Choosing Premiere Pro Project Settings for HD Video

Updated: December 2012
Applicable to versions CS3 to CS6

The main principle behind choosing project and export settings is to limit the number of times you will need to change video formats during the whole video production process. Therefore, you should be aiming to get your project settings to closely match the format of your original video clips in terms of three main aspects:

  • Resolution (frame width and height as measured in pixels—this is also called frame dimensions) and pixel aspect ratio
  • TV system (PAL or NTSC) and frame rate
  • Scanning method (interlaced or progressive)

I think the information here is already quite complicated, so I won’t bother trying to explain things like scanning methods and pixel aspect ratios in detail.

Hopefully, you know the necessary information (resolution, pixel aspect ratio, TV system and scanning method) about your video files already. You can find these details in your camera’s specifications. If necessary, you can download a free multi-media analyzer like Media Info (mediaarea.net/en/MediaInfo) AVIcodec (http://avicodec.duby.info/). If you are using CS6, you can have the programme automatically select a project setting to match you original video. After choosing a project name, you will be asked to select Sequence Settings. Select cancel. When Premiere Pro opens, import the video into the project and drag one of the files into the timeline. A new sequence is created and this sequence should already match your existing video.

In Premiere Pro CS3, when you open a new project, you are asked to select project settings. In CS4 to C66 , it is a two step process: project settings followed by sequence settings. To simplify matters, I will just use the term ‘project settings’ for all versions.

CS4 to CS6: Step 1: Select Project Settings

CS4 to CS6: Step 1. Select Project Settings

 

sequence settings

CS4-CS6: Step 2. Select Sequence Settings (this preset would be suitable for 1920×1080 AVCHD files from most PAL Camcorders)

1. Resolution (frame width and height) and pixel aspect ratio

There are three main HD resolutions:

  • 1920 x 1080 – The pixels are square
  • 1440 x 1080  – This is called anamorphic video. The pixels are rectangular with a pixel aspect ratio (width : height) of 1.33 : 1
  • 1280 x 720 – The pixels are square

1.1 Default Selection

If you are using CS4 to C6S your job is easier. When asked to select project settings, They have a wide range of presents suitable for HD. You can go through the main categories like AVCHD (for mts video from camcorders) and HDV. CS6 also has presets for Digital SLRs. These sequence settings presets sometimes do not show up when CS6 is opened. If you cannot find them, simply close the programme and reopen it and they should appear.

Select a preset with the same resolution of the video footage that you will be editing.

  • 1440 x 1080 (CS3-CS6): Normally, you would select the resolution of your original video clips as the resolution (or frame size) of your project. For example, if your camera records at 1440×1080, that becomes the resolution of your project. You would be choosing from project setting presets marked 1080 anamorphic (CS4-CS6). If you are working with CS3, you can select one of the 1440×1080 HDV presets.
  • 1280 x 720 You would choose one of the ACCHD or HDV 720p presets
  • 1920 x 1080 (CS4 to CS6). If you are working with CS4, you can choose one of the HDV (if you are working primarily with AVI video clips) or AVCHD presets. AVCHD are the files produced by many HD camcorders and commonly have the extension ‘mts‘. You will find the 1920×1080 presets in categories like AVCHD, HDV and Digital SLR
  • 1920 x 1080 (CS3). Unfortunately, there isn’t a 1920 x 1080 project settings preset in Premiere Pro CS3 . You will have to select custom settings and make changes to Editing mode, Timebase, Framesize, Pixel Aspect Ratio and Fields (as shown in the following figure):

Custom Settings - PAL Video (CS3 only)

1.2 Alternatives

You might want to reduce the resolution (i.e., the frame dimensions) when exporting. For example, The camcorders I am recording now both record at 1440 x 1080. Since I’m mainly producing educational projects that are viewed online, a resolution of 1280 x 720 is good enough for my purposes. Also, one good thing about working with Full HD clips and then exporting them as 1280×720 is that you have a lot of freedom to adjust each shot by zooming in, zooming out, rotating, panning and tilting using the parameters under ‘Motion’ in Video Effects. This is especially useful if there are a lot of problems with the way the shots are framed (weird angles, too much headroom, the subject is too small, a distracting shape is jutting into the frame etc.)

