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Old September 25th, 2010, 01:17 PM   #1
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CS5 and AVCHD support: Worth the move?

CS4 and AVCHD never really played well together, and after hearing (rumors?) that AVCHD smart rendering has yet again missed the bus in CS5, I'm giving serious thought to abandoning Premiere. Can anybody confirm or deny? It was often suggested that, with CS4, one could get AVCHD smart rendering via the MainConcept MPEG ProHD plug-in, however a conversation with MainConcept support debunked that, and it sounds like CS5 has really just taken MPEG ProHD inbox, hence presumably having the same strengths/limitations.

It was also my unfortunate experience that importing large AVCHD clips into Encore CS4 just crashed it, and there was no way around this; the program would just eat memory until it died, or else display a debug message (and die) later when building the disc. Whether the AVC program was created by Media Encoder or another app (like Corel VideoStudio), if it was much over 1Gb, I knew I was doomed. This was a day-one problem with CS4 that was never fixed, hence giving me serious reason to doubt that Adobe really cared about supporting AVC[HD].

In fact, it's been my observation that pretty much zero of the issues I've run into with CS4--including things like having my source file directory littered with random DLL files for God knows what--have been addressed since the program was released, giving me serious reason to wonder: How's CS5? Solid? Polished? Or...?

Best,
Aaron

Last edited by Aaron Holmes; September 25th, 2010 at 01:33 PM. Reason: typo--whoops!
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Old September 25th, 2010, 04:38 PM   #2
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It's my distinct impression that CS5, on a suitable system (at least Intel i7, 12GB RAM, Win7 64, and an approved nVidea CUDA GPU), is finally ready for prime time with AVCHD. Certainly very head and shoulders above CS3/4.
I can't say that it's perfect, or addresses every one of your concerns, but IMO the CS5 software combined with the big RAM/64 bit environment + MPE really puts HD editing/native format editing on a new level.
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Old September 25th, 2010, 06:14 PM   #3
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Thanks, Robert. Though I do in fact have a 64-bit machine, it has nothing near the specs you're talking about, and is running a 32-bit OS currently, meaning that even installing the trial version of CS5 would require a leap of faith (reinstalling the OS--not the end of the world, but certainly a PITA). I've used Premiere since 6.5 (at that time only for DV) and I regret that it's now so difficult to continue paying the "Adobe Tax" every year. I really wish they'd pause for a sec and just *fix* the *existing* version, but that's definitely not their business model.

Most of what I've read about CS5 is about Mercury and how fast it makes everything that was painfully slow before. This is fine, however I'd rather hear about the things that work now but were broken before, like AVCHD smart rendering, AVC import, etc.; you've gotta walk before you can run, after all.

It's hard to resist the $299 upgrade price for CS5 when moving to just about anything else would be far more expensive, but when I see AVCHD editing fly by in Edius and Vegas on my existing hardware, my brain and my wallet get into a terrible argument! :-)

Still cogitating.

Aaron
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Old September 25th, 2010, 07:23 PM   #4
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Just a reminder:
Premiere CS5 is 64 bit only. It won't install on a 32 bit OS.
The software is very good, but an absolutely major and necessary component for performance "as advertised" is the huge advance in hardware- 8 cores or more, 12-16GB fast RAM, 64 bit OS, and CUDA GPU.
You have to plan on having the whole package for everything to work as it should. If your hardware/OS is not up to par, you will be very disappointed in the results :(
Frankly, this package makes HD editing as quick, simple, and stable as DV editing was just a couple of years ago.
IMO, all the HD editing tools/available hardware/OS have been pretty lame up til now. This is the first time since we began HD editing with HDV that everything is truely up to the task.
With this sort of hardware/software upgrade, you could probably plan on getting several years use from it.
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Old September 26th, 2010, 11:04 AM   #5
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Worth it? Yes. CS5 is 64 bit, and requires a 64 bit OS to run it. It takes advantage of breaking through the 4GB memory barrier; it's fully optimized for 64 bit operation. On top of that, it takes advantage of some of the CUDA video cards to improve the video processing.

I've loaded hour long AVCHD clips (1080/30p, 24Mbps max) into CS5 and they run just fine in Premiere Pro, After Effects, Encore, Soundbooth, and Media Encoder. Not perfect, but certainly easy to use. A sizable improvement over CS4. All this, on an i7 laptop with 6GB of memory. It'll undoubtedly do better when I get around to building a new desktop this fall/winter.

