You’ve made your film, great! Now how do you get your finished video out of Premiere Pro in the appropriate format? There are export settings for everything, but we’ll go into the ones you’re most likely to need in this tutorial. Here's a quick summary of the parts of the export process we cover here:
Exporting Video from Premiere Pro: file export basics and essential settings (with tutorial video).
- Collaborating and Storing Files: how to send clips back and forth when a team are working on the same project, when you should be keeping file formats the same, and when to keep the best quality footage you have.
- Exporting for Online Video: a brief look at codecs, particularly H. 264 and H.265; when you can choose a preset and when to drill down further into the options and make purposeful changes to your export.
- Constant vs Variable Bitrate: what the difference is, why it matters, and how Premiere Pro will interpret your choice in terms of a trade-off between file size and quality.
1. How to Export Video from Adobe Premiere
New to exporting video? This lesson from David Bode's course on Adobe Premiere Pro covers what you need to get started:
2. Collaborating and Storing (Exporting Video for Archives)
If you’re lucky enough to have a trusted team working with you to produce your film, then you might be sending clips back and forth to each other, and ideally you won’t want those to be huge files. Premiere Pro has a great Shared Projects feature with Project Locking, where multiple editors can work on a film without overwriting each other’s work.
If you can’t, or prefer not to use this feature, then how to export really depends on what the other person will be doing with the footage. If they’re editing it for inclusion in the film, then you’ll probably want to send over the highest quality available (straight from the camera), but if they’re just adding some notes or markers that you can then overlay over your own footage, then you can export at a lower quality.
Keeping your formats the same will help your timeline function better, and if you’re applying a colouring effect or similar edit, you know it will have the same—or close to the same—effect right across the board.
The same logic applies when you’re storing old footage for posterity—always keep the best versions of the material you can, but it’s a trade-off with space and best guess at what you might need in the future.
Sidebar: Digital Video Codecs?
A codec is method for
compressing, and then decompressing, a video file (a bit like JPEG files
for images), and there are a few of them. Video codecs are ways to get a high-quality result with a
size, though each comes with it's set of advantages, trade-offs and
limitations. A codec is different to a video container (though some
can be both) as the
codec is how the video is compressed, and a container determines how
stored, opened and played.
3. Export for Online: H.264 and H.265
The standard for uploading video has, for a while, been a codec called H.264 (or Advanced Video Coding) which is designed to let you send high-quality video without it needing to be ridiculous file sizes. H.264 was the standard for Blu-ray discs and for Vimeo, YouTube, and other popular online video outlets.
As time and technology have marched on, we now have H.265 (HEVC), the successor to H.264, which promises 25%-50% improved data compression than its predecessor, and support for formats like 8k (Ultra HD). Whilst I’m sure the super tech bods could explain this in a lot more detail than I can, for those of us who want the short version: it encodes your video at the lowest bitrate it can, while keeping your image and audio high quality.
H.265 does, however, require more processing power, which is probably something to bear in mind depending on the specs of your computer. If you’re using a slightly older version of Premiere Pro, you might only have the H.264 option. Another very important consideration is that many machines just won’t have the H.265 codec, which means you can’t watch the video unless you download it, at a (small) cost.
Once you’ve selected H.265 (or 4) in Premiere Pro, you’ll be presented with some more specific options, for your video, and it depends on your requirements as to what you’ll select. The most common ones you’ll probably use are the presets for YouTube or Vimeo, which will then give you the option to tweak other settings. You need to make sure that your source and output match in the settings. If something like your ratio is different, make sure that it’s deliberate (like if you’re downsizing) otherwise they should match. In the Video box below, you can actually click Match Source which will help make sure your settings match.
The choices you make here are ones you want to produce the highest quality possible, so that when you upload to YouTube or Vimeo and they compress your video further it still looks good. The Premiere Pro breakdowns are pretty good, so you don’t need to worry too much about making changes within the standard profiles if you aren’t confident about it. For web delivery, make sure Profile (in Video) is set to High.
If you have a free Vimeo account, remember that although you can upload 1080p, it’ll be downsized to 720p, so it’s worth choosing the 720 export option in Premiere Pro.
4. Constant vs Variable Bitrate
Part of the hierarchy in the export settings with H.265 (or 4) is the option to choose between constant or variable bitrates. Constant is, as you’d think, a standard bitrate across the whole film. Variable bitrate lets you set target and maximum bitrates, which means PP will aim for a certain amount of data throughout your video.
Shots that are more complicated and need more data. With a variable bitrate, Premiere will up the allowance to that according to your maximum bitrate setting, keeping the bitrate of simpler shots down, so that your overall file size can be lower. If your ultimate destination is the web, you’re going to want a high bitrate for the reasons I mentioned earlier: it’ll get compressed again when you upload to various social media.
Client Considerations and File Sizes
If you’re sending your project to a client as an exported video, you should ask your them about their requirements, because if you think about a feature length film, for example, rendering that out at highest quality might be a lot more than their machine can handle and it might prove difficult to actually send. It might even be wise to render a couple of versions, one a much more compressed version, so that your client has options.
There is no one-stop-shop for export settings, unfortunately. The good news is you don't need to know the ins-and-outs of bitrates and codecs to get something of high-quality out of Premiere Pro and to your desired third-party. What you need to know though, is what you want and then you need the patience to potentially make more than one version or render of the video to fulfill that.
The best way to learn what you need for each eventuality is to find out the quirks of the third-party uploaders you're using, like Vimeo downsizing on free accounts. That way, you can make the best decisions for your video, knowing that extra compression won't ruin it.
A good rule is, if size isn't an issue, export to the highest settings and quality you can. If size is an issue, then begin a gentle trade-off between size and space. it's a delicate balance, but certainly when it comes to exporting for online use, you're in fairly safe hands with the H.264 option and you can start to customise those settings as you get more confident.
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