Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro – six months in

I switched from Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro CS5 about six months ago and have been using it as my main NLE ever since. Due to Apples recent launch of the not so pro FCPX there’s a lot of FCP users considering the jump to Premiere Pro so I thought I’d give a quick run down of the things that I’ve missed the most from FCP and the benefits I’ve seen.

The benefits

There’s a lot to prefer about Premiere but for me the main benefit is the ability to work with native file formats such as the H.264 files from my DLSR’s and the ability to utilise GPU processing with an nvidia CUDA enabled card. I very much prefer the Premiere GUI over FCP interface, probably after using Flash and Photoshop a lot in the past. The interface feels very familiar with its draggable parameters and very customisable workspace layouts.

I no longer have to create transcoded quicktime files for the edit stage and then back those up along with the original footage. This means that I can archive and re-open projects very easily and it saves a lot of time and expensive storage space.

There’s a lot of things that are similar between the two NLE’s, many processes work in a slightly different way and I’m not going to go into huge detail about those as it’s enough to write a book about.  I’ve posted a few videos along the way as I’ve been learning which you might find useful.

FCP to Premiere pro CS5 – basic editing differences  – check out that tasche!

Using the Trim Monitor

Multi camera editing in premiere Pro

This is really just a list of the things that I still miss after six months of learning. It may well be that I’m totally wrong with some of the below limitations and just haven’t discovered the right way of doing these things yet, if that’s the case please let me know via a comment.

Just the one project

One thing I find a bit limiting coming from FCP is that you can only have a single project open in Premiere. It’s quite useful when working in FCP to be able to launch another project and grab assets such as titles or clips and simply copy them into the project you’re working on. In Premiere you can copy items from one project to another but it requires you to close the project your working on, open the old one, copy the stuff you need and then reopen the newer project and paste the items in.

You can also import an entire project but that’s always going to be a really messy process, especially if all you need is a single title graphic.

Audio channels

Working with footage that’s been shot with four channels of audio can be a little problematic. I often shoot 4ch audio on my EX1, usually one mono pair with an onboard shotgun mic and the other pair recording from a wireless lav mic. When importing this into FCP it gives you access to all four channels straight away but in Premiere it only lets you access them as a stereo pair by default.

This can be corrected once the clips are imported, it’s just a case of changing the clips audio mapping from ‘Stereo’ to ‘Mono as Stereo’ in the project panel, you’ll then have two separate stereo tracks to work with. The big problem is that if you don’t do that before dragging clips to the timeline it’s too late. You can’t re-map the audio of a clip on the timeline or even go back and change the mapping of the same clip in the project window if there’s an instance of it on a timeline.

If you find yourself in this position then you can apply a ‘fill left’ or ‘fill right’ effect to make either of the channels run to both speakers, but that’s often not a desirable as having access to each mono pair as you may want to use both recordings.

Media linking & relinking

Unlike FCP Premiere doesn’t offer the ability to search for your media should you have to move the project to a new machine or move your media to a new location. In some instances I’ve found that moving my media to a new location results in a single file location being requested next time the project is opened and then Premiere magically finds the rest itself. Other times however, especially when moving the project between different machines you have no choice but to browse for every single individual clip when the project opens to relink it.

This has happened to me a few times with event projects shot on the EX1 and it’s an extremely painful process having to navigate through all of those BPAV folders to find the hundreds of clips in a project. One thing I’ve done a couple of times is open the Pr project file in textEdit and run a ‘find and replace’ on the file locations of each clip which does actually work okay but I’d never do it without backing up the project file first. It should be easy to search for media from within Premiere in the same way you can with FCP.

No through edits

In FCP if you cut a clip in the timeline you get those nice little red triangles that tell you the cut is a ‘through edit’ and you have the option to ‘join through edit’ at a later time if you decide you don’t need that cut. No such function is available in Premiere, if you cut a clip it’s permanent other than an undo or deleting the trailing part of the clip and extending the leading clip. There’s no markers to tell you that it’s a through edit in Premiere.

Copy, paste & remove attributes

FCP has a very useful feature that allows you to paste attributes from one clip to another, you can even be selective as to which attributes are pasted on to the target clips. Premiere does offer a paste attributes function but you cannot be selective, it copies all of the attributes. You cannot ‘remove’ individual attributes from clips in premiere either other than selecting each clip and removing the effects etc from it’s individual effects control panel or by using the ‘removing all effects’ option.

No dynamic titles

Even though the titling tool in Premiere is a vast improvement over what’s on offer on FCP it does lack one very nice feature. In FCP you can import a Motion template and assign a text item as being editable in FCP. This gives you the ability to use that motion file over and over again and simply change the text attributes for each instance. This is great for things like lower 3rd graphics where you can just assign two text variables such as ‘name’ and ‘role’ and then update those from within FCP. In premiere you have to create a separate text title for each lower third graphic. I tend to create a common background in after effects and then reuse that with individual titles placed above it but it’s still not as nice as the way it works in FCP and Motion.

