How to Import Video into Adobe Premiere Pro (Part One): The Basics

This article is as basic as it gets. No matter what you’ve shot, you need to get it into Adobe Premiere Pro so you can begin editing. This series will show you

  • How to Set up your Folders and Drives
  • How to Choose the right Project Settings
  • How to Import Video into Adobe Premiere Pro
  • How to Ingest different Codecs for Best Quality
  • How to find answers to common Import Errors and Glitches

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

Let’s get started.
Adobe Premere Pro CS6 Logo

Where to find help

I have been using Adobe Premiere Pro for a little over ten years now. I don’t edit anymore, but still sit with editors while my projects are being cut. Guess what I do when an editor gets stuck, or we encounter an error message that just won’t go away?

I point to the manual. If you don’t read the manual, you’re missing out, period. I learnt to edit by reading the manual, and it still surprises me that some editors don’t even know where the manual is. Sigh.

Since I’ll be using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 for this article, we’ll focus on the documents relating to this particular version. The Premiere Pro CS6 Manual can be found here: http://helpx.adobe.com/pdf/premiere_pro_reference.pdf

For help and support, you can visit this link: http://helpx.adobe.com/premiere-pro/topics.html

If you’re still stuck, the coolest place to ask is the Adobe Support Forum.

While you’re working, if you need to access the manual, go to Help>Adobe Premiere Pro help… (F1 on Windows).

A word about editing ‘Native’

One of the coolest features of Adobe Premiere Pro is its ability to edit ‘native’ video. What this means is: if you’ve shot with a certain codec, in a proprietary wrapper, you don’t need to transcode or rewrap the file before you edit.

This saves on:

  • Time (you have to twiddle your thumbs while the transcoding or rewrapping is going on)
  • Hard drive space (you need to keep both versions sometimes)
  • Computer life span (the less you render the better, always)

I’ll be honest, I tend to stay away from any software that forces me to transcode or rewrap. There used to be a time when one had to transcode, for good reason. Those days are largely behind us.

However, there are some scenarios where you have no choice. E.g., at the time of this writing, the new XAVC codec and the Cinema DNG image format is not supported by Adobe Premiere Pro natively. Until the next update or version comes out, you have to either use a third-party plug-in or transcode into another format. I try to stay away from such workflows. I can, because I’m not an editor. If you’re an editor, you don’t have much choice.

The only time I make an exception to editing native is I’m working with RAW files and I don’t have access to a fast computer. In this case, I use proxies – but never intermediary codecs.

Where should your source footage reside?

Your source footage doesn’t change over the course of a project. You start with the native (original) video, or a transcoded copy (either intermediary codec or proxy). Either way, these don’t change. The only thing that happens to them is they are ‘read’.

This kind of editing is traditionally called ‘offline’ editing. However, today’s NLEs are capable of online editing (working with the original source files) in a totally non-destructive manner.

Here’s a drawing of my preferred hard drive system:
Drive Structure for Adobe Premiere Pro

Your source footage must reside on a drive that can ‘supply’ the files at higher than the maximum data rate of the video. E.g., R3D or Cinema DNG files have a maximum data rate of approximately 150 MB/s. This means the drive system holding the source footage must have a sustained real-world read speed of 150 MB/s or more.

There are instances where you might have to call upon more than one clip at the same time. E.g., if you are adding effects, transitions, or are keying, compositing, etc. Depending on how many layers of footage need to be read at the same time, the read speed of the drive must be able to sustain that data rate. E.g., four layers of R3D at the same time means you need a RAID Array capable of sustaining 600 MB/s or more.

To get even more complicated, there are post facilities where the source footage reside in a SAN or NAS. There might more than one ‘station’ reading the same (or multiple) source clips at the same time. The sustained throughput of such a system dealing with huge files is in the order of GB/s.

For these reasons and more, I always recommend that source footage be stored separately, in its own hard drive system, possibly as a RAID 1 or RAID 10 array. When using RAID 1, you might want to invest in a hardware controller and drive system that can multiply the read speeds over the number of drives in the RAID. Software RAID doesn’t usually help you with that.

Why not RAID 5 or 6? Simply because I don’t want to be interrupted while working. There’s no time (or patience) to wait while a system rebuilds or whatever.

Ideally, you must categorize your footage into well thought-out folders. On small projects, the source footage is barely a few hours’ worth so this might not seem like a big deal, nor should it be. On features though, it is the height of unprofessional-ism to ignore the tried and tested techniques of naming, metadata and logging.

The two simple ways to import footage/clips

This one’s easy:

  • File>Import…, or
  • Use the Media Browser

The first option is as simple as it gets, and Premiere Pro does whatever it has to do once you select your clip.

The second option is slightly more hands on. If you’re having trouble with the first method, try the second one. Once you select the folder your footage rests in, you can import it (Windows – Right Click). The additional option you have is to choose the file type, under the heading: View As…

Most of the time, Adobe Premiere Pro will recognize the file type (codecs) automatically and will only give you limited options to choose from. If you’re having trouble here, you might have inadvertently left out some files from your camera folder.

As a general rule of thumb: Copy ALL the files from the media folder (written to the media card while recording) to your source footage drive.

These files might not always be useful, but are hardly detrimental. And, they don’t take up much space. Don’t get lazy.

In Part Two we’ll look at how to choose the right Project Settings, and some common import errors and glitches.

Exclusive Bonus: Download my free guide (with examples) on how to find the best camera angles for dialogue scenes when your mind goes blank.

4 replies on “How to Import Video into Adobe Premiere Pro (Part One): The Basics”

  1. Thank you for getting me a leg up as a beginner. I have been using Premier Elements on a PC but this is my first adventure with my own Mac.

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