9 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do in Adobe Media Encoder
Adobe Premiere Pro’s Export Settings dialog box is not just a place to name your file and select a location for it to be saved. It is much, much more than that. Think of it more as a collection of tools that allow you to further modify and prepare your content for publication. Here are nine of those tools you can, and should, be using right now.
In the Export Settings dialog box, you can choose to apply three different types of overlays—images, names, and timecode. All of these overlays can be found under the Effects tab located just under the main Export Settings section.
You can use image overlays to add a watermark to your content or to embed a logo in a corner of your frame to help brand your content. To add an image overlay, first, check the box and then choose your image via the Applied drop-down menu. Be sure to use a PNG or other image file that supports transparency.
Use name overlays to properly label and organize your footage. This is helpful when you’re working with dailies, or editing footage from a multicamera shoot, etc. These overlays allow you to add a prefix and suffix, and select how you want the name to be formatted—Prefix and Suffix Only, Source File Name (with or without extension), or Output File Name (with or without extension).
Another practical use case: If I am sharing a temporary file with a client that is definitely not the final version (maybe it only has temp music), I will put TEMP FOR REVIEW in the lower-right corner. That way, we can avoid the unfortunate circumstance where a client accidentally publishes the wrong version of the file.
In addition to image and name overlays, you can also throw timecode into the mix. That is, if you still have screen real estate. Specify if you want to use timecode from the source file, or if you’d like to generate your own. Offset timecode frame by frame if need be.
Each overlay has position, offset, scale and opacity properties which allow for complete customization.
To oversimplify, the bitrate settings basically inform Premiere how to analyze your video while encoding/compressing it. This analysis will decide how much data to keep and how much to throw out.
When it comes to export settings, bitrate is one of the most important options you can understand. Buried down low in the Video tab, this setting gives you control over your image quality and file size.
When working with bitrate, you have two different flavors—variable bitrate (VBR) and constant bitrate (CBR). The key to choosing a bitrate encoding method depends on how much movement you have in your video. A lot of movement means a lot of additional pixels to compress/encode. Use slider bars to adjust the data or “bit” rate. The higher the bitrate, the more information you keep, and the larger the file size.
While this can seem confusing, it’s actually quite simple. Think of it as a balancing act. You’re trying to keep the quality of the video image high but with a reasonable and manageable file size. Using a high bitrate will give you a better quality image but with a larger file size. Likewise, lowering the bitrate will bring both the quality and file size down.
Should You Use Variable or Constant Bitrate?
As you might expect and as the name implies, variable bitrate varies the bitrate during export. When there is less motion in the scene, VBR will discard more data (because it can do so without any image quality problems). When more motion takes place, it will raise the bitrate automatically. This helps maximize the file quality/size ratio.
You can perform an even more precise encode by using VBR 2 Pass. As this name also implies, 2-pass VBR involves Premiere Pro going through the video twice. The first pass looks at the video to determine the best bitrate to use based on motion, color, etc. Then it’s during the second pass when the compression is applied. During a 1-pass VBR, Premiere is making the bitrate decisions on the fly. VBR 2 Pass will give you a more precise compression, but it will take longer.
Both the 1-Pass and 2-Pass options include a Target and Maximum Bitrate slider bars. This bitrate setting is best used when there is a lot of movement in your clip.
CBR uses the same bitrate throughout the export, regardless of what is happening in the frame. It doesn’t matter if there’s a lot of motion, or no motion at all—the bitrate stays the same. Again, a high CBR will preserve data, a lower rate will remove data. Constant bitrate is best suited for video with little motion, like interviews.
We’ve only scratched the surface of Premiere Pro’s compression settings here. For a detailed walkthrough of each of the compression options, check out this video:
And for a detailed explanation of how codecs work, check out this one:
Upload to Youtube
The Publish tab of the Export Settings dialog box has a number of interesting features. In this section, Premiere allows you to automate an upload to popular video sharing websites, including Youtube and Vimeo. Once set up, your video will automatically upload during the export process.
To prepare an automated upload to Youtube, I first need to check the Youtube box under the Publish tab. Next, I’ll log in to my account and give Adobe Media Encoder permission to upload directly to my Youtube page. Since I have multiple Youtube channels, Premiere gives me the option to specify which one I want to upload to. Also, Adobe’s latest release now gives me the option to add a custom video thumbnail when publishing to YouTube.
Now all I need to do is add a title, description, tags, and adjust the privacy settings, and then my video will be prepared for upload. As long as I keep the Youtube box checked, the video will automatically upload to my channel during the export process. Finally, you can even have Premiere delete your file off of your local drive after the upload is complete.
If you’re a current Frame.io user and uploading a draft for review, then you’re in luck. The Frame.io Premiere Panel does the whole job in one click, encoding your video, uploading it to Frame.io, and notifying your collaborators.
Share to Social Media
In addition to automating an upload directly to Youtube and Vimeo, you can also share your content directly to other social media sites. In particular, Premiere Pro has upload settings for Facebook and Twitter.
To automate an upload directly to Facebook, select the Facebook checkbox under the Publish tab. Just as with Youtube, you’ll need to login to your Facebook account and give Adobe Media Encoder permission to share.
You can have your video uploaded directly to your main Facebook page, or to a page you manage. Give your video a title, write a post, and select your privacy settings. These settings include private, public, all friends, and friends of friends. As in the case with the YouTube upload, you can select whether or not to have Premiere delete the local file. Now your video will automatically upload as part of the export process.
