeedGrade. Tracks, transitions, adjustment layers and multi-track composites are accurately represented in the SpeedGrade timeline. Apply grading as you usually would and then send this back to Premiere.

Within the Premiere Pro CC timeline, clips and adjustment layers each have a new Lumetri effect applied to it. The Lumetri .look file format is a LUT preset that can carry any number of SpeedGrade primary, secondary and filter layers within a single filter. All SpeedGrade corrections are accurately applied without any rendering in the roundtrip.

The procedural steps are somewhat similar to the roundtrip between Apple FCP 7 and Color. There, new media was rendered by Color to which the “returned” FCP 7 sequence linked. Not so with Adobe’s Direct Link, as no new media is rendered by SpeedGrade. This workflow also enables an easy return to SpeedGrade for further adjustments. To my knowledge, there is no other low-cost grading workflow that functions this way between an NLE and a separate color grading application.

Originally written for Digital Video magazine

©2013 Oliver Peters

Final Cut Pro X versus Premiere Pro CS6

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The struggle within most shops that invested in Apple’s Final Cut Pro is whether to stay put a while longer, adopt Final Cut Pro X or cut the cord and move on. For many this means shifting to the Adobe Production Premium bundle – part of Creative Suite. Most of the editors and facilities in my sphere are doing just that. I’m one of only two local editors that I know of, who is actually using FCP X professionally. The rest are in the process of shifting to Premiere Pro, while maintaining some continued use of FCP “legacy”. This post is not intended as a “shoot out” or to say one is better than the other. Both are good tools and much of the choice gets down to personal preference. Instead, my goal is to lay out some random considerations in making the move.

Cross-platform / performance

Premiere Pro runs on Mac OS X and Windows workstations and laptops, while Final Cut Pro X is a Mac-only product. The biggest consideration is that by having the tool available to Windows, you open your access to the fastest machines and GPU cards. Premiere on a PC can tap into the faster NVIDIA CUDA-enabled cards, which is not an option for either Premiere or FCP X on the Mac. Although Premiere runs with both CUDA and non-CUDA cards on Macs, the selection is limited.

Adobe’s standalone software must be purchased with either a Mac or Windows license and switching platforms requires cross-grading the license. Unlike Avid, you cannot simply go from a PC workstation at a facility to a MacBook Pro at home with a simple de-activation/re-activation process. The exception is the Creative Cloud subscription, with permits access to both Mac and Windows licenses on up to two machines, as long as they aren’t used at the same time.

Naturally, if you opt for Final Cut Pro X, you have software that has been tweaked for the most current Apple hardware. We can argue the merits of CUDA, OpenGL and OpenCL acceleration, but it’s pretty clear that FCP X running on a decked-out iMac outperforms the application on a Mac Pro tower.

Suite versus “suite

Premiere Pro is generally purchased as part of the Production Premium or Master Collection software bundles – or as part of a Creative Cloud subscription. Final Cut Pro X is only available as standalone software through the Mac App Store. The beauty of the Adobe software is its integration, with direct links between Premiere Pro and After Effects, Prelude, Audition or SpeedGrade. These aren’t all fully developed yet, but it’s a key reason some editors prefer Premiere Pro.

On the other hand, there’s a large ecosystem growing up around Final Cut Pro X that constitutes much of the same. It’s not an official “suite” of software and interoperability is limited to translations of FCPXML. For similar dollars, you get similar capabilities – only with the added ability to pick and choose what’s right for your workflow.

Plug-ins

The plug-in architecture for Premiere Pro has historically been weak. Many of the third-party After Effects plug-ins show up and work within Premiere Pro, but some don’t. If you edit in Premiere, you are best off doing your effects in After Effects. Lately, developers have been tweaking their filters to make them work – or work better – inside Premiere.

To compare, Final Cut has no plug-in architecture. Instead third-party plug-ins use FxPlug through Motion and then show up inside FCP X as a Motion template, rather than a traditional plug-in. This allows developers to not only create updated plug-ins for Motion and FCP X, but also add new and unique effects and transitions built strictly as Motion projects. These in turn are published to FCP X as effects. Since this latter approach requires less programming skill, the market for low-cost (and even free) FCP X plug-ins has exploded. Not to mention, there are effects and transitions for FCP X that simply don’t exist – or can’t easily be re-created - for any other NLE.

