Desktop Post: Part 2 - Adobe Premiere CS5.5

Posted By Daniel Restuccio on October 04, 2011 06:50 am | Permalink

Adobe Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro in Adobe CS 5 was a watershed release. The program was written from the ground up in 64-bit environment that is fully exploited on the Mac OS X and the very stable Windows 7 system. The kind of hiccups running Premiere in a 32-bit funky Windows XP operating system are mostly banished. Refinements to this aspect of the engine in CS5.5 is that the 64-bit addressing of using the CPU cores has been further optimized improving overall stability when editing projects with large files, i.e. Red One or Red Epic projects.

Adobe, with this 5.5 release seems recommitted to their flagship editing software. With Premiere 5.5 projects can be truly cross platform and the benefits of Dynamic Linking across other Adobe apps continues to enhance Premiere's profile as a serious NLE. Demand for Adobe's Production Premium CS5.5 has grown 22 percent year-over-year with 45 percent growth on the Mac. The recent announcements at IBC that Adobe Production Premium 5.5 will be used extensively at the UK broadcast network ITV and the acquisition of IRIDAS lends serious credibility to the notion that Adobe means business and that everyone should consider giving Premiere another look.


The Premiere Pro 5.5 upgrade sports a number of fresh features. It has an improved Mercury Playback engine; better DLSR editing, specifically the merge clip feature connects video clips to sound clips when shooting using a double system acquisition; customizable keyboard shortcuts so you can make your keyboard emulate Avid Media Composer or Final Cut Pro 7; an enhanced insert and overwrite editing features; and a new importer allows you to natively work with Red Epic footage. There are more GPU-accelerated features, including time remapping, speed change, footage interpretation options, field order processing, filmic transitions, blur effects and more.  The existing support for Red R3D is enhanced and now Epic footage can be imported. What is significantly missing is native support for Arri Alexa footage. 

What is called the Mercury Playback Engine is a collection of features that includes 64-bit addressing, enabled multithreading and the ability to access CUDA technology on specific Nvidia cards. This is specialized functionality built into Premiere Pro 5.0 that has been enhanced in PP 5.5 enabling it to do a lot more. As a 64-bit app, Premiere allows for all the RAM in a system to be addressable. This, coupled with the reasonably stable 64-bit Windows 7 operating system, makes for a mostly reliable editing environment.  

Premiere Pro 5 had really good multithreading, Premiere Pro 5.5 "does more" with the MPE. Are you going to notice it? Well maybe.  The work goes smoother and dare I say it, the system doesn't hang up as much.  (We all know that other NLEs never crash right?) 

The CUDA technology built into the Nvidia card is the really big deal. The first CUDA SDK was released in 2007 and is now at Version 4.0.  The Quadro 5000 based on the new Fermi architecture, supports more programming languages such as C++, has 352 CUDA cores, a display resolution of 2560 x 1600, two display ports, a double precision floating point performance of 360 Gigaflops, and works with the Nvidia 3D Vision Pro kit to preview 3D projects in Premiere Pro 5.5 on a display that supports 3D viewing. 

Adobe will tell you point blank you don't need an Nvidia card to take advantage of the Mercury PE features and functions, but the reality is that it does make many of the functions in Premiere Pro run more efficiently. Think of it as a render farm on a card for certain effects and processes. In PP 5.0 the list of accelerated effects included: 

Alpha Adjust, Basic 3D, Black & White, Brightness & Contrast, Color Balance (RGB), Color Pass (Windows only), Color Replace, Crop, Drop Shadow, Edge Feather, Extract, Fast Color Corrector, Gamma Correction, Garbage Matte (4, 8, 16), Gaussian Blur, Horizontal Flip, Levels, Luma Corrector, Luma Curve, Noise, Proc Amp, RGB Curves, RGB Color Corrector, Sharpen, Three-way Color Corrector, Timecode, Tint, Track Matte Key, Ultra Keyer, Video Limiter, Vertical Flip, Cross Dissolve, Dip to Black and Dip to White

In PP 5.5 there are more accelerated effects including: film dissolve, additive dissolve, invert, directional blur, and fast blur. The film dissolve uses linear color blending and mimics the way a dissolve would happen if you had done it in a optical printer with two pieces of film. So the look is more "cinematic" from that point of view. With these additional filters added to the existing list of GPU enhanced effects you can see the trend towards more filter operations are being tossed to the GPU.

Normally, when you're combining media of various types, sizes, frame rates, pixel aspect ratios, and so on into a sequence, the CPU is cranking overtime to make that work. Premiere Pro CS5.5 throws more of that under the hood labor to the GPUs on the Nvidia card. Deinterlacing, blending modes, color space conversions are also dealt with here. The goal is that you just want to be able to drop footage into the timeline, toss as many effects as possible with minimal rendering, and edit in as near to realtime as possible. The card definitely helps with all of this. 


Canon's sales figures of DSLRs appear to be a carefully-guarded secret. However, an informal straw poll of Los Angeles rental houses identified the DSLRs Canon 5D and 7D as popular shooting gear along with the Arri Alexa, Sony F3 and Red One. At this year's Sundance Film Festival, Like Crazy, shot entirely with a Canon 7D DSLR, was sold to Paramount for $4 million. Ed Burns made his new movie Newlyweds on the Canon 5D Mark II. Bandito Bros recently sold Act of Valor for $15 million, also shot almost entirely with the Canon 5D. With these examples DSLRs are exerting a strong influence on production and post production. 

DSLR footage may look great but to many it's a post-production headache. The Canon DSLRs shoot an H.264 4:2:0 8-bit color at a variable bit rate that ranges from 38- to 45Mb per sec. Many editors transcode the DSLR footage into ProRes 4x4 or DNxHD 120 to edit on FCP or Avid. Premiere Pro has been able to import DSLR footage natively since 5.0 and with 5.5 has expanded the range of DSLR footage to include Canon and Nikon DSLR camera formats.

The H.264 files that DSLRs shoot are not ideal for color correcting.

Premiere Pro 5.5 can edit DSLR footage in its native format and plays back a lot smoother than 5.0.  It is essentially rendering the codec on the fly thanks to the MPE and CUDA technology. Premiere Pro CS5.0 was unable to use more than 4GB of RAM on the GPU (VRAM). Premiere Pro CS5.5 can use more than 4GB of VRAM.  If you do decide to transcode anyway when you go to export DSLR footage with the CUDA tech it can squeeze all the quality that is there with minimal additional artifacting. 

Export DPX

One of the most kick-ass features of Premiere Pro 5.5/Media Encoder is the ability to export out DPX files. These are the foundation assets of visual effects work and as of this writing you can't do this with Final Cut Pro 7 without buying Gluetools and you can't do this at all with FCPX. After Effects has been able to do this forever but with the GPU enhanced technology those plates will be vastly improved coming out of Premiere and the Media Encoder.

The reason for this is that without GPU acceleration Premiere Pro and After Effects use the basic set of scaling algorithms to do previews and render footage. With the CUDA technology Premiere can take advantage of much better scaling algorithms that normally would take way too long to be practically useful in a production environment. In simple terms, your DPX files will look a lot better and bake out faster using the card than without it. So if you are doing high-end effects work it is to your advantage to make DPX plates using the CUDA enhanced technology.