KeyframesPremiere Feature 02

An Introduction to Using Keyframes in Premiere Pro

Working with keyframes in Adobe Premiere Pro is quite easy once you learn a few of the basics. And thankfully, learning the basics takes no time at all.

Knowing how to add and manipulate keyframes will add a new collection of tools to your video editing toolbox. It’s an important skillset to have, and will help you stay competitive in a rapidly changing industry.

Overview

In this Premiere Pro editing tutorial, I’m going to show you how keyframes can bring life to your project and why you would want to use them.

In this particular project I’ll be working with four still images inside of Premiere Pro—a bus, a neighborhood, a city, and a background scene. I want to create the illusion that the bus is driving down the street while the neighborhood and city pass by in the background. Let’s see how we can achieve this in Premiere Pro with some simple keyframing.

Figure 01: The four still images we'll be using to create this animation

Figure 01: The four still images we’ll be using to create this animation

First of All, What is a Keyframe?

Keyframes allow you to bring an attribute to life over a period of time. Think of when you zoom in on an object, or transition with a fade up from black. These are all things you can accomplish with keyframes. Essentially, you are creating an animation when you adjust these attributes. And to create an animation, you generally need two or more keyframes—one to start the animation, and one to end it.

Figure 02: Keyframes in Premiere Pro

Figure 02: Keyframes in Premiere Pro

Let’s take my bus image as an example. To bring the bus to life and give it the illusion of movement, I need to animate the Position property. First, I need to decide the length of time my bus will be moving and for how long. Then I can simply add two Position keyframes, one at the beginning of this time and one at the end. There are two places in Adobe Premiere Pro where I can add keyframes—the Effect Controls panel and the Timeline. Let’s take a closer look at each.

Working with Keyframes

Effect Controls Panel

To access this panel, go to Window > Effect Controls. Here you can view various attributes of your asset, including Position, Rotation, and Opacity information. You can also see properties of any specific Effects you’ve added to your layer. Just to the right of the properties section is an area where you can view and manipulate keyframes via a timeline layout.

Figure 03: The Effect Controls Panel

Figure 03: The Effect Controls Panel

Some attributes are next to a Stopwatch icon. This is the Toggle Animation button, and activating it allows you to add keyframes to that particular attribute. Once you have keyframes applied, you can navigate between them with the arrow buttons. Add and remove keyframes by pressing the button between the navigation arrows.

The Timeline

Another way to add, view, and manipulate keyframes is via the Timeline panel. Double click in the video header to expand a video track. Once expanded you’ll notice three buttons to aid you with keyframing—Go to Previous Keyframe, Add-Remove Keyframe, and Go to Next Keyframe. You’ll also notice a white horizontal line spanning the length of your clip. This is how you view keyframes in the Timeline panel. To change the attribute you’re viewing, Ctrl+click on the clip’s FX badge.

Figure 04: You can add, view and manipulate keyframes directly on the timeline

Figure 04: You can add, view and manipulate keyframes directly on the timeline

Make the Bus Drive

Now that we know how to work with keyframes in Adobe Premiere Pro, let’s bring this bus scene to life with as few keyframes as possible. My sequence is five seconds in length, and I need movement throughout all of those five seconds. I want the bus to drive the entire time, with the neighborhood and city slowly moving by in the background.

To make this work I need to layer my clips appropriately. I’ll put the bus layer on the top, the neighborhood as the second layer, the city just under that, and finally the background at the bottom. I’m layering them in this order to help create the illusion of depth. Now let’s animate these layers.

Figure 05: Our four source layers on the timeline

Figure 05: Our four source layers on the timeline

First, I’ll animate the city in the background. I can bring the city layer to life with two simple Position keyframes—one at the first frame and one at the last. I’ll have the city layer positioned just to the right of center for the first keyframe, and just to the left for the last. Once the keyframes are in place, my city layer has a nice slow movement from right to left.

Figure 06: Animating the background

Figure 06: Animating the background

I want the neighborhood layer to appear much closer, as if the bus is passing right by it. To achieve this I’ll again add two basic Position keyframes—one at the first frame and one at the last. Only this time I’ll have the layer move all the way through the screen. The neighborhood will start off screen and end off screen.

Figure 07: Animating the neighborhood

Figure 07: Animating the neighborhood

For the last step I need to give my bus some movement. I want it to look like it’s motoring along, bobbing down the highway. To do this I’ll add a Position keyframe every five frames, moving the bus slightly up and down with each keyframe. I can speed up the animation process by copying and pasting the keyframes in the Effect Controls panel. Finally, I’ll add two Position keyframes to the bus’s Anchor Point, making it slowly moving forward as it bobs.

Figure 08: Animating the bus

Figure 08: Animating the bus

Voilà! Our animation is complete. Now our bus slightly bobs up and down, with the neighborhood and city passing by in the background. The movement of each layer works together to create the illusion that there’s a foreground, middleground, and background.

Figure 09: The final keyframed animation

Figure 09: The final keyframed animation

Now that you know how to work with keyframes, let’s take a look at a few additional ways to use them.

When to Use Keyframes

Once you learn how to create and manipulate keyframes in Premiere Pro, there are a number of different ways to use them. Create dynamic motion graphics, including main titles and lower third elements.

Figure 10: Using keyframes for dynamic motion graphics

Figure 10: Using keyframes for dynamic motion graphics

Simulate camera movements such as pans, zooms, and handheld shake and bring still images to life with Position and Scale keyframes.

Figure 11: Using keyframes to simulate camera movement

Figure 11: Using keyframes to simulate camera movement

And sweeten your audio with Volume and Pan attributes.

Figure 12: Using keyframes to sweeten audio

Figure 12: Using keyframes to sweeten audio

And these are just a few examples of the possibilities.

Do you have any cool keyframe tips or tricks to share? Comment below and share your tips!

Jason Boone

Boone's short-form documentary work has been featured on National Geographic, Yahoo!, Bing, Fuel, and Current TV. While he's not busy creating tutorials on Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, he vlogs about living as an American expat in Paris.

This Post Has One Comment
  1. How do I do SMOOTH zoom in and zoom out like the old classical documentaries? It always feels robotic the zooms I do with they keyframes

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