Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Review
At the time of writing this review I've had PPRO CS4 for about 24 hours. So far everything is working fine and I'm basically happy.
PC used for this review: Windows Vista Ultimate SP1; Intel quad-core 2.83GHz; 4GB RAM.
At last, native support for XDCAM, XDCAM EX, XDCAM HD, Panasonic P2 and AVCHD. Also 4K workflow and RED R3D.
AVCHD support will be a welcome relief for users of consumer-level camcorders, but remember that this is still not an edit-friendly codec. I found AVCHD files very sluggish and I had to render previews to play back properly. It wasn't too painful but I wouldn't want to work like this all the time. If you're going to be doing any intensive editing, there's a good chance you'll want to render your clips into a friendlier format, just like you had to do in CS3. For shorter clips and simple editing, working directly with AVCHD files worked well enough for me.
Timeline: Mixed Formats and Sequence Settings
Premiere Pro now supports different formats in the same timeline—something which other editors (e.g. Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas) have been able to do for a while. I found that mixing formats does slow things down somewhat, as you'd expect. I've been mixing HDV with AVCHD and although normal editing goes okay, I couldn't get multicam sequences to playback at all when mixing formats.
You can also have different editing and rendering settings for each sequence. Settings that used to be global for the whole project can now be applied separately by sequence, which is a great improvement.
The media encoder is now more of a separate application. When you export media from Premiere, Media Encoder opens with the requested export task automatically added to the batch queue. At least that's the theory—I discovered that I need to open Media Encoder first or else nothing happens.
Anyway, this is a better approach than previous versions which always felt a bit ad-hoc to me. I prefer having all my export options and tasks in one place. It's easier to manage and it works well in the background.
As expected, integration with Adobe Flash continues to improve. Examples: Cue points are included for Flash video (FLV/F4V), Encore outputs SWF files.
The option to create SWF versions of DVDs is fantastic. It worked like a charm for me—with only a few button clicks I exported an existing DVD project into a perfect little Flash replica ready for the web (complete with HTML). Other goodies include better Blu-ray titles and popup menus, Firewire output for an external monitor, and better dynamic linking with other applications.
This separate recording application has been better integrated to fit the CS workspace. Not much in the way of new features but it's definitely a good step in the right direction. It feels like part of the team now. This version includes native Mac support.
- New Media Browser allows better access to files on various drives.
- Import individual sequences.
- Apply settings to multiple clips, e.g. audio gain, speed/duration, effects.
- Apply default transition to all clips in a selection. Also copy & paste transitions.
- Remove all effects from one or more clips with a single command.
- Better trimming options in the project manager. Also better preview file management.
- Improved metadata.
- Better support for sequence markers and Encore chapters.
- Better photoshop import/export, including layer preview.
- Software manufacturers seldom seem to be able to go long without changing the way a help system works. With CS4 we're back to browser-based help, but it's entirely online, which is probably fine when it works. So far I haven't been able to connect to the help files from within Premiere so I was forced to figure out the URL myself and add it to my bookmarks instead. What a shambles.
- Resource Central is apparently a good way to acquire additional effects, templates, tutorials and other goodies. I can't say for sure though because mine has yet to make a successful connection to the server.
- Still no support for scene detect with HD or HDV! Aaargh, how long must we suffer this??
I've heard grumblings from Premiere users about this being an underwhelming release. In some ways that's true—there aren't many new bells & whistles here. To be honest it would have been nice to see a few additions such as new filters and transitions (the effects palette has been looking pretty samey for quite a while now). However it's not all about eye candy. Premiere Pro CS4 includes numerous significant improvements that will be very welcome for serious editors. Most improvements are where it matters: Creating a more stable, efficient workflow. For example, I would much rather have the ability to add multiple transitions simultaneously than have a handful of new transitions I'd seldom use.
I like this upgrade, it does feel better and more efficient. Format support and flexibility are coming of age. This release closes the gap between PPRO and Final Cut, and PPRO arguably comes out better in many ways—especially when you factor in dynamic linking with Adobe's other powerhouse applications such as After Effects, Photoshop and Flash.
If you're happy with the way CS3 is working for you and you're wondering if the upgrade is worth it, I'd say it's 50/50. But if you do a lot of editing and you think the features listed above will help your workflow, then now's definitely the time to get out the wallet!
If you would like to comment or ask questions, please use our video forum.