In part 2 of our ongoing series of Premiere Pro 1.5 tutorials, learn how to make the most of Premiere Pro’s more efficient ways of adding and manipulating transitions between clips. You’ll learn shortcut keys that speed up your editing, as well as techniques to fine-tune your transitions that work with any of the effects that are available in Premiere Pro 1.5.

First, when you’re dealing with transitions, be sure you have enough footage at the start and end of the clips to allow that clip to play until the end of the transition. So, put more of the clip than you’ll actually need on the timeline before you begin adding transitions. If you don’t do that, when you drag and drop an effect onto two clips, sometimes you’ll get a warning dialog box, saying there’s insufficient material to do a transition.

Here I have the Video 2 track highlit, designating it as the target track. Clicking on any of the other tracks will highlight them instead, or hit Control + or — on the keyboard to change the target track.

There’s a quick and easy way to add a default transition, as well as to designate which transition you’d like to be the default. Open the video transitions folder in the Project window. Click on the Dissolve folder and you’ll notice that the Cross Dissolve is labeled in red, designating it as the default transition. To make any effect the default transition, right-click on a transition, and you’ll see Set Selected as Default Transition. This comes in handy when you want to apply the default transition between clips by navigating to an edit between clips by pressing the Page Up or Page Down key, and then hitting Control D, or another shortcut key if you prefer to customize it. This will apply the default transition to the nearest edit point — you don’t even have to have your CTI (Current Time Indicator) immediately on top of an edit to do this — within one frame will do it. Remember that the default transition is applied to the target track, which you identify by whichever track is highlit in gray on the left side of the timeline (See graphic above). You can change this by clicking on the beginning of a track in the timeline, and the target track will toggle on and off. There are also shortcut keys to change the target track: Control + or — (using the plus or minus key on the keyboard, not the number pad) changes the target video track, while Control Shift + or — changes the target audio track. Also keep in mind that changing the default transition makes this change effective across all your projects, but it doesn’t change any of the default transitions you’ve already applied.

The default transition also comes into play when you want to use the Automate to Sequence command. To use it, just select the clips in the Project window you’d like to use and then in the Project Menu, select Automate to Sequence. A dialog box opens (see graphic below), giving you a choice to use the default transition or not, and also whether to insert this new automated sequence or overwrite it.

So at its most basic level, to apply a transition, you drag the transition from the Project window onto the two clips in the timeline between which you’d like that transition to occur. Now you’ll notice as you’re about to drop that transition between two clips, you can either drop it where the transition covers both clips equally or favors one or the other. By the way, sometimes it helps to zoom into the section where you’re working — do this by pointing your cursor at the area where you’re working and holding the Alt key while scrolling the mouse wheel. After you’ve dropped the dissolve, double click it on the timeline and a dialog box opens where you’ll have lots more control over when and how it happens (see graphic below). So hit your spacebar and see the playback of the transition in real time, and then adjust it to your liking. You’ll notice that the real time playback is especially helpful when you’re deciding when and where your transitions will occur. And here’s one other aesthetic tip: Sometimes you don’t need a transition at all. Oftentimes a simple cut will do. Try it. Make a concerted effort to refrain from getting «dissolve drunk» where you place a dissolve everywhere, to paraphrase our former president Clinton, «Just because you can.» Beware: Unnecessary transitions, like unnecessary zooms, are a telltale mark of a true amateur.

Another helpful tip when you’re working with the effects choices in the Project Window — there’s a place at the top where you can enter text, allowing you to quickly find that transition you’re looking for. Premiere Pro lets you quickly sift through all the effects by simply typing the name of the transition or filter you have in mind. For instance, when you’re looking for a cross dissolve, after typing just the letters c and r,  Premiere narrows it down to a few choices for you. It’s a good time-saving habit to get into when you know the name of the effect you’d like to use.

So pick the transition of your choice — they all work the same way — and we can see what this software can do. Click on that transition and apply it by dragging it from the Project window and dropping it between two clips on the timeline. Now we’re going to adjust the transition. Take the mouse and click on the transition on the timeline. If you now click on the tab that says Effects Controls in the Effects Window, it will display the parameters of a selected transition. This also happens the same way if you click on a clip — it’ll show the intrinsic properties of that clip, and the same goes for a filter or a transition. When you click on a transition, the Effects Control shows you a miniature, zoomed-in display of the timeline, broken down into an A/B mode of display. This gives you more-detailed view that’s similar to the way the timeline looked in earlier versions of Premiere. As you can see in the graphic below, the green stripe at the top is the outgoing clip, and the green stripe at the bottom represents the incoming clip, and between them is a representation of the transition. You can adjust the placement of the transition by clicking and dragging on that transition, where you’re changing the position of the transition relative to the two clips. Look down at the timeline below and you’ll see that it follows along with your adjustments. Likewise, you can adjust the duration of the dissolve by dragging either edge of the transition on the timeline or in the Effects Controls. But you can also change the duration by typing a number into the dialog box in the Effects Controls, or dragging the Hot Text (the small numbers, where you can drag your mouse left or right to make the number higher or lower, a la Adobe After Effects), which reduces the duration for the transition equally, taking equal numbers of frames from the beginning and end of a clip.

Notice also in the Effects Controls window that the clips have light green and dark green sections. The light green indicates the video that’s currently in use by the clip, while the dark green indicates how much of the clip is available to you but is not currently in use. So looking at these colors, you can immediately tell how much footage you have left over after your trimming. If you stretch your transition beyond the end of the available media, you’ll get what Adobe calls «danger stripes» which tells you that you’ve gone beyond the amount of available media. It will still play, but it takes the first frame available from the incoming clip and repeats it, giving you a freeze frame.

Now, once you’re comfortable adjusting your transitions in the Effect Controls window, page Up and Page Down to move forward to your next transitions and adjust them, too. You can jump through your entire production this way, tweaking each transition you’ve used in no time. This is particularly useful when you have quick edits which appear almost on top of each other.