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Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 Review

Review by Ron Risman

July 2012

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I first installed the 30-day trial of Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 as well as the entire Creative Production Suite CS6, on my older Dell Inspiron 530 with Quad Core processor and just 4GB of memory. I was in the process of upgrading to a new system, but what the heck, why not test the software with the bare minimum requirements.

Adobe software is typically bulky, meaning that they don't usually play nice at the minimum requirements, so you can imagine my surprise when my first test project using Premiere Pro CS6 was going surprisingly well. H.264 Video footage played very smooth on the timeline - even using the new full screen option - and I was able to actually scrub in real-time while using the medium resolution setting on the program monitor.

While this was promising, I knew that project I had created was fairly basic with just two video tracks and two audio tracks. The two video tracks contained the same footage, but I applied a blur to the bottom track (Track 1) in order to use it as a backdrop to the track above it (Track 2). The audio tracks consisted of one music track and one vocal track that I recorded using a Tascam DR-05 portable audio recorder.

My aging computer is a 3.5 year old Dell Inspiron 530 with Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600 CPU running at 2.40GHz with just 4GB Memory, an NVIDIA GT240 graphics card with 1GB video memory and Windows 7 Professional OS (64-bit). While this system does work with Premiere Pro CS6, it is not in any way a recommended or preferred configuration. While the processor is plenty fast enough, the 4GB memory is considered a minimum requirement to run Premiere Pro... Adobe recommends 8GB. The nVIDIA GT240 graphics card is not officially supported by Adobe, which means that Premiere Pro won't access the CUDA graphics engine to enhance performance. I did manually add the GT240 to the CUDA supported text file in order to get Premiere Pro to recognize the card as "supported," but the card is on the very low end of the scale when it comes to performance. While that tweak got me by in CS5.5 the system was surely showing its age with regard to RAM and video performance. Since the system doesn't have the space for a more powerful graphics card or extra memory I decided to custom build a computer designed to handle HD video editing.

This new system was built with the goal of being able to smoothly run Premiere Pro CS6, After Effects CS6, and Photoshop cS6. The new system features the latest Intel i7-9390 6-Core processor, 32GB Quad Channel memory, dual SSD drives, dual SATA drives, and the officially supported NVIDIA GTX 580 with 3GB video memory. I almost went with the Quadro 4000, but just couldn't get myself to give up CUDA cores while spending more money. I have read the pros and cons of going with a Quadro card over a GTX card, but ultimately settled on the GTX 580 with 3GB of video memory.

I decided to use fast SSD drives to reduce bottlenecks associated with slower hard drives. One of the SSD drives was setup as a cache for the main boot drive (OS & applications) while the other was set up to be used for scratch files that are generated by Premiere Pro, After Effects and Photoshop CS6. SSD disks are much faster than individual hard drives, which helps to keep the system running full speed, even when playing back multiple tracks simultaneously.

The system included two additional 7200rpm SATA drives, one for content files (audio/video/graphics) and the other for exporting my final renders By using a drive for each task you greatly reduce the need for the system to read & write to the same drive, which can cripple the performance of any system.

Enhanced Features in Premiere Pro CS6

I can honestly say that Premiere Pro CS6 is the first version of Premiere Pro that I love to use. I got by with the other versions, but there just too many tasks that seemed to slow down the process of editing. Adobe have taken great strides with this new release to make sure that it not only impresses those who have used prior versions, but also to impress those that are making the switch from Final Cut Pro to Premiere. Lets take a look at some of the new capabilities of Premiere Pro CS6.

Live Thumbnail Scrubbing in the Project Panel

On of my biggest complaints with previous versions was the way that Premiere Pro generated thumbnails for each clip in the project panel. Every time I opened a bin with clips in it I would have to wait for each thumbnail to render in order to see the image that represented the contents of each clip. To make matters worse Premiere Pro would only draw thumbnails for clips that were visible. This meant I would have to slowly scroll down the list of clips, while waiting for the software to catch up - rendering each thumbnail one-by-one. I have since learned that much of this delay was caused by the fact that I was storing my content on an external (slow) drive, but that was only part of the problem.

