If video editors were cars, Pinnacle Edition would be a Lamborghini, Avid Xpress Pro a Ferrari, Sony Vegas a Honda Element, Ulead MediaStudio a Dodge Viper, and Adobe Premiere Pro a Toyota Camry. Sounds like an insult, but it's not; after all, the Camry is the best-selling car in America. This means that the Camry is not the fastest, or the safest, or the cheapest, or the most luxurious, but the car that offers the best blend of value and functionality for the masses.
In a nutshell, that's Adobe Premiere Pro. If you've read "Take Five" (see http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=8066), you've seen that Premiere trails most programs listed above in one or more features. However, all editors have their weaknesses. If you analyze Premiere across the complete range of relevant features, it's a strong performer, particularly in critical areas like timeline editing and rendering.
This is especially true when you consider the cast of Adobe products that surround Premiere. Some, like After Effects, buttress Premiere's weaknesses in chromakeying and other special effects. Others, like Photoshop and Encore, are must-have production tools in many organizations, increasing the overall utility of the bundle. For many producers, Adobe's ability to bundle and aggressively price these tools (as in the $999/$1499 Adobe Video Collection) gives Premiere an edge that no other editor can match.
Premiere Pro was extraordinarily long in coming, and its release was surrounded with hype like "redesigned from the ground up," so it was difficult to know what to expect from an interface standpoint. Fortunately, for current Premiere users, the basic look and feel is relatively unchanged, which will allow almost immediate productivity.
Most changes are significantly for the better. For example, virtually all windows now perform double or triple duty, so the potential for clutter is significantly reduced. For example, click a tab atop the project window, which contains project assets and bins, and it becomes the effects window. Similar tabs on the monitor window toggle between previewing your source video and controlling your effects.
Adobe added multiple project support via tabbed windows on the timeline, making it simple to piece together projects in segments. Gone and not missed is the A|B roll-editing metaphor, so now you can apply transitions on any track. Adobe moved the editing tools, previously embedded in the timeline, into a separate movable toolbar, which is a touch more convenient. Throw in an updated, more high-tech feel and you have an attractive, logical environment that you don't mind spending large chunks of time working in.
Of course, interface was never a problem with Premiere, which traditionally has been considered one of the easiest prosumer editors to learn. Where Premiere started to fall behind was in the capabilities of the discrete tools included in the program. In addressing these deficits in Premiere Pro, Adobe did well in some areas, and not as well in others.
One strength is in motion controls, used for a variety of purposes, including zooming into or around a video, moving a title or logo, or panning around a still image. For true usability, an editor needs three characteristics: comprehensive 2D and 3D motion controls, editing precision, and a strong visual environment.
Most of Premiere's motion controls are 2D only, though you can add 3D looks with some camera view filters. In addition, in streamlining the interface, Adobe moved away from the separate motion palette used in version 6.5. Now you plot motion effects in the preview window, which often feels constricted, though surprisingly effective once you get used to it.
Adobe excels on the precision end, specifically with the rare ability to set keyframes by editing parameters, which simplifies complex effects. For example, when working with a picture-in-picture effect, you can animate size, location, and opacity, controlling each value with keyframes.
In some other editors, values for all three of the above characteristics must be incorporated into each keyframe, which makes it easy to change a value inadvertently for one characteristic—size, for example—when you're setting the value for another, like location. With Premiere, each characteristic has its own keyframes, preventing inadvertent mishaps, and producing even simple effects is much, much easier.
Premiere also did well with the SteadyMove image stabilization plug-in from 2d3, which is designed to remove the shakes from handheld video footage or footage shot on an unstable base. As discussed in the "Take Five" article, this plug-in performed well in a variety of settings, dramatically improving footage shot on a bumpy bus ride, and smoothing minor shakes from a hand-held camera.