I'm just sayin' the performance is there for live editing of AVCHD. You don't really need to transcode before editing anymore.
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Old September 26th, 2010, 12:18 PM   #6
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Thanks Bruce, Robert: As I alluded to above, I have a 64-bit machine and can easily reinstall the OS to get to 64 bits (I own the Windows 7 full-product DVD, which has both flavors), however I don't have anything that would make CS5 really scream (no supported nVidia card, for example). It would run. My gripe about AVCHD is about smart-rendering, not simply ingesting AVCHD, per se, although as I mentioned, I've never been able to import anything near an hour of AVC in TS form into Encore without the app just crashing and asking me to send a debug report (which I do every time). Note that I'm referring to a single monolithic TS file, *not* simply a Premiere timeline loaded up with an hour of AVCHD. Why would I try doing the former? Because I can stitch together AVCHD losslessly in near realtime *on my current hardware* using VideoStudio, but it's Blu-ray authoring is terrible and I'd rather use Encore.

One big promise of AVCHD is it's Blu-ray compatible format, hence one really ought not to have to transcode the entirety of an AVCHD program (e.g., with no effects) in order to get it onto a Blu-ray. That's ridiculous. Reminds me of my VHS editing days and the analog generation loss issue! Given that most things package AVCHD in a MPEG-2 stream, one would expect that it wouldn't be too difficult to smartly handle AVCHD too, but it's apparently low on the priority list, as MPEG Pro HD now seems to smartly handle everything *but* AVCHD. That's a very strong statement, IMO. Of course, the statement is probably, "You were an idiot for buying AVCHD equipment." ;-) Years ago, I'd have never believed I would still be having as much trouble with this material as I am today.

I would really love to hear from somebody who thinks CS5 has made improvements in AVCHD handling besides simply speeding it up. I don't care about the speed right now, only about getting results. I'm used to leaving my computer to render overnight. As a hobbyist, it doesn't kill me. What kills me is waking up to a crash report or finding that, even though I transcoded my 24 Mbit/s footage up to 39 Mbit/s to limit the damage caused by Premiere's unavoidable recompression, I can still see a huge difference between the original footage and the finished product on my 50" screen.

Best,
Aaron

PS: I'm really not trying to just complain here, but it feels like that's what this has devolved into, so I'll wait and see if somebody wants to correct me before I reply again.
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Old September 26th, 2010, 12:57 PM   #7
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Well...
Some of this just gets down to personal attitude.
My attitude is that AVCHD is a good acquisition codec, but is a lousy editing codec due to its high level of compression. There are semi work-arounds, like "smart rendering" that limit the damage somewhat. However, if I am doing a typical project that will have effects, animated graphics, color correction, maybe even a "looks" treatment with something like Magic Bullet, smart rendering won't help.
There's no way I would try to edit in AVCHD and have any expection of the best possible quality output for any final delivery format- HD or SD.
I have no hesitation to shoot AVCHD, but I always edit it as Cineform .avi digital intermediate codec.
This workflow is fast, rendering is fast with CS5, and the final image quality in the delivery formats (BR, DVD, Flash, etc.) is at the level of the original footage.
The Cineform workflow eliminates most of the problems that have frustrated you.
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Old September 26th, 2010, 01:03 PM   #8
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I'll repeat: If you have a system running CS4 okay- you will get advantage just going 64 bit operating system and program - like CS5.
Yes - it is better with a lot of cores and a lot of memory but CS5 is running better and faster than CS4 !
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Old September 26th, 2010, 03:35 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Holmes View Post
...even installing the trial version of CS5 would require a leap of faith ...
...and it wouldn't help you decide anyway. As always, the trial version does not support any form of mpeg, so AVCHD import and editing is not enabled.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aaron Holmes View Post
I really wish they'd pause for a sec and just *fix* the *existing* version, but that's definitely not their business model.
That actually sort of is what they did with CS5. Other than MPE, there aren't a whole lot of new bloatware features. They pretty much concentrated on cleaning up the mess that was CS4, and for the most part, reportedly, have been pretty successful.

But really, no one here is trying to twist your arm to get you to switch to CS5, stay with CS4, or even stay with Premiere. Edius has a fully functioning trial and reportedly works great on even modest hardware. Why don't you give it a try if Premiere does not meet your needs?
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Old September 26th, 2010, 04:00 PM   #10
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Other than MPE, there aren't a whole lot of new bloatware features. They pretty much concentrated on cleaning up the mess that was CS4, and for the most part, reportedly, have been pretty successful.
Amen...
It was getting to be Adobe's last chance to salvage their credibility in the NLE market after CS4, and IMO, they pulled it off very nicely ;-)
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Old September 26th, 2010, 10:57 PM   #11
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Yes, that is very good to hear. Adam: Yes, I should have remembered about the trialware limitations. I ran into the same with CS4. Drat! (And odd, since I don't see anybody else leaving that stuff out of their trials.) Well, I may just reinstall Windows tomorrow and get the trial anyway just to make sure there isn't anything objectionable in what little is included. :-)

Decisions, decisions!

