Seamless Proxy Workflow in Premiere Pro
A Premiere Pro proxy workflow provides the ultimate in flexibility. They don’t just increase playback and editing speed without forcing you to sacrifice quality. They also allow you to edit seamlessly on laptops and portable drives, and provide a streamlined, no-relinking-necessary project delivery. Whether that includes a handoff to a mixer or colorist, or exporting a full quality output for a client. (If Premiere Pro isn’t your first choice of NLE, we’ve got proxy guides for Avid and Final Cut, too!)
Luckily for us, Premiere Pro makes proxies easy. Really easy. Like, toggle back and forth with the click of a button, easy.
So put away those thoughts of an arduous, error-prone process and embrace Premiere Pro’s integrated, simple, and intuitive proxy workflow. With a little know-how, anybody can take advantage of its benefits. This article will help you understand of Premiere Pro’s Create Proxies, Attach Proxies, and Reconnect Full Resolution Media workflows.
Where to start?
This simple chart can help you determine where to begin and which workflow is most relevant.
It all depends on your starting media. If you have…
If you can identify your workflow, feel free to jump ahead to a specific section. Or read on to gain a complete understanding of Premiere Pro’s proxy workflow.
Table of Contents
- Adding the Toggle Proxies Button
- 1. Creating Proxies in Premiere Pro
- 2. Attaching In-Camera Proxies and Third Party Software Proxies
- 3. Reconnecting Full Resolution Media
- Copying Proxy Files and Relinking
- Tips for Working with Proxies in Premiere Pro
What Are Proxies Again?
Proxies are lower-resolution copies of your media that are created in one of two ways. Either by transcoding raw media to an intermediate codec or by simultaneous in-camera recording. The latter is a standard feature on many high-end cameras.
Editing with proxy media is commonly referred to as an offline edit. And the process of relinking the full-res media at the end of a project is called the online edit. Premiere Pro’s proxy workflow essentially combines the two, allowing you to effortlessly switch between offline and online. All within the same software.
So, how does proxy editing work? Let’s start by adding a simple button.
Adding the Toggle Proxies Button
The Toggle Proxies Button is your first step to a powerful Premiere Pro proxy workflow. With one click, you can seamlessly switch back and forth between the proxy and full-res media. By default, it’s not mapped to the monitors or the keyboard, so let’s add it.
In the bottom right of either the Source Monitor, Program Monitor, or both if you’d like, click the Button Editor (+). This opens up a panel of buttons we can add to the transport control area of our monitors. Hover over a button icon to reveal its name, or refer to the image below for the Toggle Proxies Button icon.
Click and drag the icon in line with the other buttons in the transport control area. When the button clicks blue, you’re viewing proxies in the Source and Program Monitors. When it’s white, you’re looking at your full resolution media.
You can also set a shortcut for Toggle Proxies in Keyboard Shortcuts, if you’d like, or alternatively, you can find the same setting in Preferences —> Media —> Enable proxies. The buttons, keyboard shortcut, and preference are all linked, so setting it in one place sets it globally.
Now that we know how to toggle proxies on and off, let’s get started creating them.
1. Creating Proxies in Premiere Pro
Understanding Ingest Settings
Most of us know a few different ways to import footage into Premiere Pro. But a proxy workflow is slightly different. Usually, you’d choose “Import” from the File menu, double-click empty space in the Project panel, or use the media browser.
By default, when we import footage, we’re creating a clip in the Project panel. This points back to the files on our hard drives. The original media isn’t changed, duplicated, or moved in order for us to work with it in the project.
For our proxy workflow, we can tell Premiere Pro to import media differently by adjusting our Ingest Settings.
To open Ingest Settings, navigate to the Media Browser and locate the “Ingest” checkbox on the top right menu bar. Click the wrench to the right of the Ingest check box to open Ingest Settings. Alternatively, go to File —> Project Settings —> Ingest Settings.
Ingest is unchecked by default so your options will be greyed out. Checking the box here will also check it back in your Media Browser. The settings you choose will be applied on your next import unless you uncheck the box.
When checked, four ingest options are available in the dropdown menu. We’re mostly concerned with the last two, but let’s briefly go over each one.
- Copy: You can use this option to copy files directly from a camera card to your hard drive. Or from a backup drive to a new location. Change the copy location under the Primary Destination dropdown. The clips in the project will point to the copies of the files.