No clustering

When using the Final Cut Suite Compressor offers up the option to run Qmaster on multiple macs and then render out projects across all of the machines on your network. There is no such ability within the Adobe CS5 suite at all, you’re stuck with rendering on one machine only.

No PluralEyes

Doing multiple camera work and audio syncing within FCP was made very easy by Singular Softwares ‘PluralEyes’ plugin. Unfortunately PluralEyes does not work within Premiere. Singular software do offer a Premier version which involves exporting FCP xml files, syncing externally and then re-importing but I’ve not found that to be a good workflow and miss the integration that PluralEyes had in FCP.

Laggy Timeline

Update: This problem seems to have been fixed by installing mac OS Lion, very random!

I really wasn’t sure whether to include this one as it appears to be a bug rather than a lacking feature. I feel I have to mention it though because as a mac user this is bound to cause you some issues. basically there appears to be a bug in the way the timeline is drawn resulting in the responsiveness of clip movements being severly effected by how big the timeline panel is. Hopefully this one will be addressed by Adobe soon.

ARVE Error: src mismatch
provider:    youtube

src mod:
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Premiere Pro lag - Part 5
Premiere Pro lag - Part 5


For more information see my post about it here.


Most of the relearning I’ve gone through over the last six months has been fairly painless, there’s a lot to like about Premiere Pro Cs5 and even with these points that I’ve listed I still prefer using it over FCP 7. Hopefully some of these features will make it in to future versions but even in it’s current incarnation I’ve not come across anything in a project that couldn’t be achieved with the tools available in the Production Premium CS5 suite.




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22 Responses

  1. Ramin says:

    In regard to Copy, paste & remove attributes, I am not sure if you are aware of adjustment layers in Premiere Pro (which function like in Photoshop). Adj layers do not function the same way things work in FCP but they do have their own advantages and conveniences. You can put all attributes of a clip in an adjustment layer on top of it. Later you may simply copy the adj layer and paste it on top of any other clip you wish. It does still carry all attributes of the original adj layer but you can simply delete any filter etc. that you don’t want to carry along (after being copied). In terms of interface speed, I don’t think adj layer is slower than FCP attribute dialogue windows. Even in FCP, you would still need each time to uncheck the attributes you don’t want to carry.

  2. Aydin Odyakmaz says:

    Good write up Paul, think a update to this for CS6 would be great in this blog. Bought 5.5 in October, never used it but then upgrade to CS 6 and started to use it. The big issue for me was the audio mono as stereo which I didn’t know about. I also do the same with my EX as you mentioned and was about to cry after I found out it didn’t separate them. ;(

    Now I use a mix of EX and MK3 in my edits so this is a faster workflow.

  3. Paul Sheehan says:

    I is not exactly the same but gets you close for your lower thirds question (Control Click) a text in the browser and (Duplicate). You will keep you size, font Etc and just need to put in the new info. Taddaa !

    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi Paul. Yes that’s the method I use too but the beauty of the way it works in Motion and FCP is that the graphics can include animation or text effects too allowing you to create a lower 3rd animation graphic for a particular client and then drop that into FCP and just update the text using control panels.

  4. Jim Jordan says:

    I found in the Trim window you can select a track. Them go back to the sequence and reselect the edit area on the desired track.

  5. Jim Jordan says:

    I’ve started to use Premiere from FCP.

    I take it that the trim window only works on V1, I’ve tried to trim B-roll on track V2 only to be bumped to track V1.

    I have another issue working with P2 footage. When editing with the raw MXF files all is well until I leave Premiere to another application. When I return to Premiere the project takes many seconds relocating all the multiple MXF files associated with the project. Do other people have this issue?



    • Paul Joy says:

      Yes, I’ve noticed that too, the trim monitor is fine when working with a a single track but multiple tracks can cause odd results. The same happens with multi cam tracks sometimes.

  6. Ollie says:

    Hi Paul,

    Looking into Premiere Pro too. You state there’s no PluralEyes for PP but the Singular Software website says otherwise?


    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi Ollie.

      There is a Premiere version but it does not work within Premiere, which is what I miss. The premiere version is basically a stand alone version, you have to export FCP xml, run it through pluraleyes and then re-import everything which also duplicates the asset links in the project. It’s not as nice as having pluralEyes running within the NLE as it does in FCP. It does however suffice as a workaround.

      • Ollie says:

        I see. Thanks for the info. Most helpful.

