The cornerstone of every great editor is their ability to exceed the expectations of those in their world. Content needs to educate, illuminate or entertain, clients and bosses need to be kept happy, and work needs to come in and be delivered at a pace that allows an editor to sustain their life. Whether they’re completing tasks for a studio or a client as a freelancer, working smarter beats working harder. We’re here to give you tips and tricks on how to speed up your Premiere Pro workflow.
So, how does an editor speed things up without rushing and making a handful of mistakes? Like all pros, it’s important for video pros to streamline their workflow to keep projects moving forward on-time and under budget.
For this article, we’ll jump past some of the obvious hacks, like knowing what all of the native tools do. While many self-taught editors don’t bother with slipping and sliding in the timeline, it’s definitely worth the short amount of time needed to learn and become proficient with these tools for editing in Premiere Pro.
Here are 13 tips to speed up your Premiere Pro workflow.
Let’s start with getting to know some handy keyboard shortcuts to improve your Premiere Pro workflow.
Get to know your basic editing keyboard shortcuts. This one might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get to know just the basics—C for Razor Tool, V for Selection Tool, etc. Take a bit of time to memorize extended function keys. For example, did you know that Q and W will ripple edit a clip? Q will clip and ripple delete selected footage from the CTI toward the beginning of the clip, while W will cut and ripple delete from the CTI toward the end of the clip.
Take In and Out points to another level. I sets an in point, O sets an out point, but shift+I or shift+O goes to the in or out point in the source or program monitor, or even in the timeline. Want to remove those points? Option or Alt + I or O will remove the in or out point.
Navigate those panels without touching a mouse or trackpad. A great shortcut for getting around Premiere Pro is using the window selection shortcuts. Those are:
Shift+0: Reference View
Shift+1: Selects Project Panel
Shift+2: Selects Source Panel
Shift+3: Selects Timeline Panel
Shift+4: Selections Program Panel
Shift+5: Selects Effects Panel
Shift+6: Selects Audio Panel
Shift+7: Selects Additional Effects
Shift+8: Selects Media Browser Panel
Shift+9: Selects Audio Mixer Panel
See what you’re doing! If you want to maximize a panel to really see what you’re doing, the tilda key (~) will act as a toggle to whichever panel your cursor is hovering over. Want to go a step further when you’re playing back a clip? Shift + ~ will toggle maximizing your program monitor with no frame.
JKL can do more than simply play forward, reverse and stop. Hold down K to make J and L move forward or backward in the timeline one frame at a time.
Create your own shortcuts! Using the Keyboard Shortcuts option from the Edit menu on Windows and the Premiere Pro menu on MacOS you’re able to create and edit keyboard shortcuts for most features of Premiere, including those specific to working with certain control panels.
Save your faves
Make a cheat sheet of the shortcuts that make your projects easier. My personal cheat sheet not only includes the aforementioned shortcuts but also these:
Alt/Opt + Up or Down Arrow Key: this one is the greatest. It will push a clip straight up or down a layer in the timeline.
Alt/Opt + Drag a clip: Another huge time saver, this one will create a clone of a clip or a title. Simply hold Alt on Windows or Option on MacOS, then click and drag the clip you’d like cloned and you’re done. When using this trick with titles, it will create an entirely new instance of a title that matches the configuration of the original.
For example, if you cloned a lower third that said “Tuesday, 5 pm” that was 3 seconds long with a Film Dissolve that lasts 15 frames at the beginning and end of it, you’d be able to change the newly-cloned second lower third to say “Wednesday, 9 am” without changing the original. Both clips would maintain their Film Dissolves and clip length, but be totally free to change without affecting the other. This doesn’t seem like a huge time-saver until you’re called upon to make a bunch of unique titles. Not having to configure the font face, size, style and other attributes each time will keep the project looking and feeling consistent.
Now onto the projects
Now that our keyboard is helping us navigate and manipulate our workspace more efficiently, let’s get project-specific.
To begin, let’s create a project template that we can use to kick off all of our projects. There are tools available to assist with this task, but nobody knows your projects better than you, so who better to create a template?
Let’s begin by creating a handful of bins in the Project Panel. Number your bins so they stay in order, and create sub-bins for things you might use a lot.
Some examples of top-level bins that could prove handy are “Footage”, “Graphics” (you can put the Motion Graphic folder Premiere generates in here), “Audio”, “Stock Footage”, and so on. Again, you’ll know your projects better than anyone, so create according to your own needs.