In Premiere Pro CS6, Adobe have revamped thumbnails by getting rid of the static thumbnail and replacing it with what I call a LIVE thumbnail. These LIVE thumbnails will actually scrub through the clip as your mouse hovers and moves over the clip from side-to-side.. This feature makes it so easy to view the contents of an entire clip. You can even select in & out points just by using the "I" and "O" keys on your keyboard as you scrub over the thumbnail. This live scrubbing is similar to the way users can interact with thumbnails in Apple's iMovie and the new FCP software.

Premiere Pro CS6 still has the problem of only rendering thumbnails that are visible, but now that I store my content on an internal SATA 7200rpm hard drive the software is able to more quickly draw out each thumbnail as I scroll through my bins. I like to keep my clips separated into bins in order to stay more organized. When editing weddings I'll put each of these into their own bins: Bride Prep, Groom Prep, Location shots, Photo Shoots & Formals, Entrances & First Dances, Cake Cutting, Toasts & Speeches, and Dancing.

Tip: When opening a bin hold down the [ALT] key while clicking to open the bin in its own tab. This way you only have to scroll through the bin once while Premiere Pro renders the thumbnails. As long as you keep the bin open in a tab, Premiere won't let go of those thumbnails.

Full Screen Playback Support
This feature is so important that I can't believe I never complained about the lack of it in prior versions. Full screen support is now just a keystroke away when previewing your footage. Just press the [CTRL] + [~] (tilde) keys to see your preview or program monitor full screen. Hit the [ESC[ key to go back to the regular view. Full screen playback allows you to easily catch things like video noise, syncing issues, and sensor dust - before exporting your film. In earlier versions you only had playback zoom 10-200% but that only allowed you to view a small portion of the screen at once - making it easier to miss things.

Real time edits during playback (Uninterrupted playback)
While playing back your sequence you can now make real-time changes to effects (color corrections, blur, etc). This allows you to preview the changes to more than just one-frame - quickly and easily. This applies to audio effects as well.

In earlier versions of Premiere Pro playback would stop anytime you moved a slider or selected an effect. In CS6 playback will continue even when the program isn't the active window. I'm a multi-tasker, but with PP CS5.5 or earlier I was never able to reduce the screen size, hit play, and then do other work while a clip was playing. Now with CS6 I can play back footage while trying to find appropriate music or doing a web search for something. Even something as simple as changing the computer's master volume control would pause the playback in Premiere, just because Premiere was no longer the 'active' window. That's all changed in CS6.

Not all effects can be combined
When adding effects to your clips you eventually discover that some effects won't play well with others. For example, if you choose to reverse the playback of a clip or change its playback speed you won't be able to use the Warp Stabilization effect on that clip. You'll have to render (on export) that clip and then re-import it in order to stabilize it*. The same holds true if you try to use the plug-in GBDeflicker, a third-party plug-in that I use to deflicker time-lapse footage.

Instead of the plug-in giving a warning that GBDeflicker cannot be applied to clips that are not played at 100% speed, it will actually crash Premiere Pro if you try. I have also discovered other effects that if added to the same clip twice could make Premiere Pro unstable and crash. This has happened with Neat Video's Noise Reduction plug-in effect as well as when layering other effects in Premiere Pro.

Typically you wouldn't knowingly add the same effect to a clip multiple times, but there will be times when the wrong clip is selected as you double-click to add an effect. Using Adjustment layers can also add the same effect twice if you're not careful about which clips lie below the adjustment layer. If any of them already have a similar effect applied to them this would cause an overlap on those particular clips.

