Final Cut Pro vs. Adobe Premiere CS 5.5, That Is The Question

It’s been a heck of a production week, and I’m exhausted but happy and finally on the home stretch as I write this article in the waiting area of the Nashville airport, heading home from the MusicFog Streaming Marathon. We’re about to delve into the inevitable post production process, as the result of the imperfect world of live HD switching, archiving and streaming, and inherent errors that can and did occur during these three life-altering days of shooting and recording 33 of the most established Nashville artists as well as the hottest, most promising new musical acts.

The point of saying this is that as careful as we were to conquer every reasonable detail at our control, from the nuance of lighting, to sound proofing to audio sweetening, transgressions did indeed manifest themselves despite our best efforts. Now there is work to be done after the fact. So as we’re heading back into the studio , we are now faced with a a decision. The question now is:

Final Cut Pro 7 (or “upgraded” Final Cut Pro X)?

or…

Adobe Premiere Pro and the full arsenal of CS5.5 ?

You can judge for yourself. At Media Design Multimedia studios in San Marcos, Texas we have had both Final Cut and Adobe Premiere installed for some time now. We were originally more of a PC-based studio for many years, and as we went non-linear, the logical choice was to utilize Premiere (before it became Premiere Pro) since we then had the machines to run it, and the traditional integration of all of the Adobe applications was always a major plus.

Eventually we reached a turning point a few years ago, because of PC system instability, and the numerous difficulties that we were experiencing with the PC platform. After months of frustration, computer lockups, crashes and the like, one of our squeaky wheel operatives within the Media Design crew convinced us toward the Mac, and along with that came Final Cut Pro. The learning curve for Final Cut Pro 7 was not at all steep and we gravitated toward it quite easily.

We all tend to resist change somehow, especially with a so-called winning combination, but sometimes old habits can and do work against you, especially now that the pendulum is swinging back the other direction in regard to non-linear video editing platforms and the post-production workflow within the studio. The key factors in this pivot back in the Adobe direction (which I might more aptly term a seismic shift) are:

  • Vast improvements in the current Adobe CS5.5 rendering engine and overall platform.
  • Advances in more seamless integration between the various Adobe applications.
  • Changes from Apple with regard to the “upgrade” from Final Cut Pro 7 to Final Cut Pro X

The various bullet points above are manifested in the user experience and notable speed improvements in the new Premiere Pro CS5.5 platform, as well as in added stability, new interface improvements and enhanced cross platform and application compatibility.

I asked Shane Ramirez, our editing manager here at Media Design to relate his thoughts on the new Adobe Premiere Pro platform vs. our old version of Final Cut Pro (7). I asked him which platform he would be using for his latest project, since he was trained originally on Final Cut, and his answer was Premiere Pro CS 5.5, and with his comments, we can perhaps determine why.

Shane Ramirez (with regard to Final Cut Pro 7 vs. Premiere Pro CS 5.5):

“Users new to Premiere Pro CS5.5 will notice that the program provides the option of selecting a project before beginning. Once the editor has done so, or created a new project, he or she is able to work almost exclusively within the windows and viewers, rarely having to venture to the menu taskbar for options. The project manager is straightforward with a clear indication of disk space, projects settings, and scratch disk no different than Final Cut Pro’s. A handy Media Browser window as well as a viewable history of project selections and moves makes backtracking stress free.

In the way of enhanced selections, Adobe offers a few nice additions such as individual buttons in the clip viewer to drag either video or audio. On the left side on the track/sequence window, there is even a button to expand the audio track with bar and waveforms all at once. The scroll bar for enlarging a sequence is much simpler (left to right to expand) over FCP’s touch specific scroll, but the sequence viewer timeline cannot be compressed to fit only the length of a sequence video, which can play mind games for editors who are finicky with their timestamps.

As an interface, Premiere Pro is completely user friendly. Adobe’s development team has been taking feedback from Final Cut editors for years now when designing Premiere Pro CS5.5 in order to help FCP editors get up to speed quickly in Premiere Pro. Also, with regard to learning your way around the interface, there are a lot of free tutorials on the “Moving to Premiere Pro” show on TV.Adobe.com.

Premiere Pro’s search engine feature within its individual windows is a godsend for any editor who has toiled through taskbars and icons. Whether it’s for effects or clip files, CS5.5 has made advanced editing completely accessible. Before placing a clip into the clip viewer window, the user is able to preview it. Icons on the bottom of the project and clip windows make for quick selections without memorizing keyboard shortcuts. This cuts down time on perusing for certain advanced effects and filters, which Adobe offers no shortage. Notable is a new dip to white transition, an updated array of color correction tools, a marker and a chapter button conveniently located on the upper left hand corner of the sequence window, and even a normalize function for creating a master track of your audio.

