Adobe Premiere Pro 2 review

£635
Price when reviewed

Premiere pioneered the concept of non-linear video editing on a PC, but the founding father has been showing its age of late. In particular, usurpers such as Pinnacle (now Avid) Liquid Edition and Canopus EDIUS have underlined how a streamlined real-time rendering engine can enhance productivity. In comparison, Premiere Pro 1.5 was looking decidedly sluggish. Only with the help of Matrox’s RT.X100 editing hardware could it keep pace.

The first bit of good news for Premiere Pro users is that Adobe has finally given the rendering engine a boost. We found we could mix four streams of DV together at once without any noticeable frame drop – and that was off a single AV drive, not RAID. Once we added a few filters, performance did degrade, but gracefully. You’ll still get more out of Canopus EDIUS, but Premiere Pro will now let you preview most everyday multilayer edits without recourse to extra hardware support.

Something similar can be said of Premiere Pro’s HD editing. Although the 1.5.1 update already added HDV capture and limited editing capabilities, version 2 now incorporates a full toolset. The lite version of Cineform Aspect HD has been replaced by Adobe’s own native HDV engine. We could mix two raw streams of 1080i HDV in close to real-time, but adding a third or any effects slowed things down considerably. Still, Premiere Pro 2 was more responsive with HDV than Avid Liquid 7, and only Canopus EDIUS can do better.

As well as HDV, direct support for AJA’s XENA HS SDI HD video I/O is built in, with presets for 1080i at 30 and 25fps, 1080p at 24fps, plus 720p at 60fps. However, when capturing from HDV sources, you’ll miss niceties like automatic scene detection, forcing you to resort to manual clip logging prior to batch capture. Adobe recommends a minimum 2GB of RAM and a 3.4GHz Pentium 4 when editing HD or HDV. Although we found our 1GB-equipped dual 2GHz Opteron 246 was up to the task, Premiere Pro consumed as much as 500MB of memory during HDV editing, so 2GB may not be such a crazy idea.

As useful as Premiere Pro’s new-found responsiveness may be, its killer feature has to be the Dynamic Link between Premiere Pro 2 and After Effects 7. After Effects compositions can be placed on the Premiere Pro timeline just like clips, and you can apply effects on top in the same way. The software will even try to play back the results in real-time. Best of all, you can right-click on an After Effects composition and use the Edit Original command to load the project into its parent app for further work. It’s almost like having After Effects as a super-powerful compositing plug-in.

Multicam editing has also been added, using Premiere Pro’s excellent nested sequence capabilities. You’ll need to consult the manual closely to get it working, and a maximum of only four camera angles are supported, but we found the system reasonably effective. Apart from this, there are a couple of new colour-correction filters, including three-way correction and one-click white balancing via the Fast Color Corrector. The media encoder has been completely overhauled as well, including a built-in preview of how frames will look using current settings. And instead of just being able to write video-only DVDs, you can now create template-based menus using a wizard suspiciously like that included with Premiere Elements.

On the surface, Premiere Pro 2 doesn’t look tremendously different from the previous two versions, but lots of useful enhancements can be found underneath. Real-time performance with DV is much improved, the native HDV editing is workmanlike and the Dynamic Link with After Effects opens up great creative potential. But then there’s the price: unless you’re buying one of the bundles and intend to make extensive use of After Effects, Avid Liquid 7 offers similar features and better built-in DVD authoring for half the cost.

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