Why Should Final Cut Pro 7 Editors Consider Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

Posted on by Larry

One of the most popular questions I get asked is: “I’m using Final Cut Pro 7. Should I buy Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple Final Cut Pro X?”

Let me start by saying both applications are used by professionals around the world every day. Both are made by excellent companies, with devoted teams of programmers supporting and improving them. Both applications are frequently updated with bug fixes and new features. And, if you were to edit a project in either one a trained expert could not tell by looking at your cut which software you used. (Though they could tell by looking at titles and effects, which vary by vendor.)

In other words, both applications deliver world-class, high-quality results.

So, why should a Final Cut Pro 7 editor consider Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

Recently, I sat down with the folks at Adobe to discuss that very question. And, it should not surprise you that Adobe thinks that Premiere Pro is the application of choice. We only had two hours for the discussion, so there wasn’t enough time to discuss every difference between the two applications. But, this is a start.

LARRY’S POINT OF VIEW

In an interesting quirk of history, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro 7 and Final Cut Pro X were all designed by the same man: Randy Ubillos. Randy, whom I’ve met twice, did not do all the programming – these applications are far too complex for one individual to program in their entirety – but he set the strategic engineering direction for all of them.

From my point of view, Adobe has modeled recent versions of Premiere Pro after Final Cut Pro 7; extending it to run efficiently on today’s hardware. The big sea change occurred with CS6, when Premiere adopted FCP 7’s keyboard shortcuts, much of its nomenclature, its media handling and many of its features. This is not a bad thing. Final Cut Pro 5 – 7 had something like 2 million users, while Premiere Pro had only a fraction of that. If I were going to emulate something, I’d pick the biggest market I could find.

In other words, Premiere Pro CC looks and operates very much like Final Cut Pro 7.

Final Cut Pro X, on the other hand, took a different path. It looked at the new world of digital video and built itself upon a foundation where film and tape are no longer important. (This is not the same as saying film and tape don’t exist, simply that they are less important than digital media files.)

Over recent versions, it has seemed to me that Adobe was working hard to have Premiere Pro achieve feature parity with FCP 7; though from a performance point of view, Premiere blows the doors off Final Cut Pro 7.

Given that as background, earlier this week I sat down with the folks at Adobe to explore the question of “If I were a Final Cut Pro 7 user, why should I consider Premiere Pro?”

NOTE: In this article I’m comparing Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro 7. It requires a separate article, which I’ve not yet written, to compare Premiere Pro CC to Final Cut Pro X, because that comparison is a whole lot more complex.

PERFORMANCE

Premiere Pro runs on both Mac and Windows systems. Without getting into the inevitable Mac vs. Windows debate, supporting both platforms gives editors the ability to choose the best platform for their work.

Premiere Pro supports all the latest Mac hardware. It is fully 64-bit, multi-threaded and multi-core, and fully supports the GPU in your system.

NOTE: Final Cut Pro 7 only effectively used 1 processor and, with just a few exceptions didn’t support the GPU at all. Also, because it was only 32-bit enabled, FCP 7 would only access 4 GB of RAM, regardless of how much RAM was installed on your system.

Premiere Pro supports all modern codecs and cameras. In fact, Premiere can handle projects larger than 6k and Adobe actually has a few customers testing 8k. (Both FCP 7 and Premiere allow mixing different frame sizes, frame rates, and codecs on the same Timeline.) Here’s an Adobe blog that explains this in more detail.

NOTE: As I was writing this article, Adobe released the 8.0.1 update to Premiere which focuses almost exclusively on improving performance.

CPU vs. GPU

The CPU is used to play all video in their camera native format and camera native frame rate.

The GPU is used for:

Multiple GPUs, such as the new Mac Pro, help speed exports. Also, GPU support is a newly-added feature in Adobe Media Encoder, which handles exporting duties for Premiere.

NOTE: In order for Premiere Pro to “recognize” the GPU, the computer needs a minimum of 768 MB of RAM on the GPU.

