Adobe Premiere Pro CS4: beta preview

Premiere Pro CS3 was short on new features if you weren’t bothered about outputting your video to mobile phones, and the fact that Encore was now bundled with the software didn’t feel like extra value if, like most users, you bought the CS3 Production Premium bundled. However, the CS4 version goes some way to turning the tool into a true competitor for Apple’s mighty Final Cut Pro. It has one outstandingly useful new feature, plus a bunch of welcome additions.

The tool that will make the most difference to your work is Speech Search, a dialogue-transcription tool that creates an unpunctuated list of the words spoken – allowing you to scan or search through for a word or phrase to find exactly the part you want extremely quickly within a long clip. Click on a word in the Metadata tab, and the Source Monitor moves to that part of the clip.

Adobe has tuned the tool for British, American, Canadian and Australian English (plus a few other languages). For British accents, it performs better the nearer the speaker’s accent is to that of 1950s BBC presenter, but was able to cope with strong Yorkshire and Scottish accents as long as the person spoke clearly. Slurred speech (from any accent) confused it quite easily though. It was also capable of differentiating between two voices, and we liked the manual correction tools to help you find a part at a later time.

There’s a series of updates to help you work with tapeless formats, including – at last – native support for AVCHD format camcorders. This follows on from Premiere Pro CS3’s recently added support for Panasonic P2, Sony’s XDCAM EX/HD and Red Digital’s Redcode formats.

To help with the import of these formats, Premiere Pro gains the Media Browser, which gives you a small Finder/Explorer panel within to make locating media easier. The files can be viewed as folder items, or tapeless media files with their metadata on show. However, it’s cramped, slow, and has no support for shortcuts or quickly accessing standard OS layout conventions such as the Desktop, User or My Documents folders – so using the Finder/Explorer instead is still preferable.

Improved editing tools include tools for working with multiple tracks at once, including the ability to apply video and audio transitions, change the speed or duration, apply one or more effects. Users can also copy-and-paste transitions, and there are countless little tweaks. Overall, this makes Premiere slightly faster to use than before.

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