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Premiere: The Big Picture

Premiere: The Big Picture

Fade in. Dolly in slowly toward a computer: a keyboard, screen, and a dated CPU that looks like a beige pizza box. On the screen, a small, grainy movie plays jerkily. Superimpose titles in steady succession: Macintosh IIsi. QuickTime 1.0. Premiere l.0. 1991.

From the first scene, you could see where this movie was headed. Programs like Premiere hinted at the computer’s potential for democratizing the video medium. The benefits the computer brought to number-crunching, word-processing, and publishing would inevitably reach video. What once could be achieved only on high-priced, high-end equipment would one day be done on a desktop.

Now desktop video is realizing its potential. Increased computing power has made digital filmmaking a reality; innovations like the DV video format have brought high-quality imaging to the masses; and the rapidly expanding bandwidth of the Web provides new presentation venues.

For over a decade, Premiere has been a useful tool for editing digital video, audio, still images, and text on the desktop. Now it’s able to fulfill its promise better than ever before. Whether you’ve chosen Premiere to create programs for multimedia, video broadcast, or the Web, you’ve chosen this book because you’re eager to get started.

The Visual QuickStart Series

Chances are that you’re already familiar with Peachpit Press’ QuickStart series of books. They’re known for their concise style, step-by-step instructions, and ample illustrations.

The Premiere 6.5 Visual QuickStart Guide distills a dense, multifaceted program in the time-tested QuickStart tradition. If the book looks a little thick for a “concise” guide, consider that it contains literally hundreds of screen shots that clearly illustrate every task. Like other books in this series, the Premiere 6.5 Visual QuickStart Guide strives to be quick without failing to guide.

Using This Book

Though the text restricts itself to the task at hand, it doesn’t hesitate to give you critical background information, usually in the form of sidebars that help you understand the concepts behind the task. If you are already familiar with the concept, feel free to skip ahead; if not, look to the sidebars for some grounding. Also keep an eye out for tips, which point out shortcuts, pitfalls, and tricks of the trade.

Chapters are organized to present topics as you encounter them in a typical editing project, though the task-oriented format and thumb tabs let you jump to the topic that you need.

The arrangement of chapters does diverge from the editing process in one notable area, video capture. Although capturing video takes place at the beginning of an editing project, the book doesn’t address it until Chapter 16, “Capture.” This is because you don’t have to capture your own video to edit in Premiere; you simply have to put footage on your hard drive. In addition, capture has a lot in common with the end of the process: outputting the program to tape. Both procedures require the same hardware: a camera and an IEEE 1394 interface (better known as FireWire or iLink; see sidebar) or capture card. Both procedures also use similar video and audio settings, discussed in Chapters 18, “Video and Audio Settings.” These pervasive technical topics are compiled in the final chapter, which also serves as a mini-handbook for digital video.

Using Premiere, of course, touches on a multitude of related topics: formats, editing aesthetics, special effects, audio sweetening, Web delivery, and on and on. Explaining the fundamentals and background of each of these areas is far outside the scope of this book (and even books that don’t have the word quick in their title). Nevertheless, this guide tries to provide enough information to keep you moving and point you in new directions.

IEEE 1394

IEEE 1394 provides simple, inexpensive, fast data exchange between electronic devices—most famously, between a video camera and computer. If your computer doesn’t already have an IEEE 1394 controller card, you can usually install one yourself. IEEE (pronounced, “eye-triple-E”) stands for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., a non-profit association of professionals who develop standards to foster compatibility between devices. They dubbed their 1,394th effort—what else?—IEEE 1394. However, the folks at Apple trademarked it FireWire—a much snappier and more descriptive name. Sony trademarked the name iLink for its IEEE 1394 capable devices. For the sake of convenience, this book uses the term “FireWire,” not only because technologists at Apple first conceived of the standard, but also because their catchy name has become synonymous with IEEE 1394.

How Premiere Works

Premiere is digital nonlinear editing software. A breakdown of this description can give you clues about how it works.

Digital— Premiere manipulates digital media: digital video and audio, scanned images, and digitally created artwork and animation stored in various formats. Regardless of the particular format, these materials are stored as files on your computer’s hard disk. Strictly speaking, Premiere doesn’t convert analog video and audio to digital form, although it does contain controls that do so in conjunction with built-in or add-on hardware, such as a capture card or FireWire connection.

