When you edit high-resolution video material such as FullHD and 4K it requires a computer with a lot of processing power to get a smooth playback inside of Premiere Pro.
Things get even worse when you start to pour on effects. Your computer can end up struggling so much, that it gets impossible to do even the most simple tasks. And viewing your edited footage becomes choppy.
Proxies – or proxy files – are the solution to your problems.
What are proxies?
Proxies are lower resolution substitutes for your original high-resolution files.
Proxy files make it possible to edit high-resolution video files on older and slower computers which don’t have the processing power to handle, e.g., 1080p or 4K footage with a lot of effects.
Why you should use proxies
Proxies substitute your original files during editing and playback inside of Premiere Pro.
So instead of having to struggle with a 4K resolution of, e.g., 3,840×2160 pixels, your computer now only has processed a proxy file of, e.g., 960×540 pixels. The lower resolution files make editing and playback much smoother.
When you’re ready to export your final video, Premiere Pro will use the original high-resolution, high-quality files again. That way you can still make a beautiful 4K video for social media or YouTube.
Creating proxy files in Premiere Pro
There are two ways you can create proxies in Premiere Pro: one is when you import your files, and the other is when you’ve already imported your footage.
I find the easiest way is to create the proxy files as you import your files.
However, if you forget it during import or you want to create proxies for some of your footage, you can do it later too.
Creating proxies during file import (ingest)
Here are the steps to set up proxies during file import.
- Press ‘New Project’ when you first open Premiere Pro
- In the ‘Project Settings’ window choose ‘Ingest Settings’
- Put a tick in ‘Ingest’ and choose ‘Create Proxies’
- If you want you can choose to also make a copy of the original files (e.g. to a new directory)
- Choose the destination you want your proxy files to be saved.
- Choose a proxy preset you want your files. Higher resolution proxies require more processing power. So choose a setting your computer can handle.
- The aspect ratio of the proxies should fit the dimensions of your original footage. Luckily, Premiere Pro has already suggested a few presets for you. Under the summary, you can see which frame sizes the proxy preset is compatible with.
- What kind of proxy codec you should choose depends on your original source material:
- ProRes source files = Use ProRes Proxies
- Heavily compressed formats such as XAVC or H.264 = Use CineForm or H.264 proxies
- Import your files. It doesn’t matter how you do this. Whether your drag and drop the files into the Project Panel, press Ctrl+i, go to ‘File’ then navigate to Import, or use the Media Browser, your proxy files will always be created.
Voilà! Adobe Media Encoder will now open and automatically start to create the proxies for you in the background. You can start creating your timeline sequence etc. in the meantime.
Creating proxies from the Media Browser
If you’ve already created your new project, but haven’t imported your media yet, you can still create proxies on import:
- Go to the ‘Media Browser’
- Tick the ‘Ingest’ button
- Click on the ‘Wrench’ tool.
- Now the same ‘Projects Settings’ panel will open, as when you create a new project.
- Follow all the steps mentioned above in the last section of this article to choose the right proxy settings for your project and press ‘Ok’.
- Navigate to the folder on your computer with the original footage you want to import.
- Select the footage and right click on it and choose ‘import’. Now the footage will be imported and proxies will be created.
Creating proxies from the Project Panel
If you have already imported all your files and begun working on your project only to discover, that your computer is struggling, then you can still create your proxies from the ‘Project Panel’:
- In the ‘Project Panel’ select the files you want to create proxies for and right click (Mac: Control-click) on it.
- Navigate to Proxy > Create Proxies
Now a dialogue box appears where you can choose your preferred proxy settings:
- Choose the settings you prefer and press ok.
Proxies will now be created from your original footage, you’ve already imported into your project.
How to edit with proxies in Premiere Pro
After you have created a new sequence in your timeline you can press the “Toggle Proxies” button. When the button is blue it means Premiere Pro is working with the proxy version of the files.
Editing with proxies means you’re doing offline editing. But you can easily switch back and forth by simply clicking the ‘Toggle Proxies’ button. That way you can quickly see how the effects you’ve applied will look on your original footage.
If you have applied a lot of effects and your computer is still struggling to play back the proxies smoothly you can lower the playback resolution.
Changing the playback resolution to a 1/2., 1/4, 1/8 or 1/16th of the original playback resolution might save you a lot of frustration.
How to create your own preset for proxies in Premiere Pro (advanced).
Sometimes the presets for proxies don’t match the aspect ratio of your footage. In that case, you can create your own proxy file presets.
- Open Adobe Media Encoder
- In the ‘Preset Browser’ click on the ‘+’ and choose ‘Create Encoding Preset’
- A dialogue box for your preset settings opens up.
- Give your Encoding Preset a name.
- Choose the settings for your Encoding Preset which we will later use to create the Ingest Preset for your custom proxies.
- Note: Here I’ve created a preset for vertical video which is based on the source footage (for when I’ve shot vertical footage for a client for social media).
- When you’re done press ‘OK’
- Again in the ‘Preset Browser’ click on the ‘+’ and now choose ‘Create Ingest Preset’.
- A dialogue box now opens up.
- First, give your Ingest Preset a name.
- Then under ‘Transfer’ tick…
- ‘Copy files to Destination’ and choose a destination path for your proxy files (this can always be changed later)
- ‘Transcode files to Destination’. Choose the same destination path for your proxy files and choose your Encoding Preset.
- Click OK
- Back in the Preset Browser, right click on your Ingest Preset and choose ‘Export Preset’
- Choose a folder on your computer and save the preset file
- The proxy preset file will have the format .epr
- Open up Premiere Pro
- In the ‘Project Settings’ panel click on ‘Add Ingest Preset…’
- Navigate to your created proxy preset file on your computer and open it
- Click ‘OK’. Now Premiere Pro creates proxies which match the aspect ratio of your original footage when you import your media files.
Proxies vs transcoding your original footage files
If your original files from your camera are in a heavily compressed codec such as h.264 you might consider transcoding your files with an intermediate codec instead.
The difference between creating proxies and transcoding your files is, that proxies are used for offline editing. Proxy files have a low resolution and bit rate. Because of this, you have to reconnect the proxies with the original footage for online editing and grading.
Tip: If you have a good graphics card, you can choose to transcode your files into Cineform because it is GPU accelerated.
When you transcode your original files using an intermediate codec, you transform (transcode) your footage into an edit-friendly high-quality codec. You can use the transcoded files through the whole process – from editing to grading and export.
Working with transcoded files is online editing because when you work with your footage in Premiere Pro, you’re directly editing the transcoded files and you don’t relink to your original camera footage at the end for export.
It is never a good idea to color grade proxy files because of the low quality. But you can easily color grade transcoded files because they are high-quality.
On the other hand, you can quickly toggle back to the original files with the click of a button when working with proxies. And since you’re mostly working with a single frame at a time when you color grade, it is possible if your computer can handle high-resolution footage and the color grading plugins.
In the end, it comes down to which workflow you prefer and what your computer can handle.
I hope you’ve found this guide helpful. If you’ve got any questions or suggestions, please let me know in comment sections below.