A guide to editing in Adobe Premiere Pro

Author:  Phil McMillan – TELT

Having had many of you read my previous blog Five tips for filming with a mobile phone, I promised a life affirming follow up editing guide. This literary treat has been written with the analogy that video editing (loosely) follows plot points of the popular yuletide treat Home Alone (1990). The story of dire parenting, angry uncles and barbaric intent, all wrapped up with a lovely red Christmas bow and marketed to the young’uns. For this blog I have worked with Adobe Premiere Pro, commonly used in the TV and film industry software, but for the points discussed any editing software will offer the same or very similar functionality.

I know its April but as Joe Pesci says in the film, “Fritzle frazzle, fritzle frazzle.” Or as I interpreted it, “Let the learning begin one and all!”

We’ve all been there… flying to Paris in first class with all your kids in economy (?), and it suddenly dawns on you…you forgot something, the washing machine is on, the garage door is open, …No you forgot your child, you forgot Kevin! Ok, so the film would have been less interesting without this obvious plot point, however, in video editing losing footage or audio is just bad planning and far less humorous for all concerned. Also, you may want to come back to work at a later date or work on multiple computers, therefore having all of your files in one place saves a lot of the headache later.

Begin by creating a new folder, on your desktop. Give it a project name and then create four subfolders within it. AUDIO is where all your sound files for the video project should be placed, this could be music, voiceover sound, or background, atmosphere and foley sound. FOOTAGE is where all your video files should go, you can also add any images or photos in this folder too. GRAPHICS is for your logos and PROJECT FILES is where you will save your Premiere Pro project. This is also the best time to rename clips and files to a logical naming structure rather than the gibberish file names the camera spits out.

Kevin from Home alone with a cheese pizza

To start a new project just for you, use the ‘Search Bar’ (PC) or ‘Spotlight’ (Mac) to find and open Premiere Pro CC. Kevin’s newfound cheesy freedom is the same feeling felt when starting a fresh, hot basil scented new project.

New Project – This opens a new project window, use this when starting a new video.

Open Project – You can find and continue a previous project using this option. You can also see previous projects to the right of this button, in the example we can see a previous project called, ‘TEST’.

This is the new project window; firstly, make sure that you name your
project as this will help locate it in future. Then you must decide where your project file will save to, please note that Premiere Pro CC will also save additional files to this location, such as render, video and audio files (don’t worry about them, but do not delete them).

For your save location click browse and find your PROJECT FILES subfolder that you created at the start.  Click OK to open the software interface.

Editing software can look daunting at first glance, awash with boxes, tabs and new words to learn. However, remember you are Kevin in this scenario, not the antagonists Marv and Harry, and you can control the layout and tabs, making it easier to navigate if needed.

Please note that your workspace may not look exactly the same but will have the same elements, just in different places.

Premier Pro workspace

Overview

1.      Menu Bar

The menu bar, much like in other applications, houses your entire menu options such as opening a file, saving, importing media and exporting. There is also a Help button, which takes you to the Adobe Premiere Pro Learn & Support web page for support and guides.

2.      Project Window

The project window is where all media for your project goes. When you import video files, images or audio, they will appear here ready to use in your project. You can also import folders such as your AUDIO, FOOTAGE and GRAPHICS folders discussed in the ‘File Management’ section. Please note that folders must have files within them in order to be imported into the project window. 

3.      Source Monitor

The source monitor, (in conjunction with the effects control tab) is a vital window within Premiere Pro as it allows you to alter footage and music. Just double click a file from your project window or on the timeline and it will open in this window. Use this to trim footage from your project window using ‘in (i) & out (o)’ points before you then drag the trimmed footage to the timeline. Click and drag on the image in the source monitor to drag it to the timeline.

Within the source monitor window there is a tab called ‘Effects Control’, here you can change elements of the clip such as the size of the footage, its position and opacity. Also, if you add any effects to your footage you can alter and delete the effect here.

4.      Program Window

The program window is the visual representation of the project timeline and shows you what your current timeline edit looks like. Use the ‘play’ button or the space bar on your timeline to watch your video. 

