Video pros share 8 essential Adobe Premiere Pro Tips for beginners

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From rising YouTube stars to big Hollywood blockbusters, Adobe Premiere Pro has long been an industry standard when it comes to video editing. But like any piece of professional software, the list of advanced features comes with big potential and a steep learning curve. Because navigating the program can be both exciting and nerve-wracking for the unfamiliar, we asked the pros to share a few Premiere Pro tips.

Matt Eastin is the director and editor behind the music video for Imagine Dragons’ Believer. He has also created videos for several other bands — including Dr. Dog and Neon Trees — and launched a music documentary series. Eastin also recently shared the raw video files for Believer as part of a contest celebrating the 25th anniversary of Premiere Pro, which resulted in a number of impressive remakes, including Adam Henderson’s prize-winning edit. Henderson, one of the many editors who submitted videos for the contest, started using Adobe Premiere Pro while in high school, and quickly knew he wanted video editing to be part of his future. He now works at Post Op, a post-production boutique in Dallas, Texas, as a professional video editor.

Here’s what the director for the original music video, and the editor behind the remake, wanted to share with aspiring video editors regarding Premiere Pro.

Watch every second

Both Eastin and Henderson start a project in exactly the same way: they watch all the footage. While many editors will skip directly to the director’s call for action, both editors said they usually find a few gems by watching even the unintentional footage.

“The first thing I wanted to do once I decided I wanted to take on the project is that I had to watch every second of the footage,” Henderson said. “That’s essential for every project – you never know when there will be useful clips before the director even says action.”

Develop your own workflow

Although Eastin and Henderson may start the same way, that doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all workflow. Finding what works for you and sticking to it can help speed up the process in the long run.

Eastin watches all the footage by dragging everything into a new Premiere Pro Project. When he finds a shot he likes, he raises them up one level — or even two – for the best shots, which makes it easy to go back and find them later. Henderson, after watching the footage, then brainstorms a storyline on paper.

“Everyone has their own workflow,” Eastin said. “When I’m in Premiere Pro, I’m not thinking, I’m just doing.”

Get organized

Large projects often involve hours of footage, as well as audio files, titles, and special effects. The key to not getting lost in all that footage, and all of Premiere Pro’s features, is proper organization.

“Half of video editing is organization,” Henderson said. While different editors may have different organizational structures, the key is to get everything placed in a way that would allow any editor to easily jump in and help. Henderson creates a color-coded structure inside Premiere Pro, for instance, and makes sure that the original files match the same folder hierarchy on his hard drive.

Learn the hotkeys

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Organization may eliminate time spent hunting for the right clip, but learning Premiere Pro’s keyboard shortcuts can also be a big time-saver. Eastin says the time invested in learning the hotkeys is well spent, namely because it will save you a ton of time down the line. He also suggests that users migrating from another video editor relearn the shortcuts, instead of uploading other shortcuts or customizing them to match another program. Why? Eastin said that relearning the shortcuts after switching from Final Cut helped him in the long run because the shortcuts are similar across multiple Creative Cloud applications.

Take advantage of the Creative Cloud

Premiere Pro is a standalone program, but it’s also part of a larger family of editing tools. Henderson suggests that learning the basics for other Creative Cloud programs will help you to create a better video in less time. Try After Effects for motion graphics and titles, Audition for removing noise or fine-tuning audio, and Speedgrade for improving video color. Dynamic links also allow you to shuffle projects between multiple programs easily, thus expanding the number of tools available to you with just a few clicks.

Create your own overlays

To save time, Eastin created his own custom overlays, which provide quick access to a range of unique effects. Eastin’s special effects folder contains a number of different shots, from grain, foreground haze, and lighting effects, to those that were made by shooting without a lens. The overlays took time to develop, but Eastin says having the effects on hand to play with in multiple projects, is worth the initial time investment.

Keep the Lumetri Color Panel open as you edit

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Editing raw color is one of Eastin’s least favorite parts of the entire process, which is why he suggests keeping the Lumetri Color Panel open while editing. With this panel open, Eastin can adjust the color edits in real time, allowing him to see the color adjustments as he works.

Always be willing to experiment and try new things

Working for a boutique editing agency, Henderson says he will occasionally have a video that he thinks cannot possibly get any better — and then the client comes back with a suggestion. He recommends always trying others’ suggestion, because that means experimenting with something different.

“Never have a big enough head where you can’t take constructive criticism,” Henderson said. “Always be willing to experiment and try new things — you never know if it’s going to work.”

Adobe Premiere Pro is a program more than 25 years in the making, which means it comes with a laundry list of features that cannot be learned in a single day. With the right Premiere Pro tips and a little bit of time, however, new users can begin to uncover many of the program’s features.

“If you are interested in editing, open up Premiere and try to create something,” Henderson said. “If you’re bored, edit. If you’re busy, edit. Do anything you can to be a better editor.”