Adobe Prelude turns this:
Imagine walking up to a snooker table and finding the balls scattered. Somebody has to put them in order so they can be scattered again, by your hands. In a nutshell, this is what Adobe Prelude does.
Technically speaking, it is an ingest and logging application (don’t worry, explained soon) that has a rich set of features. The questions we need answered are:
- What are these features?
- What exactly does Adobe Prelude do, and how does it fit in with my workflow?
- Is it worth the trouble?
This guide attempts to answer these questions. If you are totally new to Prelude, this article will also help you find your way around without wading through hours of useless tutorials. By the end you’ll not only know if Prelude is the right fit for you, but also what you can do to make Prelude work for you.
The Workflow Paradigm
Tony Stark moves into a new studio apartment, a little modest for his ego but a man’s got to live, right? He brings whatever furniture he has left over from his last house. He needs to arrange them in order, according to this layout:
Of course, he has Jarvis along for the ride, and the computer must watch Tony and learn his preferences for future use. After Jarvis has placed everything in order, it is time for Tony to get wasted and trash the place, and Jarvis must remember where Tony put the keys to the Iron Man suit.
On a typical afternoon, Tony wakes up, goes to the washroom (1), returns to his bedroom (2) and puts on his heavy suit. He marches into the kitchen (3), lets Jarvis cook a yummy sunny-side-up and feed it to him. Then, considerate dude that he is, he decides to walk out the front door (4 and 5) instead of troubling his neighbors.
What’s the point of all this? Simply this: Not everybody needs or wants a Jarvis. It’s only after a certain point that the need for organization arises. Let’s translate our analogy to Adobe Prelude:
- It lets you capture or ingest data (Bring in the furniture).
- It helps you organize your media and apply labels to them (arranging the furniture).
- It hard codes your metadata instructions into the media itself (Jarvis cleans up after Tony, without him knowing about it).
- It adjusts itself based on your workflow (It walks with you as you move across rooms, and each room has the furniture most conducive to its function).
- It helps you transcode media (Cooks for you).
- It exports all this data and metadata painlessly to Adobe Premiere Pro or FCP (Wide front door for Iron Man to go through).
What is Ingesting or Logging?
The trouble most newcomers will have with the Prelude manual is that it assumes you know the definition of all the terms. Let’s define our terms first.
Ingesting is the part where you bring your video into a program. You hit ‘Import’, and the clip should show up in your software. You might be wondering: Doesn’t all software need to ingest footage at some point? Yes, you are correct. Ingesting is no longer a big deal.
What about logging? Logging is the art of trimming a clip so the editor doesn’t have to wade through hours of unnecessary footage. When you’re dealing with film or tape, this makes sense. However, in today’s file-based workflows, I don’t see the point in trimming clips unless it is done by the editor or his/her assistant. They’re the only ones who know which parts are important from a workflow perspective. If the filmmaker thinks he or she knows better, then why give a ‘No good’ clip to your editor anyway?
Both ingesting and logging are still relevant terms, but carry a lot of baggage. If importing and trimming is all Adobe Prelude were capable of, it wouldn’t be worth our time. Any NLE can do that. What else can it do?
Let’s understand what makes Prelude special. Let’s study its backbone.
What is XMP (Extensible Metadata Platform)?
File formats are strict ‘things’, containing many kinds of data, all wrapped in a container. You can’t play around with the format; the arrangement of data in a file is critical to its readability by software.
Now, what happens if you want to add or attach data to a file that is not part of its format? E.g., if you want to attach the weather information on the day of the shot, there is no provision for it on most formats. Yet, in today’s file-centric workflow-world, one has to deal with thousands of images, video and audio samples that you need to find later.
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could add whatever you wanted to a file, without hurting it? Programs that don’t understand your metadata will just ignore it, and it won’t break your existing workflow. Is there something that can make this happen? Somewhat.
It’s called XMP, developed by Adobe. In simple terms, it allows you to embed metadata into the file itself. If the software adds metadata, it ‘sticks’ to the file, and is forever a part of it. Imagine creating thousands of files, each with customizable metadata. The advantages? There are two major ones:
- You can share files between different software for greater workflow customization
- Better Digital Asset Management
Okay, we all know things can’t be this good. What’s the catch? The catch is, to customize something, you need an expert who knows how it works, and how to make it work for you.
Secondly, not everyone agrees with the XMP model, so if you’ve experienced the pains of working with an unsupported file format, you’ll understand what this means. XMP is supported by most consumer image, video and document formats. But it isn’t supported by RAW formats like R3D, Arriraw, Sony RAW, Canon RAW, and so on.
Wait, all is not lost. XMP has a workaround for that as well. Instead of embedding the metadata in the file itself, it creates a metadata file (.XMP), also called a sidecar, and puts it in the same folder. As long as the files travel together, your metadata will be with the corresponding file. Each file or clip has its own XMP Identification number, or XMP ID, and this ensures there’s no mix-up. If a file has already been XMP-ified earlier, it retains its unique ID forever.
Best of all, XMP is totally open-source, and is an ISO standard today.
Long story short, the way Jarvis, I mean Adobe Prelude, works, is by using the XMP format to add metadata to your files. Later on, I’ll explain how this helps Prelude integrate with Premiere Pro and FCP.
The Adobe Prelude Workspace
Launch Adobe Prelude and the first thing you get is the familiar (to Adobe Premiere Pro users) pop up. Start a new project by giving it a name. You will be greeted with a totally grey screen.
Don’t fret. Look at the top right hand corner. You’ll see the following four tabs:
These are four workspace options. You aren’t limited to these, though. You can modify them, or create your own. This follows the system that started with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6, now Creative Cloud.
By default, you are in the ‘Logging’ workspace:
The view should be somewhat familiar to anyone who has used an NLE. Don’t strain yourself looking at the details. Here’s the gist:
- A – Project Folder (I’ve called my project ‘test’ so that’s what shows up)
- B – Monitor, where you’ll watch your video
- C – Marker Inspector (don’t worry about this one yet)
- D – Marker Type (don’t worry about this either, even if it has colorful tabs that scream out for attention)
- E – Timeline, which works similarly to an NLE. Behind it, you also have the Marker List view (look next to the Timeline word), which I’m going to call E2.
Okay, so what happens if you click the ‘List’ workspace? This is what you get:
Looks familiar, doesn’t it? They’re just rearranged boxes, that’s all. What about ‘Rough Cut’? See for yourself:
Same again! You see, each workspace is so designed to just make your life a bit easier, by taking out what isn’t required. If you don’t like the way the default three workspaces work for you, you can always change them.
But wait, there are four tabs at the top, not three. What about ‘Ingest’? Ingest isn’t a workspace. It works like File > Open… in any other app, which throws up a new popup screen:
Here are the gory details:
- F – File browser, simple enough.
- G – While you import to Prelude you can copy the same file to another folder connected to the same computer. Gee, I wonder what I could with that?
- H – While you import to Prelude, you can also transcode to other formats – for easy editing or whatever.
Did you just have an ‘Aha!’ moment? If not, I’ll spell it out to you: Adobe Prelude can copy your footage (create backups) and also transcode with the click of a button. We’ll go into this later but you already see one big advantage. Premiere Pro doesn’t let you do this as simply.
In fact, there are special applications that come designed for duplicating, backing up and transcoding. It’s nice to know you don’t have to pay much to get the same functionality. Prelude comes free with Premiere Pro anyway.
Okay, the interface is simple enough. It resembles an NLE interface and it won’t take much time learning it. What remains to be seen though, is whether you want to learn it at all.
In Part Two we’ll look at how you can ingest and log footage in Adode Prelude.