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How to Upscale 1080 Video to 4K Resolution in Premiere Pro (With After Effects)

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4K video resolution has become the norm for projects with high production-values. However, by the time it comes to edit everything you might not always have 4K footage at your disposal.

In this tutorial, you'll learn the best way to upscale your footage from HD 1080 to 4K resolution from Premiere Pro, with a quick round-trip to After Effects make use of the powerful Detail-preserving Upscale tool.

Check out the difference in results below. The left image is a simple stretch, no upscaling applied. On the right side, the detail is noticeable in the rock and background areas. This approach really improves the footage when you upscale.

Comparison of details
The example on the right side shows the detail preserved version, which includes sharper details in the rock area.

OK. let's learn how to upscale in Adobe Premiere with some help from Adobe After Effects. We'll go from the most common standard HD video size, 1920 pixels wide by 1080 pixels tall, to the most common 4K standard, 3840 pixels wide by 2160 pixels tall (commonly called UHD resolution).

How to Upscale Footage to 4K In Adobe Premiere Pro

You should know about why we're using After Effects as part of this approach: Premiere Pro doesn't include a true method for upscaling footage. Sure, you can take a 1920x1080 clip and stretch it to a 4K canvas, but you'll lose detail and won't get the best results.

Our method will use Detail-preserving Upscale in After Effects to increase the size up image in a smart way. Essentially, this interpolation technique preserves detail better than stretching the pixels.

4k resolution image
Video shot in 4K resolution has quickly become synonymous with high quality productions. (Image source: Envato Elements.)

1. Add Your Footage in Adobe Premiere

First thing's first: we need to get all of our clips added to a Premiere Pro project. Start off by importing clips and sequencing them on the timeline in your preferred order.

Assuming you created your project in 4K, 1080p clips are going to stand out with black borders around the footage.

Premiere clip on canvas
It's easy to see this 1080p clip doesn't cover the canvas in our 4K project.

2. Send to After Effects

Now, we need to send the footage to After Effects. This method doesn't require you to export, re-import, and create multiple files.

Right-click on the clip on your timeline and choose Replace With After Effects Composition. This sends the video clip to After Effects to apply our upscale.

Replace with After Effects composition
Send your clip to After Effects by right-clicking on the timeline, then choose "Replace With After Effects Composition."

3. Save the After Effects Project

After you send your footage to After Effects, you'll see a prompt to save your project. Give it a name, and choose a location to save the After Effects project.

Save project as
Save your After Effects project after you send footage from Premiere.

4. Add The Upscaling Effect

Now, we're working in After Effects. You'll see your clip on the canvas, it's time to add the upscaling effect.

In the Effects & Presets panel, search for Detail-preserving Upscale. Double click on it to add it to your active clip.

Detail preserving upscale
Search for Detail-preserving Upscale and double click to add it to your active clip.

On the Effect Controls panel, click on Fit to Comp Width. This upscales the footage to cover the width of the canvas. You can also tweak the scale amount precisely if you wanted the clip to go even larger, for example.

Try out the Detail slider too. I typically turn this up beyond the default 50% to push the app to keep more detail. It's an art rather an a science, so play with it until you like the look of your footage.

Adjust scale in effect
Click Fit to Comp Width to stretch the clip to cover the canvas.

5. Send Back to Premiere

Almost done. Save your After Effects project, then switch back to Premiere. You'll notice that the clip is updated with the modifications we applied in After Effects.

Back in Premiere upscaled
Jump back to Premiere and you'll see your newly-upscaled clip in action.

Plugins to Upscale Footage in Premiere Pro

Some software companies claim that their method for upscaling footage is superior, and it is possible to imagine some secret sauce in mix that makes some solutions better than others. Check out these other tools as options for upscaling to 4k:

The Source for 4K Footage

If your footage didn't scale up perfectly, you might still be searching for a replacement option. While there are plenty of marketplaces that will sell you 4k clips, none can match Envato Elements.

For one flat rate, you unlock over a million high quality stock clips, including over 800,000 in 4K. For one flat rate, you can use as many as you want while you subscribe to Envato Elements. It's an unbeatable offer to help you create your project.

Envato Elements 4k footage
For one flat rate, you unlock unlimited 4k footage - over 800,000 clips and always growing.

Plus Premiere Pro Templates

Elements' all-you-can-download library is so much more than footage. In fact, one of the best reasons to use Elements is to tap into the incredible library of Adobe Premiere Pro templates.

All of these templates are available with the same subscription that unlocks stock footage. 

1. Web-Design and Development - Animation Icons (MOGRT)

If you're illustrating your online business, this package of icons can help. You have plenty of icons that focus on the world of web design that you can use to put your best foot forward, easy to customize and match to your brand.

Web and design animation icons

2. Glitch Distortion Logo Intro

Glitch effects are more popular than ever. You'll see them in sci-fi and tech focused content, and this template helps you recreate the effect. Add your logo and leverage the built in animations to create your own glitchy animation.

glitch distortion logo intro

3. Catch Your Titles

It's a great idea to use templates to help you with your intro and outro effects. Instead of creating them yourself, start with a template like this memorable one that already has most of the work done for you. You can simply update the text and graphic elements in this titles file and add it to your production.

Business titles Premiere Pro

More Adobe Premiere Pro Learning Resources

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