Monday, July 23, 2012

Switching to Premiere Pro: Day 1: Prelude to a fall

I first used Premiere back when it was Premiere 1.0, and 320x240 video at 15 frames per second was pretty awesome. I stuck with the program up through Premiere Pro 1.0, when Adobe stopped Mac development, and though I had Premiere Pro 1.0 for Windows, I switched to Final Cut Pro (which at that point was at version 4.)

I’ve been a happy Final Cut Pro user ever since, and infact I’m still happily editing projects using Final Cut Pro 7. If I convert material to ProRes first, I can edit footage from AVCHD camcorders and H.264 DSLR footage quite comfortably, and really, at the moment that’s the only thing that makes me want to consider switching; saving some time on Log & Transfer.

But Log & Transfer is a known quantity.

I tried Final Cut Pro X, and went back to FCP7, but I’ve continued to evaluate other options.

I’ve had Creative Suite 6 since it came out, yet apart from using Photoshop, have been holding off on diving into it. But last week I was starting a new project and thought it might be worth giving Premiere Pro a try.

And I thought I’d go the whole hog and start with Prelude to import all the content.

Starting with Prelude
I fired up Prelude for the first time, and despite the fact that I’d sat in on a demo - and the fact that it doesn’t really do that much - it still took me longer than I expected to figure things out.

As I saw it, Prelude lets you select clips and do basic trimming, and transfer those clips from the camera – or memory card – to your hard drive. It is that simple, but I didn't find the program so simple.

When I launched the application, it didn’t automatically list the drives and devices that are connected to the computer; first you have to choose Ingest from the File menu to import things.

This opens the Ingest dialog. That does list the drives and devices (in this case a Canon camera attached via USB) that are available.

Clicking on the appropriate drive/device icon doesn’t show you the files either; it shows you the directories in the device. Depending on the camera and the file structure, clicking on that directory opens a list of files. This screen lacks icons the first time, or a preview; which might be fine if you kept track of the tracks you want to import, but otherwise leaves you a bit at see.

BUT, if click on the thumbnails icon (bottom of the screen) it switches to a thumbnail view. Then you wait a few seconds – especially if there are a lot of clips – while it loads them.

Once you get that far, you see little icons and can preview clips that way. But it was only that I had seen in a demo that you can mark the in and out points, that I worked out I could set in and out points by scrubbing and pressing the I and O keys.

I really don't understand why they didn't have a preview window with play controls and the ability to set in and out points.

Setting In and Out Points for a clip

It’s not exactly easy to navigate about a clip, even if you are supposed to only do quick/rough edits here. You can enlarge the thumbnails. Still, there’s no real play commands, but it does at least make it easier to select edit points.

Drag the slider to enlarge the icons

Once you’ve selected the In and Out points (if desired) you then click the check boxes next to the clips you want to transfer.

The next part in the process is selecting where you want to transfer the clips to. This caused me problems the first time because the first time you run the app, there will be no location entered, and you might not realize it! I kept getting an error, and I even added a second destination thinking the first wasn’t really a destination, before I realized I had to click on the blank field and choose a destination.

A destination needs to be entered here

Finally, click Ingest and away you go; it copies the files to your hard drive and adds them to your Prelude project. Once imported, you can then add meta tags to indicate sub clips or flag interesting things, and you can also create a rough cut.

Going to Premiere
How do you go from Prelude to Premiere? That took me a minute. I tried seeing if Premiere would open or import a Prelude Project, but that didn’t work. I then found an export to Premiere menu option. Warning: it’s recommended that you launch Premiere first before you send to Premiere.

Creating A Rough Cut
This also took me a minute to figure out.

You create a Rough Cut in Prelude by first clicking the Rough Cut icon, which creates a separate Timeline sequence. Then drag either clips (or sub clips) into the Rough Cut. You can then select the Rough Cut and send that to Premiere.

Creating a Rough Cut in Prelude

Note: I had a weird issue with the sub clips where it didn’t seem to recognize the sub clip selection when I copied it into a Rough Cut. But later it started working, so I don’t know what’s going on with that.

I also had a problem transferring multiple clips to Premiere the first time I tried it; it hung the computer and I had to quit everything and try again. It worked the second time.

A Rough Cut imported into Premiere

After a bit of playing around with Prelude, I think I’ve figured it out and could actually use it to transfer files and do a rough cut. It didn't encourage me to tag media, rough cutting was rougher than I thought it would be, and stability was a mixed bag.

I’m not too sure that I’m going to do a lot of things in it; meta data seems to be the primary reason for this app, and I know meta data is important for future reuse of content. Unfortunately, most of my material won’t be used again. And that 5% that will? Well it’s just not worth spending so much time logging and documenting everything for those few times I have to go back and find things.


Wes said...

My name is Wes Plate, I'm the Product Manager for Prelude. I'm sorry to hear your first go with Prelude was rougher than it should have been, but your detailed description of your experience is useful for us to learn from.

To expand on one area you wrote about, the setting of In and Out marks in the ingest dialog: This was designed as a way to allow you to ingest less than an entire clip, which might be useful if you had a very long clip with only a short section of useful video in it. Generally it is probably faster to ingest all of your clips in their entirety then start logging/organizing via subclips/markers/bins/etc. The Ingest Dialog lets you preview the clips before you ingest them, but the app is designed so that you'll spend most of your time logging the clips NOT in the ingest dialog.

Thank you!

Michael Murie said...

Thanks for your comments Wes.

As someone who wants to do as little as possible when it comes to meta data I sort of feel like the two step process (choose what I want to import, then add meta data) is only going to encourage me not to do it!

I realize if you give a mouse a cookie they will only want more and more, but it's the segmentation that I guess I don't like.

Gregg said...

I haven't upgraded to CS6 yet so haven't used Prelude but I did switch from FCP7 to CS 5.5 last year.

It seems like your hesitant to leave Final Cut (which I get) and that's making you look for reasons to dislike Prelude/Premiere.

Like anything new it's gonna take some time to figure things out. I'll tell you for sure that if you're bugged by the few minutes it took you to figure out prelude, how about the extra hours it takes to Log & Transfer vs. native file acceptance in Adobe? I don't miss all that wasted time in FCP.

Michael Murie said...

Hey Greg,

Absolutely, I'd like to stay with what I'm comfortable with, but at the same time I've finally made the decision that I have to start making the transition, so some of my 'annoyance' may be miss-placed anger!

I also do UI design, so sometimes I get fixated on making things as simple for users as possible.

Finally, my current mantra is "touch it once" (applies to everything, whether it's tidying things up or working on projects) and Prelude seems to want me to touch things multiple times...

But having said that, I did sort of see Prelude as being the Log & Transfer equivalent for Premiere and though I don't think L&T is perfect I think Prelude should be more like it; not because I want to have everything like Final Cut!

Perhaps I'm looking at it the wrong way, and should have ignored the trimming option in the Preview as Wes suggests.

I may yet get used to it!

Finally - changing direction - what's your experience with mixed native video formats in Premiere? I went and made the mistake of doing the first project with multiple video formats and performance has been miserable. I think I should have transcoded everything to one format.

I'd be interested in your experience.


aven peter said...

Like anything new it's gonna take some time to figure things out. I'll tell you for sure that if you're bugged by the few minutes it took you to figure out prelude, how about the extra hours it takes to Log & Transfer vs. native file acceptance in Adobe? I don't miss all that wasted time in FCP.

Abagail neo said...

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