By Reuben Field, Lights Camera Business
Premiere has a lot of quirks and ambiguities that could waste a lot of your time if you don’t know about them. Here are just a few…
Your sequences should be 1080, not 4K
We shoot in 4K but edit in 1920x1080. Don’t edit in 4k because 4k sequences take an extremely long time to render and require huge amounts of data, all of which is wasted because our final output file will only be 1920x1080 anyway.
You should be rendering your timeline
If your timeline is not green at the top, your footage is not rendered. This is fine for early rough cuts, but once you add effects or text Premiere will start to lag and make watching difficult. Rendering creates new video files on your system in a folder called “Premiere Pro Video Previews”. Once rendered, your timeline should play smoothly.
Render clips with nothing beneath them
Even if a clip is fully covering the screen, any clip beneath it on the timeline is “implicated” in the render. This means that even though it would cause no change to the picture, moving either the top or bottom clip will invalidate the render, forcing you to re-render. This can be avoided by making sure you only render items with nothing beneath them on the timeline. You can then move these items freely and they will remain rendered. Placing them above any other clip will make them un-rendered again, but this can be fixed instantly by disabling the clip beneath (which will make it green again).
The render progress bar is misleading
The render progress bar is invisibly divided into fractions for each “video preview” that is being rendered. If you’re rendering four video previews, for example, the render bar will have four invisible sections (each being 25% of the total). This means the progress bar can be wildly misleading. Even if the first video preview contains five frames and the next contains 500, each is allocated 25% of the render bar even though one could take seconds and one could take hours. Once you are aware of this you can make better-educated guesses about how long a render is actually going to take. It also helps to know how Premiere breaks up video preview files, which is generally based on overlapping: an unbroken, non-overlapping item will be rendered as one video preview, but a separate video preview will be created for any transition at its start or end, any title placed over it, or any overlap with an item beneath it on the timeline.
Cancel rendering at the right time
If you want to cancel a render, consider waiting until Premiere has completed the video preview that it’s currently doing. For example, if Premiere says “Rendering preview 3 of 5”, Premiere might be moments away from finishing preview 3. If preview 3 is big or complex, Premiere might have spent hours rendering it and it would be a shame to lose that time. Just wait a bit longer until Premiere moves on to “Rendering preview 4 of 5”. Now, preview 3 is safely stored (even if you cancel rendering) and the corresponding timeline colored green.
Using renders during export
Premiere has two subtle checkboxes that can make a huge difference to export times. The most important is “Use Previews”. Assuming you have been rendering as you work (i.e. your timeline is all green), then all the frames you need to export your video have already been created and no rendering needs to take place during export, making export very fast. If you want to create an MP4 file, just make sure “Use Previews” is ticked; now the only time required for export is the MP4 encoding process, which still takes time but vastly less than re-rendering on top of encoding. The second checkbox you might like to use is “Match Sequence” at the top of the window. If you “match sequence” and “use previews” then all your computer is doing is copying frames from one place into another with no rendering or encoding, which is extremely fast (a matter of seconds rather than minutes).
But don’t trust “Use Previews” or “Queue”
Unfortunately, ticking the “Use Previews” checkbox does not guarantee that Premiere will actually use previews. It might just lose the render files (fairly common) and re-render them during the export process without telling you. Try to develop an instinct for “how long things should take” and interrupt Premiere if you suspect it is re-rendering for no reason. Two culprits which seems to cause re-rendering include changing the export resolution (for example downsizing from 1080 to 720) or trying to render via Adobe Media Encoder queue. I’ve found both of these scenarios to take suspiciously long times which are almost certainly caused by Premiere re-rendering in secret behind that innocent “Exporting Media” label.