The same automation settings exist for Twitter. Simply select the checkbox under the Publish tab, login to your Twitter account, give Adobe Media Encoder permission and add a status. As long as you are logged in and the Twitter checkbox is selected, your video will be automatically uploaded to Twitter during the export.
Crop the Source
I’ve used Premiere Pro for more than ten years now, and I must confess that I’ve only recently discovered the crop tools inside of the Export Settings dialog box. This is probably due to the fact that these features are hidden away under the Source tab, which is all the way in the upper left hand side of the panel. Use the crop tools in conjunction with Source Scaling in the Output tab to gain tight control over your image.
After selecting the crop button you’ll be provided with a variety of options. You can manually adjust your crop in the monitor via a bounding box. As you adjust the crop, a tooltip will provide you with updated dimension information. Type in specific crop amounts at the top of the panel, and even select from a number of preset crop proportions.
These tools allow you to crop the source—you’re not changing the actual dimensions of the output. You can specify how you want the crop to be handled by further adjusting Source Scaling settings in the Output tab, which I’ll discuss in the next section.
The crop tool is great for creating varying versions of a sequence, for instance if you’re exporting to different social media platforms. Prior to finding these crop tools I would inefficiently go back into my original sequence and scale my content accordingly. Other times I would create duplicate sequences depending on how many different versions I needed. Using the crop tools in the Export Settings dialog box allows me to skip all of these steps.
In addition to creating multiple versions of a sequence, you can also use crop tools for creative purposes such as faking a widescreen look with horizontal black bars.
Scale the Source
Any time you use the crop tools in the Source tab, you’ll be given options on how to scale the cropped content in the adjacent Output tab. Let’s say, for instance, that I want to slightly crop a clip to adjust the framing. Once cropped, I now have four different Source Scaling options available in the Output tab—Scale to Fit, Scale to Fill, Stretch to Fill, and Scale to Fill with Black Borders. Take a look at the different results for each.
I can also use Source Scaling if I decide to output my video at a different resolution. As another example, let’s say that I want to quickly export this 16:9 clip with an aspect ratio of 1:1, which is a perfectly square clip. To do this, I’ll go to my Basic Video Settings and change the Width of my frame to 1080. Since my source is 1920×1080, changing the width will make it 1080×1080, giving me a perfect square.
By default the Source Scaling is set to Scale to Fit, which will scale my clip down, leaving large black bars at the top and bottom of the image. To remove these I can simply change the Source Scaling to Scale to Fill.
Premiere Pro has plenty of metadata options when you’re preparing your export. There is a metadata button at the bottom of the dialog box, just adjacent to the Queue button. Clicking this button will launch the Metadata Export dialog box.
Here you can specify how you want to handle existing metadata—you can embed it in the output file, export it as a sidecar file, or both. Or, you can choose to not include the metadata at all. You can even include Master Speech Text and Sequence Markers.
If you want to completely overwrite existing metadata or just add a few new things, you have plenty of choices in the Output File Metadata section. You can even customize your own Export Template if you want to get really specific. Once exported, you’ll be able to read the various metadata in Premiere’s Project Panel or in media asset management programs like Adobe Bridge.
You’ll want to pay close attention to this panel if you’re handing assets off for color correction or VFX work. Another common use case would be to add copyright information to the metadata, if you’re worried about people stealing your material and passing it off as their own. Of course, they can always remove your copyright info from the metadata, but most people aren’t smart enough to do that.
Presets are designed to save you time. They automatically choose the best settings based on a desired platform. Premiere has a variety of export presets, especially for the popular H.264 format. These include presets for Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo, Youtube, and a handful of others. You can find them by first selecting a format and then clicking on the Presets drop-down menu.
The real power comes in creating your own export presets. To do this, simply make all of the necessary export setting adjustments and then select the Save Preset button just to the right of the Presets drop-down menu. You can include Effects and Publish settings in your custom preset. This means that all of the overlays and upload automations you read about earlier can be saved in a preset. Very cool stuff.
If you use Frame.io’s popular Premier Pro Panel, you’ll see a place to specify a custom preset there. That would allow you to add a watermark to every video you upload to Frame.io, for instance.
I recently created three different export presets for Instagram. These include settings for landscape, square, and vertical aspect ratios. Watch the settings automatically change as I switch between the presets.
If you aren’t familiar with this feature then I’m afraid to inform you that you’ve been wasting massive amounts of time. Exporting via the Queue will send your sequence over to the Adobe Media Encoder, a completely separate application specifically designed to encode and process your content.
Just as with the Export Settings dialog box, you can change the format settings, apply a preset, and specify the location of your output file. You can even duplicate your content inside of Media Encoder so that you can quickly output to several different formats simultaneously.
The real benefit of using the Adobe Media Encoder is the fact that you can continue editing in Premiere Pro while the export is taking place. You can keep queueing up as many sequences as you’d like, even while one is processing inside of the encoder. If you use the standard export feature from the Export Settings dialog box, you will tie up your system until the export is finished.
Media Encoder even does this magical thing where it temporarily pauses whenever you start playing back the timeline in Premiere (to give Premiere all of the computer’s resources) and then instantly begins again when you hit pause. This means that you actually can edit and export at the same time without serious performance issues.
These nine settings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to exporting your videos from Adobe Premiere Pro. I encourage you to open up the Export Settings dialog box and poke around. Peruse the various tabs and experiment with various settings. You’ll be saving time in no time. 🙂