First Look: Adobe Prelude CS6

Posted on by Larry

Adobe Prelude CS6 is a brand-new application for Windows and Mac that shipped last week with the rest of the Adobe CS6 update. According to Adobe’s website: “Adobe® Prelude™ CS6 software streamlines your production tasks. Ingest nearly any file-based format and begin logging immediately, creating searchable markers and other temporal metadata that flow through post-production, so you can work faster and stay organized.”

This description doesn’t do it justice, however. I’ve been working with it for the last few weeks and I want to share my observations with you.

NOTE: I just wrote a new article covering the new features in the 1.0.1 update. You can read it here.


Prelude is designed to speed the review, ingest, logging, selection, and export of tapeless media. Specifically, it allows one person to review and capture all footage, build a selects reel, and INSTANTLY export it into Premiere Pro CS6, or Final Cut Pro 7, so that the editor can begin editing immediately.

Because Prelude seamlessly integrates with both Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro 7, it can be used either in a team environment or where one person is doing all the work.

Imagine you have a TON of footage to review – think reality or documentaries. Why tie up an editor and an expensive edit suite when you can have a production assistant, associate producer, or producer reviewing the initial footage and building a collection of selected clips.

Someone using Prelude is not editing, they are collecting and organizing clips, and putting them all into one spot for the editor. This ability to off-load the screening and selection of clips can make the entire editing team more efficient.

DEFINITION: We “capture” clips from tape, “ingest” tapeless media, and “import” clips which are already readable on the computer.


With an interface similar to other Adobe applications, Prelude is built around a straight-forward workflow:

(By the way, special thanks to Fran and Miles Hale of Model Railroad Builders for the use of their footage –

There are four workspaces, or interfaces, in Prelude:

Each workspace can be customized by moving tabs and rearranging windows, as with any other CS6 application.


The Ingest workspace allows you to review clips before capture and transfer them to your hard disk from the camera, card, or hard disk where the source masters are stored.

You can ingest entire clips, or portions of a clip. You can provide a link to the media, copy it to a different destination, or transcode the media into an entirely different format.

To ingest a clip, click the small checkbox in the lower right corner of each thumbnail. To ingest a portion of a clip, click inside the image and use the playhead to set the In and the Out as you would in any editing program.

When you have selected all the clips you want to ingest, click the Ingest button in the lower right corner.

NOTE: Ingesting a portion of a clip requires that you transcode — convert — it  into a separate clip for editing. The best transcode options would be ProRes, DNxHD, or Cineform, however these require you to create a custom transcode setting in Adobe Media Encoder. This is not difficult, but it is an extra step in a separate program.


Prelude allows you to transcode your video into any format supported by Adobe Media Encoder (AME). However, the HD presets supplied with AME are optimized for web distribution, not editing, which I find to be a limitation and hope Adobe fixes in the next update.

If you plan to edit your media in Premiere, the fastest option is to ingest entire clips and use subclips to create smaller clips. If you plan to edit in Final Cut Pro, I strongly recommend you transcode your media into ProRes during ingest, because it will make moving clips into FCP very, very simple.


Once you have your clips ingested, it’s time to log them. Switch to the Logging workspace and mark the best regions of each clip. This is done using markers.

There are six marker types in Prelude:

By far, the most powerful and useful marker is a subclip. These are used to indicate shots that you want to send to the editor. Both clips and markers easily import into Premiere or Final Cut.

NOTE: Chapter markers that are set in Prelude won’t export to a QuickTime movie in a form that Compressor or DVD Studio Pro will read. You are better off setting chapter markers in FCP during your edit, just prior to final output.

The key point to remember about markers in Prelude is that they all have durations. For instance, here, in the Timeline, I’ve added four subclip markers (blue) and one comment marker (green). Notice that markers can easily overlap.

NOTE: To record markers that you’ve added, modified, or deleted from a clip, save the clip (Command+S). Each subclip appears as its own icon in the Project panel. Subclips can be named as you wish, however, in this example, I began each subclip name with the name of the source clip so they would sort next to each other.


When you are done reviewing and logging your clips, its time to build a rough-cut.

A rough-cut is not an edit. It is a collection of selected clips that are sent to the editor for editing. (Think of this as a “selects” reel.) This ability to create a rough-cut showcases the true power of Prelude: an editorial assistant can review, log, and collect the best clips; then send the entire collection of selected clips to the editor to shape into a story.

As we increasingly work with massive amounts of footage, having the ability for initial screening to be done outside the edit suite offers a huge time-savings.

Select File > Create Rough-cut (Command+N). Rough-cuts are very small data files that can be named anything and stored anywhere. However, don’t lose them, as they are essential for exporting your clips to Premiere or Final Cut.

Double-click the rough-cut icon to open it in the Timeline. To see more of the Rough-cut, switch to the Rough-cut workspace.

Drag the clips – and subclips – you want to send to the editor into the Rough-cut. They are added in the order you selected them, as you can see from the screen shot above.

NOTE: Cool shortcuts. Select a clip by clicking it. Press [comma] to move it to the left or [period] to move it to the right.

Your goal in creating a rough cut is not to edit the piece, nor even to get clips in the correct order – though you can – but to assemble all the good takes in one spot so the editor doesn’t have to look very far to find the clips she needs.

Select File > Save to save the rough-cut before going on to the last step.