- Transcode: Use this option when you want to transcode media to an edit-friendly, but high quality direct intermediate codec that you intend to use without relinking back to the camera files. This option requires that you match the frame size of your original media. This usually isn’t ideal for a proxy workflow. Change the copy location under the Primary Destination dropdown, and the codec by selecting a transcode preset. The clips in the project will point to the transcoded copies of the files.
- Create Proxies: Use this option to create and attach lower-resolution proxy clips to your full-res media for better performance during editing. You can switch back to the original full-resolution files at any time. Change the location of the generated files with the Proxy Destination dropdown, and the codec and frame size by choosing a preset.
- Copy and Create Proxies: Copy camera media as above, and create and attach proxies for that media as above.
Creating Proxies on Ingest
Let’s choose the Create Proxies option and take a closer look, noting that Copy and Create Proxies is identical in function, with the added step of setting the Primary Destination for your copied source media.
Create Proxies is ideal when you’re working with large files, such as 5K, 6K or 8K media, with no in-camera or third party software proxies (such as proxies created in DaVinci Resolve).
Once we’ve selected Create Proxies, we have two additional options: Preset and Proxy Destination.
Let’s go over Proxy Destination first.
Choosing a Proxy Destination
In the dropdown menu, you can determine where Premiere puts the generated proxies.
I advocate for selecting Choose Location and creating a dedicated proxy folder on your hard drive. That way, you’ll have all of your files in one place, which means you can easily copy them to portable hard drives for easy sharing or for travel.
The Creative Cloud Files option deserves a mention as well. This choice automatically syncs your proxy files to your Creative Cloud Files folder, which in theory, means you have access to your proxies wherever you’re able to connect to your Creative Cloud account.
In reality, remember that you’ll need a significant amount of cloud storage to accommodate your files, as well as a fast internet connection to sync them across different devices.
Choosing a Preset
If you click the Preset dropdown menu, you’ll see that Premiere Pro has a list of proxy defaults. While not comprehensive, these are usually good options to consider. If they don’t appeal to you, we’ll cover creating your own presets a little further on.
The Preset that you select will determine the codec and frame size of the proxy files. The beauty of a proxy workflow is that you always have the option to toggle back to your full-res media. That means we can choose a preset that’s optimized for high editing speeds and low disk space.
You’ll notice that Premiere Pro has also preselected a few frame sizes for you. If you choose a preset, let’s say 1024×540 Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy), you can look in the Summary section below for suggestions of compatible source frame sizes.
We can see that this setting works well with 4K, 5K, and 8K media because the frame dimensions share the same aspect ratio. Matching your proxy aspect ratio to your full res media is always preferable and yields the best results.
What About HD Frame Sizes?
It’s worth noting here that frame sizes with different aspect ratios, though not ideal, can work too.
Many people prefer to do their offline edit in the standard HD sizes of either 1920×1080 or 1280×720. If you’ve worked with 4K, 5K, or 8K footage before, then you know that reducing these resolutions to fit into an HD frame creates letterboxing, which means you’ll have thin black bars on the top and bottom of the frame to compensate for the slight difference in aspect ratio.
I’ve found that Premiere Pro can handle proxy workflow with letterboxing, but I don’t recommend it for the following reasons:
- When you toggle between your proxy and high res media, you’ll see your letterboxing appear and disappear.
- If you add titles or any effects that affect only part of the image (say, a masked color correction), they may not line up as intended when you switch back to the original files.
- Premiere always uses the full res clip while rendering, so if you partially render a clip, when you play it back, your letterboxing will disappear for the rendered portion of the clip, and reappear for the unrendered portion.
Background Processing and Monitoring Progress
Once you’ve selected a Preset and a Proxy Destination, it’s time to let Premiere Pro go to work creating your new files. Premiere Pro’s proxy workflow integrates with Adobe Media Encoder, which is where the encoding will actually take place.
As long as the Ingest box is checked in your Media Browser panel, Premiere will automatically add files you import that are eligible for proxies (audio files, graphics, etc., will not be impacted) to Media Encoder’s queue, applying the presets you selected in Ingest Settings.
It doesn’t matter how you choose to import, whether through the Media Browser, dragging and dropping into the Project Panel, etc., Premiere will apply your Ingest Settings and send a job over to Media Encoder to create your proxies.
A great feature here is that Premiere and Media Encoder use background processing. This means you can keep working in Premiere, labeling, or even editing your clips, while the proxies generate in Media Encoder. When they’re done, they’ll automatically attach to your high res clips in the Project Panel.
