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Premiere can convert dialog to text, but makes enough mistakes for us to wonder if it's worth it.
Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 is a major milestone in the Mac video-editing world. The software isn’t perfect, but this is the first Premiere in a long time that can handle plenty of real-world, pro-level projects without any excuses.
For starters, Premiere can now import video from a wide variety of different cameras used by indie filmmakers and broadcast studios alike. It has always handled DV, HDV, and uncompressed video, but can now import formats like AVCHD, XDCAM HD, and DVCPRO HD.
Our one disappointment: Premiere doesn’t yet work with Panasonic’s AVC-Intra format, recorded by its newest, coolest broadcast cameras. But get this: A beta plug-in now available for Premiere lets it import, edit, and color-correct video from the hot new Red One camera ($17,500; www.red.com), which shoots a super high-resolution picture that’s four times as sharp as HD—up to 4096x2304 pixels, compared to HD’s 1920x1080 pixels. The Red camera is shooting major feature films these days, and at this moment, Premiere is the only editor anywhere to work with the camera’s files in their original form. Final Cut Pro and Avid’s Media Composer need to convert Red footage to wimpy HD size before editing it, forcing you to reassemble the original footage later on.
Adobe has buffed up the new Premiere in other areas too. For instance, Premiere has a new Media Browser, which lets you quickly find and view all the media on your computer before you actually import it to your project. We love the ability to selectively view only certain kinds of files, such as Photoshop and P2 files.
Premiere also ships with a new Media Encoder, which lets you batch export edited video into many digital formats aimed at the Web, DVD, Blu-ray, Apple TV, the iPhone, cell phone, and whatever other gizmo you may have. Media Encoder works very much like Apple’s Compressor application, except it doesn’t let you preset destinations or upload encodes to an FTP server. On the other hand, Media Encoder is intuitive, and on our 4-core Mac Pro, it actually performed encodes faster than Compressor by tapping into more of the Mac’s cores.
There are plenty of other nice touches, like robust metadata support and the ability to replace a clip, while retaining the original’s effects. Remember, too, that some of Premiere CS3’s best features are still here, like tight integration with Adobe’s Photoshop and After Effects (letting you easily move your projects between applications without rendering, and updating any changes automatically). Also, Premiere ships with Adobe’s DVD-authoring Encore. Besides letting you author feature-rich DVDs, Encore also creates high-def Blu-ray disks and can even publish your DVD designs to Flash, making them available on the net.
As we said, Premiere isn’t perfect. It can’t open multiple projects at once. There are some minor inefficiencies in its editing interface. It doesn’t have networked media management features like you’d find in Apple’s Final Cut Server.
Also, Premiere stumbles with its new Speech Text feature, which is supposed to turn spoken dialog in your video/audio clips into searchable text, to make it easy to find the exact scene you are looking for. Transcribing a clip’s dialog takes only a single click—and a short wait for processing. Unfortunately, the results are usually filled with errors. Words like “um” and “uh” may not be in the dictionary, but a text transcriber needs to be able to recognize them. You can edit the text to correct mistakes, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth.Premiere used to be a second-rate editor favored by part-time wedding videographers, and that’s about it. This new version is indeed a brand-new bag, and for many pro jobs, it’s a genuine alternative to Final Cut Pro and Avid.