Adobe in Action

How many of you can remember when Adobe Premiere editing software was available only on the Macintosh platform? Well, Adobe has brought out a new version of its desktop post-production package called Adobe Premiere Pro, and according to Richard Townhill, group product manager for Adobe Video Products, it involves such a fundamentally thorough rewriting of its code that Premiere Pro will only be available for Windows XP.

"We've added the appellation 'Pro' to the name and restarted the version numbering because this software is entirely new," Townhill said. "But with an existing customer base of more than 1 million users, the current Version 1.5 of Adobe Premiere Pro is completely backward-compatible with the earlier Premiere 6.5. And, as part of the complete Adobe Video Collection, the emphasis is on streamlined workflow, application integration and increased real-time functionality."

The Adobe collection includes Premiere Pro for editing, After Effects for motion graphics and visual effects, Audition for audio editing and loop-based soundtrack creation including 5.1 mixing, Encore for DVD authoring, and the ever-popular Photoshop CS to tweak images to perfection.

Premiere Pro 1.5 supports uncompressed HD editing with additional video cards, including 24p, or compressed HD with the help of a plug-in from CineForm. But the central idea behind this significant upgrade is that everything is completely integrated so you can, for example, copy a clip from the Premiere Pro timeline and paste it into After Effects without leaving the original application.

The goal of this column, however, is to find out how new editing products perform under real-world production pressures, so I contacted two editors using Premier Pro who faced intriguingly different challenges.

Have you heard of the "24-Hour Film Festivals?" Video production teams are given identical story guidelines to incorporate into a short video to be produced during a round-the-clock shoot-and-edit marathon. The movement seems to have started in Europe, but this summer at least a dozen 24- (or 48-) Hour Film Festivals were held across the United States.

In early August, editor Joe Mastromonaco was part of a crew formed by Team Pictures that took part in ScavengerFest 5, hosted by Scavenger Films in Studio City, Calif.

On Friday evening, Team Pictures and the seven other squads that qualified for ScavengerFest 5 met at Carney's Diner on Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley north of Hollywood, where organizer Jerry Trainor gave out the required production parameters.

The videos had to include mention of "patty-cake," involve a scene at a drive-through restaurant's intercom, and somehow contain the nonsense word "lobensnizzlehoffgluben."

Buying fresh mini-DV tapes from a local Rite Aid drugstore, Team Picture members Kurt Spenser, Matthew Pierce and Brandon Hill concocted a script for "The Three Wishes of Paddy Cake," transforming parameter No. 1 into the name of a character who asks a magical leprechaun for an aphrodisiac perfume called "lobensnizzlehoffgluben." You can see all the festival's videos streamed as QuickTime files at http://, but for now let's just say Paddy's first wish results in his being chased through Hollywood by a herd of love-crazed women and his third wish leaves us with a surprise ending.

Editor Mastromonaco began creating the animated leprechaun in After Effects as soon as the production began, and the team kept feeding his laptop edit system DV tapes until 2 p.m. Saturday.

Between 2 to 5 p.m., they added the music composed by Chad Itskowitz in Steinberg's Cubase SX 2.0, mixed the tracks using Adobe Audition, and output a DV master to be shown to festival participants and patrons at 7 p.m. at The M Bar, a famed Hollywood watering hole.

As Mastromonaco described it, having access to all the modules of the Adobe Video Collection on the same platform made the production possible. For example, to create the rampaging mob of amorous women chasing Paddy, the team gave him one isolated action shot of actress Kelly Hicks that he exported into After Effects so he could rotoscope it using the Mask tool. Then he multiplied her image into a whole gaggle of running girls and placed the composite directly back on the Premiere Pro timeline.

In another scene, where Paddy is trying to escape the effects of that "lobens-whatever-it-is" potion, Mastromonaco brought four moving images simultaneously onto the screen.

"It was all done in real time, right on the timeline," Mastromonaco said. "In fact, once I had found the shots, it took less than a minute to resize them, add motion and pop them into the piece."

He was even able to use Photoshop to manipulate the green color of the leprechaun's costume and insert his image as an alpha key.

"The integration of all these applications within Premiere Pro is what made it possible to post this project in the time we had available," Mastromonaco said. "Except for the fact that the on-screen keyframes for adjusting audio levels are a bit small and sensitive when making fine adjustments, I found that Premier Pro answered all our needs."


Another editor, Scott Bryant, has been using Premiere Pro to bring HD post capabilities to Steam, his boutique production and design facility in Santa Monica, Calif. For less than $30,000, he has put together a high-definition editing and effects system on which he recently cut a prestigious "curtain raiser" video to be used for opening personal appearances by Intel's CEO Craig R. Barrett.

"We actually have two high-definition systems running Premiere Pro at Steam," Bryant said, "but for this project, I used an HD [pro] nonlinear edit system from BOXX Technologies with the Bluefish444 HD|Fury board so I could work with uncompressed HD."

Basically, the project was to be an epic celebration of Intel chip technology along the lines of "2001: A Space Odyssey," with the sun rising above a silicon disk and the Intel applications appearing inside hundreds of monolithlike blocks containing images illustrating their international communication capability.

Bryant actually did most of the work in After Effects, but it was the integration of the Premiere Pro workflow that enabled him to complete a complex project with as many levels of approval as this one required in just seven days.

"On the first day, I put together a quick composite of the concept for my client's review in Photoshop using still images," he said.

"By the next evening, I had used the real-time capabilities of Premiere Pro to create a moving animatic from those elements to demonstrate the way the sequence would flow. This became the blueprint for the composer to begin timing the music and within two days I had a rough version the client could approve. Then I started creating clips of the moving video that would ultimately appear inside some of the individual blocks."

Bryant inserted the six channels of the 5.1 surround sound music tracks onto his Premiere Pro timeline, and he delivered the project on schedule.

"For the way I work, the suite of applications that integrate with Premiere Pro provides the most functional editing approach I've found," Bryant said. "By having access to all that software power on one platform, a relatively small production facility like Steam is able to compete with larger, much more capital-intensive post houses."