* I discovered a workaround for using Warp Stabilizer on a "time-remapped" clip - sort of. Instead of using the "time-remapping" feature to change the speed or duration of a clip, you can instead have PP interpret the clip to a different frame-rate Since Premiere Pro can accept clips of varying frame rates on the same timeline, this shouldn't cause a problem.

To change the frame rate (fps) of a clip, select the clip in the project area, right-click on it, and select [modify] from the pop-up menu, then select [interpret footage]. In the [interpret footage --> modify clip] dialog box, next to "assume this frame rate" you would enter a new frames-per-second (fps) value to change the speed of the clip. If the clip was captured at 24fps you would change it to 48fps if you wanted to slow the clip down by 50% or 12fps if you wanted to speed the clip up by 50%. Once the fps for the clip has been changed you can now drag it onto the timeline and add the warp stabilize effect to it. Note. Initially capturing footage 59.97fps (60p) works best when you want to slow down footage to 23.97 or 29.97fps. This trick will not allow you to vary the speed within a clip, like you could if you used the time-remapping option.

Easily Apply a Default Transition
PP CS6 allows you to set any Audio or Video transitions as a 'default', which you can apply to the beginning or end of a clip just by right-clicking and selecting "Apply Default Transition." In previous versions you would have to go to the Effects panel, find your effect, and drag it over to the clip. When dealing with hundreds of clips on a timeline this one feature can save you tons of time. Unfortunately only one of the effects can be accessed with the right-click shortcut, so if you're a transition junkie you still might be begging for more.

I have set the cross dissolve as my default video transition and the exponential fade cross dissolve as my default audio transition. These are not applied automatically - instead they are just a right-click away.

Adjustment Layers
If you have used Photoshop or most any other photo editing software you probably already know the benefit of using adjustment layers. The new Adjustment Layer feature in Premiere Pro works the same way. Instead of adding effects to a clip and having to repeat it for each similar clip on the timeline, you can now create an adjustment layer that will apply effects to any clips below the adjustment layer. This makes it easy to apply effects to a group of clips all at once, as well as editing those adjustments if needed.

Since Premiere Pro can sometimes crash when the same effect is added to a clip twice, make sure that when adding an Adjustment Layer, that the clips beneath the layer do not yet have effects applies to them. Of course, it is also good practice to back up your work frequently by pressing [CTRL - S] on your keyboard before making major changes.

Warp Stabilizer
Warp stabilizer has been a feature of Adobe After Effects since version 5.0, but now you won't need to own or use After Effects to apply stabilization inside Premiere Pro CS6. Warp Stabilization helps to smooth out or even eliminate camera shake that just can't be avoided when hand-holding a camera and can also help to reduce the effects of rolling shutter when shooting with a DSLR.

Warp stabilization is a feature that can take hand-held footage and make it look as if it was shot on a tripod. Warp stabilization isn't perfect, but when it works it is quite amazing. When it doesn't work well you'll notice a strange bending and morphing of the video in areas that needed the most stabilization. You'll need to play around with the different types of stabilization to see which settings will work best when the default setting isn't doing it. With clips such as these you may find that using Adobe After Effect's Tracking feature to stabilize the footage may work better than the warp stabilization feature. There's a great video on YouTube that was produced by Linda.com that shows how to use After Effects' Tracking feature to stabilize footage.

For hand-held shake caused by vibration or a slightly unsteady hand, you'll find that the Warp Stabilizer does a very good job, but for really shaky footage it probably won't save you. You should follow the adage of "Garbage in, garbage out" or "Get it right in camera" as often as possible.

Rolling Shutter Repair
If you're shooting with DSLR's, mirrorless cameras, or most any camera that uses a CMOS sensor, you're probably familiar with the fact that as you horizontally pan the camera, vertical lines tend to skew or slant in the opposite direction of the pan. This is caused by the fact that the sensor doesn't actually capture a complete frame of video all at once, instead it paints the scene onto the sensor line by line, starting at the top left corner of the sensor and ending at the lower right corner. While this happens incredibly quickly (1/30th second), it's not quick enough to keep up with the speed of a brisk pan or a wobbly hand. When camera movements bounce from side to side, vertical lines will start to look like jello, and if you pan quickly from left to right (or back) vertical lines will look slanted. This is called the the rolling shutter effect.

The new "Rolling Shutter Repair" effect in Premiere Pro CS6 will analyze the clip and try to correct for this rolling shutter effect. This effect should be used on clips where rolling shutter correction is needed, but not stabilization. If the clip needs stabilization as well as rolling shutter repair, you'll find that the warp stabilizer does feature automatic and enhanced correction built-in for rolling shutter.

Expanded multi cam editing
In previous versions of Premiere Pro (CS5.5 and CS5) Adobe introduce multi-camera editing for up to four simultaneous cameras. With the new CS6 Adobe has lifted the restriction on the number of cameras allowing the power of your computer to determine the limit.

Adobe Encore - Now 64-bit
You'll quickly discover that not everyone wants to view your final product on the web. Adobe Encore works directly with Premiere Pro to help you create professional quality DVD's and Blu-ray discs. New for CS6 is 64-bit support, which will give Encore some of the same speed advantages that you have inside Premiere Pro. Playing clips on the timeline will be silky smooth and transcoding and authoring your discs are also faster. Encore also allows you to create DVD's that can played back on the web. These "DVD's" will have the same functionality as a traditional Blu-ray disc with pop-up menus, multi-page menus, and looping menu playback.

Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 Integration
Adobe SpeedGrade CS6 takes color grading well beyond Premiere Pro and allows you to import your Premiere Pro sequences to create consistent color, match shots, and visually enhance your projects. Personally, I haven't yet learned to use SpeedGrade CS6 and thus have not used or miss it. As they say, what we don't know doesn't hurt us. Of course, once I learn it I'll probably only use Premiere Pro for some light color adjustments, saving the finishing work for SpeedGrade. We'll see.

5k Editing Support
Premiere Pro CS6 adds support for the new RED EPIC and RED Scarlet-X, allowing you to import the clips directly into Adobe Media Encoder CS6 for transcoding to HD and SD formats

How will it run with your current PC setup?

Premiere Pro is not a consumer piece of software, and as such, it really shines when it has the necessary power, ram, and storage to let itself go. While Premiere Pro CS6 will run on most computers with a minimum of 4GB of memory, there are some basic hardware requirements that your PC should have to really allow the software to shine. First, your PC needs to have a 64-bit processor (most of the computers in the past 3-4 years do). You'll also need to be running a 64-bit version of Windows 7 with Service Pack 1. From there you should have a minimum of 8GB of memory to give the software additional headroom to do its thing. While the software does run with 4GB systems, it has to share that memory with the Windows OS and other background tasks, which means the system will barely have enough memory to run reliably.

The next step is getting yourself one of the supported nVIDIA graphics cards. Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 uses a new Enhanced Mercury Playback Engine to deliver accelerated performance with a wide variety of powerful effects. In order for your computer to take advantage of the Enhanced Mercury Playback Engine the video card in your PC must be one of the approved nVIDIA cards that support GPU acceleration. On the more affordable side of things the nVIDIA GTX 470 or 570 are both on the list of supported cards and sell for under $300. nVIDIA cards feature an integrated GPU accelerator that Premiere Pro takes advantage of to speed up playback while editing. There are a wider number of supported video cards on the list for Premiere Pro CS6. To see a full list Click here. If you already own an nVIDIA card that supports GPU acceleration but ISN"T on Adobe's list, there is a well documented workaround that will easily allow you to add the name of your card to the (text) file that the software looks at to determine whether it should active Hardware GPU acceleration.

