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From the author of Back in Sync

Back in Sync

But if Premiere was a revelation to amateur editors, professionals had a different reaction. The product impressed them, but the software had a few technical glitches that betrayed its origins in the desktop world. Professional filmmakers may edit on a computer, but the final product is still output to tape. The product seemed to have been designed more for computer playback than tape output, they believed. “Premiere always demo’d really well,” says Fred Mitchell, “but it was years before it was used in production.”

“Premiere 1.0 was an engineer’s program more than a video editor’s program,” says David Pratt. “The engineers thought the video playback rate was 30 fps [frames per second]. Turns out it was 29.97 fps, so after a few minutes the sound and video got out of sync. We learned a lot about video doing Premiere.” It took a few versions before the audio sync problem was finally resolved, but each version of Premiere showed steady improvement in performance and capabilities. By version 4.2, Premiere had come into its own as a complete video-editing tool.

The traditional video-editing companies took notice. Avid, which saw that desktop applications were making headway against its proprietary systems, launched its own software to run on off-the-shelf desktop hardware. Many professional video editors who wanted to use desktop tools but wanted a familiar experience opted for Avid’s software rather than Premiere.

Other competition came from Adobe’s own backyard: Premiere’s original engineer, Randy Ubillos, left Adobe for rival software maker Macromedia, where he was to develop a product to compete with Premiere. Ultimately Apple acquired the rights to Ubillos’s in-development video product, and he went to Apple to finish what is now known as Final Cut Pro. On the Macintosh platform, Final Cut Pro currently outsells Premiere.

In 1993 Adobe released Premiere for the Windows operating system. Premiere 6.0 for Windows is now the market leader on that platform. Premiere has also been very successful in school settings where its price point and accessible interface make it an obvious choice for students.

Adobe added another tool to its digital video belt when it gained After Effects through its acquisition of Aldus in 1994. A postproduction video effects application developed by the Company of Science and Art (CoSA), After Effects is like Photoshop for the video world, and like Photoshop it democratized an industry dominated by high-end equipment and an elite cadre of practitioners.

With After Effects, video artists can layer moving images to make video collages and add special typographic effects that make title sequences come alive. As the software grew in sophistication, it migrated from adding spice to desktop projects to holding its own in commercial films. Many of the opening titles and closing credits used in Hollywood movies today are created in After Effects. Like Photoshop, too, After Effects includes filters for applying advanced visual effects so that objects can shatter or melt over time. After Effects has proven useful for media other than film. It’s also used extensively in Web production as a means of animating graphics. An immediate hit when it was released, After Effects rules the roost for desktop video effects.

Warnock’s insight when signing the Premiere contract proved to be right, however. Desktop video did not replicate the phenomenal growth of desktop publishing. For all the technical breakthroughs and educational efforts, digital video seemed too complicated to most users. The costs associated with it were still high, too. It required costly specialized hardware, expensive video cameras, additional software components, and so on. It wasn’t convenient to share or distribute homemade videos, either. The files were too big to email, the CD-ROM playback quality was appalling, and videotapes were cumbersome to mail. Many of the companies that had staked their future on digital video were absorbed into other companies or went out of business. “Premiere predated the Internet, so there were a limited number of output options for it,” says Mitchell. “But with the Internet, there are lot more options for how video is used and distributed.” Today, too, all personal computers are video savvy, and many are equipped with drives to play and record video in the DVD format. Video playback can be onscreen, over the Internet, or on television. Digital video cameras and high-speed connections such as FireWire make it easy to bring home movies into the computer.

“Today, our video applications are our fastest-growing graphics product line,” says Bryan Lamkin, senior vice president of Adobe’s graphics business unit.

Premiere was an example of Adobe’s being ahead of its time. It was not the last time Adobe had to wait for the market to catch up to its vision. But nothing tried the company’s patience as much as a suite of tools and technologies it called Acrobat.

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