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 lready. You can find these details in your camera’s specifications. If necessary, you can download a free multi-media analyzer like AVIcodec (http://avicodec.duby.info/).
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.
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):
If you are working with HD clips that aren’t shot very well (e.g., the angle of the shot is a little off, unwanted objects appear around the edges of the frame, the subjects in the shot appear to be too far away, etc.), you can choose a lower resolution. For example, if your original video is 1920 x 1080 or 1440 x 1080, you can choose 1280 x 720 as your project resolution. This is a suitable option if you are producing HD video that will mainly be viewed on a computer monitor. When you are editing the video you will be able to ‘zoom out’ (by adjusting the scale of each video clip) to choose how much of the original video to include. You will also be able to rotate the frame slightly.
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. If you do this, you would select a preset from one of the DV-Pal or DV-NTSC formats.
Just to reiterate, the resolution (frame width and height) that you would select as your default choice normally is the same as the resolution of the video clips you plan to work with. You do, however, have an option of working at a lower resolution if you find problems with the composition of the shots in your original video. I generally choose 1280 x 720. 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.
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 you have decided to edit in 1280 x 720, you would still select the default ‘progressive’ setting (even if your original video is interlaced).
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.
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/
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.
My Other Articles on Video Editing
- Exporting HD Video for YouTube: Premiere Pro CS3 & CS4
- Choosing Premiere Pro Project Settings for HD Video: Very important, as it is difficult to change project settings once you begin
- Changing Project & Sequence Settings: Premiere Pro CS3 and CS4: Premiere Pro CS3 & CS4
- Premiere Pro CS4: Maximum Render Quality: For better image quality, especially with video of fast-moving objects
- Exporting Video for YouTube: Pixel Aspect Ratio Basics: How to get a pixel aspect ratio of 1:1
- Troubleshoot Export Failures: What to do when you see the error message: Application Failed to Return a Video Frame
- Exporting Video for Nico Nico Douga: Recommended settings