You can monitor the background processing in two ways.
- In Premiere: Navigate to Window —> Progress to open the Progress Panel. You can leave it as a standalone panel, or dock it by dragging it near the Project Panel and letting go.
The Progress panel lists the proxies currently being generated, along with a progress bar. At the end, the progress bar will change to Complete. In Media Encoder: You’ll notice that a few moments after importing clips, the Media Encoder application will open up in the background and get to work. The encoding clips will be added to the queue like any other job and you can monitor progress there as well.
While in Media Encoder, you can pause and restart the render queue without disrupting its connection to Premiere. However, if you stop the render queue in Media Encoder, the connection between the proxies and original files will be lost and you’ll have to connect them manually (see the Attaching Proxies section below).
Creating Proxies from the Project Panel
If you already started editing or importing before choosing to implement a proxy workflow and didn’t create proxies on Ingest, don’t worry. You can still create them, right from the Project Panel, and have Premiere automatically attach them to your high res media.
I sometimes use this option when my imported camera media isn’t performing as well in Premiere as I’d like it to. Certain codecs perform better than others (here’s an excellent explanation for that) and if my editing speed is really suffering, I may choose to create proxies mid-project to complete the edit.
In the Project Panel, select the media that you want to create proxies for and right-click on it. In the context menu, choose Proxy—> Create Proxies.
The Create Proxies dialogue box appears. While it looks slightly different than Ingest Settings, it contains the same options and information.
If you click on the Format dropdown, you’ll see two default options: H.264 and Quicktime. These specify the general categories that your proxy presets fall under. Select each one and you’ll see that the options under the Preset menu change, and are the same choices we have in Ingest Settings.
There are two options for Destination:
- Next to Original Media, in Proxy Folder: If you choose this option, Premiere will create a new folder for each proxy clip, in the same directory as the original high res media. Most high-end cameras have a complicated file structure where each clip is isolated in its own folder, so this option generally isn’t ideal. You’ll have a hard time grouping the proxies to move them to another drive, or deleting them when you’re done with the project.
- Browse: I almost always suggest browsing and selecting your own destination to ensure that all of the proxies are in the same folder.
Once you set your Preset and Destination and click OK, a Creating Proxy Jobs progress bar pops up, which indicates that Premiere is sending the clips over to Media Encoder. Note: if you cancel this progress bar, the whole proxy creation process will be canceled and the clips will never be added Media Encoder’s queue.
Once the progress bar is complete, you can track the progress of the proxy creation as detailed above, either through the Progress Panel in Premiere, or by switching over to Media Encoder.
Creating Custom Presets in Adobe Media Encoder
In some cases, you may want to create your own preset. I use this option when I need to set a custom frame size or choose a slightly higher quality codec, which most often happens when I’m traveling and will only have access to the lower resolution proxy media.
Why? Because one of the benefits of working with 5K or larger media is that we have tons of latitude for repositioning and zooming. Being able to create a close up in post has saved me more than once.
But, if I’m using the 1024×540 proxy preset, a frame that’s slightly smaller than 720p HD, I may have trouble discerning if my focus is still sharp. Using a 2K frame size (2048×1080) will be more useful to me and I know my laptop can handle it nearly as well, as long as I choose the right codec.
My favorite codec is a lightweight flavor of Apple ProRes, like ProRes Proxy, ProRes LT, or even ProRes 422. If I worked primarily on a PC, then I’d likely opt for a similar flavor of DNxHD. Premiere handles both codecs extremely well. For an in-depth walkthrough of how to choose the right intermediate codec, take a look at our article How to Choose the Right Codec for Every Project.
To use your own preset in Premiere’s Ingest Settings, we need to first create it.
Open Adobe Media Encoder and navigate to the preset browser in the lower left of the screen. Click on the new preset button (+) and choose Create Encoding Preset.
In the dialogue box, set your custom options and hit OK. Here’s what I chose for a 2K ProRes Proxy Preset.
Now, back in the preset browser, click on the new preset button (+) and choose Create Ingest Preset.
Name your Ingest Preset and then click the checkbox next to Transcode files to Destination. This tells Premiere that the preset can be used for either the Transcode or Create Proxies Ingest Settings.*
Under the Destination dropdown, click Browse for Location and choose a destination for your proxy media. You can always change the destination when choosing your Ingest Settings back in Premiere.
