How to Edit Video Using Premiere Pro

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Written by Connor Cleary 

Along with software such as Final Cut X, Adobe's Premiere Pro is the industry standard when it comes to editing video. In this guide, we've compiled the basics of using Premiere Pro CC 2019 to edit your film, from starting a new project to exporting your finished piece, and looking at cutting and editing footage, colour grading, optimising your audio and everything else in between!

PONToon Digital Skills Article

Starting a new project

To open the program, just click the Pr Logo. Once opened, click on New Project – this will bring up a window asking you about your settings.

Give the project a name (Do not just leave it as Untitled as this can lead to confusion in the future) and include a Location. This is where your video project will be saved in your filing system - E.g My Videos.

As a side note, it is well worth getting into the habit of properly naming your files and making sure they are organised neatly within your file system. Doing so will help you out in the future - you never know when you might need to access a certain bit of footage again!

Once done, click Okay to open up your new project.

What am I looking at?

Premiere Pro is structured using a variety of windows that sit inside your workspaces. There are seven workspaces in total, which can be accessed from the top of the screen.

Each workspace features a different configuration of windows that make each aspect of video editing easier to manage. If you need to, you can change a window by clicking the tabs at the top.

PONToon Digital Skills Articles - Video Editing
This is the 'Assembly' workspace. On the left is the Project window, where your imported media will sit.

It's not always necessary to switch between workspaces to make various edits, for example most of the functions relating to assembly, video effects, audio optimisation and colour grading can be accessed via the Editing workspace by simply selecting the relevant windows. It's recommended that you familiarise yourself with each workspace, however, as it can really help to speed up your editing process.

By default, Premiere will open a new project in the Assembly workspace, which is optimised for importing and assembling your footage. In the Assembly workspace (pictured above), the window on the left is where your imported media will sit, the top-right window will feature a preview of your current sequence, and the window on the bottom-right is your video editing timeline. We'll worry about those last two later – for now let's focus on importing your footage.

Importing your media

So let’s get started. The first thing to do when starting your new video editing project is to import your media. To do this you can either press Ctrl + I (Cmd + I on a mac) and select the clips you wish to import, or you can drag and drop video, audio and image files directly from a folder.

PONToon video editing article - importing media
You can import media by dragging and dropping it straight from your folder system.

Once you have imported your media you can begin to assemble your clips in the timeline. For the purposes of this tutorial, we've switched over to the Editing workspace, accessible via the tabs at the top. All this does is rearrange the windows to make things flow a bit more easily:

PONToon video editing tutorial - importing media
This is the 'Editing' workspace. Note that your imported media window has been collapsed into the bottom left-hand corner, and another window, 'Effect Controls', has been added in the top left.

This Editing workspace features the previous three windows (imported media - bottom-left; editing preview – top-right; and the timeline – bottom-right) plus an additional window, Effect Controls, in the top left. We'll come onto that later.

The timeline is where you'll do the majority of your video editing. Drag and drop a clip from your imported media into the timeline to create a new sequence, and we'll go through the basic controls.

PONToon video editing tutorial - Timeline Close-up
This is the timeline, where you’ll be doing most of your work. Note the toolbar on the left, and the grey bars with circles on the right side and along the bottom, which can be used to zoom in and out of your sequence.
  • The horizontal bars represent your footage and any attached audio. To start off, Premiere Pro gives you 3 layers for your video and 3 for your audio, with the video always appearing at the top and audio beneath. You can add more later on if you need to.
  • The thin vertical line is your playhead, also known as a scrubber. This indicates which part of your video/ audio is currently being looked at in the top-right preview window. Try moving the playhead by dragging the blue tab at the top of the line. You'll notice that this changes the frame that's currently being displayed.

The Main Tools

Here we’ll go over the basic tools you’ll need to be familiar with in order to edit your film. Most of these tools can be accessed either via the toolbar in Premiere Pro, or by using keyboard shortcuts, which we’ve included in brackets.

It’s good to note that using keyboard shortcuts will help to speed up your editing process. If at any point you forget which tools are assigned to a shortcut, click Adobe Premiere CC in the menu bar at the top and then click Keyboard Shortcuts.

