First Look: Adobe Premiere Pro CS4

By John Virata

Premiere Elements user takes a first look at the big brother.

While Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 has been out for several months now, I thought I’d take a look at it from a Premiere Elements user perspective while still looking at some of the new features. The application is for professional video editors, but there is an upgrade path for Premiere Elements users. Both applications edit video, and both offer a wealth of transitions and effects, but Premiere Pro offers more professional features that aren’t found in consumer level video editing applications. I’ve been working with Premiere Pro CS4 for a few months now and it is a lot different that Premiere Elements, but still retains some similar look and feel to the interface. I’ve only been working with AVCHD video, mini DV, and video captured from digital cameras and Flip video cameras, so I am by no means taxing the software. That would be reserved for the professional video formats that Premiere Pro CS4 supports, such as Panasonic’s P2 and Sony’s XDCAM EX formats, and the RED formats from Red Digital Camera Company. Within the scope of this review, I’ll be focusing on some of the new features found in Premiere Pro CS4.

Speech Search

Speech transcription from amateur video footage

One of the new features in Premiere Pro CS4 is a speech transcription tool that is supposed to transcribe the spoken word in a video clip. What this does is takes that audio and converts it to text-based metadata that is fully timecode accurate and searchable as with any other metadata that you are experienced with, such as that input into a digital photograph. Click on a word in the transcription and it will give you timecode information so you know where that particular word is supposed to reside on the video.

Successful speech transcription using professional video footage.

The Speech Transcription options include support for a variety of languages, including English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, Korean, and Japanese. You can also choose the quality or accuracy settings as well. The issue with this feature is that it is highly dependent on the initial quality of the video clip. The old adage Garbage in Garbage out applies heavily in respect to using this tool. In most cases of testing this feature, using amateur AVCHD video with very high quality audio, the Speech transcription tool was accurate about 10 percent of the time. On the other hand, applying the Speech Transcript tool to a professionally produced video, it worked about 90 percent of the time. At any rate, you can use the good bits and pieces of what the tool transcribes and add it to the metadata of the clip.

Tapeless Camera Support

Premiere Pro CS4 supports the latest tapeless video formats, which is the future of video. In addition to supporting Panasonic’s P2 and Sony’s XDCAM EX and HD formats, Premiere Pro CS4 also supports the RED format from Red Digital Camera Co., as well as AVCHD. There is no transcoding or rewrapping of these files, which means that straight from the tapeless camcorder, you can import your footage and drop that footage directly on the timeline. In the image below, I’ve imported AVCHD footage (in this instance, .MTS files) directly into Premiere Pro and placed the files onto the timeline.  Editing can be done instantly.

Is tape dead? Not yet, but the new camera formats out there are suggesting that tape is definitely on its way out, especially for those who edit in the field and need all the time they can get. Digitizing video is a tedious process. For every hour captured on tape, you spend an hour digitizing the footage. With full support for most of the latest tapeless formats, is there really a need to continue capturing to tape?

Dynamic Workflow With Other Adobe Tools

Adobe Systems is probably the only company that gets it when it comes to suite integration. In CS4’s case, the applications that make up the suite are truly integrated with each other. For example, at any time in the editing process in Premiere Pro, you can edit an audio file in Soundbooth CS4 (if you have it installed) that is on the Premiere Pro timeline. Simply click the audio file that is on the timeline, right click the file and select edit in Soundbooth. Soundbooth will launch with the audio file open ready for editing. Once edited, save the changes and the audio file is automatically updated in Premiere Pro with no need to re-import the asset. That is the beauty of integration. Not all applications have it, but Adobe’s applications will talk within each other to speed the creative process.

Edit in Soundbooth

Resource Central
Resource Central is a tab within Premiere Pro that gives you instant access to product news as well as Premiere Pro templates. The idea here is to get your eyeballs on the latest Premiere Pro-based news and tutorials easily. If there is a specific topic in Resource Central and it has a globe next to it, a simple click of the Globe (or the title, which is linked) will launch your Web browser and send you to a page on Adobe’s website that has more detailed information on the topic.

Another new feature in Premiere Pro CS4 is the capability to import Final Cut Pro projects into Premiere Pro without having to convert or re-render video. This involves saving FCP files as XMLs and then importing the FCP XML into Premiere Pro CS4. Most transitions and effects in the Final Cut Pro file will translate over into Premiere Pro. It is interesting that Adobe has added this feature, given the fact that Adobe abandoned Premiere for the Macintosh in 2003, enabling Apple to refine and enhance its wildly popular Final Cut Pro application. Premiere came back on the Mac with CS3, and it is feature for feature pretty much identical to Premiere Pro for Windows.

Once you are finished creating your video, Adobe has some tools to help prepare it for output. You can also create Shockwave Flash versions of your projects as well. Adobe Media Encoder enables you to encode your finished projects to a variety of formats for a variety of playback mediums, because we all know now that video is just not being watched on the  TV set, even if it may be a 50 inch plasma.

First Impressions

As a Premiere Elements user, I am impressed with the depth of features and speed of Premiere Pro CS4. While I will probably never use many of the advanced features that Premiere Pro CS4 has, the learning curve is really not that difficult especially if you are a Premiere Elements user who wants to take the next step in video editing tools. Premiere Pro doesn’t have the hand holding features of a tabbed interface like that of Premiere Elements, but then again it is a professional editing tool. A tabbed interface workspace option would help with the transition to Premiere Pro, especially for those who are used to that type of workspace. If you are a Premiere Elements user and are looking to graduate to a professional level video editing tool, Premiere Pro CS4 is the best solution to make the transition. You’ll be in familiar territory, but will have a heck of a lot more territory to explore, as I am. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 for Macintosh or Windows is MSRP at $799 and the upgrade from Premiere Elements 2.x and up is $299. The Production Premium CS4 suite that includes Photoshop, Soundbooth, After Effects, OnLocation, and Encore, Device Central, and Illustrator is a better deal for a few hundred dollars more than just the standalone version of Premiere Pro CS4. For more information, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *