The Packafoma Post is the post-production and creative technologies blog of Packafoma Philms, the Philadelphia video production and photography company of cousins Dax Roggio and Shea Roggio.
This list does NOT include some of the more serious bugs in Adobe Premiere Pro CC, and it’s certainly not comprehensive. The 10 items below are confounding because they are relatively minor nuisances that just seem obvious and easily remedied.
I have enough experience with programming to know that it’s really frickin’ hard, and, as The Dude would explain, “There are a lot of interested parties.” I can only imagine what is involved in continuously upgrading and distributing a cross-platform NLE, and Premiere Pro CC has greatly improved in the 4 years since I made the switch from Final Cut Pro 7.
Having said that…I’ll leave the recitation of Premiere’s many great features to the bigger publications. I’m here to tell you what doesn’t work in your movie, I mean, software…
Tool tips block mouse drag and drops
The sloppiness that has allowed this problem to persist for years is dismaying. When dragging a clip in the Timeline from one track to the track directly below it, a tool tip pops up to display the time code differential between the clips current position and new position. In other words, it says “00:00:00:00” if you’re just moving the clip straight down to a lower track.
That’s great and all, but the tool tip shows up right in the middle of the lower clip. Why should that be a problem? Because the tool tip inexplicably blocks you from being able to drop the clip there. The mouse pointer changes to a hand with the universal symbol for “not allowed.” So during a quick drag and drop, the only thing that happens…is nothing. You drop the clip and it goes right back to where it started.
The proper response is: “Fuck. Goddamn it.” Then you take a breath and thank whomever you care to thank that you’re getting paid (hopefully) to play with pictures and sounds. Dragging again won’t kill you — even after the thousandth time it happens.
So you do it again, this time remembering to delicately maneuver the clip around the tool tip but not so far left or right that it changes position in time and overwrites the wrong clip.
I know. You think you’ve got me: Why don’t I uncheck “Show Tool Tips” in the General Preferences? Because that does nothing. I have no idea what function that preference option is associated with, but it has zero impact on the, ahem, tool tips.
Besides, the tool tips can be helpful, such as when you want to see the name of clip while zoomed out, but why the hell do they interfere with drag and drops?!
Double-clicking in the Project panel pops open Import window if you miss the bin item you were trying to click
This behavior can only be described as evil.
Update: It has been brought to my attention that this has in fact been fixed! My thanks to Dave McGavran of Adobe for bringing me up to date.
Double-clicking in an open area of the project window still opens up the import window, but accidentally clicking in the small gaps between bin items no longer does. I don’t personally have any use for this behavior, but it has also been brought to my attention that I’m not Adobe’s only customer. Those After Effects users who are used to this feature can continue to appreciate it in Premiere, while it should no longer be a problem for the rest of us.
No real thumbnail image disk cache
I assumed this was a bug when I first switched to Premiere. Years later, I’ve accepted that it’s just poor design that has never been improved.
I guess there has to be some form of minuscule cache for thumbnail images, but for the most part, every time you move somewhere in the Timeline, the thumbnails are recreated directly from the video files on the source drive, and slowly.
A persistent disk cache of thumbnail images would require very little storage space and could always be deleted. Give the user the option to set the location and maximum size of the cache. In FCP7 I would set that option high enough that I could open up a project months later and thumbnails would still be completely in tact, even if I had worked on many projects in the interim.
Those excruciating seconds of delay add up over hundreds of hours of editing and can completely break your flow.
I won’t even get into the fact that Premiere desperately needs BACKGROUND RENDERING, but a really small step in the right direction would be to add a simple auto-render idle timer, such as FCP7’s “Start render after X minutes” option.
You take a phone call. You take a shit. Whatever. You end up leaving your computer for an hour. (What did you eat?!) When you return you think, “Damn it. I could be looking at a fully rendered sequence right now in any flavor of FCP.”
I can write that subroutine myself if they need assistance.