Best,
Aaron
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Old September 27th, 2010, 09:16 AM   #12
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Quote:
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My attitude is that AVCHD is a good acquisition codec, but is a lousy editing codec due to its high level of compression.
...
I have no hesitation to shoot AVCHD, but I always edit it as Cineform .avi digital intermediate codec.
Exactly. If you are going to modify the footage, color grading, contrast enhancement, compositing, FX, etc. then you'll finish with better quality if you work in an intermediate codec designed for the purpose, such as the Cineform .avi.

But it's not due to the performance of CS5. I find CS5 solid and polished. I've been using it for months and not had it do anything bad -- no crashing, no littering of directories, no choking on file sizes, none of that.

The reason to use an intermediate codec is the highly compressed and lossy nature of AVCHD, not CS5 performance. For similar reasons I convert from JPG to TIFF to edit still images in photoshop, even if the final is going to be a JPG -- so as not to loose image quality with the intermediate steps.
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Old September 27th, 2010, 10:36 AM   #13
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The reason to use an intermediate codec is the highly compressed and lossy nature of AVCHD, not CS5 performance. For similar reasons I convert from JPG to TIFF to edit still images in photoshop, even if the final is going to be a JPG -- so as not to loose image quality with the intermediate steps.
Hi Bruce: Regarding your TIFF analogy: That certainly makes sense if you're actually saving as TIFF multiple times, reloading, re-editing, etc., but if you're not then it won't make a difference. Similarly, for AVCHD, if my workflow is "Decode AVCHD" -> (do nothing or very little) -> "Render as AVC" -> "Burn to Blu-ray Disc", using some proxy or intermediate format ought to have no effect on the quality of the output. The only scenario I can imagine where using a proxy format would have an impact on quality would be where one renders one's whole project, then loads the result (e.g., into another program) for still more work. Is there another scenario? I'd love a technical explanation.

Don't forget: A few years ago everybody was griping about how MPEG-2 was not a format to be edited. We seem to have gotten over that, though. Beyond the added efficiency of AVC, I'm not seeing the difference. Probably, when AVC-2 comes along, everybody will be talking about the "good ol' days of AVCHD" and how the NLEs just cut through it like a hot knife through butter. ;-)

Best,
Aaron
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Last edited by Aaron Holmes; September 27th, 2010 at 10:38 AM. Reason: typo
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Old September 27th, 2010, 01:24 PM   #14
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Similarly, for AVCHD, if my workflow is "Decode AVCHD" -> (do nothing or very little) -> "Render as AVC" -> "Burn to Blu-ray Disc"
If all you intend on doing for editing is simple trim and stitch, you can get decent output from editing in these lossy native codecs.
But, Bruce's point is well taken:
If you are doing more sophisticated editing, it's the nature of all the highly compressed, lossy codecs to be problematic. It has nothing to do with the capability of the NLE, it's a limitation of the codec itself.
Frankly, if you plan on doing only cut & stitch, and directly out to Blu Ray, there are many inexpensive consumer programs that are designed expressly for this purpose. There is no need to get into the expense and complexity of a pro level suite like CS5
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Old September 27th, 2010, 02:01 PM   #15
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Frankly, if you plan on doing only cut & stitch, and directly out to Blu Ray, there are many inexpensive consumer programs that are designed expressly for this purpose. There is no need to get into the expense and complexity of a pro level suite like CS5
True for the NLE, certainly, however one can't buy Encore separately anymore, and I have yet to find another BD authoring solution I like. Now we return to one of my earlier posts where I discussed the problem Encore CS4 has with AVC: If you try to import a single, long AVC program in a .m2ts file, it just dies horribly. If it doesn't die during import, it dies creating the disc image. Doesn't matter who rendered the .m2ts, Encore CS4 dies eventually. If CS5 fixes that, I'd love to know. I can definitely do most of my cut & stitch with a program like Corel VideoStudio, and in fact it does a great job with 1080i60. 720p60, not so much, which is a major bummer!

If somebody can tell me that Encore CS5 can import an hour-long AVC .m2ts file at, say, 24-ish Mbit/s (and, for bonus points, the peak memory usage of Encore during import), I would be enormously appreciative.

Very best,
Aaron
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