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From the author of Tip 2: Demystifying Timeline Colors, Dropped Frames, and Playback

Tip 2: Demystifying Timeline Colors, Dropped Frames, and Playback

The Timeline colors in Adobe Premiere Pro challenge expectations. Rather than a simple red/orange, green, steel green (like Final Cut), or blue/green (like Avid), the Timeline colors in Premiere Pro are much more adaptive, and they're based on your specific system (see Figure 3).

Figure 3 These colors don't mean what you might think!

Timeline Color Basics

So what do those colors on the Timeline mean?

  • No color. Playback from the original source media file will be in real time.
  • Yellow. Playback will probably be in real time on most hardware.
  • Red. Playback may or may not be in real time. For simpler effects, you'll probably have real-time playback. For complex items such as After Effect compositions, you'll have to render for playback.
  • Green. This is the result of a rendered area, and it will be in real time.

If you have a fast system (lots of cores, two or three gigabytes per core, fast drives, and a supported graphics card), playback of yellow sections and many red sections will be in real time. With a slower computer, you'll end up having to render more frequently.

Did You Drop Frames?

On occasions when frames are dropped, I like having confirmation that it happened, as well as an indication of how many frames were skipped. The Dropped Frames Indicator provides this information. To turn on this feature, open the Program panel menu and choose Show Dropped Frames Indicator. (For a discussion of this feature, see the section "My Two Favorite Panel Menu Adjustments" in part 1 of this series, "Six Tips Before You Jump to Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.") Green means no frames were dropped. If the indicator turns yellow, mouse over it to see how many frames were skipped (see Figure 3).

Figure 4 With sufficiently complex material, you'll need to render.

Don't Render Yet!

Even if you dropped frames, you still might be able to avoid rendering! Adobe Premiere Pro defaults to playback of 1/2 quality. After all, unless you're viewing full screen (or have an outboard broadcast monitor), you're not looking at all the pixels anyway—why should they be displayed? When you stop playback, Premiere Pro shows you the full resolution by default, which is great for evaluating the image.

But perhaps you did drop frames. What then? My first step is to drop the playback resolution from the Program panel menu (see Figure 5) to 1/4 resolution—and even smaller sizes when I'm working with formats greater than high density (HD), such as ARRIRAW or RED.

Figure 5 I actually keep my system set at 1/2 all the time.

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