Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 review: speed and interface, enhanced

Unmatched performance and updated interface keep Premier Pro at the top of its game.

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New Editing Features

Of course, Adobe couldn't get away with merely sprucing things up; it had to add a few other improvements. The Warp Stabilizer, for fixing jittery video, is GPU-accelerated; the tool takes a little while to analyze a clip, but after that initial analysis, it doesn't need to go back and do it again, even if you make adjustments afterward, so it's fast. The maximum number of video tracks you can play with in Premiere Pro's neat multicam editing mode (which helps you cut between different camera shots) is now limited only by your system's power. If you have mono, stereo, and 5.1-channel audio clips, you can now add them all to the same track, if you like, instead of putting each of them on their own tracks.

Premiere Pro CS6's three-way color corrector isn't new, but it received a significant update, and it too is GPU-accelerated. Each of the tool's color wheels for shadows, midtones, and highlights now have reset buttons, so if you want to tweak only one, you don't have to start over; each has its own color picker. Color saturation controls are also independently adjustable. The tool has many settings, and in the hands of an expert, they are likely welcome, but in the hands of a hack like me, they seem a bit overdone. And again, there's that redundancy: You can use the color wheels to make adjustments, or you can scroll down and find controls that do the same thing but in a different way.

I do like the implementation of Premiere Pro's new Adjustment Layers, though. As in Photoshop, you can add an adjustment layer and then apply effects to that layer, and all of the tracks below it will receive the benefit of the layer changes. That can ensure some consistency: Instead of applying effects to a single track and then copying its attributes to however many other clips, you can change one and affect them all. Of course, if you do need to adjust a single track, you can move it above the adjustment layer and tweak it independently, or you can move the adjustment layer. Toggle the adjustment layer's visibility, and it will toggle the visibility of the effects on the underlying layers. It's a subtle, but very useful addition.

More Performance Improvements

As in the previous version of CS, Premiere Pro CS6's best performance is realized with the assistance of one of a select group of CUDA-enabled graphics cards, most of which are Nvidia models (CUDA is Nvidia's parallel computing architecture); but now a couple of AMD graphics cards in Apple MacBook Pro notebooks are supported as well. If you're truly after high-end performance--and are really well-heeled--you can now combine an Nvidia graphics card and an Nvidia Tesla card for dual-GPU processing.

My four-year-old workstation has an Nvidia FX4800 graphics card, which is supported by the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro CS6 (as it was in CS5.5). I was able to export a short but complicated high-definition sequence with Premiere Pro CS5.5 in 2 minutes, 29 seconds, and then in Premiere Pro CS6 in 2 minutes, 18 seconds--a minor difference. However, when I disabled the Mercury Playback Engine in CS6 and exported the same project using only my workstation's dual Xeon CPUs, the job required 14 minutes, 30 seconds. Clearly, if you're going to be using Premiere extensively, your money's best put into GPU power, not CPU power.

The stand-alone Media Encoder that comes with Premiere Pro CS6 and which works with other Creative Suite products is a 64-bit application too. You can set its watched-folder feature to output multiple video formats, and Media Encoder processes those files concurrently. Alas, it still won't output WebM or Ogg video, two of the HTML5-friendly Web video formats. It does support H.264 output, which most--but not all--browsers recognize. An Adobe rep said that if Ogg and WebM "become major formats desired by our customers, we will add them."

Until such time, to cover all browsers, you'll either have to produce video in those formats using other tools, or you'll have to export to--wait for it--Adobe's Flash format, which all desktop browsers continue to support, and use other delivery methods for mobile platforms.

Performance Powerhouse, Web Weenie

For a company that's so out in front on so many things, it's surprising that Adobe is playing a waiting game on Web video. But beyond that limitation in HTML5 video formats, Premiere Pro CS6 broadens its lead over other video editing applications. Its GPU-accelerated performance still smokes anything else you can buy, and that's one waiting game I'm glad Adobe is saving me from.

This story, "Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 review: speed and interface, enhanced" was originally published by PCWorld.

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