Organizational tools

All NLEs are giant databases tracking information. Final Cut Pro X takes this to a new level and uses ratings, keywords and smart collections as a means for fast and automatic organization of your media. Plus a considerable amount of camera and textual metadata is tracked in the background. This doesn’t mean that Premiere Pro doesn’t track a lot of data, as well. Open the metadata display window and you find plenty of fields that are assignable to each clip. Bins can be filtered by a search field, which will reduce the amount of clips displayed according to the search criteria being typed in.

User interface configurations

Final Cut Pro X’s interface design is based on panels and windows that can be opened and closed as needed. It is arranged well for single and dual-screen layouts, though you have very few options to move any of these windows around and create custom screen layouts. Premiere Pro uses a system of dockable tabs common across several of Adobe’s applications, including After Effects and Photoshop. Re-arrange these as you see fit and save custom workspace layouts.

Tracks versus trackless

Premiere Pro uses the “traditional” track-based timeline structure, where audio and video is separated into tracks and clips are positioned on the timeline based on a reference to absolute time. Final Cut Pro X’s timeline does not use tracks, but instead lays out clips according to storylines and connected clips. These are linked to each other in a parent-child relationship. This allows groups of clips to be moved, by simply moving the clip on the storyline to which the others are attached. There is no vertical hierarchy to audio and video content as tracks. Although video is displayed to the viewer from the top down, audio and video connected clips can be linked above or below the central primary storyline.

Project and clip management

Premiere Pro creates a single, self-contained data file for every edit project. This file contains the links to all media on your hard drives and the edited sequences created from these. Final Cut Pro X divides its structure into Events (source media) and Projects (edited sequences). These correspond to separate folders on your hard drive as well as divisions within the FCP X interface. Event folders can contain either actual source media content – or alias files pointing to other locations on your hard drives for that source media.

Media management

At the end of a production, many editors like to organize the final edited sequence and the clips used within it into a single “consolidated” project. This means the source clips have been trimmed to only the portions used, plus a few seconds of “handles” on the ends of the trimmed clips. Premiere Pro allows you to do this via its Project Manager tool. FCP X currently does not allow any clip trimming. You can copy a Project (edited sequence) with its used clips to a new Event, but then it requires a second step to organize the media. That step copies the media itself for all used clips into the new Event that was created.

Multiple editor interaction

Right now, neither tool is very good for collaborative editing. Final Cut Pro X works best to have all Event and Project folders at the root level of drives and only one editor can access those at a time. There is an “add SAN location” feature for shared storage environments, but it doesn’t appear to work with all SANs. The best method is to have media on a SAN, but keep the Event and Project files local to each system, with the media linked to these. If one or more editors is working on the same production, then each can have local, “mirrored” versions of the Event folders. To exchange edited sequences, simply copy and transfer the Project files that you’d like to share.

In the case of Premiere Pro, the current workflow is similar to that of FCP 7. It will likely change after NAB, where Adobe is expected to show Adobe Anywhere as a real product and its entry into collaborative editing. Currently, if multiple editors work on the same Premiere-based production, media can be on a SAN, but the project files should be on local drives. Unfortunately, you cannot open multiple project files at once. When you import another editor’s sequence into your project, it annoyingly imports all the associated master clips, even through they may already exist within your project. These cannot be removed, otherwise clips in your imported sequence will go offline.

[EDIT - My Premiere Pro import issues were challenged by a reader, so I went back and did some testing. It appears that if two editors create two unique projects, but using the same media (like in a shared storage facility), then duplicate master clips are created upon import. However, if the second project is created using a "save as" command, then sequences imported from it back into the original project do not create duplicate master clips.]

List interchange

Final Cut Pro X only interchanges data with external applications using the FCPXML data format. This is different than other versions of XML, which means you have to use translation to get from FCP X to FCP 7, for example. Premiere Pro supports XML, EDL, OMF and AAF (limited).

Tape handling (or not)

Neither application is great for videotape-based workflows. Premiere Pro has capture-from-tape and output modules, but it’s not as solid as FCP 7 and definitely not as good as Avid Media Composer. On the other hand, FCP X’s is non-existent. There is limited support for Firewire-enabled videotape decks, like HDV, but you really end up using the capture/output utilities of the third-party hardware cards (AJA, Blackmagic Design, Matrox, MOTU).

