At my work, we do a lot of Adobe Premiere support for broadcast, news and corporate in-house teams; running big shared storage networks, with a mix of Macs and PCs (mostly Macs) – configuring the networks for performance, defining workflows, and helping the creative teams use Premiere, After Effects, etc.
Collectively, there are hundreds of users and machines pushing the technology hard with Petabytes of raw footage, and they all need support for tight deadlines – their systems have to be set up in a consistent way, cleared down, and issues resolved as soon as humanly possible.
There are three tools that we use regularly to make this easier
1. Preference Manager – Mac OS X – free
The key to a long and happy life in editing support is to manage everyone’s preferences.
You need to keep them consistent, clear them up after someone’s messed with them, and trash them when the system goes insane.
I know that Creative Cloud lets you share and clean up preferences, but it does it in a really unhelpful way – it’s like the sponge that the ancient Romans used to share in their communal toilets.
To be totally sure that you’re getting a proper clean set every time, you need Preference Manager.
When you’ve set your user preferences up in Premiere and AME and AE for the first time (and I’ll cover prefs in a future post) you can use Preference Manager to save them, and then when they get all mucky later on, you can just trash them and reset them to their saved state.
Even better, you can copy them out as package file and deploy them onto other machines. One file that you can use to set preferences on every machine in your environment, and reset again and again.
Preference Manager has been around for years – we’ve been using it since at least 2010 I think – and has added support for lots of creative editing tools in addition to Adobe CC – Avid, FCP, Motion, Lightworks, ProTools, Logic. It’s made by the amazing Digital Rebellion. They give it away for free, which seems bananas, but I think must be a way of attracting you to look at the other cool stuff they make (like Pro Maintenance and Pro Media Tools, Cut Notes and Kollaborate).
I’m embarrassed of the number of times I’ve said, “Text Wrangler is my favourite thing.”
Text Wrangler has assumed the disguise of a mild-mannered text editor. But hidden beneath the surface are four super powers – which individually may not amount to much, but which together can save you amazing amounts of time and manual work:
- It opens compressed Premiere .prproj project files as if they were uncompressed plain text, and makes the editable.
- It has a Find and Replace dialog with a Grep option, which means you can search for patterns of text using wildcards (in fact, using a whole regex-style shortcut system) and replace and rebuild incredibly complicated chunks of text – from file paths and names, to clip metadata. This is worth a whole post.
- It has a Multi-File Search option, which lets you select a folder (and its subfolders) and find what you’re looking for in multiple Project files – useful when you’re trying to find any one of a hundred projects that contains a certain clip, for instance. You can also do Find & Replace with Grep patterns on multiple files in this panel.
- When you search for individual items in a Project or Preference file, you don’t just get one of those annoying search boxes with a Next arrow which lets you skip through one by one – it pops up a page of clickable search results, with every reference to that word, so that you can just skim through the results and jump to the one you want.
And for bonus points, try opening up a Media file in Text Wrangler. In a Quicktime, you can see all the XMP text metadata that Premiere and Prelude have injected into the file itself. In a Sony XDCAM or XAVC MXF file, you’ll find the whole metadata XML written into the file.
If you can’t quite figure out why this is useful as a Premiere support tool, 80% of it is about relinking and renaming.
Imagine that you’ve been given a whole bunch of media to relink between proxies and masters – but the names aren’t the same, and they’re not even in the same directory structure. Premiere does an OK job of trying to relink things, but it can be really slow and fail to find stuff – sometimes it can cost minutes, sometimes hours (sometimes days!).
A simple rename using a Grep pattern find & replace can change every file path and/or file name instantly.
Or imagine you just want to find all the clips with a certain property or a certain filter. You can even use it to find every clip with a certain effect enabled, and turn it off, without having to open Premiere and click around.
I’ll write a post about Grep at some point soon; it’s powerful magic.
TextWrangler is made by Bare Bones software, who give it away – as a way of attracting you to buy BB Edit, which you don’t need for this.
3. Debug Database and Dog Ears – PC and Mac – free
OK – here’s one that also works for those of us on PC. This is actually an under-the-hood tool built into Premiere itself, which lets you do all kinds of crazy things, most of which are a mystery – but the coolest and most useful thing to tell you about here is the Dog Ears toggle.
Dog Ears are an overlay on top the Source and Program monitors which shows you how efficiently the computer is playing your file. You may have a problem with stuttering video, or dropped frames. There is a dropped frame light you can turn on in the Premiere UI, but this is more informative – telling you what kind of file is being played, how many frames are cached ahead of play, and how many frames have been dropped.
We use this particularly when troubleshooting stuttery playback – or when we do strength testing after seting up a new environment: we will run projects streaming multiple discrete media files on as many different computers as possible, connected to shared storage. You can turn on Dog Ears, leave them all running, and as you increase the load, you can see at a glance (or later) which machines are having trouble.
To use it, press Command and F12 in Premiere, or Fn Cmd F12 on a laptop, or Ctrl + F12 on a PC, a little blank secret window will pop up called Console.
Click the hamburger menu on this window, and you’ll see a menu with Debug Database listed.
Choose that, and you’ll be confronted by a bewildering list of codes, all with the words true or false next to them. This is as close to the engine room as you can get in Premiere. These are switches that can turn on and off all kinds of things – we’ll come back to these in later posts.
The thing we’re looking for now, though, is EnableDogEars. Scroll down to find this, change it from from false to true, and close the window. Your Program monitor & Source monitor will now have an overlay which, when you play back, will show you how the system is performing.
When you want to turn them off, repeat the process above but change EnableDogEars back from true to false.
I hope you found these useful – do you already use any of these? And are there particular tools that you use a lot, which are not among these 3?