        • Keith Moreau says:

          I have Pluraleyes for both FCP and Premiere and I agree with Paul that the Premiere version, through no fault of Pluraleyes, is a bit hobbled. This has mostly to do with the fact that Premiere doesn’t have an underlying event and communication interface, which allows Pluraleyes to send XML data back and forth, in the form of sequences, to FCP.

          My workflow, even though I have Pluraleyes for Premiere Pro, is to use FCP for the audio syncing, using clipwrap if necessary to make them readable by FCP, then export the XML and import into Pluraleyes. I find it much easier, as there is a less guesswork, I can see how well the tracks synced in FCP, make adjustments if necessary, and try again, and Pluraleyes updates itself well.

  7. Alex Hawkins says:

    “currently Premiere Pro CS-5 is not working well with any third party hardware I/O cards”

    Ray, I do presume you are referring to Macs only in this comment?

    Nice list Paul and some very valid points.

    Just re your audio. The default track format I always have in the Audio/Preferences panel is mono. I can’t think why you would use any other, as a default that is (am I missing something here?) That way whenever you bring clips in and want to drag them onto the timeline it gives you a track per channel and then you can either drag the clip on to the timeline using all source audio tracks or by using overwrite/insert you can target whatever source tracks you want to whichever target tracks you want on the timeline.

    It should also give you access to all your source audio channels straight away without having to do the modify clip/audio channels routine.

    As a default setting for new timelines I have a preset that I always use that has 5 mono tracks and 3 stereo tracks with a master stereo track and then during the edit I just add and delete tracks as necessary.

    I presume you know you can import selected sequences and not just whole projects.

    Also there is a keyboard shortcut for “remove effects” opt+e, I think is the default.

    Have you tried using Bridge for data and clip management. I know it’s not part of PPro but it is quite powerful. Takes a bit of getting used to though.

    Hope some of this is helpful. I think it’s great for the Adobe community that we are now getting all this fantastic input from ex FCP users. It all goes to enhance the end product.


    • Paul Joy says:

      Hi Alex, thanks for the tips regarding changing the default audio tracks to mono and remove effects, both very useful. I do use Bridge to access a resource of GV’s for certain clients and it works well.

      • Alex Hawkins says:

        No worries Paul, glad to be of some help.

        All this new dialogue is great and when I read some of the things you miss about FCP that you’ve listed above I think, “yeah that’d be nice to have, why doesn’t Premiere Pro DO that!?”

        Onward and upward.


  8. Ray Tragesser says:

    Great comparison and very accurate synopsis. One other CRITICAL item to mention is that currently Premiere Pro CS-5 is not working well with any third party hardware I/O cards. The user experience with and without a hardware card is night and day. Until Adobe and the hardware partners (aja, blackmagic design and matrox) work out these issues, I would not recommend anyone run out and purchase one. This is the missing ingredient for anyone working in a facility with an HD-SDI pipeline and a central machine room. Very difficult and costly to extend your GPU to your client monitors.

    Until this is solved….we’ll call it Adobe Premiere Semi-Professional!

    • Paul Joy says:

      Thanks Ray, that sounds like a valuable addition to the list. I have not found a need to use a hardware I O card as yet so this isn’t something I’ve run into myself.

  9. Dave Owen says:

    Have to say, I love FCPX. You don’t know what you’re missing.

    • Paul Joy says:

      I can see that FCPX is going to appeal to a lot of people, especially those that like iPhoto and iMovie as it’s event based file structure etc seem intuitive. I however want to be able to have my projects and resources on multiple drives and don’t like the event structure. How many filmmakers store their work as events?

      I also use multicam regularly so at the moment FCPX is a non starter for me. In my opinion apple has lost interest in the pro market that they once dominated, they’ve found a much bigger pond to fish in and I feel safer basing my business on a software company who are dedicated to supporting professional clients.

  10. Carlos D says:

    Nice list Paul. I’m about a month into my switch and I’m very satisfied overall. Best thing I can say about FCP7 is that navigation still feels more elegant and less clunky. That said, I think there’s too just much value in the AE/Ppro package for anyone to regret switching. Here are some pros and cons of my own.

    – Speed
    – Adobe Media Encoder much better than Compressor
    – After Effects (and Warp Stabilzer) is worth the price of admission alone.

    – I can’t navigate the way I used to with up arrows to move between clips. When I do that it tries to go to the beginning and end of my underlying audio file. If anyone can tell me how to fix this I’d be grateful.

    – Razor tool doesn’t snap to playhead (or really anything)

    – Can be quite a ram hog, especially when my linked After Effects file gets to a certain size. There might be a workflow fix to this but I’m not aware of it.

    – No ATI card Mercury Engine support. I really think that if Adobe brings this to the table for CS6, Apple is down for the count.

  11. mike miller says:

    As a fcp user considering making a move, thank you for this post paul!

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