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Premiere Pro for DSLR in a few easy steps

The Adobe application's handling of DSLR and other card-based media is straightforward and quick, as it should be.

By Mark Christiansen | May 09, 2011

Let's face it, a lot more editors, artists and animators have Premiere Pro loaded on the systems they use every day than are actually using it. And yet over the last few years-and in particular over the past year, since Adobe started demoing real-time playback of all kinds of files, including 4K RED .r3d source, in Premiere Pro on systems with CUDA-enabled nVidia cards-there's been this notion that the application is really pretty good, and worth learning more about. Sure, clients tend to ask for other non-linear editors, so even if your day-to-day job demands that you edit in some other application, the question remains, what are you missing out on in Premiere Pro, both with its integration with other Adobe apps and by itself, if you're not using it? I'll be focusing on this in more than one article.

To begin with, I thought I would take a look at what the app can do with DLSR footage, since I basically have my choice of what app to use with footage from 7D or 5D, as well as related cameras with similar formats like the GoPro I have sitting here. I've heard that Premiere Pro kicks ass with these formats, but is it true, and even if true, is it useful?

My DSLR workflow, I have to admit, has been sloppy at times. In the early days there was no application that handed the ingest process nicely, so I got into the habit of just dragging files with their original names and timings right off the card onto a local drive, then importing them wherever needed - in After Effects or Final Cut Pro, say. Lately Lightroom 3 tempts me with its ability to handle both the videos and stills on that card. But if you asked me to show you my organized volumes of video from my own cameras, you might see a sad, wistful expression cross my face. And improving that situation sounds cumbersome, for a few reasons:

  • Native DSLR filenames are practically useless. At least when transferring from tape, you get timecode and are compelled to create tape and take names.
  • It's too easy to be lazy and just import everything. I have frankly imported a lot of unusable takes because I lack a good way to review and organize them while they're still on the card.
  • "Real-time" is not how I think of reviewing and editing DSLR footage, even though I can easily pop up a preview in the Finder. The apps I use tend to require transcoding and buffering into RAM before I can view those clips, and adding even a simple color correction also adds render time.

The above assumptions are based on having worked with After Effects, Final Cut Pro (with its dramatic revamp still at least a month out) and Lightroom. My main reasons then, to think of Premiere Pro when I first remove the CF card from the camera and insert it in the card reader could be:

  • Easy real-time preview
  • Ingest of selected preview files
  • Edit flexibly without transcoding
  • Conform/Prep without rendering

Here's what I found in Premiere Pro with the question in mind of how it could help me with these.

Step One: Preview

01_ppro_Preview from ProVideo Coalition on Vimeo.

The Media Browser panel in Premiere Pro lists all attached volumes that show up in the Finder, including any CF card that might be attached via a card reader or the camera. That means that to preview a clip from the card, you can simply double click it and hit play in the Source panel (and use the tilde ~ key to bring that up full screen).

It's essential to understand that there is no transcoding in Premiere Pro of DSLR clips, whether or not the display card is CUDA-enabled. Previewing a clip directly from a CF card shouldn't be a big deal-after all, you can do this from the Mac Finder just by hitting the space bar-yet video applications that aren't compliant with as wide a variety of formats as Premiere Pro obstruct the process (click here for Premiere Pro's system requirements). I was equally able to preview mp4 files from the GoPro at full speed and resolution; it didn't even matter whether I was on the Mac Pro with its CUDA-enabled nVidia Quadro FX 4800 card or on the Core I-7 Macbook Pro and ATI display technology, therefore not among the supported cards.

The default "Buffersize" (why one word?) for Audio Hardware is too stingy to play more than a couple of seconds before audio drops out, but on a system with ample physical memory there is no downside to maxing that out.

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Paul Nordin: | May, 09, 2011

Cool write up Mark.  I’m just now tentatively stepping into the Premiere waters for many of the reasons you cite.  Tentative, because I want to see what FCP X has up it’s sleeve.

One thing you didn’t mention, and one of the main reasons I transcode DSLR footage is to get timecode.  Without timecode, the clips don’t play well with EDL.  Does PP have any magic bullets in this regard?

Kevin Monahan: | May, 09, 2011

You can always modify timecode for your clips. More info here:

Kevin Monahan

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Scott Simmons: | May, 14, 2011

@Paul - Kevin’s link is good but the best way to prep DSLR with timecode is to use this tool:

And do it before post begins.

Paul Nordin: | May, 14, 2011

@Scott: That is a great tip.  Best TC solution I’ve seen for this.  Thank!

blackberry: | May, 14, 2011

Kevin has indeed a good link but look at this one to,it’s from abroad in the netherlands but very nice have a nice day

Kevin Monahan: | May, 16, 2011

Message just above is SPAM.
Scott, why is it better? Just wondering.

Scott Simmons: | May, 16, 2011

@Kevin - Qtchange can restripe timecode in a batch, read the thm files for real DSLR timestamp, add reel #s (though I don’t know if PPro will see that) and perform a number of other handy functions.  It’s really the perfect tool to tweak DSLR footage before getting into the edit. IT has many for features than in app timecode modifications like PPro or FCP. Important to do it before post begins though as it’s a destructive process.

Kevin Monahan: | May, 16, 2011

Thanks Scott.

Andreas Urra: | June, 10, 2011

Hi Mark, how do you handle the fact that when previewing or importing files (via the Media Explorer) from the source medium (SDCard, SxS Card, etc.) Premiere starts to write files (e.g. .xmp) on that medium? I.e. the conforming that takes place adds files to your recording medium. Is it that ...
a) that does not matter to you, because you reformat the media anyway
b) you found some way to prevent those files being written on the source medium?

Kind regards,

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