Premiere Pro – From Import to Export (Simple Workflow)

1. Prepare the workspace

During this simple workflow I will use some panels that might not be visible if you are using the default workspace, so I am going to customize it a little bit, I prefer to have all the panels I use in one workspace, since every time I switch between them the application hang for a few seconds and just slow me down. The panels you will use are, Project, Source Monitor, Program Monitor, Audio Meters, Timeline, Tools, and Media Browser.

2. Import media files, video and audio

After you have the workspace ready, you can import media files into the project.
You can drag files from an Explorer window or Mac equivalent, into the Project panel,
or use the Media Browser panel.

I usually organize the files in folders, in the Project panel I create a folder for clips, for audio and for sequences.

Import media files using Media Browser panel

3. Video and audio properties

You should take a moment to look at the properties of your video and audio files, to familiarize with Frame Rate, Image Size and Audio Format, from the Project panel, right-click on one of your files and choose Properties, and a window with different information related to the file will show up. It is really important to understand at least these three properties, since we want the final video to have the same properties (at least for the purpose of this tutorial).

4. Audio Normalization

The gain is how much the input level for that audio is reduced or increased and is calculated in Decibel (dB).

Before starting the actual editing, I like to normalize my audio files and clips. Dialogues, music, sound effects, ambient sounds, they should have a consistent audio levels. Depending on the type of audio that you have (dialogue, music or sound effect), and depending on the mixing that you want to have between these files, the audio gain has to be corrected accordingly. To change the audio gain correctly, select all the audio or clips belonging to the same category (dialogues, music or sound effects) , right click on these files, than select Audio Gain… , in the window check Normalize All Peaks to and enter the maximum level in Decibel that can be reached by these sounds, Premiere Pro will calculate and apply the right gain for these files.

Normalize All Peaks to will analyze the peak amplitude of every files you selected and the gain will be adjusted on every file accordingly to their own max peak (every file will have a different gain, with same input level).

Normalize Max Peak to will analyze the peak amplitude of every files selected and will adjust the gain accordingly to the max peak found among all the files (every file will have the same gain, with different input level).

This normalization process, in order to work correctly, should operate on audio track that doesn’t have any strange spikes in the audio level, like accidental sneeze, cough, loud street sound, etc.

Normalize a group of clips in one step

The normalization levels I am going to recommend are mostly suitable for Web and not for Broadcasting. Dialogues should be normalized at -12dB; music should be normalized at -18dB (cool music trailer -6dB hell yeah!); if you have a voice over and you want to have a music in background, the music should be normalized at -32dB, any other sound should be normalized at -22dB. I don’t go into detail on why you should use these values, but I prefer to stay under –18 LKFS (the common standard is -16 LKFS), if you don’t know what I am talking I recommend to search for LUFS or LKFS.

Normalizing clips, and other audio files at this stage is a starting point, the audio level will be corrected in the Timeline as well.

5. Create a sequence

You are ready to create the sequence, where you are going to compose your final video. At the bottom left of the Project panel click New Item than Sequence. In the new window that show up we need to decide what properties will have our sequence. You can choose between some available presets, remember the Frame Size and Frame Rate of your clips and under Digital SLR, choose the right Frame Size, for example 1080p, for Full HD video, and than choose the Frame Rate that match your clips. Before clicking OK, you should go in the Settings tab and review the properties, in particular, you should check Timebase, Frame Size and Sample Rate, under Audio you can change the audio format, if different from the one of your clips.

Create a sequence

There is another way to create a sequence, you can simply drag one or several clips into the New Item icon and Premiere Pro will create a Sequence based on the properties of one of your clips, easy but also a way to make mistakes if you have clips with different Frame Rate and Frame Size, so I suggest you to start with creating the Sequence by yourself

6. Check sequence properties

In the same way we did for the clips you can view the properties for the sequence as well, and I recommend you to take a look at them, so right click on the Sequence that you just created, than Properties, and make sure these are the settings you wanted!

If you realized that the properties are wrong, nothing to be feared, you can always change these properties, just right click on the Sequence than Sequence Settings… and you will be able to make all the changes you want, no need to start over!

7. Program panel and Timeline

Now you can start putting your clips into the Sequence by dragging and dropping them into the Timeline, if you move the cursor at the top of the Timeline you will see a preview of your video in the Program panel. You might have noticed that if you drop several clips, Premiere Pro will automatically put your clips one after another, depending on the order of your selection, this is quite useful as a starting point. Now you are almost ready to start editing the video using the tools on the right of the Timeline, but just don’t do it at least not after the next step!

You can drop several clips into the Timeline

8. Insert and Overwrite clips from Source panel

Adding your clip into the Timeline can be done also using the Source panel, if you don’t want to fill right away your Timeline with all your clips. Double click on the clip you want to review from the Project panel, than you should see the preview in the Source panel. From here you can mark a section of your clip that you want to use in the final video, using In Point and Out Point marks, than click Insert or Overwrite button to put the section of the clip into the final video, not before having placed the cursor at the right position in the Timeline.

