Checking Out General Settings

Before you venture past the Project Settings interface to the video-editing workspace, I recommend clicking the Custom button and briefly checking out the general settings. Use the drop-down menu to access that interface.

This presents one confusing aspect of Premiere and video editing in general: a collection of apparently impenetrable terms, including timebase, time display, time code, timeline, and frame rate.

If you select one of Premiere's presets, deciphering these terms is a nonissue. Premiere selects a standard editing scheme with all the appropriate "Time" issues to fit your project. Despite that easy fix, a little explanation is in order.


Timebase refers to how Premiere divides its editing timeline into increments. It is not the frame rate but frequently is the same as a clip's frame rate. The timebase should match your source video standard: PAL and SECAM are 25 frames (or timeline increments) per second and NTSC is a confounding 29.97 fps (see earlier note). Film runs at 24 fps, and the default setting for Video for Windows and QuickTime is 30 increments per second.

Task: Explore How Timebase Settings Work

There's an easy way to see how timebase settings work:

  1. Select the PAL, NTSC, or Analog preset and enter the editing workspace.

  2. Highlight the timeline by clicking its title bar.

  3. Press the hyphen (-) key (the key at the top of your keyboard, not the one on the numeric keypad) five times. This displays more time inside the Timeline window?in this case a full minute.

  4. Now drag the triangular Edit Line button to the 59-second mark. Figure 2.6 shows that triangular button and the timecode. Use the time displayed in the Program window?the upper-right video screen?to see where you are in the timeline.

    Figure 2.6. Check how the timebase works by sliding the "edit line" button to the one-minute mark.


If you selected NTSC, you'll see that as you move past 59:29 (59 seconds, 29 frames) the time will jump to 1:00:02 (one minute, zero seconds, and two frames). It skips two frames every minute (with the exception of every tenth minute) to compensate for the convoluted NTSC 29.97 timebase and to accommodate that standard's dropped frames. No actual frames are lost, only frame numbers. The purpose of this "dropped-frame" scheme is to ensure time-accurate program lengths (see the "Video Alphabet Soup" sidebar).

If you select PAL, you'll see that each second is a constant 25 frames long, and if you chose a multimedia setting it'll be 30 fps. Much simpler.

Frame Rate

The only time the frame rate won't equal the timebase is when you use Video for Windows or QuickTime. You'll notice this when you use existing Video for Windows or QuickTime files as source clips. Those clips may have been made at less than 30 fps to ensure they could run smoothly on slower systems.

Task: Working with the Timebase and Frame Rate

Here's one example of a video with a frame rate that's different from the timebase. The file comes with the version of QuickTime bundled with your copy of Premiere. It runs at only 12 fps. Follow these steps to see the timebase and frame rate in action:

  1. Select the default Multimedia QuickTime Project Settings.

  2. Choose File, Import, File.

  3. Locate (in the QuickTime folder) and click Open. It appears in the Project window in the upper-left corner of your workspace.

  4. Drag and drop into the Monitor Source window.

  5. Click the Play button below that monitor window and watch. appears to run relatively smoothly, but you may notice a slight stutter due to the reduced frame rate (12 fps is half the rate for motion picture film).

  6. Click the Frame Forward button several times. See Figure 2.7 to locate that button.

    Figure 2.7. Clicking the Frame Forward button moves you ahead one frame at a time. You need to move through two or three frames to see the actual next frame of this 12-frame/second QuickTime movie.


You'll see that as you move through, the time display will skip two or three frames for each Frame Forward button click you make: 12 frames per second spread out over 30 time increments per second (the timebase) amounts to about one frame of QuickTime video per three timeline increments.

It gets even weirder if you drag to the timeline. You will need to click the Frame Forward button in the Program Monitor window two or three times before the image will change. The source side of the monitor plays the video in its original 12-frames-per-second mode. The program side plays it in the Project Setting's 30-increment-per-second mode.

Time Display

For all intents and purposes, time display is the same as timebase. The exception again is good-old North American NTSC. If you plan to play your edited NTSC video project on a TV set, stick with what's called Drop-Frame Timecode (see the "Video Alphabet Soup" sidebar). If you'll be playing back NTSC on your PC or the Web, Non-Drop-Frame Timecode works best. If you're using PAL or SECAM, stick to their 25 fps time displays. With film, you can use Feet+Frames.


As I mentioned in the "Video Alphabet Soup" sidebar earlier in this hour, Drop-Frame Timecode and Non-Drop-Frame Timecode are much ado about very little. If you manage to use the "wrong" one, it will probably have no discernible impact on your final product. Depending on your situation, your project will either run a few frames too long or too short. Practically, there's no difference between the two timecode schemes.

As a rule of thumb, the Project Settings interface's default presets should be more than adequate for most work. And again, if your source material is high-quality video (that is, DV or full-screen analog video), selecting projects settings to match means you'll have more output options later.


Opening the Custom Settings interface presents numerous, sometimes bewildering options?for instance, Compression Settings (see "Video Alphabet Soup"). All video you'll work with in Premiere is compressed?even DV. That is, software has analyzed it and reduced its data rate while retaining as much of its original quality as possible. Premiere lets you choose from about 25 video compression algorithms or codecs.

If your source video is already a file?be it on a CD, your hard drive, or downloaded from the Web?it'll be a compressed file. Simply by looking at it, you can't tell what compression scheme was used. However, Premiere can tell you this even before you import the file into a project. Here's how:

  1. Click through the Project Settings window to open the video-editing workspace.

  2. Choose File, Get Properties For, File.

  3. Locate and select the clip you want to analyze and click Open. Toward the bottom of that window, you'll see the compression scheme used. See Figure 2.8 for an example.

    Figure 2.8. The Clip Properties dialog box. Of particular interest is the compression scheme or codec. In this case it's Sorenson Video, a compression algorithm used frequently when creating QuickTime videos.



A quick way to check whether your project settings are compatible with your clips and output settings is to open the Settings Viewer. Click Project, Settings Viewer. If you have multiple format source clips, selecting them in turn in the clip drop-down list will display any possible conflicts or incompatibilities in red. Figure 2.9 shows one glaring example. But conflicts do not necessarily mean real problems. There are too many combinations and permutations to offer any specific conflict-resolution advice. Each column's drop-down list gives you easy access to the respective project settings. Some trial and error may resolve most of those red warnings.

Figure 2.9. The Settings Viewer is a handy, big-picture view of your Capture, Project, Clip, and Export settings. The highlighted comments (Premiere displays them in red) indicate potential conflicts.


    Part II: Enhancing Your Video