Under Format, choose the appropriate option. For my 2K ProRes Proxy preset, this is Quicktime. With the format selected, I can choose my custom preset under the Preset dropdown.
When you’re finished, click on OK.
Next, export from AME
To import your newly created Ingest Preset into Premiere Pro, we first have to export the preset from Adobe Media Encoder to our hard drive.
Locate your preset in the Media Encoder Preset Browser. Your ingest preset will be labeled as Ingest under the Format column, while you’re Encoder preset will be listed as the format you chose, such as Quicktime, H.264, etc.
Right-click the preset in the Adobe Media Encoder Preset Browser, and choose Export Preset.
Select a location on your disk for the .epr file and click Save.
(*Note: Checking Copy files to Destination when creating an Ingest Preset will make your preset available under the Copy AND Copy and Create Proxies options in Ingest Settings. Checking both Copy files to Destination and Transcode files to Destination will make your ingest present available ONLY under the Copy and Create Proxies option.)
Importing Your New Ingest Preset into Premiere
If your Ingest Settings dialogue box isn’t still open in Premiere, navigate back to it, either by clicking on the wrench in the Media Browser, or going to File —> Project Settings —> Ingest Settings.
Make sure Ingest is checked with Create Proxies selected, and click the Add Ingest Preset… button next to the Preset dropdown menu.
Navigate to your saved .epr file and choose Open. Your custom setting will import into Premiere and is now a selectable option under the Preset dropdown menu.
If you’re creating proxies in the Project Panel, rather than via Create Proxies on Ingest, you can use the Add Ingest Preset button in the Create Proxies dialogue box in the same way.
2. Attaching In-Camera Proxies and Third-Party Software Proxies
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For your Premiere Pro proxy workflow, you might not need to generate proxies on import. Many high-end cameras now have the ability to simultaneously record proxies right alongside the high-resolution media. And for those cameras that don’t have this function, there are hardware solutions that make it possible.
Another very common scenario is that third party software is used to create proxies, like DaVinci Resolve. Many people like to use Resolve to apply LUTs or watermarks to their footage, or to otherwise take advantage of Resolve’s powerful color correction tools. This is especially common on projects that shoot in LOG, which produces a very flat, desaturated image that benefits greatly from color correction, even in the early stages of the edit.
Using Attach Proxies
Luckily, Premiere has an Attach Proxies function that allows us to link existing proxies to our full-resolution media and gain all of the same benefits as if they had been created in Premiere.
In the Project Panel, select the clips that you want to attach proxies to and right-click. In the context menu navigate to Proxy —> Attach Proxies.
The Attach Proxies dialogue box opens, which looks nearly identical to the familiar Relink Media dialogue box and lists all the clips you’ve selected. Check the Relink others automatically box and click the Attach button in the lower right corner.
The Media Browser pops up, allowing us to navigate to the corresponding proxy to attach. If you’re attaching in-camera proxies, then Premiere Pro should automatically point you to the folder housing your full resolution media, which in most cameras is also where the corresponding proxy clip will be.
For example, if I choose to attach a proxy to a RED clip, Premiere brings me to the clip’s folder, and I can easily select the proxy .mov file right above the .R3D file and click OK.
To attach proxies created in third party software, use the Media Browser to navigate to their location, choose the matching clip, and click OK.
In either case, Premiere should be able to automatically locate the remaining proxy clips, assuming you’ve maintained the proper folder structure for in-camera clips or created a single proxy folder for third-party created clips. If Premiere doesn’t Relink automatically, then you can repeat the process and link each clip manually.
When you’ve finished, your clips now have attached proxies that you can toggle between in both the Project Panel and the Timeline.
3. Reconnecting Full Resolution Media
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The final workflow that Premiere Pro has accounted for is when you’re given ONLY proxies initially and the high-resolution in-camera media is delivered at a late date. This sometimes happens when media is being shuttled from on-set to an offsite editor in an effort to save drive space and get the editor working as quickly as possible.
For this scenario, we can begin our edit using the proxies we’re given and then use Premiere Pro’s Attach Full Resolution Media option to link our proxies back to their full-res media when we receive it.
In the Project Panel, select the clips you want to attach full-res media to and right-click. In the context menu, choose Proxy —> Reconnect Full Resolution Media.