OTHER ADOBE APPLICATIONS

Premiere Pro supports tight integration with other Adobe applications, essentially one-click access to:

We can create a new After Effects comp in Premiere, import comps from After Effects without rendering them first, and/or convert the Timeline into an AE comp. This was enhanced in the latest release with the Live Text Templates allowing an AE comp to be saved in such a fashion that the text is editable in Premiere.

NOTE: Adobe plans to significantly enhance this Live Text feature in the future.

When it comes to Photoshop, we can create new PSD files directly in Premiere Pro. (Though both Premiere Pro and FCP 7 allow you to link to a PSD file, update the file in Photoshop and have those changes instantly reflected in Premiere, or FCP 7.) For editors working with still images, this hot link is a very cool feature.

There is no limit to still image size in Premiere. If Photoshop can create it, Premiere can edit it. Keep in mind, however, that video formats have very specific frame size parameters. Large still images should be used for pan-and-scan moves; also called the “Ken Burns effect.”

NOTE: According to Adobe, Final Cut Pro 7 processes Photoshop images as though they were created by Photoshop 3 (not CS3). This is why elements like layer effects are not supported. Premiere supports all the layout and design features in Photoshop, including embedding vector-based Illustrator files in a Photoshop document.

DYNAMIC LINK SERVER

You may have noticed, when you opened an AE comp in Premiere, that a new service started along with the import: Dynamic Link Server (DLS).

The Dynamic Link Server is actually a headless version of After Effects running in the background. “Headless” means that it can do anything After Effects can do, but has no user interface. This allows Premiere to play any AE comp, without actually knowing what’s in it.

THOUGHTS ON RENDERING

A big benefit to Premiere is that we don’t need to spend time rendering. For most video formats, running on most modern computers, rendering is no longer necessary. (I spent a chunk of time talking with Adobe about this whole issue of rendering and transcoding to try to understand it better.)

Playback and rendering are controlled by the Mercury Playback Engine. This provides hardware video acceleration on those systems that support it, or software acceleration on those that don’t. The reason this is important is that the faster the Mercury Playback Engine can run, the less rendering is needed.

Traditionally, hardware acceleration was optimized for PCs running nVidia cards with CUDA. At that time, only MacBook Pro laptops on the Mac supported hardware acceleration. However, over the last few releases, Adobe has enabled hardware acceleration on almost all Macs. OpenCL performance on Macs is, essentially, on par with CUDA support on PCs.

NOTE: Adobe’s goal is to have essentially equal performance whether running on OpenCL or CUDA, Mac or Windows.

What Premiere does, internally, is play all media using the camera native codec, but calculate all effects using 32-bit floating point math. This means that video plays in the same format that you shot it, but all effects are calculated with extreme accuracy, yielding very accurate results without needing to render.

In fact, most exports can be completed without first rendering the file. (Slow hardware, high-resolution images, or multiple simultaneous effects may require rendering.)

WORKING WITH MULTIPLE PROJECTS

Due to architecture restrictions, Premiere Pro can’t open multiple projects at the same time; unlike FCP 7; though, like FCP 7, Premiere supports an unlimited number of clips and Timeline sequences in a single project file.

However, using the Media Browser in Premiere, you can view the contents of any Project stored on your hard disk, then import any media or sequences contained in a separate project directly into the project you have opened in Premiere.

WORKING WITH MEDIA

Premiere Pro takes displaying used media much further than FCP 7. After editing a clip from the Project panel into the Timeline, a small orange badge appears in the clip in the Project panel, indicating the clip is used in the Timeline.

Click the small orange badge and Premiere lists every occurrence in the Timeline where media from that clip is used.

When replacing a clip in the Timeline, Premiere replaces clips based upon timecode, while FCP 7 replaces based on frame numbers. Timecode, Adobe tells me, is much more accurate.