Nonlinear— Editing in Premiere is described as nonlinear because your sources are not constrained to a linear medium, such as videotape. In other words, you can access any source clip instantly, without shuttling tape, and you can change the sequence of clips in the program without rerecording.

Software— As a software-only package, Premiere can import and export digital files. To acquire and export material to and from videotape, however, Premiere relies on built-in or add-on hardware.

Terminology: Digital and Analog

When you record audio and video, sound and light are converted to electrical signals. Analog media record these signals as continuously changing values. Digital media, on the other hand, record audio and video as a series of specific, discrete values. A playback device converts these values back to audio and video. The accuracy of each conversion greatly influences the picture and sound quality.

Because digital recordings use discrete values, it’s easy to reproduce them exactly, time after time. Also, you can take advantage of the computer’s ability to manipulate these values—which means you can more easily alter the sound, color, and brightness, and add effects.

To help you picture the difference between analog and digital, imagine the difference between cooking without a recipe and cooking with one. Re-creating a dish using approximate amounts of similar ingredients usually makes one batch turn out pretty much like the last, but can also explain why my chicken soup doesn’t taste quite like grandma’s. A recipe, on the other hand, specifies how to reproduce exactly the same flavor, pot after pot.

Editing Strategy: Offline and Online Editing

Any project, it can be argued, begins at the same point: the end. Setting your output goal determines the choices you make to achieve it. Therefore, the editing strategy that you develop always proceeds from the same question: What is my output goal (Figure i.1)?

Figure i.1. This flow chart outlines the typical offline and online editing strategies.

Whether your animation is destined for film, broadcast video, CD-ROM, or the Web, familiarize yourself with the specifications of your output goal, such as frame size, frame rate, and file format. Often, you must reconcile your output goal with the capabilities and limitations of your system. These factors help determine your postproduction path, particularly whether you perform offline editing or online editing.

Online editing results in the final video program. You can edit online in Premiere if your system is capable of acquiring, processing, and delivering your program at final-output quality. The higher the image quality, however, the greater the system requirements. To achieve your output goal, you may need a fast processor, a high-end capture card, and large, fast hard drives. If your system doesn’t meet your output requirements, use another system for the online edit, and use Premiere for your offline edit.

Offline editing prepares projects for an online edit. In an offline edit, you edit with low-quality versions of the video. Rather than produce a final program at output quality, you produce an accurate draft version.

The completed offline edit can produce a kind of transcript of all your edits, known as an edit decision list (EDL). You can use the EDL and source tapes to re-create your program quickly and easily in a traditional tape-based online-editing suite. You could also use your offline edit and EDL to re-create a program on film.

Alternatively, you can edit offline and online on the same system. Because lower-quality clips are smaller, more of them fit on your hard drive, and your computer can process them faster. For the online edit, you can recapture only the clips that you used in the program at the final-output quality. Premiere automatically uses the high-quality clips in your final program, and no re-editing is required.

For an offline edit to succeed, you must have some way to accurately match your low-quality offline clips with their high-quality counterparts. Without a frame-accurate reference, there’s no way to easily reproduce the program you created in the offline edit. That frame-accurate reference is known as timecode.

Timecode numbers identify each frame of video on a source tape. Premiere and other video equipment use timecode to track each edit in the offline edit and accurately re-create it in the online edit. Without timecode, an EDL would be meaningless, and recapturing clips would be impossible. You can learn more about timecode in Chapters 17 (“Premiere Online”) and 18.

DV and Premiere

For DV users, all this talk about offline and online editing may seem old-fashioned. Though still a relatively recent innovation, DV is a high-quality, inexpensive video standard that has not only made video production more accessible, but simplifies postproduction, as well.

With DV, timecode is no longer a costly option found only in professional gear, but an integral part of the video signal. And generational loss—the progressive degradation of image and sound quality inherent in duplicating analog signals—isn’t a concern with digital.

Because DV cameras record video in a digital format, there’s no need to add a capture card to your computer to digitize, or convert an analog signal to a digital signal (for more about digitizing, see Chapter 16). With the help of an inexpensive FireWire interface Premiere can simply transfer your footage to the hard drive for editing.

