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Benchmark Tests: Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 vs. Apple Final Cut Pro X

There have been lots of comparisons between Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CS6, with most focusing on features and workflows. This article discusses a series of multiple-format benchmark tests that analyzed comparative performance between the two programs.

I created sequence settings in Premiere Pro and projects in FCP X by dragging a video clip into the timeline, which both programs conformed to the configuration of the video. I ran each test with only that editor running and rebooted each time I changed editors. Other than frame grabs and other administrative writing-related activities, the machine was totally dedicated to rendering during all tests.

With most formats, I ingested in Final Cut Pro, and simply used the footage that FCP X ingested in the Premiere Pro projects. That led to some interesting developments, as FCP X appears to change the file name in some instances, which, of course, broke the link in Premiere Pro. I can't see Apple engineers losing sleep over this dynamic, but I have to say, changing the filename is probably something they should avoid doing if at all possible.

Just for the record, I ran several tests with Final Cut Pro X after converting the original source video to ProRes. I found very little difference in performance, and in most cases, working with ProRes was slightly slower. While I was surprised, I wasn't shocked. It seems that the rendering bottleneck isn't the conversion from H.264 into FCP X's internal format. 

Note that your mileage on this score will likely vary by computing horsepower. On a dual-core notebook, converting to ProRes might be required for usable performance. Let's take a look at my tests. 

Canon T3i DSLR

The footage used in these tests came from a newly acquired Canon T3i, shot in 720p60 mode. The shots themselves were boring-just me standing around, working on these tests.

In the first test, I rendered a single file after applying brightness and sharpness adjustments. Then I overlaid another clip over the first and toggled opacity from 0 to 100 over the duration of the clip. The next test involved a single picture-in-picture at 30% of original size while the final test was a five-clip video wall (shown below in Figure 2), with all videos at 30% of original size so there was no overlap, and no shadows or borders applied.

benchmark2

Figure 2. Great DSLR, dull video.

Table 1 (below) shows the results. The first two columns are rendering times in minutes:seconds, while the third column shows the number of minutes saved for an hour-long project. As you can see, even with a Plain Jane single-layer project, CS6 saves over 2 hours of rendering time, which only increases with project complexity. If you're producing an hour-long, six-stream video wall with DSLR footage (hopefully with more interesting content), CS6 would save close to 11 hours of rendering time.

benchmark_table1

Table 1. Performance comparisons for the DSLR format tests.

AVCHD Tests

For the AVCHD I used footage of a local rodeo shot with my Canon Vixia HFS10 (Figure 3, below). The first test involved a straight export of one-minute of footage; the next involved three layers of footage, all one-minute long. The top clip started at 100% opacity, and transitioned to 0 over the duration of the clip; the second clip did the reverse, starting at zero and transitioning to 100%. The bottom clip remained at 100% opacity. All test clips were color-corrected (Figure 3, below).

benchmark3

Figure 3. And you thought your job was stressful! Test AVCHD footage from a local rodeo.

Table 2 (below) shows the results. The results were most significant with a simple project, with the gap narrowing as the project became more complex.

benchmark_table2

Table 2. AVCHD results. 

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