5.      Tool Bar

The tool bar houses important tools such as the ‘Selection Tool’ (v on the keyboard) ‘Razor Tool’ (c), the ‘Type Tool’ (t) and ‘Pen Tool’ (p). You will use the selection tool often to move footage around on the timeline. Please note that the tools only work on the timeline and program windows.

6.      Project Timeline

The timeline is where you assemble your video project. It has ‘tracks’ such as V1, V2, V3 which are your video tracks and A1, A2, A3 what are your audio tracks. Having more than one track allows you to place and blend multiple pieces of media on top of one another for artistic freedom. Audio can have more depth due to this, as you may have dialogue, atmosphere sound and a piece of music playing together at once.

The timeline has a blue play-head line that reads the footage it crosses over and shows it in the program window. By pressing the SPACE BAR on the keyboard, you can play and pause the play head. You can also zoom in and out of the timeline using the + and – on the keyboard.

On the timeline you work with tabs known as ‘Sequences’, you can add multiple sequences by going to File > New > Sequences. This is useful for when you need to work on multiple videos within the same project, or if you want a draft sequence to experiment with and then a final project sequence.

7.      Audio Levels

You have a visual representation of your audio level here. This is useful to firstly check that audio is present in your project and also to check that your audio is not hitting 0 decibels (db) and going red, which means that its peaking and will sound distorted and not clean. Generally, stick to around -6db here.

Customising your Workspace

Across the top of the screen, you have workspace options such as assembly, editing, color, effects, audio, graphics and libraries. These can also be accessed by going to Window > Workspaces. These workspaces are designed to pick commonly used tabs for that particular job. However, tabs can be added to any workspace by going to Window and selecting them. Use the default workspace (known as editing) given to you when you first open the software, or make sure you have the following tabs open; project, effects, source monitor, effects control, program monitor, tools and timeline. (Thankfully most of these tabs should already be open.)

To import media to your project you have three options, firstly to go to File > import, or use the keyboard shortcut of CTRL + i (PC) or CMD + i (Mac). Finally, you can double click in the project window to import media files.

You can also import folders such as your AUDIO, FOOTAGE and GRAPHICS folders discussed in the ‘File Management’ section. Please note that folders must have files within them in order to be imported into the project window.

Project Window File Management

In the project window below on the left, AUDIO, FOOTAGE and GRAPHICS folders have been imported, a SEQUENCES folder has also been created using the folder icon in the bottom right part of the image. This folder icon creates a new bin, which acts like a folder, and can be renamed by clicking on it once. You can create as many bins as you need to keep your file management tidy. A good starting point is to use the folders listed above. The image to the right shows the contents in the folders.

Using Sequences in your Timeline

Sequences are tabs in the timeline meaning that if you have more than one, you can work on multiple timelines at once. This is useful if you need to create a few different videos from the same footage or if you want to practise on one sequence and work on a neater edit on another. Above there are two different sequences tabs, one called NEW_YORK_DRAFT and the other NEW_YORK_PROMO.

To add another sequence, go to File > New > Sequence, the window below will pop up.

Your sequence settings is based on what you want your final films output resolution to be. Most cameras and phones shoot at HD 1080p so choose a 1080p setting here such as Digital SLR > 1080p. 24/25/30 are frame rate options, and relate to the frame rate your footage was shot at. If you know it choose the correct one or if you are not sure, choose 25 here. Name your sequence and it will appear in your project window, you can then drag it to your SEQUENCES folder.

Adding footage to the Timeline

Double click a file from your project window, and it will open in the source monitor window. Use this to trim footage from your project window by either playing the clip (Play button or space bar) or moving the blue triangle then clicking ‘in (i) & out (o)’ points before you then drag the trimmed footage to the timeline. Click and drag on the image in the source monitor to place it on the timeline. The in and out points bookmark your chosen section using blue lines as seen in the image below. Please note that you can change the in and out points and use as many as you want from the same piece of footage.

The timeline is where you assemble your video project. It has ‘tracks’ such as V1, V2, V3 which are your video tracks and A1, A2, A3 what are your audio tracks. Having more than one track allows the user to place and blend multiple pieces of media on top of one another for artistic freedom. Audio can have more depth due to this, as the user may have dialogue, atmosphere sound and a piece of music playing together at once.