The History panel in Premiere shows the last 32 steps you made during your edit; though it can be customized to show the last 100 steps using the Panel menu. This allows you to jump back to any arbitrary point in your edit, rather than needing to undo backwards one step at a time.

All selected clips in the Timeline can be grouped without first turned them into a nest. This allows you to move all grouped clips the same amount, while still seeing them as individual clips in the Timeline.

WORKING WITH EFFECTS

Effects can be applied to a master clip located in the Project panel, which causes that effect to appear in every related clip in the Timeline.

Effects can be applied to all selected clips in the Projects panel, without having to first open them in the Source monitor (Viewer).

COOL KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS

Here’s a shortcut when copying a title or Live Text clip that is already in the Timeline: press and hold the Option key while dragging the title in the Timeline. This creates a copy of the clip in the Timeline and a new master clip in the Projects panel.

A difference between FCP 7 and Premiere is that, once a clip is edited into the Final Cut Pro 7 Timeline, you can change it as much as you want without affecting the master clip. In Premiere any changes made to the Timeline clip are reflected back into the master clip.

NOTE: FCP linked the master clip to the Timeline clip based upon: file name, timecode, auxiliary timecode and reel ID. Premiere’s links are much more extensive. which is why adding effects to a master clip works in Premiere.

Another killer shortcut is what I call “Instant Zoom.” Try this: zoom into the Timeline. Press ““. Move the playhead anywhere else in the Timeline. Press “” again. Amazing.

TRANSFERRING FILES

While Premiere Pro can not read Final Cut Pro 7 project files, it can read FCP 7 XML export files with no additional conversion. This means that all you need to do to move a FCP 7 project to Premiere is export the selected project from FCP 7 as an XML file, then import that XML file into Premiere.

Media files move easily between Final Cut Pro 7 and Premiere Pro CC.

NOTE: When transferring files, media and your edits will transfer with no problem. However, transitions, effects, text and color correction settings will, in most cases, not transfer perfectly.

SUMMARY

There is no one perfect software – which is why Adobe, along with all other developers, is continuing to improve and extend all their programs. But, if you were wondering what makes Premiere Pro CC worth considering for Final Cut Pro 7 users, now you know.

As always, let me know what you think.

Larry


27 Responses to Why Should Final Cut Pro 7 Editors Consider Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

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  1. Leo Hans says:

    Larry,

    I had to cut a project in Premiere Pro CC last month and, after being working with FCPX, it wasn’t a good experience at all.

    It’s more like FCP7 than X, true, but after a few minutes working on it your start finding things that work not so FCP7 and you need to re learn a lot of things again. So, it’s similar to FCP7 only in very limited way.

    I found the interface to be too cluttered, too much windows for unnecessary things. My personal preference is a context sensitive window like FCPX have.

    I know this is not a FCPX vs PPro article, but editors still considering where to go to may think installing PPro is like ugrading FCP7 to FCP8 and it’s not. It demands a lot of learning once you think in a whole project and not cutting a few shots.

    (As allways, sorry about my poor English skills)

  2. Thanks for the great article Larry!

    Although I have never edited with FCP, I can say that Premiere Pro CC displays a huge difference in performance as compared to past editions of Premiere that I have worked with and had experienced great frustration with.

    I recently cut some mixed hd footage on my laptop (Dell Precision M6600, wonderful machine btw…) using PPro CC and everything worked as it should. Footage played smooth, no lockups or crashes. Smooth export to encore, etc.
    I must commend Adobe here because all of the CC apps that I have downloaded so far are running so smooth and glitch free.

    I appreciate that your article packs so much information about the new PPro edition in an easy to understand manner. I will definitely be using it as a reference!

    Well Done!

  3. Mark McKee says:

    The big elephant in the room is (still) AVCHD or .mts files. At least for the young artists coming from the lower economic class. You can buy a couple of $300 Canon Vixias, shoot all your footage, then plug the camera in the USB port, where it appears as an external drive, drag the files to your hard disk, and begin editing immediately in Premiere. Transcoding? What’s up with that? Ironically this makes it much more “elegant & intuitive.” For the coming generation, the final delivery will not be to television, DVDs or feature film. It will be the internet. Premiere’s handling of AVCHD means it is still possible for the modern starving artists to have a seat at the table.

