Transitioning Into Adobe Premiere Pro CS5

thumbnail_alt_textThis article, third in a DV Info Net series exploring Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, has as its focus three elements for consideration by those folks who are considering a move to Premiere Pro from other video editing applications (previously we had published Premiere Pro CS5 Tips, Tricks and Notes, by various DVi contributors, as well as Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Six Months Later, by Pete Bauer).

First is a brief look at the advantages of Premiere Pro when working with contemporary HD video formats, specifically the tapeless acquisition systems offered by Canon, Sony and Panasonic. That’s followed by some user testimonials culled from our online discussion groups involving some of our DVi community members who have switched or are in the process of transitioning to Premiere Pro from other video editing programs. Then we’ll look at hardware options for configuring a desktop system or a mobile editing laptop using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

Quick Links to Individual Sections:

Working with Canon XF codec MPEG-2 video clips and other Canon video formats
Working with H.264 video clips from Canon and Nikon D-SLR camera
Working with MPEG-2 video clips from Sony XDCAM HD & EX camcorders
Working with AVCHD video clips from Panasonic AVCCAM camcorders
User Testimonial: From Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere Pro
User Testimonial: From Sony Vegas to Adobe Premiere Pro
Studio (Desktop) Configurations for Adobe Premiere Pro
Mobile (Laptop) Configurations for Adobe Premiere Pro
Adobe Premiere Pro Resources

The material on this page, covering various HD video format workflows, is an abridged overview which has been condensed from a series of Adobe resource guides. A more extensive examination for each type of codec can be found in the original Adobe documents, linked here and at the end of this article in the Resources section.

Working with Canon XF codec MPEG-2 video clips and other Canon video formats
(adapted from using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 with Canon digital video cameras)

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 offers full native format support for the standard- and high-definition video formats used by Canon video cameras—DV, HDV, and AVCHD, as well as the new Canon XF MPEG-2 codec. To bring any of these tapeless files into your Adobe Premiere Pro projects, use the Media Browser panel to navigate to and select the files. Because Adobe Premiere Pro supports the video formats used by Canon video cameras natively, the files import in a few seconds, without complex format conversions.

Depending on the camera model, you can shoot HDV, AVCHD or the XF codec’s MPEG-2 format video, store it on tapeless digital media, and quickly import it into Adobe Premiere Pro using the Media Browser, complete with metadata. Alternately, you can use OnLocation to log tapeless footage on set or in post-production. The workflow for importing tapeless files into your OnLocation projects is the same as it is for Adobe Premiere Pro. Just use the Media Browser panel in OnLocation to navigate to and select your media, and then quickly import it into your OnLocation project.

When shooting with SDI-equipped Canon digital video cameras such as the XF305, XF105, XL H1S, and XH G1S that feature HD-SDI output jacks, use third-party capture cards from Adobe partners such as AJA, Blackmagic Design, and Matrox to capture uncompressed 4:2:2 1080i60/50, 30p, 30F, 24p, or 24F video clips directly to your hard disk. Once on your hard drive, you can use the Media Browser panels in both Adobe OnLocation CS5 and Premiere Pro CS5 to quickly locate the footage you need and import it into your project.

Previous tape-based Canon video camera models such as the XH A1S and VIXIA HV40 record HDV-format video on standard miniDV cassettes. Those same video cameras come equipped with FireWire connectors that can be used to link the camera to a computer that’s running Adobe OnLocation. Use OnLocation to record SD and HD video directly to hard disk and log metadata while shooting on set, or later during post-production. When you transfer content directly to Adobe Premiere Pro for editing, all metadata and clip information, including In and Out points set in OnLocation, are retained by your media assets.

For those who still need to pull DV and HDV content off of tape shot with XL or XH series camcorders or other Canon models that record to miniDV tape, Adobe Premiere Pro supports batch capturing—automatic, unattended capture of multiple clips from controllable cameras and tape decks. You define a batch by selecting a group of clips that you have logged. These appear as offline (placeholder) clips in the Project panel or in a bin. You can capture any number of logged offline clips by selecting them and choosing File > Batch Capture. When you begin capture, Adobe Premiere Pro automatically re-sorts entries by tape name and timecode In points so that they’re captured as efficiently as possible. Automatic scene detection for both DV and HDV footage saves more time by reducing the number of clips you have to log manually.

You can also freely mix source footage with different resolutions, frames rates, and aspect ratios in sequences without complex format conversions. For example, you can drop HDV 1440×1080 24F footage shot with a Canon XH A1S into the same timeline as 1920×1080 30p footage from a Canon EOS 7D and 1920×1080 60i uncompressed footage from an XL H1S that was captured directly to hard disk over HD-SDI. You can even drop standard definition 4:3 clips into a 16:9 HD sequence—when you do so, the SD clips are pillar-boxed automatically.

Working with H.264 video clips from Canon and Nikon D-SLR cameras

Native support for D-SLR cameras in Adobe Premiere® Pro CS5 lets you begin editing HD video immediately, with no need for file format conversions or long render times. You can drop clips from your memory card directly into the Premiere Pro timeline (there’s no waiting to import) and the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine lets you mix footage, file formats, and frame rates on multiple tracks with real-time playback performance.

