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Adobe Premiere CS3 Product Review

February 1, 2008

Premiere was the first serious video editing application I used, starting with versin 4 around 1996ish and as such, it holds a special place in my heart. We’ve had some good times together. I was very disappointed when MacOS-X came out and Premiere was not ported to it and for years afterwards, I faithfully ran it in Classic mode, right up until my purchase of an IntelMac.

Happily, Premiere has returned for the Mac. I purchased the CS3 production suite and paid a visit to my old friend.

The interface of Premiere CS3 was instantly familiar. On some level, I was rather surprised by this. I’d been nursing along an aging copy of Premiere 6 and I expected it to look more changed. The big improvements in UI are the dockable windows and speed. The way I’d been running 6 was heinously slow. Stability also seems to be much improved. I didn’t experience a single crash during the entire project.

It took a few minutes to find the audio and video effects for clips as they are not available from the menu bar or right-click in the timeline as with 6 but once they were located, it was easy to adapt (although right-click from the timeline was very convenient and will be somewhat missed) I was also unable to find an A/B track editing mode for transitions however it wasn’t needed for this project so I didn’t search very hard and it may yet live. Addition of entire-track sound level setting versus for an individual clip was also extremely useful.

On the other hand, there are several new bugs which are rather frustrating. First and foremost: Cut and paste of clips. Paste would paste at the current time marker but which track it would paste in was seemingly random and often impacted other clips. This was extremely frustrating. The only way I really found to deal with it was by locking all other tracks. This was time-consuming and often not a fantastic solution.

Audio clips also had a particularly perplexing habit of refusing to live in some audio tracks, but I could never determine which one a clip would refuse to live in until I dragged the clip to it and it simply refused to go there. What gives?

For mono audio clips, I also could not seem to get the track to play on both channels or crossfade from one channel to another. I suspect this functionality has been shuffled off to SoundBooth but honestly, it’s such a basic and integral feature, it should have been preserved in Premiere.

Parceling features out to other applications seems to be the name of the game for the CS3 version of Premiere. Many things that had worked in Premiere since time immemorial were missing or did not function correctly. Track mattes are another example. While Track mattes still exist in Premiere, they do not do well with scaled or moved clips. Scaling the clip to be track-matted resulted in unpredictable matting areas and if it were scaled down too much, my track matte would often end up being just a rectangle in the center of the screen that did not scale. It was very finicky. Of course, the solution here is simply to use After Effects and render that clip then import it into Premiere but as I was limited both on time and disk space, I tried to do it directly in Premiere and met with a lot of frustration. Junk mattes were similarly broken when dealing with HD 120i clips scaled down to DV pan-and-scan resolutions.

On the other hand, one feature that’s drifted from AE to Premiere is the ability to set multiple key-out colors on a track. This was fantastic and gave me a lot of flexibility in removing a very wrinkled and unevenly lit greenscreen from the scene.

All in all, I rate my recent experience with Premiere CS3 as rather positive. Despite the few bugs it is overall very solid and very usable. iMovie is far too limited and I’ve never been able to get into Final Cut so it was good to welcome an old friend back to my system.

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