One year ago, I completed a project for a new client. Turnaround time was fast.
Recently, anticipating some revisions, upon inserting the eSATA drive containing the project, I was dismayed to learn that the drive was no longer viable. All it did was spin up, click and repeat. Bummer.
Luckily I had saved a backup of the project to my laptop - not the final project, but close enough.
Not since 2003 when I cut my final Media 100 project have I needed to batch digitize a video project. Media 100's original LVD ultra-wide SCSI2 drives were originally quite expensive. Thus, we did a lot of deleting of raw footage and batch re-digitizing/babysitting from 1999 until about 2002.
eSATA drives on the other hand are quite inexpensive, so Premiere projects and video tend to stay put where they live. Thus, the need to batch digitize a Premiere project has been a rare occurrence. Until now.
First I copied the backup of my Premiere CS3 project and associated non-video assets (photos, music, narration) to a new drive and imported the old project into a new CS4 project.
Next I right clicked on each video file (offline in the project) and performed a batch digitize. Crazy as it sounds, it worked great. One file however would not digitize due to the clip's in-point being so close to the start of a tape. I manually captured this tape, did a "replace media" and no worries, worked like a charm.
Turns out the version I saved to my laptop did not include the final narration or music, so I had to find those elements and manually insert those. What I did have, thanks to our robust client review website was a WMV file of the absolutely latest edit. I downloaded the WMV file and imported it into Premiere. I placed this file on the uppermost video track and lower most audio track, set the video opacity to 60% and the scale to match the project, and hit play. Because the sequence and the WMV were 80-90% the same, I saw basically a blurry image as it played, and it was obvious where the edits were. Same goes for the audio. It became immediately obvious that the music was different. That was easy to fix.
Finally, having lined up the narration and music, I used the Razor tool to cut the WMV at each edit point representing the difference between the old and the new versions. I deleted the portions of the WMV that were the same, and then proceeded to rebuild titles and two PSD files to make the sequence perfect.
I then saved a copy of the project in 10 different locations both at the office and at home, e-mailed myself a copy and forwarded this e-mail to all of my e-mail addresses.
Ok that last part was made up, but the important lesson here is to backup final projects, something I do religiously now.
Thanks for reading.
When I read about the new and improved standalone Media Encoder that comes with Premiere CS4, I was very excited. Gone are the days of exporting files one at a time from Premiere, a potential savings of hundreds of hours per year. If this works, it would be like Space Mountain - worth the price of admission. Can you tell I grew up in the 70's when Space Mountain was the best ride Disney had on offer?
For those of you unfamiliar with the pre-CS versions of Premiere, let's take a look back. In Premiere 6.5 and earlier, you were limited to one timeline per project. This is the main reason why we did not use Premiere very much, even though we had it on a G3 going back to about 1999. Come to think of it, we had like Premiere 3 on a Power Mac Quadra 650 around 1997, and we were offered, get this, an SGI Indy2 running Premiere around the same time. Imagine cutting video on a UNIX computer! What's next, a portable telephone you can fit in your pocket?! Crazy talk.
So in the early versions of Premiere, you could export the video flavors of the day, Sorenson 3, RealVideo, maybe WMV or MPEG1. However you were still limited to One Timeline - One Export. Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.
No worries, we used a media batch encoder the name of which escapes me. It was full featured, but ridiculously slow. At the time, late 90's, we were encoding Sorenson 3 Quicktimes for our CD-ROM library and selected websites. Sorenson 3 on a G3 400mhz computer was like watching paint dry. Actually the paint may have been a bit faster, given prevailing conditions of relative humidity. So we purchased a PCI card called the "Magic Encodomatic" or something very different than that. This was a card with 6 Pentium processors, cost about as much as a Geo Metro two-door hatchback with power windows and the sports package, and accelerated Sorenson only rendering by about 600%. This saved us hundreds of hours of time.
Fast forward to Premiere 6.5. The timeline limitation and media encoder remained about the same. However you could now do Batch Encoding. You could, in fact, do most of what the new CS4 Media Encoder can do, video format options aside. in other words, you could batch encode both files and Premiere projects. Since 1 Premiere Project = 1 premiere Timeline in version 6.5, you could edit your project, save, close, repeat, then load each project for encoding and walk away. The formats available for batch encoding were limited to everything but MPEG1 and 2, which were components of the included Main Concept MPEG encoder. Separate but Equal - somebody call the Post! However a poorly promoted download from Main Concept allowed access to the MPEG encoder from the batch encoder. This download was well hidden on the internets, so I used to keep a CD prominently displayed on my desk for any future re-installs of Premiere.
Enter Premiere Pro 1.0, 1.5, 2.0 and CS3. Batch Media Encoder - gone. Nice one. So we purchased Sorenson Squeeze, a reasonable substitute, but alas a 2nd program to run, and pretty slow for most formats. Oh bother. The improvements in Premiere from multiple sequences to pretty much every other feature were worth the trade. I guess the Media Encoder became a free agent and nobody drafted him. Presumably he went back to the minors and played shortstop for the Pittsfield Mets until he was called back up to the big leagues.
So finally, the good folks at Adobe must have found a dusty old copy of Premiere 6.5 in a supply room, read the manual, and realized the error of their ways. Premiere CS4, as has been discussed at length elsewhere on this website, is a big improvement in so many ways. The Media Encoder (AME) works as advertised.
However, unless you have perhaps a quad core system, running AME and Premiere at the same time may be an issue - it is for me. With AME only running, and encoding, the system performance goes up to 100% - presumably it is using all cores with no interference. With multiple apps running, you can get a bottleneck. I recently learned, on the Premiere forum, that you can right click on a process in the Windows Task Manager, and set the affinity of an app, telling it which CPU to use. Depending upon what you are doing in Premiere, this either helps, or it doesn't. The best use of AME is to ronco it.
I will not go into the various formats AME will encode - pretty much all of them, as would be expected in this day and age. The only bad thing I have observed so far is that Still images, exported through Premiere, now have to go through AME. This is a chore. What used to take one keystroke, now takes half a dozen keystrokes, mouse clicks and waiting for AME to start, render and finish, and to add insult to injury, Premiere does not import the still into your project. Seriously? Yep. Print Screen, paste into Photoshop, crop and save is faster and with HDV, the quality is great. To save you the nausea, I will leave it up to you to click this link for a screen-grab-in-lieu-of-AME-still-encoding
As you can see, this batch I set off before I left work and it was done a short time later.
Thanks for reading. Happy New Year.