Just as important, FireWire simplifies postproduction. Whereas digitizing requires separate cables for video and audio, DV transfers both using a single FireWire cable. The same cable delivers DV’s timecode information. Even device control (the ability to control a camera or deck from a computer) is accomplished over this same cable.

Compared to files digitized using older technology, DV footage consumes less storage space and requires only a modestly fast hard drive.

Whereas each type of analog capture card follows unique specifications, DV’s characteristics are relatively consistent from one device to another. For this reason, Premiere can include preset project and capture settings for DV, so you don’t have to select video and audio settings manually.

DV or Not DV

Although DV stands for digital video, it actually refers to a specific type of signal that can be stored in certain formats.

You may encounter several flavors of DV. Though all these formats record the same type of DV signal, each records it in a slightly different way:

MiniDV— This is the consumer version, often called simply DV. It’s used by the DV cameras offered by consumer electronics vendors.

DVCam— Sony’s professional variation of DV records a DV signal at a different track pitch, which uses more tape and results in a more reliable signal. Sony’s cameras and decks can also read miniDV.

DVCPro— Panasonic’s professional variety records the signal at an even greater track pitch and uses a more durable metal particle tape. Panasonic’s equipment also supports DVCPro50, which doubles the standard data rate to achieve better color reproduction and more detail.

As far as capturing video in Premiere is concerned, it doesn’t matter which format you’re using. But you should understand the difference when you’re choosing other equipment, such as cameras, decks, and tapes. Though the essential DV signals are the same, the quality and cost of the equipment differs greatly, and it’s not interchangeable.

Your Desktop Editing Suite

All nonlinear editing systems use a graphical interface that to some degree refers to their predecessors: film- and tape-based editing tools. Yet as these traditional tools yield to newer technologies, the metaphors lose much of their meaning. These days, many editors have never seen a film splicer or a traditional video-editing suite. Nevertheless, it may help you to understand what Premiere does if you realize what it’s designed to replace.

Before programs like Premiere, offline editing was synonymous with inexpensive, but very limited, editing equipment. In a typical offline suite, you would create a simple cuts-only edit (no dissolves or other transitions), using low-quality copies of the camera originals called window dubs. In a window dub, timecode numbers have been recorded over the picture. (It’s not actual timecode; it’s a “picture” of the timecode.) When editing was complete, you could painstakingly transcribe the timecode numbers at the beginning and end of each shot to create the edit decision list.

Only after you were armed with an EDL would you proceed to an online suite, with its expensive decks and special equipment. At this stage, you would finally be able to add transitions, effects, and titles and mix audio.

Programs like Premiere blur the line between online and offline editing by offering the online features at the offline stage (and price).

A/B roll editing— In a traditional tape-editing suite, any transition other than a cut required two sources: an A roll and a B roll. As the two tapes played, a video switcher could mix the signal from tape A with tape B to record on the master tape. This way, you could create dissolves, wipes, and other effects. If two scenes were on the same source tape, one had to be copied onto the B roll before dissolves and other transitions could be performed (unless you had a deck with a preread feature, but that’s another story). And all this was possible only in an expensive online editing suite. Premiere allows you to accomplish A/B roll effects in the offline stage (and at an offline price).

Audio mixing and sweetening— Just as a traditional offline suite permitted only simple cuts-only video editing, audio editing was usually limited to simple volume control. Better audio editing was left to the online edit or even a separate audio post session. Premiere allows you to do complex audio editing and effects from the start, including audio processing to adjust the level, placement, and character of the sound. You can set audio in points based on audio samples, which are more precise than video frames. In addition, you can fade, boost, mix, and pan almost unlimited tracks of audio. Premiere’s audio mixer even resembles a traditional mixing board. Moreover, you can sweeten the audio, subtly correcting the sound and adding special effects.

Digital video effects (DVE)— DVE is the generic term for a device used to process the video signal digitally, in real time, to accomplish all kinds of visual effects. DVEs can rotate, resize, and move an image; change the colors; and add other visual effects. Premiere’s effects and motion settings can achieve the same results, as well as many effects you won’t find in a DVE. Though they take more time to process on the desktop, these kinds of visual effects used to be unavailable outside an online suite.