One of the biggest differences is with text. Instead of alternating between multiple tabs for one text object, Premiere Pro gives you an entire viewer complete with font samples and a preview that places the unfinished text over the video. All you have to do is drag from the clip window. The host of transitions selections that pop up when a clip is dragged to the sequence viewer in Final Cut Pro (insert, replace, fit to fill, superimpose) are much more hidden here. A right click of the mouse reveals the selections at your disposal. The famed snapping tool so prominent in Final Cut is available here but without its useful partner, the linked selection tool. This does not hinder editing as much as one would think (a simple right click will do the trick), but the bonus of being able to pair video and audio tracks with the click of a mouse is sorely missed.

The useful organization of Premiere Pro’s folders means no tool ever becomes hidden. Final Cut Pro either forces you to recall every option from the top taskbar or learn every keyboard function. Adobe Premiere facilitates the editing experience by not only increasing its options within the interface but by making them more visible”.

With that commentary, and some more consulting with John Fornero of Glyph Studios in Dallas, Texas, as well as some injected wisdom from Adobe itself, I was able to compile a list of additional features and bullet points, which add the last nails to the argument of choosing the new Premiere Pro CS 5.5 over Final Cut Pro 7 or the new Final Cut Pro X. These are:

The broad native support of various camera formats in Premiere Pro CS5.5, and again, the seamless integration between Premiere Pro and the many other associated Adobe applications (like After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and Encore), the open workflows, such as being able to import Final Cut Pro 7 projects into Premiere CS5.5 (which Final Cut X can’t handle, amazingly), increased speed, and also the fact that you can try it out for free:

http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=premiere_pro

On a related note, Final Cut Pro and Avid users can find out a lot more information and resources about transitioning to Premiere Pro, or adding it to their toolset, by visiting:

http://www.adobe.com/products/premiere/switch.html

If you are ready to make a move to CS 5.5 now but don’t yet have your funding in place, it is possible to subscribe month to month, for a low fee, to get your project completed and get paid, and then make your purchase. What a concept, this subscription model – and further proof that Adobe is indeed the friend of the creative artist. Some further talking points and reasons to make the switch to the new Premiere CS 5.5 are:

Tapeless File-Based Workflows: Premiere Pro doesn’t have to transcode tapeless and DSLR camera formats before editing, as in Final Cut Pro 7 (to ProRes). The new Final Cut X doesn’t natively support nearly the number of camera formats as Premiere Pro CS 5.5 (RED for example, if you are so lucky!)

Cross Application Integration: to elaborate specifically, “You can’t do that with Final Cut Pro 7 or Final Cut Pro X.” But you can import After Effects project files directly into Premiere Pro, and vice versa. The process is seamless in the Adobe realm, while cross converting over to Final Cut has its complications. This augmentation of your modifications from After Effects, right into Premiere Pro eclipses what is available from Final Cut alone, and circumvents the somewhat painful workflow process of After Effects integration with Final Cut.

Sequences can be opened “live” in Encore and After Effects without rendering. This is huge. Changes made in Premiere Pro are automatically reflected in After Effects (and / or Encore), enabled by improved native 64-bit Dynamic Link performance. Also, Group Clip Transfer allows selections to be transferred using a single command. The structure of your After Effects composition will be re-created into your timeline in Premiere Pro… again, seamlessly with Dynamic Link.

Photoshop is fully supported in Premiere Pro CS5.5, while Final Cut Pro 7 only allows the importing of a layered Photoshop file as a sequence. Conversely, Premiere Pro allows for the previewing of all Photoshop layers, allowing the selection of which layers to import or how to import them (either as separate layers, merged or as a sequence). Also filters can be applied to video sequences in Photoshop, whereas Final Cut offers no Photoshop support, to include blend modes. In Final Cut Pro, the blend modes would have to be re-applied to the layers, and experience has shown that these do not always correspond exactly, which is problematic at best.

You can indeed import .PSD files into Final Cut Pro X, but as flat graphic layers only, but as you can imagine, Premiere Pro CS5.5 support of Photoshop is nothing less than stellar.

If DVD or Blu-Ray authoring is your thing, then Adobe Encore is what you will need. You can send your timeline and media markers right into Encore for your disc authoring, or even interactive .SWF (Flash) for the web. In Encore you can utilize the “Edit Original” command to modify your project in Premiere Pro, and then import these changes back into Encore and your current DVD project.

