After the infamous Apple’s mess-up of its Final Cut Pro X, I seriously started to think of covering my back and learning Adobe Premiere. Just in case, so I can continue my work if the good old FCP 7 fails to run after another upgrade, and new FCPX versions fail to meet my expectations. And with the awesome 50% SWITCH discount – when else will I have another chance like that? So, I downloaded a trial of Video Production Premium and ran through the features I’ve been using the most in Final Cut. The result is the following table that I hope will be helpful to those trying to decide between the two systems:

Premiere vs. Final Cut

I’m actually comparing the entire suites – Adobe Video Production Premium CS5.5 and Final Cut Studio 3. Overall, the two systems look surprisingly similar, but there are a few fundamental differences that make me want to own both at the same time. Here are some highlights.

Adobe’s great at:

  • Mastering & burning Blu-ray in Encore (hello, Apple, get a grip already!)
  • Native support of most formats, including AVCHD. Drop in and edit, no transcoding required.  I hear FCPX is trying to emulate that, we’ll see.
  • Different formats in multi-camera tracks (must match in FCP)
  • Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash as a bonus

Apple FCP beats Adobe hands down at:

  • Offline editing (with proxies). I mean, come on, Adobe, you cannot scrub 4 tracks of HD with effects on them, not on my laptop anyway.
  • 16 tracks of multi-cam (vs. only 4 in Premiere). Might not be a big deal, most of the time I use 2 or 3, but there was a project where I used 12. Seriously. And with proxies it worked smoothly on my laptop. Total awesomeness.
  • Motion templates. Ohh, I love those! If you need 20 lower thirds of exactly the same elaborate design but different text, you do it once in Motion, and have 20 instances in FCP, editable directly in the Viewer. And you can also add drop zones for videos and stills. Adobe – you probably have to duplicate an AE project 20 times and edit each of them. Extensive googling didn’t produce even a slightest hint at how to do templates in Adobe. One thing is clear, either me or Adobe is missing something…

Both are great at:

  • The primary function: editing. Apart from slightly different keystrokes, the two systems are almost twins in basic functionality. Well, maybe FCP is slightly more intuitive, but I may be biased.
  • VFX – I still have to see for myself, but for the most part what people say they can do in AE, I was able to reproduce in Motion. Those who use Motion claim AE is more advanced. Go figure.
  • Integration between components. Adobe might even have it slightly better, but at least as good.

Both suck at:

  • Subtitles / Closed Captions. What’s up with that?
  • Reverse Telecine. OK, I figured out the flow in both, but it involves transcoding individual clips. FCP may on occasion do the right thing in batch mode, but no guarantee. Adobe claims to be doing the right thing on the fly, but it doesn’t. Royal pain, given that all 24p HDV cameras record with pulldown. Same for most consumer AVCHD camcorders that claim 24p, and even some AVCHD DSLRs.