Character generator (CG)— A CG is used to create text for video, usually to superimpose over other images. Premiere’s new Title Designer window brings the tools and ease of desktop publishing to character generation for video.

Edit decision list (EDL) import/export— This feature produces a transcript of the edits in the program so that it can be reproduced on another system—typically, a traditional higher-end system. Alternatively, it can read an EDL from another system.

Batch capture— Batch capture uses timecode references to capture the proper clips automatically from a log or offline edit.


Apart from taking an offline or online editing path, you should look at your editing workflow as proceeding from simple to complex. Though you don’t need to adhere rigidly to the following outline, gradually fleshing out the program is usually more efficient than plunging into effects, going back again to rough cutting, and then discovering the effects should be redone. In fact, the Premiere workspace options reflect an incremental process, optimizing the interface for editing, audio editing, and effects editing. See “Selecting an Initial Workspace” in Chapter 2, “Starting a Project,” to learn how to set up the editing layout you prefer; see Chapters 10, “Mixing Audio,” and 11, “Adding Effects,” to learn how to optimize the workspace for audio and effects editing.

Logging— The most tedious (and, therefore, the most neglected) part of the editing process involves watching your source tapes and noting the selects—the shots you want to use in the program. Premiere’s capture window and device control can make the logging process nearly painless. If your tape has timecode, your log can serve as a batch list, which is a list of timecode start and end numbers that can be used to automate the capture process.

Capture— If you’re using a FireWire connection, capture simply involves transferring video from your camera or deck to the hard drive. Analog sources require a capture device that can digitize the video. If you have timecode and device control, Premiere can capture shots from a batch list automatically.

Import— At this point, you add to a Premiere project the footage you want to use. You can import a variety of digital media: video, audio, stills, image sequences, and so on. Your project uses references to the source footage, not the footage itself.

Basic edit/rough cutting— Arrange and adjust the sequence of clips into an edited program, using a variety of flexible and powerful editing tools. Because you’re using file references, your decisions are nondestructive—that is, you can make as many changes as you want without permanently altering the source files.

Preview— Watch your program at any time, with or without transitions or special effects.

Fine-tuning/fine cutting— Use the trimming mode and other editing tools to refine the edits in the program.

Effects and character generation— Add titles, superimpose clips, add motion or video and audio effects, and animate effects.

Audio sweetening— Use subframe editing to cut audio more accurately. Use the fader and audio mixer to fade and pan audio. Use audio effects to enhance the audio or add special effects.

Output— Export the finished program directly to tape, or save a file for playback on other computers or over the Web.

New Features

If you’ve been away from Premiere for a while, a lot has changed over the past few versions. Premiere 5 overhauled the interface and much of the workflow. Though the changes in version 6 weren’t as radical, they did include many refinements and major improvements, such as native DV support, and extensive new audio tools. So-called dot revisions, which advance the version number by a decimal rather than a full integer, introduce correspondingly fractional changes in the program. Even so, Premiere 6.5 ushers in some significant enhancements and new features. The most notable of its new and improved features include:

Latest OS support— Premiere 6.5 runs natively on Windows XP and Macintosh OS X. On each platform, however, there are a few minor features that are supported in an earlier operating system and not the current one. And although the bulk of the program’s features running on Mac and Windows are identical, there are a few—particularly plug-in features, such as output options—that are found on one platform and not the other.

Adobe Type Designer— The old Title window—which has seen few enhancements over the years—hasn’t been improved in version 6.5. It has been replaced! Its successor offers features not found in previous versions: pen tools, a rotation tool, path text, and a host of parameter controls for text and graphic objects. All this and a collection of Adobe PostScript fonts, too.

Enhanced video output options— For projects destined for DVD, Premiere includes the Adobe/Main Concept MPEG 2 encoder and DVDit! (both for Windows) and integrates with DVD StudioPro (Mac).

Improved QuickTime and Windows Media support— Premiere 6.5 takes advantage of the latest versions of QuickTime and Windows Media.

Enhanced audio options— Windows users can use TCIWorks sound sweetening tools; those on the Mac OS will enjoy real-time two-track audio editing.