  • The Razor tool (C) – Used to cut your clips.
  • The Mouse tool (V) – general purpose tool used for navigating your workspace and rearranging clips.
  • Play / Pause (Space Bar) – used to play or pause your clip.
  • The Ripple tool (B) – used to shift the selected track left and right on the timeline to fine-tune your edits.
  • The Hand Tool (H) – a way of moving around the timeline. Generally the hand tool is only useful for complicated, large scale productions.
  • The Zoom Tool (Z) – used to scale your timeline to view precise points, allowing you to fine tune edits. Pressing the Alt key with the zoom tool active will allow you to zoom out on the timeline.
  • Render (Return/ Enter key) – Renders the sequence in the timeline.

More Advanced Tools

Fast Forward / Rewind (L / J) – Used to move the playhead forwards/ backwards along the timeline. The longer the keys are held down, the faster the playhead will move.

  • Stop (K) – used to stop the playhead whilst fast forwarding or rewinding
  • Undo (Ctrl / Cmd Z) – as with most programmes, this undoes the last action you performed
  • Copy (Ctrl / Cmd C) – copies the selected clip
  • Paste (Ctrl / Cmd V) – pastes the selected clip

Editing Your Video - Concepts and Techniques

Now that you're a bit more clued up on the basics of cutting and rearranging your clips, it's time to look at some of the key concepts that are typically used when editing films. We can't cover everything here but will give an overview of two super useful concepts that will put you on the right track to making awesome videos: Continuity editing and cutaways.

Continuity Editing

Continuity editing, very simply, is the process of putting together a sequence of shots so that they infer a progression of events, without having to include the entirety of an action. The key to continuity editing is choosing clips that will make sense and look ‘right’ when stitched together. If a clip doesn’t fit, you risk breaking the flow of your film, causing viewers to become detached from the story you are trying to convey.

An example of continuity editing could be: A woman walks to a door (2 seconds) |CUT| The woman turns the door handle (1.5 seconds) |CUT| The woman is on the other side of the door walking through (2 seconds).

Another take on continuity editing is the Shot / Reverse Shot, used when editing together an interview or conversation between two people. The ‘Shot/ Reverse Shot’ alternates between two characters depending on who’s talking, with character in the first frame always looking left and the other character always looking right. By making sure the same person is always facing the same way in frame, you make it much easier for your viewer to follow the conversation.

Cutaways

Cutaways are hugely useful for video editors working with news or documentary style films that feature a large number of interview shots. A cutaway shot tends to be laid over a clip of someone talking about something, and helps to provide visual detail that is relevant to what is being discussed.  

Aside from providing more detail, cutaway shots are useful for covering any ‘jump cuts’ in your interviews. A jump cut is when a person who is speaking to camera has had their speech edited for whatever reason, leaving a noticeable jump in the clip that can cause viewers to question what has been removed. By covering the cut with a sequence of clips, you can make it almost impossible to notice when speech has been altered.

PONToon Video Editing Tutorial - Cutaways sequence
The above image shows a three-shot cutaway covering a break in the base footage.

In many cases, using more than one shot for your cutaway sequence can provide a more interesting result than using just one long shot, which could end up boring your viewers and disrupting the flow of your story. Generally speaking, try to aim for a sequence of 3 shots for each cutaway. Any more than four or five shots per cutaway sequence and you risk your video becoming choppy and disorienting.

Effects

Premiere Pro features a variety of effects that you can use to alter your clips, which are broadly sorted into four categories: Audio Effects, Audio Transitions, Video Effects, and Video Transitions. When applied to a clip, effects will alter the entire clip, whilst transitions are applied to the end/ beginning of clips to provide a way of seamlessly moving between scenes.

Effects can be used on your clips to make a variety of changes, including sharpening, colour correction (more on that below!), blurring, distortion and a whole host of others.

To apply an effect, first you’ll need to navigate to the effects window, which can be done by either selecting the Effects workspace tab at the top of your current workspace, or by switching one of your existing windows over to Effects. Once you’ve accessed the list of effects, simply drag your desired effect onto the clip(s) you wish to alter.

PONToon Video Editing Tutorial - Effects list and controls
This is the 'Effects' workspace. The list of available effects can be seen on the far right, with a couple of options under 'Video Effects' having been expanded to show their contents. On the top left is the effects control panel, where you can alter your chosen effect’s properties.

Now that you've done that, the effect you've chosen will appear in the Effects Controls window for your chosen clips, alongside permanent effects options such as Motion and Opacity. You may need to scroll down to see the effects you've added.