Size, position, and sort settings of bin windows aren’t saved
EDIT: In retrospect, this should have been #1 on the list, because it’s so basic! It’s like telling a software company that makes spreadsheets that they might want to add the ability to remember adjustments to column widths now that they’ve released version 1000.
Do I really have to point this out, Adobe? Did a Post-It note fall behind a desk in San Jose during beta testing and no one ever thought of it again?
When you double-click a bin in the project panel to open it in its own window, you can adjust the size of the window, which you will probably want to do, since it starts out pretty small. Once you close it, those size adjustments are lost. The window will revert to the default size the next time you open it.
It also reverts back to List View if you switched it to Thumbnail View!
It also reverts back to User Order instead of Alphanumeric!
So there are 3 things I have to adjust every single time I open a bin.
Oh, and the thumbnails get slowly recreated every time too. See #3.
Scrolling up or down in the Timeline throws track heights all over the place
I’ve said before that I don’t think anyone at Adobe has actually tested Premiere with a Mac. If you’re using a Magic Mouse or a trackpad, and you try to scroll up or down in the Timeline while the mouse pointer happens to be over the head of the Timeline, the height setting of the track under the mouse pointer goes crazy, getting much bigger or smaller.
A common situation is that I want to scroll up or down to a different track to select it. I have to move the mouse pointer over the middle of the timeline while I scroll even though the track selection buttons are obviously in the head.
What’s more is that the pointer doesn’t even need to start out over the head for this stupid thing to happen. You can be right in the center of the Timeline when you scroll up or down, but if a moment later you go to make an adjustment at the front of the track, the virtual momentum of the flick still causes havoc with track heights.
This same problem applies to parameters in the Effects panel, where it is actually a dangerous issue. Just scrolling up or down in the window sends settings flying all over the place, but it’s difficult to know when this has happened, or to which settings, causing a terrible mess.
I’m now in the habit of grabbing actual scroll bars, just to be safe, like it’s the 90s! It slows me down and makes me cranky.
Clicking to new playhead position in the Timeline during playback stops playback
This behavior drives me nuts. Is it just my personal preference based on years of using FCP? Sure, but allowing the video to keep playing makes for a fast way to audition cuts or skip ahead. It would be an easy preference option to add that would make a lot of FCP switchers happy.
Moving a clip’s video track up or down doesn’t mirror that movement in the audio track
I can’t get used to this, nor do I see any advantage. I frequently end up overwriting a linked audio clip from a video clip that is layered below the clip I’m moving, and the only way to get it back — when you discover your mistake down the road — is to open the fucked-up clip again, re-mark the edit points, and re-insert it.
Saving changes to the current workspace requires you to type out the exact name of the workspace every time
If you miss one letter, symbol, or space, it creates a new workspace. Please just add a “Save Workspace” under “New Workspace.” This goes for all Creative Cloud apps.
Update: “Save Changes to This Workspace” is now a menu option in CC 2015. Nice!
Markers on clips aren’t visible on tracks that are collapsed
With every release Adobe touts improvements to markers, but have they ever tested them?
“Oh, shit, they disappear if the track height isn’t expanded, even though they should fit fine in the exact same place. Should we fix this? Nah, fuck it. Let’s get a beer.”
Don’t get me wrong. I like that attitude in my own life, but there aren’t millions of people paying for a subscription to me.
Is there are a problem with Premiere Pro that you’ve been waiting…and waiting…for Adobe to fix? Please share in the comments area.
More thoughts on my growing impatience with Premiere Pro
I’ll just say it. I’m almost ready to come crawling back to Apple (or move on to DaVinci Resolve). When FCP Classic was EOL’d in 2011, I was one of the first among my circle of editors in LA to give Premiere Pro a shot. Technically, Premiere had been around for quite a long time, but for Mac users, it was never even a contender. Plus, if you were like me, you mostly associated Adobe’s video products with Flash, which I loathed long before Steve Jobs famously published his thoughts on the subject.