The Reconnect Full Resolution Media dialogue box opens, which works in the same way as the Attach Proxies dialogue box. Check the Relink others automatically box and then, in the lower right corner, click the Attach button.
The Media Browser opens, allowing you to navigate to the corresponding full res clip. Once you’ve selected the correct clip, click OK.
Depending on the file structure of your camera media, Premiere Pro may or may not be able to automatically relink the rest of your clips. Automatically relinking isn’t quite as reliable going from Proxy to Full Res media as it is vice versa.
If your other clips don’t relink automatically, then repeat the process and manually attach each corresponding full res clip. It isn’t fun, but trust me, it saves time in the long run.
Mismatched Audio Channels Warning
When working with third-party software, it’s imperative that the number of audio channels in your proxy media matches exactly with the number of audio channels in your full-res clips. If the two don’t match, Premiere won’t be able to attach the proxies. This limitation applies to both the Attach Proxies and Attach Full Resolution Media options.
I’m very much hoping that Adobe changes this limitation in future updates. That would open the door for both creating and syncing lower resolution proxies in third-party programs like Resolve or PluralEyes, while still being able to take advantage of Premiere Pro’s proxy workflow.
Ryan Patch, provided a great workaround for this issue:
Copying Proxy Files And Relinking
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As I’ve mentioned, one of the most useful features of a Premiere proxy workflow is that we can take our lightweight proxies on the go to either edit from lower-powered laptops or to quickly share media and projects between team members.
Copy the folder containing your proxy media over to a portable drive. Don’t forget to copy your project file over as well.
With only the portable drive connected, launch the project. You’ll see the familiar Link Media dialogue box. Premiere has gotten pretty good at locating media moved across drives, so chances are, it’ll locate your proxy clips and relink them as shown below, giving you the option to Locate, Cancel, or Offline the full-res media.
- Cancel allows you to reconnect back to your high res media at a later date. Each time you open the project file, you’ll get the option to relink.
- Offline or Offline All tells Premiere Pro to mark the high res media as offline and the Link Media dialogue won’t open again. You can still reconnect your high res media manually at a later date.
- Locate doesn’t apply in this situation because we don’t have the full res media with us.
Once you choose an option, the project will open and your proxies will be online. Although you can still enable/disable the Toggle Proxies button, it won’t alter your proxy status.
Just be aware that when rendering, exporting or applying effects that analyze clips, you’ll be working off the low res proxy media.
Tips for Working with Proxies in Premiere Pro
- When you right-click and get Properties on a clip with a proxy attached, you’ll first see information for the full res clip and below that, information for the proxy clip.
- Premiere always uses the full res clips when rendering previews, exporting media or using video effects that require Premiere to analyze a clip.
- You can add a Proxy column to the Metadata Display in your project panel. This column can read either Attached or Offline, indicating the status of your proxies, however I’ve found this feature to be finicky at best. It’s often blank, even when I’ve tested that proxies are indeed attached. Alternatively, use the method below to double-check that proxies are working.
If you can’t tell the difference by eye between your full-res and proxy clips and want to make sure they’re both attached, use the Reveal in Finder command as a dummy check. Toggle your proxies on and then right-click a clip either in the Project panel or the timeline. In the context menu, choose Reveal in Finder. If the clip that’s revealed is your proxy clip, then you know it’s attached correctly. You can perform the same test on your full-res clips by toggling them on.
- When you create proxies in Premiere Pro either on Ingest or via the Create Proxies function, your files are appended with “_Proxy”, and they’re placed in a folder named “Proxies.” Premiere Pro recommends this labeling system for best relinking results, but it’s not required. If you don’t use this naming convention, I do recommend making sure your proxy file names match exactly to your in-camera clips, with the exception of their file extension. For example, A006_C001_01066I_001.R3D and A006_C001_01066I_001.mov.
- Remember to uncheck the Ingest box in your Media Browser Panel, or under File —> Project Settings —> Ingest Settings, when you want to import media without creating proxies. Note that when you create a new project, the Ingest option will default to unchecked, even if your last project had it checked.
Premiere Pro’s Proxy Workflow is Powerful
And I’d bet it’s going to get even better in future releases. Oh, and did you know that the new Frame.io Transfer app also supports proxies?
With your new understanding of Creating Proxies, Attaching Proxies, and Reconnecting Full Resolution Media in Premiere Pro you can dive in and supercharge your edit speed. Or skip the online entirely. Or take your project with you on that beach vacation.
What are you waiting for?