Once you've found your effect in Effects Controls, you can click the arrow next to its name to expand or collapse its list of parameters, which can be adjust to achieve your desired effect.

PONToon video editing tutorial - Applying sharpen via effect controls
The 'Effects Controls' panel with everything collapsed except for the Sharpen effect, which is currently set to zero.

Colour Grading

Colour grading is the process of editing the colour balance and lighting of your footage to improve any faults on the original film, make the aesthetic more visually appealing and to add any sense of style that you might wish to convey.

Each project will have its own requirements when it comes to effects and colour grading, and to a certain degree the final outcome is a matter of personal preference. You should try to make your corrections similar across all of your clips in order to make sure they fit together well.

For the clip we're using below, the scene isn't too bad to start – it's not too over or under exposed - but a few subtle edits could do a wealth of good in making it look a bit more interesting. To do this, we'll need to apply a colour correction effect, which can be done in one of two ways. The first way is to navigate to your list of effects as described above, then click on Video Effects, then Color Corrections, then drag over any effects that you wish to add. Once that's done, head over to Effects Controls to make your desired changes. In this guide, we've chosen to use the Lumetri Color effect, as it gives a good number of options for colour correcting your footage.

PONToon video editing tutorial - colour corrections
Here we’ve accessed the 'Lumetri Color' colour grading option via the 'Effects' window on the right. We can then make our alterations in the 'Effects Controls' window in the top left

A slightly easier way to add your colour corrections is to navigate to the Color workspace via the tabs at the top of your current workspace. From there you can simply use the sliders on the right to make any changes. It's good to note that making corrections to a clip here will automatically apply the Lumetri Color effect, without having to work across multiple windows.

PONToon video editing tutorial - colour corrections
Here we’re achieving the same outcome as before, but using the 'Color' workspace instead of the 'Effects' workspace.

There's a whole wealth of options here for editing your footage, but for now we're going to focus on basic colour corrections, which can be accessed by clicking Basic Correction, either in Effect Controls or on the right hand side of the Color workspace.

Once opened, you'll see options for correcting your footage. It's worth trying out all of the sliders here to get an idea of what each of them do. Also of note here is the white balance tool. Using the WB Selector, you can select an area of your footage that is supposed to be white (e.g a sheet of paper) and Premiere Pro will automatically adjust your clip to the correct tone.

For the clip we're using, we're going to increase the contrast and the whites, and lower the shadows slightly, to make the image more punchy, then lower the highlights to recover some of the detail lost in the over exposed sky. Finally, we're going to boost the saturation slider at the bottom to bring out some of the colour and make the image feel a little more vibrant.

PONToon video editing tutorial - colour corrections
Here’s our colour corrected image. You can see the changes we’ve made to the sliders on the right.
PONToon Video Editing Tutorial - Colour Correction Comparison
A before-and-after comparison of our footage. The image on the right ‘pops’ more-so than the image on the left, without it appearing unrealistic. Often it’s the subtle changes that improve your footage the most, unless you’re going for a very stylised look.

That's the basics of colour grading covered, but there's a wealth of other options here including adding all sorts of tints and filters, changing the hue of your footage and more. The best way to find out what all the different options do is to just have a play around yourself! You'll likely find over time that you'll naturally gravitate towards a few different options and you'll start to form your own staple style, but it's always good to have some understanding of the myriad of options at your disposal!

Keyframes

Keyframes are little markers that are used to apply changes to your footage between two points in time.  Keyframes are can be added by clicking the little diamonds next to your chosen effects in the Effect Controls window. The positions of the keyframes you’ve added will be displayed on the miniature timeline on the right-hand side of the Effect Controls panel. Note that this timeline only displays the clip you currently have selected.

PONToon video editing tutorial - Keyframe Example
This image shows the 'Effect Controls' window. Note the ‘Add/Remove Keyframe’ button next to Opacity, and the miniature timeline, which shows your selected clip and any keyframes that you’ve added to it, next to the effect that they pertain to.

If, for example you wanted to have one clip gradually fade in over the top of another, all you would need to do is place the second clip so that it overlaps the first, then set two keyframes on the opacity of the second clip in Effect Controls, as in the image above. Then, select the first keyframe in the miniature timeline (you can use the arrows next to the Add Keyframe button to quickly switch between existing keyframes) and set it to 0.0%. then, select the second keyframe and make sure it's set to 100.0%.

