Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Review

by Reads (48,644)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Design
      • 8
      • Performance
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.00
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

  • 64-bit platform
  • Expansive format support
  • Awesome color-key effects
  • Cons

  • Only minor upgrades over CS4

By Dustin Sklavos

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is the latest version of one of the most powerful professional-grade video editing applications on the planet. Does Premiere CS5 bring pro-level features with its pro-level reputation and price tag? We break it down in this review.

This review is a particularly interesting one for me. I’ve done rundowns of consumer grade video editing software and checked back in on updates, but this is one of the few opportunities I’ve had to review something that very directly affects me as a professional filmmaker.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 main screenAdobe’s CS5 update of their software suite is in some ways a major one. With CS4 they brought a native 64-bit version of Photoshop, bringing with it the ability to address more than 2 gigabytes of RAM. They also added greater GPU acceleration to it, allowing Photoshop to scale and alter images in the UI on the graphics card, dependent largely on the amount of video memory available. This was all awesome for image editors, but as a video editor I found myself wondering where the 64-bit versions of Premiere and After Effects were. HD video was mainstream at this point and in the hands of consumers, and a high resolution still image is a drop in the bucket compared to how large video can get.

That’s the major new feature of CS5: Adobe has gone fully 64-bit on the PC for this suite, bringing with it the ability to harness all of the memory available in modern machines along with enhanced threading for multi-core processors.

WHAT’S NEW?

So what does Premiere Pro CS5 bring to the table compared to CS4? Well, most of the changes seem to be under the hood. The big difference is the 64-bit native executable, which is likely going to pay off in spades with larger projects. Adobe also likes to cite their Mercury Playback Engine, which is supposed to offer enhanced GPU acceleration even over CS4, and brings some CUDA-accelerated features for owners of workstation-class and high-end Nvidia video cards. Adobe and Nvidia are both a little bit cagey on their secret sauce and unfortunately all the video hardware in my household is ATI, so it’s hard to see any real differences.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 format supportOne thing that Premiere has always been excelled at compared to the competition is format support, and it only gets better in CS5. The number of formats supported for native editing is bewildering and much appreciated. Final Cut Pro oftentimes requires transcoding just to preview footage on the timeline, something that had been shocking to me when I learned about it in class. Premiere doesn’t. My desktop has always scrubbed through 1080i HDV pretty happily, no transcoding or previewing required.

Adobe has also added support for importing projects from Final Cut Pro and Avid, which for some users may be a godsend.

IN PRACTICE

Having played around with Premiere CS5 — the upgrade goes without saying, I’ll be doing most of my work in it from here on out — I do have to say that it feels very incremental compared to CS4. CS4 brought major changes to the UI and even to the overall workflow, allowing for batch encodes through the newly separated Adobe Media Encoder. Like many geeks, I fear change, and it took me a while to appreciate that this was a better way of doing things. Media Encoder CS5 is largely unchanged here.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Review Ultrakey footageOne of the big features that Adobe only trots out for the GPU-acceleration but is actually going to be useful for everyone is the new Ultra Key. Alongside the other crazy technological kung-fu Adobe’s engineers have pulled in CS5 (particularly the content-aware fill in Photoshop CS5, which is downright crazy), Ultra Key is able to perform some real magic with color-keying. The footage above is dismally shot, horribly uneven, but the Ultra Key is able to clean it up better than I was even able to do in After Effects CS4 (short of motion-masking the whole thing).

Other than that, though, Premiere Pro CS5 feels more evolutionary compared to CS4. The UI and workflow are largely unchanged and unfortunately certain bugs and lags that I experienced with its predecessor are still plaguing me here. CS5 is in many ways the Windows 7 to CS4’s Vista; Premiere Pro CS4 had a long teething period and got patched by Adobe frequently to get to the delightfully useful and mostly stable state it’s in now. If you want something 100% stable, I don’t know where you’re supposed to look, honestly. Final Cut Pro ain’t it; maybe Avid Media Composer will be? I’ll have to test that and get back to you.

CONCLUSION

Ultimately, CS5’s claims to fame are going to be the improved format support, native 64-bit executable, and CUDA acceleration for those of us blessed with the Nvidia hardware required to make it fly. Beyond that, if CS4 has already been rocking hardcore for you already, there isn’t a whole lot other than a series of small changes and fixes here and there, maybe a couple of new filters to play with. It’s not really damning with faint praise, more praise with faint damning. The tight integration between Adobe software remains a huge boon, and Premiere Pro CS5 brings the generally decent Adobe Encore, useful OnLocation, and wicked awesome Media Encoder along for the ride.

Outside of that, though, I find my work with Premiere essentially unchanged. If CS4 hasn’t left you wanting, or if you’re still stuck on 32-bit Windows (and if you are, get with the program!), CS5 doesn’t have anything to offer you. But if you’re looking for a good step up — and especially if you have a supported Nvidia card — CS5 is definitely a worthy upgrade.

PROS

  • 64-bit platform
  • Expansive format support
  • Awesome color-key effects

CONS

  • Only minor upgrades over CS4
  • ATI Radeon graphics bug


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