To do this, you have two choices. You can either create a sequence to match the expected output format (e.g., 1280×720) or create a sequence that, as mentioned above matches the original footage and scale it during the export stage.

Let’s go with the second option as this may give better quality.

If you are using 1920×1080 as the original and exporting to 1280×720, you can zoom in by adjusting the scale anywhere from 100% to 150% while editing. During the export process this will be reduced by 67%, so an increase of 150% during editing will bring you back to 100% while exporting. Just remember that if you use this method, you should avoid adjusting the scale by more than 150% or your exported video will start to look pixelated.

If you are using 1440×1080 video, that maximum you should increase the scale to while editing is 133.3%.

If the clips have serious problems you can even choose to forego HD altogether and just edit in Widescreen DV or Standard DV. With Standard DV, however, you will lose a lot of your image (on the sides); and it can be challenging to export non-HD widescreen into internet-friendly formats.

Original video=1440x1080, exported to 1280x720 (The composition of the shot isn't good; the dancers are too small)

 

2. Interlaced (i) or progressive (p) scanning

You should choose the scanning method (interlaced or progressive) of your video clips as the project setting. If you are working with a standard consumer camcorder, you are most likely working with interlaced video. This kind of video is intended for viewing on standard television screens.

If you are planning on creating a video to be watched on a computer monitor (e.g., a video for YouTube), you will want to de-interlace your video, but this would be done during the export stage. If you are working with interlaced video, choose the presets marked with an ‘i’. You shouldn’t have to worry about choosing the Field Order. For HD video, PAL and NTSC both use an upper-field first order.

If the original ideos you will be editing are already ‘progressive’ (i.e., non-interlaced), then choose a ‘p’ setting in your project settings.

 

3.  TV system and frame rate

a) If you are working with PAL video clips, you should choose from settings marked PAL or settings where the frame rate is 25 fps. For progessive formats this is shown as 25 fps (25p); for interlaced formats. it is shown as 50 fps (50i).

b) If you are working with NTSC you should choose from settings marked NTSC  or settings where the frame rate is 30 fps (29.97 actually). For progessive formats, this is shown as 30 fps (30p); for interlaced formats. it is shown as 60 fps (60i).

c) If you camera records video at 24 frames per second, that is the speed you are looking for.

 

4. Custom Settings

In CS3, there is an option of choosing your own custom settings. I would only recommend using this function if you need to select a resolution of 1920 x 1080.

In CS4 to CS6, at the bottom of the sequence settings dialogue box (in CS6, first select the settings tab at the top), you can also select Maximum Bit Depth and Maximum Render Quality. In CS6. These can help improve the quality of your video as shown in the below example (The image at the top is from a deinterlaced video exported without Maximum Render Quality selected while the image at bottom is from a video of the same timeline with Maximum Render Quality selected). You can see how the images of the waving glow sticks (and arms) in the first video are marred by horizontal lines. The Maximum Render Quality setting can help you get rid of this problem.

Still image showing video without (top) and with (bottom) Maximum Render Quality selected

Unlike most of the other project settings, these settings CAN be selected at any time in the video-making process, so you may choose to select them when you are finished editing and are about the export the video (though the location of this setting indicates that it applies to rendering file previews only, the setting also applies to the rendering done when you export the video). The Maximum Render Quality setting, however requires a lot of RAM and can only be found if you have updated the software. For more information about this setting, you can refer to: longzijun.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/premiere-pro-cs4-maximum-render-quality/

 

5. Examples

I usually work with video shot with a Canon HG10 camcorder (PAL system, 25 fps, intelaced, 1440 x 1080 anamorphic AVCHD video), so I would choose the presets ‘HDV→ HDV1080i25 (50i)‘ in CS3 or ‘AVCHD →  1080i → AVCHD1080i25 (50i) anamorphic‘ in CS4.

CS3 HDV Preset for PAL (1440 x 1080)

CS4 sequence settings for PAL (1440 x 1080 with the Maximum Render Quality setting highlighted

My Other Articles on Video Editing

 


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31 thoughts on “Choosing Premiere Pro Project Settings for HD Video

  1. Thanks. I hope you can post a link to the music video when you are done. I’ll try to get my students to do a music video or two this year, so it would be good to see what other people are doing.