In/Out Point marks, Insert, Overwrite are buttons you find at the bottom of the Source Monitor panel.

Insert clip using In/Out Point marks from Source Monitor panel

9. Audio Normalization on the Timeline

Before doing anything else I recommend to organize your audio tracks by category, so on one track you should have only dialogues, on another track only music and so on, in this way will be easier to select the clips we need to work with and also will be handy for more advanced works.

move the audio into different audio tracks grouped by category (dialogues, music, sfx, ambient)

So you have your clips in the Timeline, you still need to do the big editing, you should have mostly full or partial section of your clips in the Timeline, and this is the moment where I recommend to fix the input level of your audio once and for all.

Analyze the waveform (mostly for dialogues) of the audio tracks in the Timeline, if you see spikes, these are probably sounds that you don’t want in the video and these portions of the clip should be removed before trying to normalize the audio, so first thing to do is clean the audio from all these spikes in amplitude.

If you didn’t normalized your files at the beginning, you can do this now, select all the sections of the same category, it should be easy if you organized audio on different tracks, than right click, Audio Gain, than check Normalize All Peaks to and enter the right value. Do the same process for dialogues, music, sound effects, ambient sound, all of them and use the values I recommended at the beginning.

Use Audio Gain to normalize the audio

Play your timeline up to the end, and if you find some mismatch in the audio level, sound too loud or quiet, compared to the previous section, you need to adjust the gain, right click on the section you want to fix, Audio Gain, than use Adjust Gain by, to reduce or increase the gain by the amount that you enter.

Why I am not using the Essential Sound? I don’t feel to recommend it, you will still need to use the Audio Gain tool, to fix all your audio, also from the Essential Sound panel you can only choose between a few presets, most of the time is fine, but for example, if you want to have a background music under your dialogues, you can’t use it because simply there is no preset for this mix, the music preset will make your background music way too loud, so you have to calculate the gain manually as I did at the beginning, using the Audio Gain tool. That’s why I recommend to just use the Audio Gain tool and be happy!

[TIPS for Essential Sound users] After you start cutting your clips in the Timeline, avoid using Auto Match in the Essential Sound panel, if you try it on a really small section of a clip, the average level will not be reliable and the gain might be wrong! IF you want to know how to normalize these small sections, I will explain the method at the end of the tutorial.

10. Add music and sync the video

Put some nice music on the Timeline and you are almost done!
Actually there is much to do from this point on but for a simple workflow you don’t want to know too much do you? Let’s just say that after you add music to the video, you should synchronize a little bit the video with the beat of the music, it just make the video so much better that you should take your time for this step to make it as good as possible. Also remember the gain we set for the music and make sure is at the right level.

If you have a voice over and you just put a music in the background, always check that the voice level is around 20dB louder than the background sound (if you normalized correctly it should be fine). How do you check this? Use the Audio Meters or the Loudness Radar special effect, but this is out of scope for this tutorial.

11. Export

You are ready to export the video and upload it on Internet, so let’s do this!
From the toolbar at the top, go to File, export, than media, since you probably want to share this video on Internet I recommend to use the most common format H.264, so from the export settings, select the format H.264, than check the name of the video and the location where the file will be created. Than you should change some video settings, so under video, bit-rate encoding, choose VBR, 1 pass, and change the Target Bit-rate to 25 Mbps, mostly suitable for 1080p videos, for 4K videos just double it. The last thing remaining is clicking that button Export!

12. [Bonus] Audio gain correction after editing

You cut all your clips in the Timeline, into tiny small sections in order to remove all those mmmm and silent, super awkward and boring moments to realize that you didn’t normalize your audio files! So what you can do?
Select all these tiny sections, part of the same file, right click over them, Audio Gain, than you need to check Normalize Max Peak to, and enter -12dB (for dialogues), now you should have all these tiny sections with the same gain applied based on the max peak found among them. If still doesn’t work for you, too quiet or loud sections, than try with Normalize All Peaks to.

Normalize the audio after the clips have been cut in small sections

A better method, would be to select at least a 20~30 seconds section where you have some nice and plain dialogue (check the waveform), right click on it, than Audio Gain, here you check Normalize Max Peak to, and enter -12dB, Premiere Pro will calculate the right gain, than mouse over the same audio track, and a small info-tip will show up, take note of the gain calculated, write it somewhere!
Than select all the remaining sections of that same clip, right click, Audio Gain, and this time check Set Gain to, and enter that gain value you wrote it down, because you wrote it down right?
And that’s it, hope it helped.

Have a nice day!

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Emanuele Disco

SW engineer, film maker

Full time front and back end developer, I play mostly with Java, Javascript, HTML, Python and C#, I love programming, playing pc game, doing astronomy, studying and many other stuff and I do video as well…

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