Put those tracks to work
Get those tracks working harder. Start by right-clicking an existing track and choose “Add Tracks”. Add enough video and audio tracks to get most of your projects started. Once added, right-click individual tracks and choose to rename them. If a project has a tendency to grow it’s always nice to know which track has all of the lower thirds, which has graphic overlays, etc.
Once the tracks are labeled properly, rearrange the buttons showing on each track. Only so much information can appear on each track at their default size, but Premiere Pro lets you rearrange what’s showing and where. You can even have your audio meters showing up next to your audio track name. Audiophiles will give you bonus points for right-clicking the audio meters on your track AND in the audio levels panel and de-selecting “show gradient value”. In audio we don’t need gradients—we need to know when audio is in the yellow and when it’s in the red.
The next step will be to create a custom workspace or choose from one of the preset workspaces created by Adobe. While creating, saving and editing workspaces could be an article in itself, let’s just say this: knowing how the workspaces work is fantastic, and if you use a multi-monitor setup the options are incredible.
Right out of the box, however, Adobe has provided us with amazing options for assembly, editing, color, graphics and audio.
Experiment with these options. While at first it may seem counter-intuitive to break down the steps of a project and work on them so explicitly, the spaces are thoughtfully laid out and really make normal tasks more convenient.
Tune up those effects
Ok, so we’re happy with our shortcuts and our project template, but there are more places to find efficiencies.
Create Effect Presets. This is a very simple and effective way to speed up work in Premiere Pro. If a job requires regular use of one or more effects featuring the same settings each time, it’s much easier to use an effect preset. Think of it this way: why use the basic Lumetri Color effect to affect the headshots in your project when you can use “Lumetri Color for John’s outdoor headshots” and then use “Lumetri Color for Mary’s over the shoulder shots”?
Creating an effect preset is as simple as right-clicking an effect in the Effect Controls Panel—or CMD/CTRL-selecting multiple effects—choosing “Create Preset”, then naming and choosing how the effect will adhere to clips.
Once created, effect presets will appear in a Presets folder within the Effects Panel. Take them a step further by creating project-specific folders in the Effects Panel, then dragging presets and native effects alike into this folder. The best part is that the effects in your new folder do not affect the original effects or even original presets you’ve created, so create temporary project folders full of the effects you’re going back to over and over again to make life easy, then delete the project folder when you’re done. Or simply rename it and change its contents when you move onto your next project.
Set durations on mattes and adjustment layers that will be reused. This one might be a little bit specific to certain types of videos, but some editors need to use colored mattes in multiple videos, and the default length of five seconds doesn’t always cut it. For example, editors of training videos shot on black backgrounds will use a black matte as a base layer and within many nested sequences to ensure transitions don’t show the edges of the various clips being transitioned. If that editor creates 50 videos each week, at an average length of 10 minutes, with two sequence length mattes per video, using mattes that start out at ten minutes in length they’ll save a handful of time. To change the duration of a matte to ten minutes, find it in the Project Panel, right-click it and choose Speed/Duration. Then enter a duration of 00:10:00:00, for 0 hours, 10 minutes, 0 seconds and 0 frames. Now, each time that matte is dropped onto a timeline it will be ten minutes in length.
This is merely a start, to get the efficiency juices flowing, so to speak. It takes time to find the Premiere Pro workflow that works best for you. If there was a theme to any of this, it’s to research the darkest reaches of Premiere.
Use a semi-colon (;) to lift, an apostrophe (‘) to extract (like lifting, only without leaving a clip-sized hole behind), or take the Rate Stretch Tool (R) to a new level by using Ctrl/CMD + R to perform a global speed change. Export a still image of the current frame in the Program Panel by clicking the little camera button right under that window. Don’t see it? Click the little wrench icon and rearrange those buttons. Enjoying wrench icons? Click the one in the timeline panel and choose Show Audio Time Units—now it’s possible to edit audio tracks in increments much smaller than a frame at a time.
Basically, the mission is to find an editing rhythm by utilizing the workspace and native tools more fully to enhance your Premiere Pro workflow. Investigate what holding modifier keys or double-clicking something will do (e.g. holding Ctrl/CMD over an edit point will let you perform a rolling edit without actually changing tools, or double-clicking in the Project Panel will open the Import dialog box).
Adobe created a truly powerful tool in Premiere Pro, and while not every tool will appeal to every workflow, there are enough options in there to make any project a pleasure to edit.
Image courtesy: Adobe