  4. Tim Sorel says:

    Some major items missing from this article.

    First, exporting from Premiere a user can use the queue function which will send the render/transcode to Media Encoder. This allows the use to go back to the project and continue work. Such a time saver if you have multiple sequences to distribute.

    Second, the round trip function to Audition to fix noise issues is so damn well thought out its like Adobe actually listened to editors or learned from FCP7/Soundtracks weaknesses. Once you try this you will be hooked.

    Third, if you do not like screen clutter change it. PPCC allows you to customize your entire layout. I have a layout for video editing, audio sweetening and color correction.

    Lastly, I cannot do all color corrections that I can do in Divinci but pretty darned close. Secondary color corrections, power windows are all within Premiere. FCPX’s color correction is simply to simple for the pro and to complex for the novice.

    I have had some run ins with Adobe. Their educational volume licensing people are a difficult bunch to deal with but Premiere is killer.

    I do think Adobe is rushing through the beta process and updating a little to quick before fully vetting video cards and operating systems. This has caused a lot of headaches for editors and users should think carefully about being a first adopter as soon as a new version is released. Wait a month or so is my advice.

  5. James says:

    I made the switch (gradually) from FCP 7 to Premiere soon after FCP X was released and have been very pleased. I think if Adobe ever adds Photoshop’s Raw Filter effect to Premiere (or lets you open a Photoshop video project where that filter is used for color correction) I might actually have run out of criticisms or suggestions.

  6. Jim says:

    The big drawback for me is the subscription based pricing of Adobe. For 30-60 per MONTH this becomes insanely expensive software to use. Imagine you pay $60 a month over 10 years… you’ve just paid over seven thousand dollars for your editing software.

    Insane.

  7. Robert Render Harrison says:

    I’m with Jim: $60 a month is fine if you’ve already got a constant income stream from your video work. If not, over a few years it’s such a chunk of change to go the Premiere way that most beginners and cost-conscious indies (like me, and most of my friends) will pick FCPX, and hope it gets better where it’s deficient compared with Premiere. BUT – I’m hearing that he FCPX is more intuitive, and that the Premiere crashes far more often. I have no personal experience of latter, but I’d suggest asking actual FCPX and Premiere users. (I’ve heard this from an editor familiar with both, and he picked FCPX)

  8. There’s no doubt about it, Premiere is an outstanding app, BUT the subscription aspect is a real turn off! It has been from day one. Others think its great but its FAR too expensive. If you can get FCPX for $300 or even $400 for FCPX including Motion and Compressor, why would you pay the outrageous monthly fee to Adobe to use Premiere? I have always been a FCP man, and its true that Premiere is a killer app, but if they do the same job the choice is obvious to me.

  9. Cris Daniels says:

    Why not consider that for only 30-$50/mo you get everything you could possibly need. Photoshop, After effects, Illustrator, Premiere, Audition, Speedgrade, Dreamweaver, Flash, Acrobat Pro, inDesign, the list goes on. What should this cost, $4.95 a year?

    Someone mentioned it costing $7k over 10 years or something? Call me crazy but the point is that you might actually make money or something using these tools. Using that rationale you must feel extremely bitter spending 7k on a camera that’s worth maybe 3k in two years….

    Go buy Premiere Elements for $79 if your worried about pinching pennies. To have the entire Adobe arsenal for $30/mo which is what I pay, feels like one spectacular deal to me. I would spend this much I upgrades over their 18 month development cycle, so what’s the difference?

    Go with FCP X if you like, but please don’t try to make the case that it’s more flexible, powerful, or harder to use than Premiere. I own them both and FCP X is rarely launched. It also seems less logical to anyone who cut on other systems before. Motion is decent, but crashes frequently, and is far from After Effects. Compressor is horrendous compared to other professional transcoders, especially for h.264 output.