The Cold Mountain moment

Feature film editors’ use of specific NLEs does not amount to a large market segment for either of these manufacturers (nor Avid, for that matter, either). But the association with a Hollywood blockbuster fuels aspirational marketing in other sectors. It wasn’t until Walter Murch cut Cold Mountain – along with the Coen Brothers’ use of FCP – that Final Cut started to get noticed by a large portion of the professional editing community as a viable tool. Neither Apple nor Adobe have had that yet with Premiere Pro or FCP X. There has not been a major feature film cut with either.

Adobe is a bit closer in that many films have touched on Premiere Pro as a conduit to get into After Effects or handling some conforming tasks. Naturally, Adobe is more than happy to let the lines be blurred through omission between these roles and doing an actual creative edit of a film. That is likely to change this year. This is purely a guess, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a studio film being cut on FCP X or Premiere Pro at some point during 2013.

Pricing and openness

For now, when you compare cost, FCP X is the better deal. Even when you add more applications and utilities to fill in the gaps, the cost is lower than Premiere Pro. Add to that the fact that Mac App Store purchases can run on multiple machines under a single Apple ID, thus bringing the cost per machine even lower. Adobe is in the process of changing its sales and licensing structure through the Creative Cloud mechanism, but the limit is typically two machines. The beauty here is that you have access to the whole host of Adobe creative applications for video, photography, web and design as part of a monthly subscription model.

Over the course of the first year on one machine, cost is probably going to be similar for most users. If you use multiple machines, own the software for several years or use more than the average number of applications, then the scale will tip in favor of one company or the other. Both the Mac App Store and Creative Cloud models allow for more rapid updating of software than in previous years.

Openness and company response may also be a factor in your purchasing decisions. Apple is secretive about new product development. They do listen to customer feedback, but they don’t show it publicly. Adobe has tried to be very proactive in their outreach to the professional creative community. In the end, the net result may be the same in how it translates into new features that you can use.

Interesting tools

Both NLEs offer tools beyond just media organization and editing. For instance, both include stabilization, but Premiere Pro includes extra touches to fix rolling shutter artifacts. FCP X includes optical flow processing for high-quality variable speed effects. Final Cut features a number of non-destructive “automatics” for image and sound analysis on ingest and shape/shot recognition. Premiere Pro offers speech-to-text analysis. A lot of these tools fall into the “nice to have, but I never use it” category for me. Still, if these are worthwhile for you, then take a closer look.

Batch exports

Neither tool offers good batch export tools like I’m used to with FCP 7, however, each offers queued exporting functions of edited sequences. In Premiere Pro, if I want to export multiple sequences, or the same sequence as multiple deliverables, then all I need to do is set up a queue in Adobe Media Encoder. With Final Cut Pro X, I can use the Share menu to export straight from the timeline or send Projects to Compressor. Unfortunately neither one lets me export a QuickTime reference file that can be used in other encoders. You first have to export a self-contained master file if you intend to use it with other software.

Responsiveness

This is a big one for me and a good place to end this list. In its current form, FCP X feels a tad buggy to me. Response is generally better on an iMac. I’m mainly on Mac Pros, so playback often just doesn’t look smooth. It’s definitely not dropping frames, but looks like the graphics card (usually an ATI 5870) simply isn’t refreshing as well as it should. The interface also tends to feel “sticky” as I’m going between windows. It “forgets” where it is during skimming when switching between a clip in the Event browser and the timeline. Then it takes a bit of clicking around in the interface to get it to “wake up”.

There seems to be some type of RAM leak issue,too. The longer I work on it in a day with large Events (bins), the more sluggish it becomes. This requires me to close and relaunch the application to get peppier performance.

I don’t see any of this with Premiere Pro. I do miss the skimming features of FCP X (no, hover scrub is NOT the same), but otherwise, the Premiere Pro user interface interaction seems to be better for now. I’d say for me, this is an annoyance and not a deal-breaker, but it definitely needs to be addressed by Apple.

©2013 Oliver Peters

Playing with Epic frames

As RED Digital Cinema moves beyond the RED One camera, post production folks will need to keep up with the changes in files mastered on these next-generation RED cameras. RED’s Epic camera is starting to make it into the production world in ever-increasing numbers, but to date, most NLEs on the market aren’t ready yet to accept these files. Adobe has been leading the charge with Epic support available in Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and After Effects CS 5.5. To date, Premiere Pro is the only desktop NLE to be able to open media files and edit sequences using Epic frames in native sizes, such as 5120 x 2160 and 5120 x 2560.

