Three Performance-Enhancing Tips

As your projects grow in size and complexity, Premiere's performance may start lagging. You can restore some of that lost performance with the following three tips.

Rendering Virtual Clips and Saving Them

You create virtual clips for two basic reasons: to circumvent an editing roadblock and to reuse an involved collection of edits and effects. Each time you preview a portion of your timeline with a copy of a virtual clip in it, Premiere must redo whatever calculations it took to play back that clip in its original state. You can save some CPU cycles by rendering the clip, saving it as a file, and then importing it back to your project. This way, it will play smoothly as a straight video clip with no extra effects grabbing processor power.

Task: Render a Virtual Clip and Save It

Here's how this works:

  1. Create a virtual clip. For this task, you can use any clip. No need to use any effects with it, but tossing in a couple does give you a feel later for rendering times. As a reminder, to create a virtual clip, click the Block Select tool (hotkey M), drag a border around the clip, and drag the now double-arrow icon to some other location in the timeline.

  2. As I've demonstrated in Figure 17.10, set the work bar area directly above the clip.

    Figure 17.10. Adjust the work area bar to fit only over your virtual clip.



    Try using the keyboard shortcuts I discussed earlier to set the work area bar above the virtual clip: Press N, move the cursor into the work area bar, note the direction in which the triangle is pointing, click to set the in- or out-point, press N again to swap the triangle's direction, and set that in- or out-point.

  3. Export the virtual clip. Select File, Export Timeline, Movie. Then navigate to an appropriate file folder, give the clip a name, and click OK. You probably should not change the output settings because they'll match whatever settings you have in place for when you export your completed project.


    You'd think you could select File, Export Clip instead of Export Timeline. But the Export Clip command exports only the video or audio portion of a clip. Not both. I'll explain the whys and wherefores about this curiosity in Hour 19, "Exporting Premiere Frames, Clips, and Projects: Part 1," and Hour 20, "Exporting Premiere Frames, Clips and Projects: Part 2."

  4. You will have to wait while Premiere renders your clip. Depending on its length and the complexity of the effects/transitions, this could be time consuming.

  5. Import the clip to your Project window and drag it to the timeline. It should play back smoothly. You may now delete the original virtual clip.

Saving Bins for Future Use

You may want to reuse a set of media files in future projects, or you may have a standard project starter set that you supplement with new material. In either case, saving project bins is a great timesaver.

As shown in Figure 17.11, right/Ctrl-click the bin you want to save. Then choose Export Bin from Project, give it a descriptive name, and save it in your Scratch Disk Premiere project's file folder.

Figure 17.11. Use the export bin from the Project window to save and later reuse a bin full of media.



Retrieving that archived bin is not entirely straightforward. Select File, Open and navigate to the saved bin location. Double-click it or select it and click Open. That creates a new, second Project window named "External Bin:{your bin name} .plb." You can drag its bin to the bin area in the default Project window and close the External Bin window, or you can close the default Project window and use this one.

Using Low-Resolution Clips

Even with the latest computer technology, as your project grows, Premiere slows. It takes a lot of horsepower to slog through an hour or so of high-resolution digital video.

If you're going to work on projects of that scope, you can speed up editing and previewing by using low-resolution source video clips. Once you complete your project, you can replace the low-res clips with the originals and then render the finished work. There are two ways to do this:

  • Capture video at smaller frame sizes and then recapture full-screen-sized clips later

  • Capture full-size clips, have Premiere convert those clips to a smaller format, use them for editing, and then replace them with the full-screen-sized clips for final video project rendering and output.

The former works only if you have camcorder equipment with Device Control, as do virtually all DV camcorders. That way, when you recapture the video, Premiere will track down the exact same, frame-specific clips.

The latter also is a good option for producers working with Device Control camcorders, and it's the only way you can use this approach if you don't have Device Control camcorders.

Each takes some extra effort and can be tedious because you must export and replace each clip separately. Basically, the larger the project, the more you may be inclined to use low-res clips.

Here's a quick run-through. If you capture full-size clips, place them on the timeline, one after the other.

Task: Convert Clips to Lower Resolution Files

Follow these steps:

  1. Set the work area to appear over an individual clip, matching its in- and out-points.

  2. Select Export Timeline, Movie. This opens the Export Movie dialog box.

  3. Click the Settings button. I've highlighted it in Figure 17.12. This opens the Export Movie Settings dialog box.

    Figure 17.12. Select the Settings button before exporting the timeline segment.


  4. Select a file type. Microsoft AVI and QuickTime are your best bets for straight video export.

  5. Select Video from the drop-down menu, as I did in Figure 17.13, which opens the video export settings. Select a compressor. This can be a bit overwhelming. QuickTime offers 20 codecs. Planar, Intel, or Sorensen all should work well.

    Figure 17.13. Change the video export settings to reduce clip file sizes and increase Premiere performance.


  6. Set the frame size, frame rate, and quality. This is your call. Keep in mind that cutting frame dimensions in half cuts the data by a factor of four.

  7. You may also go to the Audio section and select a lower rate and format.

  8. Once you click OK in any of these windows, these settings become your default settings for future timeline exports.

Task: Replace the Low-Res Clips with the Originals

When you complete your project, replace the low-res clips with the real things. Here's how:

  1. Right/Ctrl-click the bin side of the Project window and select Replace Clips. This will pop up a warning stating in effect that what you are about to do is a big deal?and it is.

  2. As illustrated in Figure 17.14, the Locate File dialog box will display the clip at the top of the Project window and ask you to find its replacement. Once this is found and selected (it can have the same name as the low-res clip but must be in a different folder), click OK.

    Figure 17.14. Use the Locate File dialog box to replace low-res clips with the high-res originals.


  3. That swaps clips and takes you back to the Project window.


It would be better if Premiere let you stay in the Locate File dialog box so you could take care of all the replacements in one place, but that's not how it works. So you need to perform the right/Ctrl-click, Replace Clips process for each clip.

    Part II: Enhancing Your Video