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Adobe Premiere 6

Adobe Premiere has been around almost as long as QuickTime itself, and until recently it was the video-editing program of choice for the Mac. All that changed when Apple released Final Cut Pro and Adobe released Premiere 5: the former combined high-end features with an elegant interface, and the latter was finicky and sluggish. Apple's masterstroke left Premiere on the cutting-room floor.

With version 6, Premiere has made a comeback. Premiere 6 brings improvements and new features in nearly every area, from video and audio editing, to effects controls, to DV and Web support. This new version is also faster and more reliable than its predecessor.

Premiere Does Digital

Premiere 5's support for FireWire-based DV devices was somewhere between bad and rotten. Adobe built Premiere 6 with DV in mind, including drivers that enable the program to control dozens of popular DV camcorders and decks with single-frame accuracy.

Indeed, Premiere 6 is DV-centric to a fault: as we went to press, the program didn't support any analog capture cards. Third-party developers may rework their drivers for Premiere 6, but the digital handwriting is on the wall: it's time to go DV.

A revamped batch-capture feature makes it easy to snare scenes: as a DV tape plays back, you click on buttons or press keyboard sequences to mark the scenes you want to capture. Click on a button in the Batch Capture window, and Premiere controls your DV device and imports the scenes. Batch capturing worked well in my tests, but you should heed Adobe's advice to avoid gaps in a DV tape's time code. When I tried capturing clips from a tape containing gaps, Premiere got seriously confused and crashed-after repeatedly fast-forwarding and rewinding in a futile attempt to find its place.

Like Final Cut Pro and iMovie 2, Premiere 6 can display clips and previews on a connected DV device, letting you view your work-in-progress at full resolution on a camcorder's LCD screen or, better yet, on a TV monitor connected to the camcorder.

Editing Enhancements

Several interface enhancements and new features make Premiere more approachable for video newcomers and help speed production for seasoned editors. To flesh out the structure of a scene, you can arrange clips in the new Storyboard window. When you've finished, choose the Automate To Timeline command, and Premiere adds the clips to the timeline, even inserting transitions between them if you like. And if you've set the bookmark-like markers in the Timeline window, Premiere will time the cuts to match the markers. It's a great way to rough out a scene.

And these markers are much more than bookmarks: you can assign Web addresses to them, and when you export your video, Premiere embeds them in your movie. A viewer's Web browser will go to those addresses as the movie plays. Media 100's Cinestream 3, which began shipping in March, also has this feature; Final Cut Pro lacks it.

Also on the Web front, Premiere 6 includes Media 100's Cleaner 5 EZ, a scaled-down version of the incomparable compression utility. A new Save For Web command launches Cleaner 5 EZ, which then compresses the current project. Premiere 6 also includes a plug-in that provides advanced export options for compressing in RealNetworks' RealSystem format.

As for audio, Premiere 6 adds an Audio Mixer window, which displays an on-screen mixer with sliders and knobs that let you adjust audio levels and left-right stereo panning. With the mixer's automation features, you can record volume and pan adjustments as you make them.

Other Premiere 6 enhancements fall into the spit-and-polish category. The Monitor window, which displays your work in progress, has a new look. The Timeline window contains some new buttons and adds keyframe tracks, used when animating an effect over time. And the convenient new Settings Viewer displays summaries of your capture, project, and export settings, making it easy to spot conflicts.

Edit Your Way

Premiere 6 provides far more customizing options than did earlier versions. For starters, you can switch the Timeline window between single-track and A/B editing modes. In single-track mode, clips and transitions appear in a single video track, as they do in Final Cut Pro and high-end editing systems. In A/B mode, the Timeline window works much as it did in earlier Premiere versions, with a separate transitions track sandwiched between two primary video tracks. The A/B mode is easier for inexperienced video editors; Premiere is unique in offering both editing options.

Like other members of the Adobe family, Premiere 6 lets you save and recall window arrangements-handy for optimizing your workspace for specific tasks. And like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere 6 has a History palette that lets you undo and redo recent actions. Unlike Photoshop, however, Premiere 6 doesn't let you automate repetitive tasks.

Premiere 6's Commands palette lets you assign keyboard shortcuts and create buttons for common commands. But a weird bug sometimes causes Premiere's palettes to disappear when you create a custom command, requiring a trip to the Window menu to bring them back.

More Effective

Premiere 6's special-effects features are significantly improved. The program can now use Adobe After Effects plug-ins, and it includes more than 25 After Effects filters. For example, the Transform family of filters lets you create pan-zoom-rotate effects, and with Drop Shadow, you can add shadows behind clips.

A new Effects Controls palette works identically to its counterpart in After Effects. You can set keyframes in the Timeline window and then use Effects Controls to define an effect's changes over time.

Adobe doesn't support the use of After Effects filters not included with Premiere. I spot-checked several third-party After Effects plug-ins, however, and although rendering was slow, the plug-ins worked.

Sound Stage: Using Premiere 6's Audio Mixer window (top center), you can mix a soundtrack on-the-fly.
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