I still advocate conversions prior to editing using RED’s free Redcine-X or The Foundry’s Storm and then editing in the NLE of your choice. If you want to start cutting straight from the camera raw Epic files, then today, Premiere Pro CS 5.5 is just about your only option. This could change with Final Cut Pro X, but we’ll have to wait and see. If you prefer Media Composer or FCP7, then for now you are limited to smaller frame sizes and only RED One files.

So far, my Epic testing has been purely experimental, with only a few test frames generously posted at RED User by Jarred Land and others. I haven’t really been able to check real-world performance – merely how the files work within Premiere Pro. To that end, I’ve focused on color manipulation. I feel there are two viable approaches to the workflow, when you are color correcting the raw files within an NLE like Premiere Pro.

Source clips set to REDcolor2/REDlogFilm – Click to see an enlarged view

The first is to make all the color adjustments within the RED raw source settings pane. Here you can make all the raw-to-RGB adjustments, as well as subjectively adjusting curves, color balance, levels, etc. The second approach is to set a base level with the intent of doing all of your color grading using the regular NLE color correction tools, plug-ins and filters. From a standpoint of image quality, I don’t see much difference between color adjustments made within the source settings panel and those made in the timeline using standard color correction tools. With that in mind, I feel that the best workflow is the latter – use a basic raw setting that applies to all clips and then do your subjective grading in the standard environment.

One thing to point out is that Redcine-X and Storm update the .rmd (camera metadata looks) file when a clip is altered. You can use either of these applications to set the grading for a raw clip and then simply load that preset from the source settings pane in Premiere Pro or After Effects. By doing so, you can make color adjustments in Redcine-X or Storm and have those show up within the Adobe apps without any exports or renders.

The camera “look” that seems most conducive to a workflow where you grade after raw conversion is to use a flat setting that can easily be manipulated. In the newest Premiere Pro RED Importer source settings pane, this means using Color Version 2, a Color Space of REDcolor2 (or REDcolor – slightly more saturated) and a Gamma Curve of REDlogFilm. ISO, Kelvin and Tint should be adjusted to taste, but basically Kelvin/Tint should be set to a neutral white balance. An ISO value of 800 will tend to place the signal in the middle to middle-lower part of the histogram; however, experiment with the ISO setting for an optimal value. Now leave the other color controls alone.

By doing this you have effectively created an image that is very similar to the Log-C profile of an ARRI ALEXA or a scanned 35mm film negative. It provides a good neutral starting point for grading, which can be readily moved into a wide range of creative looks. In fact, this setting responds well to the built-in Cineon Converter, with a few tweaks.

One of the biggest advantages to working this way is that you can stay within the world of all your familiar tools. Premiere Pro CS 5.5 has become much more responsive to third-party plug-ins. I’ve found that common filters like Magic Bullet Looks, Colorista II, Mojo and GenArts’s Sapphire have a much-improved responsiveness compared with earlier versions. As such, it’s quite viable to grade an entire project within a Premiere Pro timeline without bouncing over to After Effects or relying on a dedicated grading application like DaVinci Resolve. In short, drop your native Epic clips into a Premiere Pro project, set the clip source settings to a neutral preset and then adjust the clips on the timeline by using the standard and/or third party filters.

I’ve become particularly found of using the Sapphire plug-ins. Now that they work rather well inside Premiere Pro, you can quickly develop “looks” by building up a stack of filters. For instance, in one of these examples, the combination of HueSatBright, Gamma, FilmEffect, BleachBypass and GlowDarks filters result in a very rich grade. Likewise, the Epic files respond nicely to Colorista II and Magic Bullet Looks.

This is, of course, only one of many ways to work. The outlined workflow is designed to appeal to the editor who wants to work inside the NLE as much as possible. Adobe has now made it possible for Premiere Pro editors to have a viable solution when dealing with RED Epic footage. I’m sure other companies will also get up to speed, but for now Adobe is leading the pack.

Some grading examples using MB Looks (click to see enlarged views)

Some grading examples using MB Colorista II (click to see enlarged views)

Some grading examples using GenArts Sapphire filters (click to see enlarged views)

A grading example using MB Mojo + Sapphire (click to see enlarged views)

Some grading examples using the Cineon converter (click to see enlarged views)

©2011 Oliver Peters