Motion Blur, Faster Trims, and Other Lesser-Known Premiere Pro Tools

Motion Blur, Faster Trims, and Other Lesser-Known Premiere Pro Tools

We all have our go-tos and favorites—like Ted Lasso, mine tends to be prolific amounts of peanut butter—and the same is true of editing techniques. From day to day, project to project, we tend to fall into tried and trusted habits of using the same tools or effects over and over again.

Everyone has their favorites. Image © Apple TV+

In some ways this becomes our editorial style, though I’d argue that an editor’s best style is flexibility. With that in mind, below is a compilation of lesser-known tools and effects that live natively inside of Premiere Pro that can broaden your skill set and possibly improve your workflow.

Effects

After opening Premiere Pro for the very first time and slapping a clip onto a timeline, one of the first places you visited was likely the effects panel. No shame there, we’re all children at heart. There’s something thrilling about dropping a random effect from the panel onto a clip just to see the magic that happens in the program monitor.

Flashy glows, blurs, mosaics, and transitions are only the tip of the iceberg though. Inside Premiere’s stock library of effects live some helpful gems that you may want to take a closer look at.

Transform

Let’s kick things off with an effect that can do so much heavy lifting it should be in the Olympics. Premiere Pro’s Transform effect is like the ninja assassin that you never saw coming. Hiding inside of the Distort effects bin, Transform could easily be overlooked as an unnecessary Standard effect that simply accomplishes the same thing as a clip’s Fixed effect properties like Motion and Opacity. Wrong.

Complex Moves

Okay, so wrong is a bit harsh. How about incomplete? Yes, Transform does much of the same things as a clip’s inherent effect properties, but it also goes much further by allowing you to create much more complex moves within clips, graphics, or text. In some cases it can even help to avoid nesting clips, which keeps projects tidier.

For example, in the above edit for Alienware, the camera never stops moving and the goal of the edit was to keep the talent in the center of the frame as much as possible. Shooting with a mix of GoPro, Insta360, and Red cameras made this a challenge. So for many of the clips, I adjusted the initial positioning using a clip’s Fixed effect properties to keyframe the talent to roughly center screen. Then using the Transform effect I could apply my necessary camera zooms, pans, tilts or rotations. Multiple moves in one!

Premier Pro complex moves
Using the Transform effect and Motion controls for complex moves.

Motion Blur

One of the best-kept secrets in Premiere Pro is that it has a built-in motion blur effect, no third party plugins needed! It’s kept discreetly at the bottom of the Transform effect’s properties and is activated by cranking up the shutter speed, from 0 to 360. Transform’s motion blur works on all media that can be dropped in a timeline, including text. Keep in mind with animating text though that layer order matters! The Transform effect should be added above the text layers.

Zoom or position keyframes also need to be set within the Transform effect for motion blur to work. So if you were hoping to add motion blur to movement already happening in camera, this won’t do that, but RE:Vision’s Reel Smart Motion Blur is a great plugin for adding natural-looking motion blur.

Easily Adjust Cropping

The Crop effect is a powerhouse in its own right, often being an easier alternative to fiddling with masks. If you’ve ever had the need to do a pan and scan effect with a cropped video, maybe for a picture-in-picture, you’ll know the pain of having to manually keyframe the cropped window to align with position keyframes.

By incorporating a Transform effect above the Crop effect in the effect window, you now have the ability to reposition the clip inside of its cropped boundaries. The Public Lands spot above uses this technique for animating multiple picture-in-picture sequences, as shown below.

Basic Compositing

Raise your hand if you’ve ever needed to correct for a boom in the shot. Now that we all have our hands up, put them down and keep scrolling. Besides cropping, a common method to remove a boom or similar is duplicating a clip, masking a portion, and moving it to cover the boom. For the sake of a cleaner timeline, this exact method can also be done with a single clip by using the Transform effect.

After adding the Transform effect, add a mask around the mic. Then using the Transform effect’s controls, move the position values until the mic is gone.

Corner Pin

The Corner Pin effect is a classic and has variations found across After Effects and Photoshop. In essence, the effect uses four crosshair pins and assigns them to the top left, top right, bottom left, and bottom right corners of a video clip’s frame. By moving each of the pins, the corner positions of the video’s image are distorted.

Screen Replacement

The most obvious use of this effect is for screen replacements, no green screen necessary. Match up the Corner Pin’s crosshairs to the corners of the screen to be replaced and then keyframe as necessary. Where this effect falls short is it does not have motion tracking abilities, nor are there any natively inside of Premiere Pro we can utilize. But it works well for locked-off shots and points can be keyframed for manual tracking in moving shots..

Stylized Transitions

Another less obvious use for the Corner Pin effect is that it can be used to create some incredibly stylized transitions. Kyler Holland does a mind bending job of explaining how to think outside the box and use this effect in an extraordinary way.

Luma Key

The Luma Key effect is similar to Premiere’s Ultra Key, for keying green screens, but the luma key looks at a clip’s luminance or brightness values to pull a key.

Keying logos

Removing backgrounds from logos may be the most straightforward use of the Luma Key. So long as there is a substantial difference in luminance values, from the foreground to the background, the Luma Key can make transparent backgrounds easily, without hopping into Photoshop.

Be warned, if the colors are too similar in brightness, the image will tear or produce jagged edges.

Make highlights pop

By adjusting threshold values we can use the Luma key to create an interesting effect for making highlights pop. By keying out all of the luminance values that are darker than bright white, we’re left with this image.