Jason Levine, an Adobe evangelist, has prepared an excellent video tutorial of the native D-SLR editing capabilities of Premiere Pro. It’s just over eight minutes in length, and he goes into a thorough description of how simple it is to take native H.264 High Definition video files from Canon or Nikon D-SLR cameras, regardless of frame rate or aspect ratio, etc., and start editing immediately. Adobe CS5’s Bridge media manager (included with Premiere Pro) can be used to grab video files from the D-SLR’s media card, or the video clips can be accessed by Premiere Pro directly from the card itself without having to transfer them to the computer.

Take a much closer look at Jason’s video by playing it in full-screen mode directly at Vimeo’s site… the direct link is http://vimeo.com/11369451. That way you can see it in HD mode, and you’ll be able to see the Premiere Pro on-screen menu choices, etc. much more clearly than it’s presented here. Note: native D-SLR video clip editing is one feature which is NOT supported in the free trial version of Adobe CS5 Premiere Pro.

Working with MPEG-2 video clips from Sony XDCAM HD & EX camcorders
(adapted from using Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 with tapeless Sony XDCAM content)

Adobe Premiere Pro software provides a straightforward, flexible, and comprehensive means of editing and delivering content created on Sony XDCAM cameras. The Media Browser in Adobe Premiere Pro lets you easily browse and find XDCAM footage on optical discs, memory cards, and hard disks. The footage, with the associated metadata, can then easily and quickly be imported in a single step directly into Adobe Premiere Pro projects, with the metadata tracked through post-production and delivery. For fast turnaround projects, you can edit XDCAM media in the Adobe Premiere Pro timeline while the media is still on a Professional Disc or on SxS cards. Once XDCAM content is in Adobe Premiere Pro, you can edit it with the same ease and power that Adobe Premiere Pro delivers for all compatible video content.

Adobe Premiere Pro provides a unique project preset for each supported XDCAM format, for example, XDCAM EX 1080 24p (HQ). The project preset helps ensure that the output render settings match the source content, and that the content appears in the Adobe Premiere Pro timeline without a red render bar above it. A red bar indicates content that does not match the current project settings and must be rendered before final output. Note that most content that does not match current project settings (for example, DVCPRO HD content in an XDCAM project) can still be edited in real time with Adobe Premiere Pro.

Although you can import XDCAM media through the standard File Import dialog box, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 provides an easier and better means of finding and importing XDCAM and all other content into Adobe Premiere Pro projects. The Media Browser gives users quick access to their hard drives and other storage media while they edit. Unlike the File Import dialog box, the Media Browser can be left open and docked like any other panel in Adobe Premiere Pro. You can import clips from hard disks and also directly from XDCAM discs and XDCAM EX cards.

The Media Browser makes finding XDCAM content simple. Both XDCAM HD and XDCAM EX record high-definition video as 4:2:2 or 4:2:0 MPEG-2 and audio as uncompressed linear pulsecode modulation (PCM). But each format packages its video and audio in different file wrappers and folder structures, with metadata and media stored across several files. For XDCAM and XDCAM HD, video and audio are combined into MXF files in a Clip folder. In XDCAM EX, each shot is stored as an MP4 file that’s placed in its own subfolder along with several metadata files. The individual shot subfolders are grouped within a CLPR folder that resides within a BPAV folder. With the Media Browser, you don’t need to navigate through those folders. You simply navigate to a mounted XDCAM disc or card, or to a copy of a disc or card on the editing system’s hard drive or RAID system. On both Mac OS and Windows® operating systems, the Media Browser automatically digs through the XDCAM folder hierarchies and displays just the needed video files. Additionally, the Media Browser presents spanned clips (single shots that because of length run to more than one file) as single files. Double-clicking on a clip in the Media Browser lets a user preview it in the Source monitor before importing. The Media Browser lets you focus on the XDCAM content files, not the folders.

To import one or more shots from the Media Browser into Adobe Premiere Pro, select File > Import From Browser, drag the shots from the Media Browser into the Project panel, or drag them directly from the Media Browser into a timeline. Because Adobe Premiere Pro software natively supports XDCAM, you do not need to endure file conversions. As soon as you browse to the files needed, you can use them in projects with virtually no delay.

When users import an asset, Adobe Premiere Pro leaves it in its current location and creates a clip in the Project panel that points to it. For best performance, you can first transfer files from the XDCAM optical or solid-state media to a local hard disk. Then, you can import from the hard disk into a Adobe Premiere Pro project.

After the XDCAM clips are imported into an Adobe Premiere Pro project, they can be edited with the same comprehensive Adobe Premiere Pro toolset available to any supported video format. As with every Adobe Premiere Pro project, content in other formats (for example, HDV, DV, and DVCPRO HD from tape or P2) can be added to XDCAM projects and edited in XDCAM timelines. Adobe Premiere Pro provides flexible tools that let you numerically and visually scale mixed content to match the resolution, aspect ratio, and other aspects of a project’s master format. Most mixed-format timelines play back in real time during editing, with the content that does not match the project’s render settings only requiring rendering for final output.