Additional After Effects plug-ins— Your choice of video effects now includes more After Effects filters.

Expanded SmartSound QuickTracks— The music creation utility introduced in version 6 includes additional tracks for creating custom soundtracks that fit the mood and length of your projects.

Adobe Elements— Premiere 6.5 now ships with a companion program, Adobe’s easy-to-use image editor.

The Dynamic Media Suite

Though Premiere is dedicated to editing video, you can use it to bring together a range of digital media. But even though Premiere’s features sometimes overlap with other types of software, the ideal workflow includes tools specialized for each job. For this reason, Adobe hopes that you will use Premiere together with Photoshop, Illustrator, and After Effects as a suite of tools. In fact, you’ll enjoy a discounted price if you purchase them together as what Adobe calls its “Dynamic Media Collection.”

In addition to selling their programs as a set, the folks at Adobe are trying their best to make the programs work as a set. As these software packages have matured, they have also become more integrated. Over time, it has become easier to move files from one program to another without performing intermediate steps or sacrificing elements of your work. Even the interfaces have grown more consistent with one another. (The landscape is similar, however, the customs aren’t always the same. You may find that some shared features don’t have exactly the same procedure or keyboard shortcut.)

Your familiarity with other Adobe programs may give you a head start on learning Premiere. If you’re thinking about buying Premiere or other Adobe programs, you may find their consistency or bundled pricing appealing. In any case, Adobe’s eye toward product integration may be an important consideration for you.

Macintosh and Windows

Premiere is available for both the Macintosh and Windows systems, including Windows XP and Mac OS X. The book features screen shots from both systems, and includes both Mac and Windows keyboard shortcuts and instructions in the text. With very few exceptions, you’ll find that Premiere works the same on both systems. Apart from a few cosmetic differences, the windows are also strikingly similar (Figures i.2 and i.3).

Figure i.2. The differences between the Mac and Windows versions of Premiere are superficial. This window on the Mac...

Figure i.3. ...looks nearly the same on a Windows machine.

When a process or window differs between the two versions of the program, that fact is clearly noted. Otherwise, you’ll find that the most significant differences are at the desktop level of the two operating systems, not in the program itself. The book does assume that you are familiar with your operating system and can use its conventions to make selections, access menu options, and manage files.


  • In case you’re wondering, Premiere shares its code with both platforms. This means that as long as you take a few precautions, you can easily transfer projects and most other related files between the Windows and Mac versions.

System Requirements

To use Premiere 6.5, your system must meet these requirements.


  • PowerPC processor

  • Mac OS 9.1 or later or OS 10.1 or later

  • 32 MB of application RAM (for OS X, 128 MB installed RAM)

  • 50 MB of available hard disk space required for installation

  • QuickTime 5.0.2 or later

  • CD-ROM drive

  • Multi-processor system

  • 48 MB or more of application RAM

  • Large-capacity hard disk or disk array

  • QuickTime-compatible video capture card or FireWire interface

  • 24-bit color display adapter


  • Intel Pentium III, 300 MHz or better

  • Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition (SE), 2000, Millenium, or XP

  • 64 MB of RAM installed

  • 85 MB of available hard disk space for installation (30 MB for application)

  • 256-color video display adapter and compatible monitor

  • CD-ROM drive

  • Multi-processor system

  • 128 MB

  • Large-capacity hard drive or disk array

  • 24-bit color display adapter

  • Microsoft Video for Windows–compatible or Apple QuickTime for Windows–compatible video capture card or FireWire interface

  • Apple QuickTime for Windows 4.0 or Microsoft DirectX Media 5.1 (optionally installed with Premiere), or other video software supported by video capture hardware

  • Sound card (if your video capture card does not contain onboard sound circuitry)

Suggested System

These features aren’t required, but they can make working with Premiere a lot more satisfying.

Faster processor— The faster your system can make calculations, the faster it can process the frames of video and create effects.

Additional RAM— Like all programs, Premiere relies partly on RAM for performance and stability. In addition, the number of frames you can watch with the RAM preview feature (which allows you to render sequences containing transitions and effects quickly) depends entirely on the amount of RAM you can allocate to Premiere.

