My Adobe (Non-)Switch Story

Premiere Pro Works For Me

I can clearly remember my first experience with Adobe Premiere. It was in the early 1990’s, and I was working full-time in the News Department at Wisconsin Public Television. I had managed to talk the news director into buying me a really new-fangled device – a desktop computer. I believe it was a first-generation Pentium, maybe 90Mhz. I had been into computers since about 1984, and had composed music and scored a lot of TV programs using Atari computers. Geekery was in my blood. So once I got the Pentium, I was poised on the launching pad for what was to come.

And then I got a copy of Adobe Premiere, version 3 I think it was. And I couldn’t make heads nor tails of it. Strange, buggy, crash-prone, you name it, it was just not good.

Johnson and Hackett, circa 1990

I spent seven straight years on the roads of Wisconsin shooting news features with a reporter named Art Hackett. Art and I would crank out a seven-minute-or-so package every week, which invariably culminated in him giving me a script at about 2PM Friday afternoon for a 7PM program. In those days, non-linear editing for quick turnaround just had not been invented yet, so I spent my editing days in a three-machine BetaSP room with what I still consider to be the best purpose-built linear edit controller I ever used, the Sony 910. So I would get to work, with my half-dozen to dozen shot tapes, a reel-to-reel deck to play back voiceovers, and maybe a graphic or two on the stillstore. Sounds pretty primitive, doesn’t it? Well, back then it was the height of technology, but not for much longer. In the time that I was on the road, the Avid came to Wisconsin Public Television. The first versions were off-line machines only, but over the years the Media Composer became more functional and powerful, and eventually came to dominate most of the editing WPT was doing.

All except for me, that is, who was happy in my linear edit suite. Hey, it worked. I (literally) didn’t have time to learn Avid, and in any event it couldn’t work nearly fast enough to turn around a 7-minute package in 5 hours.

At the end of the 1990’s, I had the great good fortune to attend one of the first DV Expo conventions. It was in Pasadena, California, and there I met Jim Feeley, who was at that time the editor of DV Magazine. After talking for a while, he asked me if I would be interested in writing for DV. Of course I jumped at the chance. Now you are asking yourself, “What in the hell does this have to do with Adobe Premiere?” I’m going to tell you.

The other thing I saw at DV Expo – and this was truly life-changing – was the Canopus DVRaptor. This PC card was not just a Firewire interface, but also a way to actually see your editing on a TV set in real time instead of a tiny window on your (then 14″ CRT) computer screen. And the software it ran with was…?

That’s right, Adobe Premiere 5.1. This time I got it. And for the technology of the time, the Premiere/Raptor combo just ROCKED. Writing for DV had a great side benefit – I got to test out and/or review just about every NLE on the market: Final Cut versions 1 and 2, Casablanca, Speed Razor, Pinnacle, Edius, Roland, Vegas (before Sony bought out Sonic Foundry), Liquid Silver (before it got eaten by Avid), you name it. Most every NLE, that is, except Avid, who didn’t bother to have a low-end editing program for us peons. So after all my searching and testing and reviewing, I realized that Premiere just worked the way I thought. I have done quite a bit of freelance editing in the intervening decade-plus, all of it on Premiere, and have a long list of happy clients who didn’t really care how I got their pictures and sounds arranged just so.

None of this mattered to Wisconsin Public Television, though. We were – and still are – an Avid house, and no amount of reviewing (or as some would classify it, “whining”) by me was going to change that. I managed to avoid the Avid for quite a while, but eventually sat down and got a functional knowledge of it. I can do a pretty decent job of editing on the Avid now, but my opinion of it hasn’t changed much. What’s the problem, IMHO?

Much too complicated. Too many functions that (almost) no one ever uses, at least in our shop. An interface that seems to have barely evolved in twenty years, and clips that want to unlink at the drop of a hat. To be fair, Media Composer 5 is being installed at WPT this month, and maybe it will address all of my misgivings, but I seriously doubt it.

On the other hand…

Premiere has grown immensely in the twelve years since I picked it up the second time. There have been great releases, horrible releases, and everything in-between; the more recent move towards the Creative Suite (CS) hooks Premiere (now Premiere Pro) directly into the power of Adobe’s other industry-standard programs including Photoshop, After Effects, Encore, Illustrator and others. And this year’s addition of the CUDA/Mercury Playback engine totally rewrites the book on speed, stability and user-friendliness. It’s not often that I fall into the position of being on the front end of a parade, but with organizations like Hearst Television and the BBC adopting Adobe production solutions, it feels like I might have been in the right place at the right time – over fifteen years ago.

My opinions only, which definitely do not represent those of Wisconsin Public Television. In any event, I am told I have to add this:

Disclosure, to comply with the FTC’s rules 16 CFR Part 255 This article was either written by Adobe employees or for Adobe by an outside contractor. It is intended for the Adobe Channel on ProVideo Coalition, which Adobe sponsors.

Bruce A Johnson

A 1981 graduate of the Boston University College of Communication, Bruce A. Johnson got his first job in broadcast television at WFTV, an ABC affiliate in Orlando, FL. While there, he rose through the ranks from teleprompter operator to videographer, editor, producer and director of many different types of programming. It was in the early 1980’s that he bought his first computer – a Timex/Sinclair 1000 – a device he hated so much, he promptly exchanged it for an Atari 400. But the bug had bitten hard. In 1987, Johnson joined Wisconsin Public Television in Madison as a videographer/editor, and still works there to the present day. His responsibilities have grown, however, and now include research and presentations on the issues surrounding the digital television transition, new consumer technology and the use of public television spectrum in homeland security. He freelances through his company Painted Post MultiMedia, and has written extensively for magazines including DV and Studio Monthly.

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