Price: £599 . £299 . £1409 . £1969
Pros: Innovative Speed Search transcription function; overall faster editing; separate media browser; OnLocation interface overhauled.
Cons: Still not as efficient an editor as Final Cut Pro.
Beyond being available for the Mac once more, the last version of Premiere Pro was low on new features – so more than any other CS4 product, it’s due an upgrade. This is particularly so as it faces strong competition from Apple Final Cut Pro and Avid’s Media Composer.
The CS4 release bolsters the software with some powerful and innovative features that will appeal to current users – but they’re unlikely to be enough to woo over existing FCP or Avid editors.
The new feature in Premiere Pro CS4 that has drawn the most attention is Speech Search, which is currently unique to Adobe’s tools (so will almost certainly appear in Final Cut Pro 7 and Media Composer 4). Speech Search scans dialogue within footage and transcribes the words to create a searchable list.
It contains no grammar or pauses and is largely unintelligible if you try to read it, but it provides a quick way to find parts of a long video clip (or a voiceover). If, for example, you want to find the part of an interview when the subject talked about the economy in the middle of an hour-long piece, you place your clip in the Source panel, open the Metadata window, type ‘economy’ into the search box, click on the highlighted word, and the scrubber will move to that point in your source.
You can search across multiple clips – another great timesaver – and the quality of the transcription is impressive. For English speakers, there are UK, US, Canadian and Australian language options. The British setting had little problem with regional accents, but was sometimes stumped by unclear diction.
Adobe has also attempted to make working with media on your computer easier by adding the Media Browser panel, which provides a Windows Explorer-style area split into directory tree and directory contents area. For most media files, it’s just a less convenient version of the Mac OS X Finder or Windows Explorer – especially as you need to undock it to make it large enough to be usable – but for non-tape formats including AVCHD, P2, and XDCAM HD and EX, it lets you see their metadata and is actually useful. Support for files from Red cameras is due soon, but the mooted beta is not downloadable from the Red site yet.