Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 review

£676
Price when reviewed

Video production is one of the most memory-intensive tasks a computer can perform. Huge hard disks are required, and holding frames in memory during editing takes all the RAM you can throw at it, more so since the move to high definition. With this in mind, at long last Adobe has taken the plunge and moved its mainstream desktop video editor, Premiere Pro, to 64-bit. The CS5 version is a huge release, drawing a line underneath the last four versions.

New threads

The new codebase underlying both Premiere Pro and After Effects CS5 is being called the Mercury Playback Engine, and the smooth but shiny fluid connotations aren’t unwarranted. Whereas Premiere Pro CS4 would struggle with a couple of layers of HDV, this version can mix multiple tracks in real time, and scrub even more with a useful level of fluidity.

For example, on our test rig, a workstation featuring a quad-core 2.2GHz AMD Phenom 9550 CPU and 6GB of DDR2 memory, Premiere Pro CS5 managed to play five layers of 720p DVC Pro HD fluidly, although it began to skip frames above this. It also had trouble when applying multiple effects to footage shot on the RED camera at a resolution of 2,816 x 2,304. Nevertheless, the system was using close to 100% of overall processor time during playback, across all four cores, showing that Adobe is making full use of multiple threads.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5

The Mercury Playback Engine can also harness hardware 3D acceleration. While previous versions of Premiere Pro had hardware support enabled for a handful of filter effects, this has now been built into the software at a much more fundamental level.

The bad news is that Adobe’s long-standing relationship with Nvidia for products such as the Quadro CX means that only CUDA-enabled graphics cards are supported, and only a subset thereof as well. At the time of writing, the list comprised of the GeForce GTX 285, Quadro FX 3800, 4800, 5800, and CX. As a result, we couldn’t enable hardware acceleration on our test system, which was equipped with a mid-range Nvidia Quadro FX 1700.

Even without the 3D graphics support, Premiere Pro CS5’s software-only abilities are commendable, and beyond the capabilities of CS4 with dedicated hardware such as Matrox’s RT.X2.

Leaving 32-bit behind

However, there is another price to pay for the Mercury Playback Engine’s level of smoothness, and this is why CS5 is a watershed, rather than just a huge upgrade. It’s only available in 64-bit form. If you’re still running a 32-bit environment, you’ll have to stick with CS4. Sony has been offering 64-bit versions of Vegas for a couple of years now, but these have been developed alongside a continuing 32-bit alternative. Since Premiere Pro CS5’s new underlying code is so intertwined with being 64-bit, a 32-bit version would miss out on a large part of what’s new in this upgrade.

Nevertheless, Premiere Pro CS5 does have some new capabilities that aren’t directly the result of the Mercury Playback Engine’s 64-bit code. The range of natively supported video types has been further expanded. Adobe added compatibility with H.264-based video formats in CS4, and CS5 consolidates on this. AVC-Intra 100 and AVCCAM files are now supported natively, as are 10-bit Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) files and Sony’s Long GOP MPEG-2-based XDCAM HD 50, which incorporates 4:2:2 colour. The latter also bodes well for forthcoming Canon camcorders, which record in a compatible format.

Details

Software subcategory Video editing software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? yes

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