  2. Woww its is very good for you have done I’ve been using cs4 by myself and I don’t know how to work it out probperly (no-background) but its good to have your blog here Cheers!!!

  3. Hi,

    Is there any way to see if the video is 1080/50p or 1080/50i??

    I have some shots made with a Panasonic HDC-HS700K, I need to edit them but I don’t know witch setting to choose because I don’t know the way it was shot!

    Is there any way to find out?? Can you help me?

    Thank for you time…

    Nice blog by the way ;)

  4. Hi Bruno,
    According to the reviews of your camera model, you are probably working with progressive video (the ‘p’) setting, so it would be 1080/50p if your camera records PAL video (e.g., Britain and Australia) or 1080/60p if working with NTSC video (e.g., America, Panasonic and Canada). However, your camera also has an interlaced mode (the ‘i’ setting), so you would have to check what mode you chose when you shot the video. The systems for each country are shown here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PAL-NTSC-SECAM.svg (apologies if you know the system already).

    You can also double-check whether you are using interlaced or progressive footage by using video conversion software or media-analyzer software. I use the former (Procoder, but the software is expensive). Free media analyzer software like this one – http://avicodec.duby.info/ – should also tell you.

    Some bad news though–the 1080/60p and 1080/50p full HD settings are very unusual (your camcorder is apparently first to have them), so you may run into problems with export and playback (http://forums.adobe.com/message/2820972). A poster on that forum recommends the following settings for CS4:
    “In the “New Sequence” Box click on “General”
    Under “Editing Mode” choose Desktop
    Under “Timebase” choose 59.94 (NTSC) or 50 (PAL)
    Under “Frame Size” put 1920×1080 Under “Fields” choose “No Fields” (since it’s a progressive file)
    After those steps, you hit OK”

  5. Hi again,

    First I would like to thank you for the quick and clarifying answer!

    About the system mode, I already know it, thank you anyway, I from Europe, Portugal and the system we use is PAL! I have a little knowledge beacuse some years ago I made a Video Post-Production workshop…

    I already check my video and it was recorded in interlaced mode, I say that because even when I use the preset “AVCHD-1080p-AVCHD 1080p25″, I import the video and when I check “Interpret footage” is appears “Upper Field First”! So I guess it was recorded at 1080i… And by the way, I can see the fields when people in the clip are in movent, something that doesn’t happens in 1080p, I guess…
    I didn’t used the software you recomended because I’m a Mac user and it seems to me it is just for PC/Windows…

    About the export and playback problems I guess I won’t have them since my clips are 1080i and not 1080p.

    Thank you, this was very helpful!

    Just another question, is it normal that the clips have a little bit of grain/noise in the entire clip, not just in the low light areas?? The camera was not mine, so it was the only shot I’ve made and I think it have too much grain/noise for an Full HD shot… I expected a more clear shot!! If it’s normal, what’s the best way to remove it, make it a clear shot???

    Thank you for your time once again!

    Cheers…

  6. Which preset selected for sony hdv 1500model footage..? this footage saved in (720*576(1.4587) 25fps 48000hz-16bit-stereo)

  7. If you are shooting in HD, it is always widescreen (1920×1080, 1440×1080, 1280×720 are all widescreen formats). If you are shooting in standard definition, you can check your camera settings). You can also open two Premiere Pro projects, one widescreen and one non-widescreen, import a video clip and simply see which setting matches the video clip..

    ________________________________

  8. Hie, am new to this and I have a video of mpg format, don’t kno the camera it was shot with but it has the following details, frame width 720, frame height 576, data rate 9100kbps, frame rate 25frames per sec, audio 256kbs,channels 2, sample rate 48khz

    It’s failin to import to adobe Premeir pro, am using cs6, tried converting it to avi Buht the loss in qaulity seem huge, and that is happening when I try to make the video full screen

    Any advice?

