Learning to Use Adobe Premiere Pro "On the Job"

When I got my new Canon M50 camera with the intent of recording art process videos and growing my YouTube channel, the looming dread of having to learn a more robust editing tool like Adobe Premiere Pro weighed heavily on my mind. I have a bit of experience in iMovie, but Adobe Premiere Pro has way more features that allow for better color control and customization, which is why most of my favorite vloggers prefer it. But like all Adobe software, it has a steep learning curve.

I fully admit that I struggle with giving up on things when I’m not instantly adept at them. I easily saw this as being just another project that would cause me to “chimp out” and give up out of frustration.

Just freaking WORK, damn youOO-OO-AH-AH!

Just freaking WORK, damn youOO-OO-AH-AH!

To prevent this, I had to really mentally train myself to be okay with imperfect, and to focus on only one thing at a time. Instead of having a single video with perfect audio, perfect cuts, and perfect color in one video, I’d focus on getting better at only one or a couple of those things per video so I could better understand the tool and not take on too much at once. Does this mean I’ll have videos I’m less than happy with? Sure. And believe me, it pains me. But will I have learned something in the process? You bet.

Here’s what I learned with each of the videos I’ve edited in Premiere so far.

Video 1: Long Watercolor Process Video: Benjamouse Franklin

This was both my first art process video with the new camera, and my first video edited in Premiere. Here you can see a previous video I did with my overhead webcam and iMovie for comparison. 

Skills Learned

  • Introduction to Premiere. The biggest challenge was figuring out the layout of the tools and get familiar with the timeline. This was by far the biggest hurdle, but watching a bunch of YouTube tutorials helped.

  • Color Grading. The lighting in my work area isn’t the greatest, and is something I’m currently in the process of fixing. The video I linked above shot with a webcam highlights the yellow tint to the footage that I tend to get in my work area, so color grading and adjustments would allow me to have more control over this. Considering this video was filmed at night with only my overhead lamp for illumination, it was a perfect opportunity to test this out in an extreme situation. 

  • Audio Looping. Since this is such a long video, I had to loop my chosen music quite a bit. My goal was to have music for the full duration of the video, but not have it simply run through the entire song and start over again. I had to get creative with duplicating portions of the track and matching them up where it made sense. 

Challenges

  • Length. I have no concept of how long an art process video should be. Examples on YouTube can be anywhere from 3 minutes to an hour! I wasn’t sure what would be considered valuable to my viewers at this stage, so I opted for longer. I could always cut it down another time.

  • Set Design. I set up my desk all wrong from the start. My paints were on the opposite side of my canvas, meaning my arm was constantly crossing over blocking the view of the camera. Most people aren’t aware of how many times they dip into their paint, but I am. I am aware. This is because I had to time a billion micro-cuts to eliminate as much “arm time” as possible. Lesson learned for the future!

Look. At all. The cuts. Oh. My God.

Look. At all. The cuts. Oh. My God.

Video 2: Snorkeling in La Jolla Cove

This was not my Canon M50 but a GoPro Hero 3 I was gifted by a Twitter follower. I’d never used this camera before, and ended up starting on hard mode by taking it on a local snorkeling tour I had booked when I had company visiting. 

Skills Learned

  • Titles. Since there’s no voice over, this was my opportunity to play with adding text captions to all of the places in the cove that we visited. 

  • Speed Ramps. There’s quite a bit of speeding up being done in the Benjamouse Franklin video, but doing the same for this video was a bit more complex, especially as speeding up too much in the surface shots would make the waves look weird. This is especially the case near Clam’s Cave, as I hung back quite a bit out of fear of being smashed up against the rocks trying to avoid kayakers in heavy surf. Speed through the anxiety, that’s my approach!

Challenges

  • Stabilization. To stabilize the shakier footage, I used the Warp Stabilizer tool. This, unfortunately, can only do so much. I mean it’s GoPro footage in choppy surf, so shakiness is to be expected, but I definitely learned its limitations when editing this video.

  • Dark Footage. The footage I got in the cave was, unfortunately, super dark. Adjustment layers can help a little, but I had to actually lighten the footage iself the best I could using curves and other adjustment tools. Fortunately for me, I’m familiar with doing this in Photoshop, so the skills transferred.

Video 3: A Look Inside My Studio

Patreon had a #ShareYourStudio hashtag happening so I thought it would be a good opportunity to film a vlog-style video. I had 2 hours to kill before guitar practice, so filming this was fortunately not too involved.

Skills Learned

  • Title Animations. While the snorkeling video had titles, this time I wanted to animate them swooping into the frame, as well as following certain objects around as I introduced them. 

  • Applying Color Grading LUTs. A LUT (Look Up Table) is a color profile you can add to footage. You can spend all of your time individually color correcting clip by clip, or you can make or download a profile with the color scheme and adjustments you want that you can drop onto your footage. It’s much faster! One of my favorite vloggers, Matti Haapoja, has a lot of tutorials on color grading, as well as LUT downloads, so I used one of his. 

Challenges

  • Lighting. The lighting in our house is very weird, in that the main room where I filmed the intro is very cave-like, whereas my studio is well-lit. Applying the LUT and keeping the color palette “matchy matchy” was difficult, and I still think parts look either washed out or too dark. But that’s why I’m doing this; to learn.

Video 4: Snorkeling in Rose Island, Bahamas

This is where all of the previous skills I learned really came together, especially:

  • Animated Titles

  • Color Grading and LUTs

  • Stabilization

So for this GoPro video I shot while on vacation, I coasted on all of my previous learnings and focused on developing only one skill.

Skills Learned

  • Pairing Footage with Musical Cues. Cutting the footage to the beat of the music, as well as matching footage with the musical “mood” were my main focus. Some parts I’m especially proud of are how the drumbeat matches when I’m scratching the pig’s head, the beat when its walking away, the entire dreamy eagle ray sequence, and the swimming pig with the accompanying guitar walk down. 

Challenges

  • None. For the first time since using Adobe Premiere Pro, I didn’t run into any frustrating roadblocks when making this video. 

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to keep track of my progress as I continue to learn! On my channel, you’ll get to see:

  • Art Process Videos (both long and short)

  • Vlogs

  • Artist Q&A

I also have plans to do art supply reviews in the near future.

So, despite myself, I consider taking a “baby steps” approach to learning Premiere a success. Of course there are things I’d like to change in each one, but that’s true for everyone who makes anything. The important thing is that I went at my own pace and didn’t give up. In the grand scheme of things, it only took me making four videos to feel reasonably comfortable with the program and the process. At this rate I’m going to be unstoppable. 

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