Moving files from Prelude to Premiere Pro CS6 (but not earlier versions) is unbelievably fast. Select the rough cuts and clips (you can send more than one) you want to send and select File > Send to Premiere Pro.

Instantly, Premiere Pro starts up and your clips are transferred from Prelude to Premiere. (If Premiere is already running, the transfer is essentially instantaneous!)

Fill out the New Project dialog that appears when Premiere opens and click OK.

All your selected clips and rough-cuts immediately appear in Premiere, ready to edit, as you can see from the screen shot above.


There are many things I like about Prelude:

Earlier today, I posted a complete video training series that shows you exactly how Prelude works. If you are considering adding this software to your workflow, this training gets you up to speed in two hours. Click here for the details.

If your goal is to work more efficiently with tapeless media, especially as part of a team, you need to look into Prelude CS6.

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33 Responses to First Look: Adobe Prelude CS6

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  1. Nancy Lockhart says:


    Does anyone know if the metadata capabilities of Prelude offer any advantages of those Premiere Pro? I’m beginning to learn about XMP files and I’m a Newbie in terms of understanding how all this works under-the-hood. I understand that Metadata created in Prelude will port over to Premiere, but that is not what I’m trying to accomplish. (On this last point, will the metadata input in Prelude also travel over to After Effects?) Anyhow, my projects are pulled together from footage that has been collected over many years, not a given day, week or year’s shooting. I am a new editor (Premiere Pro) but an old hand at shooting/directing, etc. I am a botanist and over the past few years have been out in Arizona shooting plants of the Sonoran Desert and native peoples there. I have so much footage that trying to keep track of it all has become impossible. I am using a cross-referenced spreadsheet at the moment but it is very inefficient. Hence, the need to learn more about metadata input and export. I will be investing in some sort of Database system or Media Asset Management System in a year or two (any idea?) , but for now, I want to be sure that all of the metadata fields I create now in Prelude or Premiere will useable in my database later- in programs external to Adobe. I’m a one person shop, and if Premiere can do the job is there any reason to use Prelude?

    Ultimately, I’d like to create metadata fields for things like: season of bloom, Latin name of the plant, geographic region, plant morphology – such as “root,” “leaf” “stem,” “bark,” and many more fields for each clip. So, in summary, does Prelude have metadata capabilities that Premiere doesn’t? can this XMP data be exported for later use in a relational database, and finally, where do the XML files that my Sony EX3 camera creates fit in with this? I have plenty of time to do the hard work of inputting the metadata and creating my own custom fields. I just need a system that will work for me. My dream system would be on where I opened the database and did a query such as “Show me all the footage proxies that contain my search terms “Spring Blooming,” AND “Hopi Medicinal Plant” and “Emetic.” etc. The system would scan multiple drives, the proxy files would pop up and I’d be able to drag those clips into my Timeline. That’s my dream world.

    And, if its not asking too much, does anyone have any idea for a database system that will work well with metadata embedded during the logging/review process in a program such as Prelude? Filemaker, from what I’ve read doesn’t play well with XMP, nor does CATDV for example.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated.
    Mac OSX v. 10.6.8 (2.66 GHZ Intel Core i7), 8 GB Ram, NVidia GT 330 M Card.
    Sony EX3

  2. Pablo says:

    Hi. I have read at Adobe’s website that OnLocation is being discontinued in favour of Prelude. OL was a great and inexpensive tool to check exposure levels on site, using the vectorscope and so on. I don’t see that Pl has this features.

    Does any program in the new Adobe CS6 Suites replace this functionalities of OL?


    PS: Great site. I have just came accross it and subscribe to your newsletter.

    • Wes Plate says:


      Prelude does not replace the functionality of OnLocation, if you have OnLocation you can continue to use it as CS6 applications will not break or impact older CS installations.


    • Larry Jordan says:


      OnLocation was designed for tape-based media. Prelude is designed for tapeless media. With the world going tapeless, OnLocation became less necessary. At this moment, Adobe does not provide the ability to view scopes through Prelude. Whether that is coming in the future, I don’t know.


  3. jun says:

    Hi Larry,

    I’m trying to bring DSLR footage with dual audio into Prelude. I’m exporting the footage from Premiere to bake the audio in so I can use it in Prelude. I’ll eventually bring it back into Premiere to edit. Do you have suggestions for the best export settings to maintain top image quality while doing this? Thanks.

    • Larry Jordan says:


      I think you are going to too much work. Once you have media in Premiere, there’s no need for Prelude.

      If you need to permanently attach audio to video, and you are doing that in Premiere, simply export the file using, say, ProRes, then reimport that file back into Premiere.

      There’s no need for Prelude at this point.


  4. jun says:

    Thanks Larry,
    I was thinking that Prelude would be an efficient way to log, and make comments and selects. I’m working on a documentary so have a lot of footage to review. Will I be able to organize my footage as efficiently in Premiere, as in Prelude?

    • Larry Jordan says:


      Prelude will do a better job logging and organizing. Do a test both ways and see which one works the best for you.


      • Jun says:

        Thanks Larry,

        One more question. When exporting a project that you will eventually edit again (like in this case where I’m exporting simply to bake in the audio), what’s the best target bit rate and maximum bitrate? I want to be sure to set it correctly so I have the best image quality, but also don’t waste space on my drive.

  5. shop signs says:

    shop signs…

    Adobe Video Editing | Discover Adobe Prelude Capabilites With FCP! | Final Cut Pro Training & Classes…

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