After moving the duplicated keyed clip above our original clip, applying a gaussian blur, and changing the transfer mode to screen, we’ve now added some bright emphasis to the clip’s highlights.

Gradient Wipe

Not aptly named, the Gradient Wipe effect can act like a luma key fade between two clips stacked on top of each other. A luma key fade looks more stylized than a standard dissolve transition because it appears to let the blacks or whites melt away first before the rest of the image dissolves.

Track Matte Keys

If you’re at all familiar with After Effects, then you know how powerful track mattes can be. Premiere Pro has the same functionality as an effect. Track Matte Keys work by creating a matte for one clip based on the alpha or luminance values of another clip. Within the effect the matte layer is selected from clips that are on video layers above the clip using the Track Matte Key.

Levels

Rounding out little known effects is the Levels effect. At first glance, the Levels effect can be intimidating due to a lot of sliders and values. Fret not. It’s similar to working with levels in Photoshop, After Effects, or Lightroom, but without the graphic interface.

Map Premiere Pro levels to After Effects Levels
Premiere Pro Levels (L) mapped to After Effects Levels (R)

The main points for what you need to know to use the Levels effect in Premiere is focusing on the RGB values for input, output, and gamma.

  • (RGB) Black Input Level – Crushes blacks by increasing value.
  • (RGB) White Input Level – Blows out whites by decreasing value.
  • (RGB) Black Output Level – Increasing value removes black colors, washing out the image.
  • (RGB) White Output Level – Decreasing value removes white colors, darkening the image.
  • (RGB) Gamma – Shifts gamma to brighten or darken the entire image.

Compositing

Levels are the secret sauce when compositing screens into a shot. By tweaking the levels just a bit, screens added in post are taken from looking like hyper-real, obviously composited images to something indistinguishable from what was captured in-camera.

Glow Effect Transitions

Dropping Levels onto an adjustment clip and cranking down on the White Input Levels makes anything underneath the adjustment layer glow. An added gaussian blur truly sets the effect off. By either keyframing the White Input Levels or the adjustment clip’s opacity, you can easily create a native glow transition right inside Premiere Pro. Here’s a few other ways to easily create glow transitions right inside of Premiere.

Stylized Dip to Black transitions

Levels are great for creating stylized dips to black or white by simply keyframing the black or white input values. Tweaking the gamma a bit can also make select colors linger.

Tools

Replace Fonts in Project

This gem of a tool has the potential to save editors immense amounts of time that would otherwise be spent combing through a project replacing fonts in text graphics, one by one. Tucked away in Premiere’s Graphics and Titles menu, Replace Fonts in Project does exactly what the name implies. The tool opens to display a list of all fonts used in a Premiere project and the number of times that font was used. Simply select a font and then choose a new font to replace it with.

Replace with Clip

This may be my most used command. Replace with Clip essentially acts like a three point edit, but without the need to set in and out points. Adding it to a keyboard shortcut makes replacing clips insanely fast. The video below demonstrates my workflow for using Replace with Clip.

Rate Stretch Tool

Despite the name, the Rate Stretch Tool will not help to stretch day rates (insert cymbal crash here). Poor dad jokes aside, what the Rate Stretch Tool will do is precisely and quickly adjust a clip’s speed so that the duration of a clip will fit inside the gap between clips in a timeline. No need to guess and check using the Speed/Duration Tool.

Track Select Forward

This nifty tool makes moving entire timelines a breeze. With the tool activated and after clicking in a sequence, all audio and video clips underneath and to the right of the area that was clicked will be selected. When using the tool, you can also hold shift while clicking to select only the clips on a single audio or video layer.

Selection Tool for Roll & Ripple Trims

The Ripple and Roll Trim Tool can be activated by keyboard commands, but to me the mouse makes a more intuitive choice. By ticking this box in Premiere’s preferences, this option is enabled.

Now by hovering the mouse cursor on top, to the left, or to the right of an edit, we can ripple or roll without the need to manually activate another tool. Here’s a look at other ways for easily moving entire timelines.

Audio Track Mixer

Rounding out the list, these last two tools are audio focused and have been extensively covered in the past. Still, they’re worth mentioning again.

The Audio Track Mixer doesn’t appear in most of Premiere’s preset window layouts, but it can be pulled up in the Windows menu (Windows > Audio Track Mixer). The number of tracks in the tool directly corresponds to the amount of audio layers in Premiere’s current timeline.

What the tool does is allow an editor to apply effects, pan, and adjust volume for an entire track of audio clips. This is incredibly helpful for mixing and mastering audio in Premiere. The Audio Track Mixer also allows you to assign tracks to audio submixes for even more timesaving control.

Loudness Radar

Premiere Pro’s loudness radar is the best way inside of Premiere to monitor the overall loudness levels or LKFS (pronounced “lufs”) of an edit. The loudness radar works as an effect in the Audio Track Mixer, placed under the Master submix. The effect works in real time, meaning to see the loudness radar work, the radar must first be opened, then the sequence must be played. Dallas Taylor does a good job explaining why LKFS are a better method to monitor loudness than Premiere’s audio meters and the video below gives a quick walkthrough on how to use the radar.

Other Effects and Tools

Let’s hear from you. What did you think of this list? Are there any tools or effects you often edit with in Premiere Pro that weren’t listed?

Thank you to Chris Salters for contributing this article.

Chris is an experienced freelance video editor and motion graphic designer based in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. When he's not tearing through edits and tweaking keyframes, he pretends to be good at mountain biking and basic carpentry. He drinks way too much coffee and loves a good beer. He also has a Premiere Pro tutorial site, which you can find at www.bettereditor.be.

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