Great video requires great audio, and Adobe Audition makes that possible. They call it the Flexible Roundtrip audio workflow. This is a simple way to describe passing seamlessly, individual audio clips, multitrack mixes, or complete audio / video sequences between Premiere Pro CS 5.5 and Audition for editing and sweetening. If you recall, Final Cut Pro 7 had a provisioned audio tool in Soundtrack Pro, but the upgraded Final Cut Pro X saw fit to eliminate this. To be fair and balanced, Final Cut Pro X does have some dedicated audio tools, features and Logic Plug-In support, but presently, no dedicated app.

Adobe Illustrator and vector graphics allows for a sharp, clear image, regardless of your scale. Laser printers are to paper, as vector graphics are to video, and are a key to professional looking results, depending on your project. If you want to import vector graphics into your video project in Final Cut (any version), well,…you are out of luck. Of course importing native Illustrator files in Premiere CS 5.5 is a breeze. So if that is not enough to make you want to take a test drive of CS 5.5 at:

http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/tdrc/index.cfm?product=premiere_pro

Hey, I know there are a lot of those Mac / Apple people out there. And I am indeed very sad about the recent passing of Steve Jobs (I did read his autobiography; The Journey is the Reward, and you should too). However, I have a confession to make: I’m running CS 5.5 Production Premium on my Mac Pro.

Hardware Overview:

  Model Name: Mac Pro
  Model Identifier: MacPro1,1
  Processor: Dual-Core Intel Xeon
  Processor Speed: 2.66 GHz
  Number Of Processors: 2
  Total Number Of Cores: 4
  L2 Cache (per processor): 4 MB
  Memory: 9 GB
  Bus Speed: 1.33 GHz
  Boot ROM Version: MP11.005C.B08
  SMC Version (system): 1.7f10

So in my case, Adobe CS 5.5 Production Premium and Final Cut Pro 7 both reside on the same machine. After all, it was the stability issue that prompted us to get the Mac in the first place. We were always PC based before that. But now and irrefutably, we have the absolute best of both worlds. Thanks and kudos to Adobe for seeing the big picture on all of that.

However, my Dallas producer colleague John Fornero, who also supplied a lot of the supporting basis for this article has absolutely no complaints with regard to stability issues on his PC platform which runs Adobe CS 5.5.

Well, thanks for reading thus far. I learned a few things out of all of this as well. What I am learning mostly though in this ever expanding field, is that the learning never stops. Keep an open mind and make the good choices. Happy Editing !

Shane Ramirez originally graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor’s degree in English. He is now a professional editor, filmmaker, writer, and artist residing in San Marcos, TX. Additionally to being the Editing Manager at Media Design Multimedia, he is versed in the arts of cinematography, acting, and art. As a life-long film enthusiast, Shane is a contributor regarding arthouse cinema for examiner.com, to the film site soundonsight.org, and produces his own films as well.

John Fornero is a professional compositor at Glyph Studios and Ideaman Studios in Dallas, Texas. John works on many collaborative projects with other creative artists worldwide, and uses CS5.5 Premiere Pro and After Effects on a daily basis. John specializes in large scale projected sequences that require extremely high resolutions, and many cross platform workflows. His commentary and insight were invaluable for this article.

Dave Newman is the Director of Media Design Multimedia and SMTX.TV in San Marcos, Texas. Dave holds a degree in Physics from University of Houston, lives in San Marcos, and is currently developing Internet television, as well as operating a full service production studio. He specializes however, in live and archived HD video streaming, and has streamed noteworthy events at SXSW (Austin), Americana Music Awards (Nashville) and Threadgill’s World Headquarters (Austin) weekly, and SMTX.TV/HD continuously for the past two years. Media Design Multimedia has been in continuous operation providing comprehensive video services, since 1995.


FTC 16 CFR 255 Disclaimer: This article is sponsored by Adobe and it was reviewed by Adobe prior to publishing.

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1 Comment

  1. Thank you.

    I too had the same experience with Adobe in the past and had to move to the MAC Pro from the PC. The Mac is dead in the water after upgrading to the Lion operating system. None of our .mov files play after the upgrade (33 Terabytes). We here in Los Angeles knew we would soon have to make a transition to Adobe or Avid and after reading this article the choice is clear. Apple appears to be dropping the film community into the trash bin. Glad Abode is picking up the slack!!! This article is greatly appreciated!!!