If upon the day of its release, FCPX had had the ability to open FCP7 project files, or just import them with reasonable faithfulness, I wouldn’t be writing this post because I would have stuck it out with FCPX from the start, despite my myriad concerns. There were a ton of things I hated (hate) about FCPX. The lack of tracks, however, was never one of them.
Contrary to what was being said at the time — that the trackless paradigm was a solution to a problem that didn’t exist — I had always disliked the way synced dialogue tracks were disconnected visually from the video, often out of sight unless you scrolled. Sure, we’re all used to that and skilled at moving things around, but I always thought there should be a better a way.
My complaints with FCP 10.0 had much more to do with media management, versioning, missing features, and perplexing iMovie/iPhoto terminology that irks me to this day.
So I decided to give Premiere Pro a try. The latest version was CS5.5 at the time. I used CS5.5 on a small project, and I liked it. I liked it a lot, but much in the way that I might enjoy a low-budget film that was fun but lacked polish. There were mistakes that I would never forgive in a production blessed with more resources. Adobe is a really big company, and considering how many versions of Premiere “Pro” had already been released, it was somewhat concerning. (Also, can we stop adding “Pro” to apps that don’t have a non-Pro companion?)
Fortunately, Adobe recognized the door that Apple had left open after the troubled release of FCPX. They shifted resources into the development of Premiere Pro and soon released CS6. It was a HUGE upgrade.
To the dismay of the three long-time users of Premiere Pro, Adobe revamped the interface and made common editing tasks significantly more similar to those of FCP7. (Given that the two programs were siblings separated at birth, this wasn’t so tough.)
With the release of CC, I felt that Premiere had finally caught up to FCP7 in usability and surpassed it in terms of speed. I was fully committed.
Some of my editor friends worked in shops who were clinging to FCP7 but just starting to talk about how they planned to move on. They would ask what my verdict was, and I was SO CLOSE to fully recommending Premiere. I always gave it qualified praise, but there were too many stubborn flaws to give it a full endorsement.
Cut to a few years later and I feel like Adobe is still playing catch-up instead of leading. Premiere has become a patchwork of fixes and half-baked new features. It’s still very buggy and crash-prone. Updates have not come as rapidly as one would hope, given that frequent updates were supposed to be a selling point of the subscription model. (FCPX has been updated more frequently than Premiere.) And when major updates do arrive, the incredible energy hog that is the ever-present Creative Cloud menu bar app, installs an entirely new copy of the software, leaving the old version on your machine with an identical Dock icon. And with every one of those updates, I’ve run into problems opening project files from the previous version.
Adobe’s software, with the exception of the brilliant and iconic Photoshop, has historically lacked attention to detail and refinement in the UI, even while offering powerful tools (see Adobe After Effects). In the case of Premiere, I think they had pretty much given up on competing with Apple before the FCPX debacle, and Premiere continues to feel a bit like a Windows program ported to Mac OS.
I’m not David Fincher or Kirk Baxter. I have different, less glorious needs. Yet, I feel like Fincher’s post-production dream team must have signed a contract that now prevents them from saying anything negative about Premiere in exchange for the latest free shit. There is NO WAY they weren’t constantly frustrated by Premiere’s instability, even if they legitimately loved the same features that we all do, such as Dynamic Link with After Effects and the speed and flexibility of the Freddie Mercury Playback engine.
Adobe has done a lot of things right. Premiere Pro is an amazing, sophisticated piece of software, and I’m a persnickety bitch. From wedding videos to feature films, Premiere can get the job done in ways that were hard to imagine even in the heyday of FCP Classic. And the same goes for FCPX. And the same goes for Avid, obvi. I leave Avid out of most conversations because I accept it as the standard at the top. I just think it’s an incredible drag to use and doesn’t stand a chance with the next generation of editors. And if you hear knocking, that’s DaVinci Resolve at the door, impeccably dressed as always. Such an eye for color!
A year or so from now I will probably be writing about the 10, or 20, or 100 things that I can’t believe haven’t been fixed in FCPX or DaVinci Resolve — or more likely I’ll still just be bitching about Premiere and threatening to cancel Creative Cloud.