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Video software Reviews
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Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 review

£793 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Adobe

Our Rating: We rate this 4 out of 5

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is the video-editing software that can unleash the potential of your hardware - so long as you are running a 64-bit operating system.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is the video-editing software that can unleash the potential of your hardware - so long as you are running a 64-bit operating system.

RAM is cheap. Hard drives? Cheap. Big, beautiful LCD monitors? Cheap, cheap, cheap. You may have all the elements of a great video-editing setup, but for one thing: a video-editing application that can take advantage of all that inexpensive hardware. With the new Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, though, you'll have all the components necessary to make even high-definition video editing fly.

Well, almost all the components. In addition to being 64-bit-aware, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 relies heavily on GPU processing. If you have one of a very select (and expensive) group of graphics cards, the application will greatly speed up rendering and real-time playback, and leave your computer's CPU to handle more-mundane tasks. See our Adobe Creative Suite 5 review.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5: 64-Bit Means More RAM

The 32-bit versions of Windows have been squeezing users. Those OSes can recognize only 4GB of RAM at most, even as applications and Windows itself have come to demand ever-increasing amounts of RAM. On a 32-bit system, once all your startup programs load, you may have little left over to run memory-intensive applications.

With the debut of Creative Suite 5, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 - along with its companion applications Media Encoder CS5 and Encore CS5, and the separate After Effects CS5 - is now 64-bit native. That shift is long overdue (about five years overdue, since Vista came on the scene), but we're still surprised that Adobe won't even offer 32-bit versions of these applications; you must have a 64-bit OS to run them.

When we installed a beta version of Creative Suite 5 on our test system, a dual-Xeon workstation running Windows 7 64-bit with 8GB of RAM, we did not notice a substantial improvement in rendering speed - but then, our workstation doesn't have one of the approved graphics cards.

Relying on CPU power, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 didn't render any more quickly than Premiere Pro CS4 did. However, we had none of the RAM-related problems we've occasionally encountered with Premiere Pro CS4 - none of the slow reading and writing of data to the hard drive instead of to RAM, fewer playback and timeline scrubbing hesitations, and generally smoother operation overall.

As with the 64-bit Photoshop, Premiere Pro requires that you allocate RAM manually - up to a maximum of 128GB. On our 8GB system, the default setup reserved 6.5GB for Premiere and 1.5GB for everything else. However, with only a simple, single-track project open, Premiere used merely 214MB of RAM - it did not take up the entire 6.5GB, and our system ran perfectly well with several other applications open. Only when we started adding several tracks of HD clips and effects did Premiere start gobbling RAM; the highest amount we saw was about 3.5GB.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5: Graphics Card Pick-Me-Up

One of the benefits of Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is that Adobe is continuing the trend of using GPU power that it began with After Effects a couple of versions ago. The company says that Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 can "solve many computational problems in a fraction of the time a CPU would take to perform the same task" and thus can render HD video much more quickly - freeing your CPU to handle "background tasks". If we were Intel, we'd feel insulted by that.

That benefit goes only so far, though: Adobe has qualified just five graphics cards for use with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 - all of which use nVidia's CUDA technology. Four of the cards are Quadro workstation cards, ranging in cost from roughly £500 to more than £1,500; the sole desktop card so far is the GTX 285, which sells for about £325. Only the GTX 285 and one of the Quadros will work in a Mac. SLI configurations aren't supported.

Adobe says it will also support new cards from nVidia's Fermi line, such as the GTX 470 and GTX 480, which are supposed to be available this month. Unfortunately, while those cards are coming out soon, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 won't gain GPU-acceleration support for the GTX480 until the third quarter of this year, and Adobe hasn't said anything yet about the GTX 470.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Effects Browser now has three buttons at the top of its window - one that filters the list to show only GPU-accelerated 32-bit effects, one that shows only CPU-accelerated 32-bit effects, and one that shows only YUV colour-space effects. The filtering is particularly useful because if you mix 32-bit effects and 8-bit effects, they'll all render in 8 bits. Also, the accelerated effects are a bit of a tease - they are available for use only if you have one of the supported graphics cards installed, but they show up whether you have an appropriate card or not.

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5: Additional Features

Mixing Macs and PCs in the same shop? Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 can now share projects and assets with Apple's Final Cut Pro, and with Avid editing applications. If you use only common effects and transitions, you may be able to do so without converting or even rendering - though you will still have to worry about how to share the gargantuan source files.

Native support for massive R3D files generated by RED Digital Cinema cameras is new, as well as support for XDCAM HD 50, AVC-Intra footage, and HD video from some Canon and Nikon digital SLRs. For example, we imported HD video from a Nikon D5000, and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 required no conversion at all - we just dropped the clips into the source bin, and, from there, immediately into the timeline. Similarly, Premiere will now import unprotected asset files from a DVD, also with no fuss.

A new tool finds gaps in videos on your timeline, and another lets you output a still frame from your video with the click of a button. The latter function makes it much easier to generate a thumbnail image for your website.

You can now set monitor playback resolution and pause resolution independently by using a simple drop-down menu; that's useful if you're editing on an underpowered system such as a laptop. But as with many Adobe applications, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5's interface text is very tiny, and you can't adjust the text size.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

See also: Adobe Photoshop CS5 review

Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 Expert Verdict »

Intel Core 2 Duo, AMD Phenom II, Multicore Intel
64-bit support
64-bit Microsoft Windows Vista/7/Mac OS X v10.5.7/10.6.3
2GB of RAM
10GB of available hard-disk space
7200 RPM hard drive for editing compressed video formats
RAID 0 for uncompressed
1280x900 display with OpenGL 2.0–compatible graphics card
Adobe-certified GPU card for GPU-accelerated performance
Adobe-certified card for capture and export to tape for SD/HD workflows
OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 port for DV and HDV capture, export to tape, and transmit to DV device
Sound card compatible with ASIO protocol or Microsoft Windows Driver Model
QuickTime 7.6.2
Broadband Internet
  • Overall: We give this item 8 of 10 overall

Adobe's with-both-feet move to a 64-bit-native application is a bold one, and a move that other developers are sure to follow. The number of graphics cards with which Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 will support GPU acceleration is very small; but if video editing is your job, at least you now have an upgrade path that is practically guaranteed to speed up your workflow.

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