Larger hard drives— Video files are notoriously large. Five minutes of DV footage, for example, consumes more than a gigabyte of storage. Ample storage space allows you to work with more footage and with high-quality footage.

Faster hard drives— Your system’s ability to play back footage smoothly relies partly on how quickly information can be read from the drives. Generally speaking, higherquality footage requires faster drives. Drive arrays (RAIDs) use multiple drives to increase the overall transfer speed. To use DV footage, for example, your drives should sustain a data rate of around 5 MB per second.

24-bit displays— It almost goes without saying that it’s best to work in Millions of Colors (Mac) or True Colors (Windows).

Larger or multiple displays— Premiere’s interface can take up a lot of screen space. A large monitor can be more comfortable to work with. Many users like to spread out over two monitors, though others find that arrangement is overkill.

Requirements for Built-in DV Support

If you plan to use Premiere 6 to edit video footage in the DV format, your system must meet these requirements.


  • 300 MHz PowerPC processor

  • Apple FireWire 2.7 or later

  • QuickTime-compatible FireWire interface

  • Large-capacity hard disk capable of sustaining 5 MB/second


  • Pentium III, 300 MHz processor

  • Windows XP, 2000, 98 Second Edition, or Millenium

  • Microsoft DirectX–compatible FireWire interface

  • Large-capacity hard disk capable of sustaining 5 MB/second

Professional System Additions

Other additions can elevate your editing system to a more professional level.

Video capture/playback device— Your computer needs a FireWire connection and a similarly equipped camera or deck if you want to transfer and output video in the DV format. If you want to digitize material from an analog source (VHS, Hi8, or BetacamSP), you may opt for an add-on capture card. You’ll also need a deck to play and record tapes in your format of choice.

NTSC monitor— NTSC monitor is a fancy way of saying a video monitor, preferably one with professional inputs and excellent color reproduction. Video monitors and computer monitors display images differently, so if your work is destined for video or broadcast, a good NTSC monitor will allow you to judge it more accurately. A video capture device typically supports both your computer and video monitor. By the way, NTSC stands for the National Television Standards Committee, which develops the television standards used in North America and Japan; its name describes everything that meets those standards.

Third-party plug-ins— A multitude of third-party developers offer software plug-ins that expand Premiere’s capabilities. These products can include improved or additional effects and transitions, audio effects, “matchback” tools to create EDLs for film, and tools that allow you to better evaluate and adjust the video signal.

Hardware acceleration— If rendering speed and turnaround time are of paramount importance, you may want to invest in a Premiere system bundled with hardware to accelerate effects rendering.

System Configurations

As the preceding sections suggest, your Premiere setup can be simple or elaborate. As long as your computer meets the minimum requirements, you can simply install Premiere and start editing. On the other hand, your system might include a television monitor and a camera or deck. Here’s how a few common configurations might look.

DV camera configuration (Figure i.4)— In this setup, a DV camera is used to transfer source video to your computer’s hard drive over a FireWire connection. The completed edited project can be played back and recorded to a tape in the camera.

Figure i.4. This simple configuration includes a computer equipped with IEEE 1394 (a.k.a. FireWire or iLink) and a DV camera.

Analog capture configuration (Figure i.5)— In this setup, the computer is equipped with a qualifying video capture card (such as a Targa 2000) to digitize video from an analog source (such as VHS, Hi8, or BetacamSP). The capture card converts the signal from analog to digital so that it can be stored on the hard drive.

Figure i.5. This configuration includes a computer equipped with an Adobe-certified capture card and an analog video deck.

Enhanced DV configuration (Figure i.6)— In this setup, several recommended options have been added to the system. An external FireWire drive provides additional storage space for media; a dedicated playback and record deck reduces wear on the camera’s tape transport; an NTSC monitor displays the program as it will appear on a television screen; and external speakers provide the audio.

Figure i.6. This configuration uses several recommended options, such as a television monitor, speakers, external hard drive, and deck.


  • Looking for a complete system? Several vendors offer preconfigured editing systems. You may find their pricing and service agreements attractive. In addition, Premiere is often bundled with capture cards, real-time acceleration cards, and even offered as an option when purchasing a computer.

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