The Adobe Premiere Pro timeline for Final Cut Pro users
Editors spend so much time in the timeline it's worth an in-depth look
By Scott Simmons | November 07, 2011
When working in a non-linear editing application the editor spends many, many hours working in the timeline. Boy do we spend a lot of hours working in the timeline. If you're moving from Final Cut Pro 7 to Adobe Premiere Pro 5.5 then you won't be totally lost as there are a lot of similarities between the two application's timelines. But there are some important differences as well. Let's take a closer look at the Premiere Pro timeline if you're moving from FCP 7. Did I mention how much time editors spend working in the timeline?
A basic Premiere Pro CS5.5 timeline.
A basic Final Cut Prop 7 timeline.
A few timeline basics.
The first thing you'll probably notice is that they look similar in that both are track based. There are video and audio tracks just waiting for media. Both applications have a "patch bay" on the left for routing source media into the desired tracks. In PPro the source side media patches don't disconnect or break like they do in FCP7 but rather you turn them on and off with a click, which highlights when the tracks are on.
The PPro patch bay on the left looks different from that of FCP but their functionality is similar.
Drag the source patches on the left (that is the V or the A) up or down to route the source media to the desired destination tracks in the timeline. Or right+click on a track name and choose Assign Source video or audio. It's important to note that on the Program side (or in the timeline itself) PPro doesn't have the tiny Toggle Auto Select indicators that FCP7 has to toggle tracks on and off for things like IN to OUT selections. Instead click the Video 1, Video 2 button itself to turn a track on or off. Active tracks are highlighted in a lighter gray.
Turning video tracks on and off for targeted editing and IN to OUT selection is as easy as clicking the track names.
The other buttons and switches will be easily understood by the incoming FCP user. The eyeball is Toggle Track Output which turns the entire track on and off. Toggle Sync Lock attempts to keep all tracks in sync as long as the symbol is turned on. Turn it off and sync isn't maintained for those off tracks when an operation like an Insert edit is performed. Finally Toggle Track Lock locks each track with an overlay and doesn't allow any edit operations on the track.
Each track has toggle switches to toggle different types of functionality.
Expanding track heights to reveal keyframing "rubber bands", audio waveforms, etc.
When looking at a PPro timeline for the first time one thing that you might notice are the disclosure triangles on each track. Twirl each of those down to see more detail about that individual track.
In the above image Video 1, Audio 2 and 3 have been "twirled down" to show clip frames and audio waveforms.
For video tracks, this is how you can reveal clip thumbnails. For audio tracks this will reveal waveforms. This obviously makes the tracks taller but track height isn't limited to that size. Like FCP7 you can click and drag in the divider line just above a track heading to adjust the size of a track. But the disclosure triangle must be open to resize a track height.
If you look closely at each clip in the timeline you'll see each one has a small pop-up menu that lists a specific parameter for each clip. This reveals keyframable rubber-banding for different parameters of a clip.
Clicking the Show keyframes button lets you choose the type of keyframes to display as well as hiding them altogether.
In FCP7 the rubberbands represent opacity for video clips and level for audio. In PPro you can choose to keyframe and animate a number of different parameters for many items of a clip, including filters and effects. We'll see this below.
Stereo audio tracks
Probably the biggest thing that trips up a new to PPro user the first time they toss a piece of media, with audio, into a PPro timeline (especially if it is being dragged directly into the timeline) is it often doesn't go right into A1 or A2 as expected but rather tries to land in track far below. This is most likely because it's a stereo track and you have only a mono timeline â¦ or some variation on that problem.
PPro allows for both stereo, mono and 5.1 audio tracks in the timeline. This is easy to see when using the Add Tracks dialog box:
You can also see that PPro can use 5.1 audio.
When these different types of tracks are added they are also identified by icons in the audio panel of the timeline. These icons are small but they're there.
The different type of audio tracks are identified by the audio track icons. The above image has 3 stereo tracks, then 2 mono tracks and then one 5.1 surround track.
Premiere Pro also includes the ability to add and use Submix tracks for more indepth audio mixing. They are added via the Add Tracks dialog box and mixed just like other audio tracks. The use of Submix tracks are beyond the scope of this article but you can read about them here.
In addition to Submix tracks PPro has a master audio track as well that's handy as a master tool for audio mixing. It can be keyframed as well as adjusted overall. It can come in handy when it's time to normalize audio as this Adobe tutorial shows.
Audio mixing can be more in-depth in PPro than FCP. PPro allows for adjusting of both gain and volume. In addition you can adjust levels and keyframe audio on both a clip basis as well as a track basis. Exactly what you're working on in the timeline can be chosen by the Show Keyframes popup in each track.
In the above image Audio 1 and 2 are both showing Clip Keyframes where Audio 3 is showing Track Keyframes. Notice the yellow rubber band of Audio 3 that extends into the filler where there is no audio. The little left and right arrows are used for navigating to and from keyframes as well as adding them.
It's worth studying the Premiere Pro help files for adjusting volume levels to get a more in-depth idea of exactly what all you can do with audio in the PPro timeline.
There are several settings in the PPro preferences that are worth noting as they have a direct effect on the timeline. The first is a very handy setting called Timeline Playback Auto Scrolling.
This preference gives some very nice options for how the timeline behaves during playback.
When the Page Scroll preference is turned on the timeline will automatically jump forward to the next region when the playhead reaches the right edge of the screen during playback. The playback continues and doesn't stop. This is very helpful when watching down a long edit as you can keep the timeline zoomed in to see good detail but don't have to do anything to keep the playhead in sight. I rarely turn this option off.
The other option is Smooth Scroll which essentially leaves the playhead stationary and scrolls the timeline behind. It's a very impressive option when clients are around but I've seen it bog down on complex timelines so I opt for the Page Scroll.
A second preference to note is audio scrubbing.
Audio scrubbing is toggled in the Audio preferences.
It's a simple off or on option for audio scrubbing but it's important to note for FCP7 users that it's located in the preferences and not a button on the timeline or the keyboard. I turn audio scrubbing on and off all the time during an edit so I wish this audio scrubbing was more easily accessible. While you can access the Audio Preferences via a mappable keyboard shortcut I would prefer a keyboard shortcut that is mappable to turn the audio scrubbing on and off without having to click a check box in the preferences.
Up Next: Keyframing in the timeline, the big submenu and three buttons.
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