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.
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):
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.
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.
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
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