    The irony is that when I bought FCP X the first day it came out , Apple defended the hell out of their decisions to change things up so radically by delivering iMovie Pro. Now here we are two years later and Apple has slowly added back so many things they waved off in the initial release saying in 2012 “that was the old way to edit” . Many of us have had a hard time digesting Apples arrogance around this particular piece of software.

    The real deal breaker is the cross platform Adobe suite. Many of us have switched to Windows 7 boxes after Apple decided that iPhones were priority #1.

    The fact that we are not hostage to one platform is vital. I will still play around with FCP X but it would not shock me one bit that someday it’s $49.95 or goes the way of Aperture.

    • Larry says:

      Chris & Everyone:

      I just want to set some ground-rules here. Premiere vs. FCP X is a subject that many editors feel strongly about.

      Strong opinions are welcome – even when they disagree with me. Strong opinions which drift over into personal attacks are not – and will be deleted.

      Chris’ post is fine. He makes some good points with passion. I’m just giving everyone a heads up.

      Thanks!

      Larry

    • Scarlet Gordon says:

      this is the middle of 2015, and the rumors are consistent with a demise of FCP, but adamantly denied by Apple. On the other hand Abobe’s monthly fee is prohitibed for those of us have a limited budget. What is a consumer to do? Feed each Company’s bottom line – PROFIT.

      • Larry says:

        Scarlet:

        I have heard NO rumors of Apple discontinuing Final Cut Pro X. Nor has Apple diminished the number of people working on the program. In fact, they just did a major update about four weeks ago. You are welcome to do as you see fit, but Final Cut is not going away anytime soon.

        Larry

    • bj says:

      Pricewise the adobe suite is terrible, I agree. I will not use CC, I’ll stick with 5.5 until they reverse their pricing structure. I’ll wait forever. FCPX tho, omg it’s AWFUL. I just wasted hours trying to relink red footage.

  10. Cris Daniels says:

    Thanks Larry,

    Working in the industry, I think that part of my frustration is that while we view this equipment and software expenses as a part of doing business, and that casual users that dabble with professional equipment frequently tend to downplay its value.

    This is understandable, but fairly irrational if you analyze what your getting for your money. I wouldn’t buy the Adobe subscription for casual cutting. Understanding that Adobe had an 18 month development cycle for major updates, mean that basically I am looking at spending $540 every 18 months to get the best of everything they make. That’s a pretty remarkable value IMO. This is way better than having to buy what was the Master Collection for $2495 and then $1000 upgrades every 18 months (whatever it was). Now Adobe’s implementation of the Creative Cloud has been confusing at the very least. Their support stinks as well.

    Is the Adobe software perfect? Not by a long shot, but as an end-user I still believe that they have the vested interest in making things right as this is their only business. I also would have scrapped the Premiere name upon release in the Creative Cloud. I’m not sure Adobe understood the stigma attached to that particular program given its checkered past.

    Now in a total reversal, I personally would have preferred that Apple made the end-all-be-all out of FCP X, and charged $1000 for Final Cut Studio 4. To me, $299 means “we reserve the right to pull the plug and you can’t complain that we did this on a $1499 software suite”. I remember Shake, Final Cut Server, and lots of other excellent products that died a quiet death.

    As far as Premiere vs FCP X, who really cares in the end. If you love FCP X and can tell a great story, that’s all that matters.

    Finally, I beg of Apple AND Adobe to do ONE big service to the professional community. The next release of your operating system or major application, how about absolutely zero new features ( I know this would never happen…)

    Instead of the new mega-roto-tool or some weird OS option I will never use, put your best people on getting rid of 90% of the known stupid bugs that your company is ignoring. That, I would consider progress, and would gladly pay for.

    • sara clevenger says:

      I know I’m two years late to the party, lol, but I am researching because of the same dilemma. You single handedly convinced me to give up and move on. Thank you for all this info!

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