  9. Advice? Probably nothing you haven’t already tried.
    a) Maybe it is a strange kind of mpeg 2. When converting it to AVI, try to adjust the settings to get higher quality (the bitrate seems really high for non-HD video).

    b) It may be a CS6 problem. Make sure the latest updates are installed. It seem others are having the problem and some workarounds are suggested here (e.g., in Windows 7, right click on the exe file and select ‘run as administrator':
    http://forums.adobe.com/message/4445823

  10. All the way from Nigeria, I appreciate all your post. Just found out so many stuffs I never knew thanks. Thanks y’all!

  11. Pingback: Exporting Video for YouTube: Pixel Aspect Ratio Basics | Longzijun

  12. thank you i am write now in africa for folunteering and got to go back to cs3 and interlaced 1080i, Technology evolve so fast that I am not use to all those complication anymore. With 1080p and CS6 I didn’t have those problems back home.
    I repeat, you are awesome!! thanks

  13. Hi
    let me know which problem happen when export the video in quick prayer fomart when i want to burn in DVD the problem come the color there too much up the people doesn’t watch. well so can you help wich step i miss to do in export or even all project?

  14. That is not very clear . . . can you rephrase your question?

    If you are making DVDs to play in a DVD player, you should export is as an mpeg 2 DVD format and all the settings would be different, (this page is only for exporting videos to be posted to YouTube of Vimeo)

    With the mpeg 2 DVD format, you end up with two files–a video file and audio file. Then you would need another software programme (like Adobe Encore or Sony DVD architect) to make the DVD.

  15. Hello, thank you for the post, is very helpfull, i just have on question, i have my footage in 1920×1080, but i would like to work on 1280×720, just in case, and because is going to played on computers and monitors. But when i select on premier 5.5. the P2 720p 60HZ DVCPROHD option, the video says 960×720, should i change it to 1280×720? and leave all the rest as it is? Thank you men, you will help me a lot. Keep with the post.

  16. is there any way i could use standard and HD footage and make them both fit the same exact size on my sequence preset?

  17. The only way is to make the project setting standard (e.g., non HD) and then alter the scale of the HD clips in the timeline. When you export it, you would also use a standard setting.

    If most of your clips are HD, however, I would go for 1280×720 and either leave a black border around the standard clips or scale them up and hope the pixellation won’t be too ugly. Then you can export it at the 1280×702 setting.

  18. Hey I Love your Blog ..thank you for helping Us , i need to know about the best export dimension From Flash to premiere for HD animation Movie / and i need to know the image size or dimension in Photoshop for HD videos

  19. I really don’t know much about Flash. I would suggest the standard full HD resolution (1920×1080), but I never use Flash.

    If you are importing photos/image files into premiere pro, just make sure that the width or height (whichever is longest) is less than 4000 pixels or you will have trouble exporting. You might be able to import images larger than that 4000 pixels, but then you will not be able to export the video. And of course, you better not use images smaller than your video resolution (e.g., not smaller than 1920×1080, or 1280×720 if your video is not full HD,)

  20. Hello!
    I have Toshiba camcorder and Canon still camera. They both use H.264 codec and maximum resolution 1920×1080. Canon makes 23,98 fps and Toshiba max 59.94 fps (intelaced).
    Toshiba can not really use such high values. Result is best with 1208×720 29.97 fps.
    I have Premiere CS6 (mac). Which project settings I should use. There is no preset for H.264 recordings.

  21. If you are mixing up different formats, you can try choosing the settings that most closely match your export format, which I guess would be 1280 x 720p (e.g the import preset of AVCHD 720 24p or 30p). I would do a test run combining two short clips from both cameras and try out different frame rates for the setting and export (24, 30–here 30 means 29.97).

    You might also try converting both files using freeware like Format Factory into AVI files. before the editing process. No matter what you do, there is going to be some loss of quality along the way.

    With Premiere Pro, different formats can lead to export failure. That happened to me last week. In my project, I had two WAV audio files with different bit rates (44.1 kbps and 48 kbps), and the video wouldn’t export until I converted everything to 48 kbps.

  22. Thank You for good advise. I still could not get good quality. I think the cause is bad quality of original Toshiba 1920×1080 interlaced clip. It is too much compressed so it is very pixellating.

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