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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.


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.


Table 1. Performance comparisons for the DSLR format 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).


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.


Table 2. AVCHD results. 

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