The timecode of the project is shown here, above the clips. 00:00:00:00 represents the hours, minutes, seconds and hundredths of a second.

In the image above, you can see that a piece of footage has two blocks; one for the video and the other for the audio, (which has sound waveforms in it). These linked files can be moved around the timeline but are currently on the V1 and A1 tracks in the image.

Moving Footage in your Timeline

It is important to have your footage next to one another with no gaps or there will be a blank screen when played back. In the image above, there are gaps before the ‘Drone View of New York’ and after it which means that there will be a blank, black screen in between the footage. Move the footage using the selection tool (v on the keyboard) from the tool bar, click, and drag the footage together, as seen below.

The timeline has a blue play-head line that reads the footage as it crosses over and shows it in the program window. By pressing the SPACE BAR on the keyboard, you can play and pause the play head. You can also zoom in and out of the timeline using the + and – on the keyboard.

Altering Footage in the Timeline

By right clicking on the footage in the timeline you are given the options shown below. Here you can unlink footage so that you can move/delete the video or audio independently, this is useful if you only want the video and not the sound from a clip. Here you can also change the speed/duration of a clip and speed it up, slow it down and reverse it. Please note that a clip runs at 100% at normal speed, if you increase it to 200% it will be twice the speed, 300% three times the speed etc. This also works for slowing down, 50% will be half the speed, 25% a quarter of the speed etc.

Using effects and Transitions

Effects, used to alter footage, can be found by going to Window > Effects. Transitions, which ‘transition’ from one clip to another, can also be found here. Simply drag the effects to the clip(s), or drag the transition between the two desired clips.

Once you have added an effect, you can alter it by double clicking on the clip and going to the Effects Control tab. Here you can find your effect, for example Black & White in the image, and change the effect parameters if they have any.

Adding Titles

Titles can be added simply but begin by selecting the Text Tool in the tool bar. It is at the bottom of the tool bar as a ‘T’. Once selected you can click and drag a text box in your Program window and start typing. To alter the font, size, colour, leading and position, a window will open in the Effects Control tab and a new block will appear on your timeline, containing your text. You can move, extend or shorten this box as you can with any footage. 

Saving your Project

Depending on the version you are using, Adobe Premiere Pro CC may not auto save so it’s important to regularly save your project. Do this by going to File > Save or using the keyboard shortcut of CTRL + s (PC)  or CMD + s (Mac).

Only use save as if it’s a new project and hasn’t been given a save location yet. You will not need to use this if at the start when you created a new project, you also chose where to save it, (See the Section 2 – Starting a New Project).

Exporting your Video

Once you have finished editing your video, you need to export so that you share it or upload it to video sites such as YouTube, Microsoft Stream and Vimeo. To export your work, go to File > Export > Media, please note that you must have your timeline selected before you do this or the media option will be blanked out. Select the timeline by clicking anywhere on it so that a blue line appears around it, then export. The keyboard shortcut for exporting is CTRL + m (PC) or CMD + m (Mac). 

An export settings window will then appear. Here you can deliver you video in a variety of file formats, quality settings and different file sizes. This can be confusing to anyone new to video, and unless you have been given direction to export otherwise, use the follow settings: Format – H.264, Preset – Match Source High Bitrate. Click Output Name to rename the file and choose where to save it. Make sure both export video and export audio are ticked and then click Export.

PC

Mac

Action

Ctrl + i

Cmd + i

Import Media

Ctrl + s

Cmd + s

Save Project

Ctrl + m

Cmd + m

Export Media

V

V

Selection Tool

SPACE

SPACE

Video Playback (and paused if pressed again)

C

C

Razor Tool

S

S

Timeline Snap toggle on/off

+/-

+/-

Zoom in/out

i & o

i & o

In (i) & Out (o) points

    Background

    As well as playing the well-received role of Phil McCallister, Kevin’s offscreen brother in Home Alone 1 & 2, I have edited video since 2004 for TV and commercial projects using Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. I have also taught video editing at FE and HE levels for over 10 years to both staff and students. When not editing, I like walks in the park, the sound of sweet jazz fusion and brown roll neck jumpers.


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