Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: £675 plus VAT . upgrade £238 plus VAT

  • Pros: Ultra keying effect; Improved speech-to-text; Improved performance and stability; Native support of popular formats; GPU accelerated effects; 64-bit Adobe Media Encoder; New Adobe Story.

  • Cons: Two GPUs qualified for hardware acceleration; Encore not 64-bit; Transcriptions difficult to edit; No playback frame rate display; High-end system needed for best performance.

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Premiere Pro CS5’s most significant improvements are under the hood. As a native 64-bit application, Premiere Pro CS5 can address more RAM, enabling it to handle large projects better.

New code also went into the creation of Adobe’s touted Mercury Playback Engine. Equipped with this new playback and rendering mechanism, CS5 outperforms CS4 hands down. The performance gains are even more striking when you pair the Mercury Playback Engine with a qualifying GPU -- specifically, an Nvidia graphics card with CUDA technology. While the software handles standard playback, the GPU accelerates the most common effects.

Unfortunately, there are currently only two qualified GPUs available for the Mac, and both are non-standard upgrades to Mac Pros only. (Two other compatible cards were announced recently, but are not available yet.) It’s a worthwhile investment, especially for editors working with Hi Def content. But editors with laptops or shallower pockets will have to settle for the performance boost available through software only, without accelerated effects.

A new option in the Source and Program monitors permits you to set their paused and playback resolution, settings comparable to the comp resolution setting found in After Effects. This way, you can trade image quality for smoother playback. Unfortunately, Premiere Pro CS5 didn’t also adopt After Effects’ ability to display the actual playback frame rate.

On a Mac Pro with a speedy RAID, CS5 played back R3D 3K anamorphic footage smoothly when the resolution was reduced to 1/4—hardly noticeable in the relatively small editing monitors. The same setting achieved smooth playback with three layers of video containing effects. With hardware acceleration enabled, a few more GPU accelerated effects could be added without hindering playback. In CS4, you could set the playback (but not the paused) resolution by installing a separate R3D plug-in. With it, CS4 could get similar performance from the same footage -- but only at 1/8 resolution.

Less demanding footage -- say, video from a Canon 5D MarkII -- played smoothly in CS5 at full resolution, even when there were multiple layers with effects. CS4, in contrast, could play back only a single layer smoothly without rendering a preview. It’s a safe bet that editors will value CS5’s superior performance over any other new feature Adobe could offer.

New features

But although performance and reliability were the priorities, this release does include some welcome new features.

In CS5, the Capture panel permits you to monitor audio levels, and its scene detection feature now works with HDV. However, it retains CS4’s inability to display an HDV image.

Consistent with other programs in the suite, a new Options panel accommodates editing tools along the top of the interface and includes a convenient pulldown menu for selecting a workspace. A CS Live button serves as the gateway to Adobe’s new online services.

Borrowing another trick from After Effects, Premiere Pro lets you drag a clip to the New Item icon to create a sequence based on the clip’s attributes -- taking the guesswork out of choosing sequence settings. The ability to remove a gap in a sequence by simply selecting it and pressing the Delete key is another small but enormously useful tweak. A useful Extend Edit feature lets you quickly shift a clip’s edit point to the Current Time Indicator. But to use it, you have to map a keyboard shortcut yourself.

Premiere Pro CS5 includes the Ultra keying effect, previously unavailable on a Mac. Ultra pulls a very good key with little effort, and with the right GPU, it’s hardware-accelerated. So although Ultra doesn’t have the parameters of After Effects’ Keylight effect, switching or dynamically linking to After Effects won’t necessarily be worth the trip.

With CS4, users gained batch export via the Adobe Media Encoder, but lost the means to export from Premiere Pro directly. It also became a hassle to export still frames. CS5 restores a direct export command and, thankfully, adds a button to the Source and Program monitors that makes it easy to export the current frame.

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