Adobe Premiere Pro can edit XDCAM EX content while that content is still on a SxS memory card in an XDCAM EX camera. That ability, together with the real-time editing tools in Adobe Premiere Pro, helps enable a workflow for meeting extremely tight deadlines. A single SxS card holds from 25 to 140 minutes of high-definition XDCAM EX material, depending on the card size and content bitrate. That is more than enough for the A-roll and B-roll in a short news package, web update, or quick corporate piece.

Through the Media Browser, you can access video files on an SxS memory card that is mounted in an XDCAM EX camera or inserted into a computer’s ExpressCard slot. Without transferring files to a hard drive, you can import content into the Project panel, or drag one or several files from the Media Browser directly to an Adobe Premiere Pro timeline. The files remain on the SxS card during editing. Disc-based XDCAM content can also be edited directly from Professional Disc media. File transfer rates from Professional Disc are slower than from SxS cards, so editing performance is restricted. Still, for basic editing with full image quality, this workflow can help a user meet a tight deadline.

Working with AVCHD video clips from Panasonic AVCCAM camcorders
(adapted from end-to-end editing workflows with Panasonic AVCCAM cameras)

AVCCAM is Panasonic’s brand name for its professional cameras which use the AVCHD codec. Three applications in the Creative Suite are principally involved in the AVCHD workflow – Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Adobe Encore. Adobe Premiere Pro provides complete, native timeline support for all AVCHD recording formats. Adobe Premiere Pro supports all frame sizes and frame rates of AVCHD. Most work with AVCHD content will be done in Adobe Premiere Pro, and it will be through Adobe Premiere Pro that most of the other CS5 applications will usually be accessed in the AVCHD workflow.

Another significant advantage of editing with Adobe Premiere Pro is that there is no transcoding or rewrapping; all footage is natively supported as recorded by the AVCHD camera. You can begin editing the exact files recorded by the cameras immediately after shooting, straight from the SD card, or even straight from the camera — there is no waiting. You can share media between users and other NLE systems in its native format. You also maintain the full quality of the footage throughout the entire production process. In addition, Adobe Premiere Pro provides a full array of export options. Most common formats can be accessed from the timeline and through Adobe Media Encoder.

The industry-standard compositing and visual effects program, After Effects, also supports all frame sizes and frame rates of AVCHD material in its native format. After Effects can import AVCHD material directly; it can import Adobe Premiere Pro AVCHD project files and sequences, or it can create composites with AVCHD material inside an Adobe Premiere Pro sequence using Adobe Dynamic Link. As of CS5, a 64-bit operating system is required for Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects. Adobe Encore CS5 software is a rich set of creative tools for DVD and Blu-ray Disc authoring as well as web versions of DVD projects (SWF file export to the web).

The best method for importing AVCHD files into Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is by using the Media Browser panel. You will see a list of your storage devices; clicking on the arrow next to each letter will reveal the folders on that drive. Navigate by clicking the disclosure triangles to a drive or folder containing a AVCHD PRIVATE folder (“twirling to a folder”) – or to an SD card itself if mounted on the system – and in the sub-panel immediately to the right, thumbnails of your clips will appear. The video contents will appear when you reach the PRIVATE folder level; navigating further into the PRIVATE folder is not necessary.

To the right of the clip Name, you will see numerous columns of metadata. You can select which columns are displayed, and in what order, by clicking on the flyout menu icon in upper right of the Media Browser panel, and choosing “Edit Columns.” You can sort the clips by any of the metadata columns, so if you wish to group your clips by Name, or any other of the applicable columns, you may do so before importing.

If you have shot a variety of formats or frame rates, a good way to sort footage is to activate the Frame Rate and Frame Size columns and move them up near the Name column. You can then easily determine which footage is which format and/or frame rate. Note that the footage frame rate will include interlaced or progressive information, and that 1080i60 material will read as 59.94i, while 1080p30 material will read as 29.97p, making it easy to tell which is which.

To import a clip from the Media Browser into Adobe Premiere Pro directly, you can drag it to the Project panel, or you can right-click and choose “Import.”

If you wish to review clips before deciding to import them, a clip in the Media Browser can be opened in the Source panel only – without importing into the project — by double-clicking. There, you can set In/Out points and then send the selection only to the timeline. You can drag/drop the selection by cursor, or, you can send the clip to the Current Time Indicator on the timeline by pressing the comma key for an Insert edit, or the period key for an Overlay edit. You can also click the corresponding edit buttons under the Source panel. The selection will appear in the timeline, and the full clip will automatically be imported into the project.

You may also use the Import selection under the File Menu (or Ctrl+I in Windows or Command+I on the Mac). In the Import dialogue box, you would then navigate to the STREAM folder and select the MTS files for import. You may also use Windows Explorer or Finder to navigate to the STREAM folder of an AVCHD SD card. Then, you may simply drag the video files to the Project panel in Adobe Premiere Pro.

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