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Premiere Pro a Slam Dunk

Adobe challenges Apple with Mac-free NLE By Charlie White
The 90-pound weakling of nonlinear editing, Adobe Premiere, has just been entirely re-written, turning it into a muscle-bound bully into whose face competitors would be foolish to kick sand. Emerging from a two-year-long metamorphosis is Premiere Pro, a brand new iteration of one of the granddaddies of digital video editing. The best news is, the age-old editor managed to retain just about everything you might have liked about it, while adding so many new pro-level enhancements that it becomes obvious once you dig deep into it there was one specific target in the minds of those at the reins of its development effort: Apple and its popular video editor, Final Cut Pro.

Adding extra significance to the gauntlet thrown down at the feet of the Cupertino fruit company was the announcement that this new Premiere Pro application will only be available for Windows. Does this mean war? Or, as USA Today put it, did Adobe "snub" Apple and its Mac platform by excluding it from the Premiere Pro party? Nah. This isn't war, it's business, although many times war and business can seem to be much the same thing. It's good old-fashioned competition, and it's making everyone sharper. And guess who is the biggest winner in this battle? You, that's who -- all digital video editors should be welcoming this horsy behavior of the big software companies. But not all is sweetness and light. Even if youre not possessed with that odd affinity for Macs that loyal users are wont to call Love, a MacDrain scenario cant be a good thing. The Windows juggernaut needs an alternative platform with which to compete, too. And, absent Premiere, the Mac platform is left with just three major pro-level editors from which to choose: Final Cut Pro, the various flavors of Avid, and Media 100i. Meanwhile, on the PC side, a crowd of editing apps come to mind: Vegas, Avid MC/Symphony/DS/etc., Media 100 844/X and Finish, Ulead Media Studio Pro, DPS Velocity, Quantel eQ/iQ, Sony Xpri, Pinnacle Edition/Liquid, Premiere Pro, AIST Cinegy, Incite Editor Studio, United Media On-Line Express, in:sync Speed Razor, NewTek Toaster, and a few others.

In this hotly-contested NLE arena, I think the Adobians made a smart decision, given that Adobe attributes a mere 10% of its Premiere sales to the Mac camp. Why spend an extra year developing Premiere Pro for the Mac, when such a paltry sum of the dwindling Mac-faithful can be awakened from their trance, the object of their desires being the white-hot Final Cut Pro? But wait. Dwindling Mac-faithful? That can't be true, you may be saying. Before you shoot the messenger, look at the numbers. Even though Macs are estimated to be used in about 50% of the overall content creation space, interest in the platform for video editing, especially in the broadcast and cable world, is eroding. According to Trendwatch's latest research, only 13% of TV and cable stations are planning to buy Macs in the coming year, versus 20% who planned a Mac purchase last year. Compare that to 38% planning to buy Windows PCs this year, versus 26% who planned to buy Windows PCs last year. This 13% purchase intent is far from the exaggerated 50% Mac penetration figure that Mac enthusiasts like to quote when touting the Mac's popularity in video editing environments. Meanwhile, will other companies like Avid start thinking that maybe the Mac isn't worth the trouble? Avid tried edging away from Mac support at NAB four years ago, to the bitter outcry of Mac users everywhere, and ended up backpedaling all the way from Las Vegas back to Tewksbury, burying the idea along the way. But that was then, this is now.

Without Adobe Premiere for the Mac to kick around any more, one is left to ponder: Will there be more defections? Could Adobe After Effects be next in line for Mac-stinction? Would Apple venture to develop its own version of, glory of glories, Photoshop? Heaven forbid. Adobe wouldn't react well to such a challenge. In fact, Adobe has drawn the line in the sand for Apple. If the Jobsians do cobble together their own answer to Photoshop, and confront After Effects with, say, Shake (perhaps turning it into something mere mortals might want to use), we could see a situation where there's only one company to turn to when you want Mac software for video work: Apple. Not good. For those of you in the corporate world, you know your procurement bean counters don't like single-company bids, nor do most of them care for Macs in the first place. They're just not uniform enough, stodgy enough, or cheap enough. "You want to use a Mac?," they'd say. "Tough."

What makes this all so interesting is that Premiere Pro is so damn good. I mean, if Final Cut Pro was head and shoulders above everything else out there, we could just shrug our shoulders and say, "so what?" But after taking a good long look at Premiere Pro this week in New York, and beyond that, all the editing software and hardware currently available, I don't think Final Cut Pro is King of the Hill any more. As for Premiere Pro, find out more by reading our First Look by beta tester extraordinaire Wes Howell by clicking on these words, and watch Digital Media Net for the full review when the software ships in late August. What do I think of it? For now, after playing around with an extremely stable build of the Premiere Pro software for five or six hours, let me tell you, I was more impressed with this software than I have been with any nonlinear editing app in a long, long time. It's vastly improved. For example, you can now use multiple timelines. Everything happens in the YUV color space, resulting in a much snappier, quicker, faster-rendering, mostly real-time experience. Gone are the days where you were clicking five or six times just to do simple things -- everything's a click or two away. The color correction tools are first-rate. It's easier that ever to work quickly in the timeline. Trimming is a breeze. The audio tools are greatly improved. The list of excellence goes on and on. And I saw here at DV Expo the beginnings of widespread hardware support from Matrox -- which was, for the most part, almost working at this early date -- and from Canopus, which promises to have its Premiere Pro support up and running soon. Notably missing was Pinnacle, which said it's not going to play the Premiere game any more, eschewing Premiere Pro support in its Pro-One hardware/ Premiere software combo. As an aside, I suspected as much when Pinnacle founder Ajay Chopra told me at NAB in April that the company was "de-emphasizing" Pro-One, apparently placing its bets on the newly-reborn and also-awesome Edition 5.

Isn't the world of nonlinear editing getting even more interesting lately? Reflect upon this with me for a minute: Apple raises the ante with its formidable 64-bit G5 platform, Avid gooses its hardware beyond what any of us expected, there are a slew of excellent editing applications from which to choose with more and better products in development all the time, Media 100's 844/X stares down the hundred-thousand-dollar club of compositors, Pinnacle exploits Open GL and the power of graphics cards, Final Cut Pro 4 releases with a long list of astonishing improvements, HD editing is about to explode, and now Adobe slam-dunks a new version of Premiere that turns everything upside down. I stand back from it all and shake my head in disbelief.

Charlie White, your humble  storytellerDigital Media Net Executive Producer Charlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist since 1994, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor, broadcast industry consultant and shot-calling television director who has worked in broadcasting since 1974. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

Read more of Charlie White's editorials by clicking here.

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Related Keywords:nonlinear editing, Adobe Premiere, Premiere Pro, digital video editing, popular video editor


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