Last, but definitely not least, is the addition of multiple hard drives to your system. Ideally, the O/S should be on one drive, the software on another, the content on another, the scratch / temp disk on another, and the final output on another. The benefit of having separate drives for virtually every step in the editing process is so that the software never has to read & write from the same drive. Doing so can slow the system down since hard drives are the weakest link of a PC when it comes to speed. Many high-end video systems now include faster SSD drives in place of hard drives to help speed things up even further. Ultimately the more drives and ram your system has - along with a supported video card - the smoother the playback will be as you add more and more tracks to the timeline.

For the system that I built I went five internal drives; a 7200rpm internal hard drive with a 128GB SSD card for caching the drive. This drive stores the O/S and the software applications; a second 7200rpm internal SATA drive is used for my content (audio/video clips); another 7200rpm internal drive is used for my exports, while a second 128GB SSD is being used as a scratch disk. While I may at some point separate out the OS and the applications I am not really seeing a need to do this as my system seems to handle everything that I'm throwing at it - at least for now.

When you start to build up a system for video editing you'll quickly learn that your system will need a large, clean power supply in order to handle the extra memory, video, and drives. I went with a Corsair 850w Gold Power Supply, but there are many on the market to choose from. You'll also want to have a mid or full-tower case with a good cooling / air-flow system that will draw in cooler air from the room, while forcing hot-air from inside the case to escape. I plan to write an article about building your own video editing system sometime in the near future.

Review Conclusion

Adobe Premiere Pro keeps on getting better and better every year, but Premiere Pro CS6 is truly the first version of Premiere Pro that I can whole heartedly recommend. I love it and feel that with all the improvements over CS5.5; full screen playback support, live thumbnail scrubbing, default transitions, adjustment layers, expanded multi-cam editing, stabilization, and more - you will as well. There are other new features in CS6 that I haven't covered in this review, but you can find them on the features page from Adobe.

It wasn't just the new features that excited me about Premiere Pro CS6. It was also its ability to give me very smooth playback on my aging Dell computer system that only had 4GB of memory and a poor setup overall for video editing. Granted, I didn't try to do multi-cam editing on the Dell, but the fact that CS6 not only opened but ran smoothly on it really impressed me.

Premiere Pro CS6 finally became the software I had always wanted for video editing when I matched it with a computer that I had always wanted for video editing. This was an investment that I needed to make to keep sane. Trying to edit using my older Dell system and prior versions of Premiere Pro was frustrating. Playback was smooth -until I really needed it to be; the time it took to render and re-render clips that I added effects too slowed down editing in a big way; and waiting for those pesky thumbnails to redraw each time I opened a new bin would frustrate me to no end. Since I work out of my house - all those delays also ended up sending me to the frig way too many times throughout the day - so heck I'll even blame my gut on that as well. :-)

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 sells $799.95. However, if you currently own Premiere Pro CS5.5 the upgrade price is $149 and for prior versions of Premiere Pro CS3, CS4 or CS5 the upgrade price is $299.

Premiere Pro CS6 can also be purchased as part of Adobe's Production Premium Suite, Master Collection Suite, or their new Creative Cloud service. The Product Premium Suite sells for $1899 (Full version) or $349 (upgrade) and includes After Effects CS6, Photoshop CS6 Extended, Adobe Audition CS6, Illustrator® CS6, Flash® Professional CS6, Media Encoder CS6, and Bridge CS6. The Master Collection sells for $2599 (Upgrade for as little as $525).

Adobe's new Creative Cloud service is a new way of paying monthly for software and insuring that you'll always have access the most up-to-date versions. When you join the Adobe Creative Cloud service you'll be able to download and install every Adobe Creative Suite® 6 application, while also having access to Adobe online services for file sharing, collaboration, and publishing, AND you'll have access to new apps and features as soon as they're released. The new cloud service is $49.99 monthly, but if you are already a registered user of individual products and suite editions (CS3 or greater) Adobe is offering this service for the first year for only $29.99 (for a limited time).

If you're a student or teacher, Adobe offers hefty discounts as well. The only caveat to the student & teacher editions is that they do not qualify for an upgrade price later on.

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