PONToon video editing tutorial - mid transition
This image shows the same clip as the image above but this time from the main timeline. Here, the playhead is positioned exactly halfway between the two keyframes, so the upper clip at this point in the transition would be at 50.0% opacity.

Audio

The quality of your film's audio can be the difference between a disastrous video and a masterpiece. Fortunately, Premiere Pro has a number of useful features for making sure that your video's sound is on point.

Volume

 

First you will need to make sure that your audio is at the right volume. Most videos on the internet tend to sit around the same volume - too loud or too quiet and yours will stand out like a sore thumb, and could end up annoying your audience.

 

The most valuable tool for getting your volume right is the audio levels window in the bottom right of the editing workspace. The audio meter measures your volume in decibels (dB), the most desirable dB range for your audio is between -0 and -12 being the most desirable. Any higher than -0 and your sound will end up peaking, causing unwanted distortion. Any lower than around -12 and your audio will start to become too quiet.

 

PONToon video editing tutorial - audio levels
The sound levels window is located on the right of the timeline – the red bar indicates were your audio is clipping, meaning that its volume needs lowering. This can be done by dragging down the white line between the two audio waveforms.

The easiest way to alter the volume of your video is to first expand the audio tracks using the zoom slider on the right of the timeline (as mentioned above). Once you've done this, clicking between the two channels of your audio track will reveal a white line, which can be dragged up or down to increase or decrease the volume. If you need to increase it any further, right click on the clip, select Audio Gain and increase or decrease the dB accordingly.

Effects

There are a number of effects that you can use to alter and improve the quality of your audio. As with video effects, these are located in the Effects window and can be applied by simply dragging and dropping them onto the clip you wish to change. You can also change the effect’s various parameters, via the Effects Controls window.

Here are two effects that will come in handy when improving the quality of your sound:

  • DeNoise –the DeNoise effect will help to eliminate any unwanted background noise in your video. Clicking Edit on DeNoise in Effects Controls will let you to change the amount of noise that is removed, as well as allowing you to select the frequencies of sound that noise is removed from.
PONToon video editing tutorial - DeNoise editor
Clicking Edit on DeNoise in Effects Controls will bring up this window, which allows you to alter the amount of background noise that is removed. Clicking the icons next to Processing Focus allows you to decrease background noise that exists on a specific frequency.
  • Dynamics – Dynamics allows you to alter a few different aspects of your sound. Of particular use is the compressor, which allows you to reduce the higher peaks and the lower troughs of your sound by altering the threshold. Doing this enables you to raise the overall volume of your clip.
PONToon video editing tutorial - the Dynamics sound editor
As with DeNoise. the Dynamics window can be accessed once you’ve applied Dynamics to your clip by clicking Edit on the Dynamics tab in Effects Controls.

Presets

If you’ve made these changes to one clip, but then need to go on and make the same changes to another series of clips, rather than re-applying each effect to each clip and having to adjust the parameters again, you can turn your existing effects into a preset.

To create a preset, select the clip you’ve applied your effects to and go to your Effects Controls window. From there, select the effects that you want to include in the preset by holding down Ctrl (/ Cmd on Mac) and clicking each one. Once selected, right click on the effects and choose Save Preset. From there, give your preset a name that you’ll remember and then click OK. Your preset will now be saved in the Presets folder of your Effects window, and can be applied in the same way as any other effects.

Exporting

Now that you've done everything you'll want to export your project into a format that can be uploaded the internet or downloaded onto a media drive. Once again, the options presented by Premiere Pro for exporting your footage can be incredibly overwhelming, but for the most part there are only a few options that you'll need if exporting your video for use online:

PONToon video editing tutorial - the export window
  • Click FILE > EXPORT > MEDIA or hit Cmd/ Ctrl + M on your keyboard
  • In the Format drop-down list, select H.264
  • In the Preset drop-down list, select the relevant preset. YouTube 1080p Full HD is a good multi-purpose option for videos intended for the internet.
  • Click on Output Name to name your film and select the folder in which you wish to save it
  • Check "Use Maximum Render Quality"
  • Click Export
  • Wait for your video to export! This could take a while depending on the length of your film and the quality of the clips you've used.

So there you have it! You’ve successfully learned the basics of editing a film with accompanying audio in Premiere Pro!