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Six Tips Before You Jump to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6

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Spend minutes, save hours! Jeff Greenberg, coauthor of An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro, Second Edition, cuts to the chase by pointing out what you need to know to get up to speed quickly and save time with Premiere Pro.
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In a rush? Said yes to a project too fast? Realized you need to use Adobe Premiere Pro and you're just assuming you can pick it up as you go? All too often I've been there, learning tools on the fly. It's why my coauthors and I wrote An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro, Second Edition.

I've taught thousands of people to use editorial tools. If you have five minutes to spare, reading each of the following tips can save you hours of work, because most of them deal with the big differences when trying to jump into the deep end of Premiere Pro.

This isn't a comprehensive list of things you need to know—not by a long shot! It's a few items that caused me pain when I was first learning and using Adobe Premiere Pro. Of course, I want you to see the value in An Editor's Guide to Adobe Premiere Pro, Second Edition. If you find any of the information in this article to be useful, imagine how much help the book will be for you!

Let's start with the interface, go over some basic keyboard adjustments, and end with some quick tips on importing from FCP or Avid.

Tip 1: Learn Premiere Pro's Most Important Layout Features: Workspaces, Panels, and Panel Menus

When you jump into a new piece of software, one of the biggest hurdles is that your brain immediately surveys the screen to figure out where things are. You could hunt for familiar elements, but instead I'll give you three items to learn that will help you speed up.


The first interface element you need to learn in Adobe Premiere Pro is the workspace, a collections of tools you need for a given task. On the Workspace menu (Windows > Workspaces), the tools are broken down into common uses such as Color Correction, Audio, and Editing (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 Workspace menu.

When you open the Premiere Pro software for the first time, you likely see two large video windows—the Source panel and the Program panel. The Project panel is in the lower-left corner of the screen.

Unfortunately, this layout resembles neither Final Cut nor Avid—layouts that you already use. Go to the Workspace menu and choose Editing (CS 5.5). You'll probably find greater comfort with that workspace layout, as it resembles other systems a little bit more.

Panels, Frames, and Tiny Scroll Bars

The layout of your screen is broken into frames. If you've switched to the Editing CS 5.5 workspace, as discussed in the preceding section, you now have five frames open, as shown in Figure 2—three across the top (the Project, Source, and Program panels) and two across the bottom (the Media Browser and Timeline panels). Each frame may have more than one panel. (Panels are what Adobe calls tabs.)

Figure 2 The Editing CS 5.5 Workspace has five frames.

One or more of the frames may contain a tiny, tiny scroll bar at the top. Take a quick look at the Media Browser frame (shown at lower left in Figure 2). As Figure 3 shows, this panel also contains other tabs: Info, Effects, Markers, and History. (Your screen may not be wide enough to show all these tabs.) Depending on your screen size, there may or may not be a skinny horizontal scroll bar across the top of the panel. If shown, the scroll bar permits scrolling between different tabs in the panel.

Figure 3 Notice the arrow pointing to the scroll bar at the top of this frame. You may not see the scroll bar on a larger screen.

Rearranging and Resetting Panels and Frames

By grabbing the texture on a tab, you can drag that panel to any other frame on the system. When you pick up a panel and hit a new frame, a purple trapezoid appears, as shown in Figure 4. Release when you hit the center of the new frame, and you'll add that tab (panel) to the frame. Hit one of the sides, and you'll divide that frame into two frames.

Figure 4 Hit the center and you'll add the panel to the frame. Hit the edges and it'll be split into two frames.

Panel Menus

A unique feature of Adobe tools is the panel menu—that is, a menu specific to that panel (see Figure 5). As you work, explore the panel menu for any given panel—it will reveal selections that are specific to the area where you're working. Some commands are found only in the panel menu!

Figure 5 Each panel has its own unique panel menu.

My Two Favorite Panel Menu Adjustments

You'll always want to know if you have dropped any frames, and Adobe Premiere Pro can tell you. To turn on this feature, open the Program panel menu and choose Show Dropped Frames Indicator. When everything is working great, the indicator will be green. If the indicator is yellow, you've dropped frames.

Premiere Pro has a "work area" feature that I don't need, and I prefer to turn it off. In the Timeline panel menu, it's called the "Work Area bar." This feature was originally meant for compositing tools like After Effects, rather than for editorial tools. After Effects uses the concept of a work area—a section that you'd like to preview. Since After Effects wasn't meant to be viewed in real time, you had to cache frames. Compositors typically only care about the small section in the work area.

But editors need to be able to play larger sections, and turning off the work area gains a little more Timeline real estate. When it's off, renders can happen between In points and Out points.

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