Generally speaking, the expression “to throw a wrench in the works” is not a good thing.
That is, unless you are editing in Adobe Premiere Pro. Then the wrench icon is an invaluable tool for customizing how your media and metadata is displayed.
The wrench icons in Premiere Pro are also known as panel settings. Five panels have wrench icons: the Source, Program, and Reference monitors, the Timeline panel, and in Premiere Pro 2015.3 there is a new wrench in the Media Browser. The latter opens the new Ingest Settings which is part of the new proxy workflows. Until the release of 2015.3, the only difference between the wrenches was that the Timeline wrench called itself “Timeline Display Settings” while the other wrenches just said “Settings...”. Except for in the new Media Browser wrench, this little discrepancy in the Timeline wrench description reminds us what the wrenches control: display. In general, the wrench settings modify how clips or sequences appear in a panel.
This post is a comprehensive reference for all of the wrench settings in Premiere Pro. However, I haven’t included the Reference monitor, because all its settings are identical to the Program monitor’s. Also, this post doesn’t include the Media Browser wrench since it is specific to Premiere Pro 2015.3 and is only a shortcut to the Ingest Settings tab under the Project Settings menu. Because the Source and Program monitors share most of the same settings, I’ve organized this post into shared settings first, and then panel-specific settings.
Source and Program Wrench Settings
Gang Source and Program
This setting links the playheads in the Source and Program monitors at their current positions. They are not synced. Instead, the relationship between the playheads is based on the distance between them. For example, if the Source is at 00:00:02:00 and the Program is two seconds ahead at 00:00:04:00, when the Source is at 00:00:04:00 the Program will be at 00:00:06:00. The two-second difference remains constant unless the Program is 00:00:02:00 or below, then the Source will be 00:00:00:00 until the Program goes back over 00:00:02:00.
- Pro Tip: Gang the Source and Program at 00:00:00:00 and scrub through different versions of a sequence to compare edits.
This is the default view of a video clip or sequence.
Alpha refers to transparency. If your footage has an alpha channel, this setting will show the image as a grayscale alpha matte with the dark areas being transparent.
To learn more about alpha, visit Compositing, alpha channels, and adjusting clip opacity in Premiere Pro
VR Video (Premiere Pro 2015.3 only)
Premiere Pro 2015.3 introduced new VR video workflows which are primarily accessed through a new setting under the Program and Source wrenches. Enabling the VR Video setting toggles the VR Video display, giving editors the ability to preview equi-rectangular footage natively in Premiere Pro. You can also click-and-drag around the monitor, similar to viewing 360° video on YouTube.
Under VR Video > Settings… you can select whether to view your VR media as monoscopic or stereoscopic, as well as change the Captured and Monitor angle of view.
If you want to enable VR Video faster, you can add the Toggle VR Video Display button to the transport controls (see below for Transport Controls).
To learn more about working with VR video in Premiere Pro visit Adobe Premiere Pro Help | Support for VR Workflows.
The following three settings show how many fields of the interlaced footage will be displayed.
To learn more about interlaced footage in Premiere Pro, visit Learning interlacing and field order in Premiere Pro.
This menu is critical for achieving real-time playback and optimizing Premiere Pro’s performance, especially when working with highly compressed or UHD footage. Dropping the playback resolution will dramatically decrease the possibility of dropping frames. That said, you can more quickly adjust this in the Select Playback Resolution dropdown menu located immediately to the left of the wrench icon.
Unlike Playback Resolution, you can only change Paused Resolution under the wrench settings. Whatever your reason for not having full resolution on a paused frame, you can make that selection here.
High Quality Playback
This feature was hidden amongst a bunch of bug fixes in the 2015.2 release. According to the release notes, Premiere Pro playback has a “slightly softer” look compared to paused, even when playback is at full resolution. Enabling this feature ensures the highest quality of playback possible. Be aware that this setting is more taxing on your system and could result in dropped frames. Consider rendering previews prior to enabling High Quality Playback.
This setting will loop playback between 00:00:00:00 and the final frame of a clip or sequence. Adjusting the Timeline Work Area does not affect loop playback; set In and Out points to define the loop region.
- Pro Tip: By default, the keyboard shortcut for Loop is CMD+L. Add the Loop button to the transport controls (see below for Transport Controls) to see when Loop is active.
This setting only applies when viewing a Premiere Pro caption or when viewing a clip with an embedded captions sidecar file. Under the Captions Display flyout menu you can toggle captions on and off and access the Captions Display Settings. Here you can change the captioning standard as well as select which stream you want to view.
To learn more about Closed Captions, visit Learn to work with captions in Premiere Pro.
Transport Controls are the buttons beneath the actual monitor area. You can customize these buttons by clicking the Button Editor, which is the Plus sign in the bottom right of the panel. Drag and drop the controls you want to be shown in the Transport Controls bar or choose Reset Layout to restore the default buttons.
- Pro Tip: All the transport controls can be assigned to keyboard shortcuts. Hiding the Transport Controls gives you more screen real estate.
Audio Time Units
Video is recorded in frames and, generally speaking, these frames are sufficient for working with audio in Premiere Pro. However, there are times when viewing or editing audio requires greater precision. Audio is recorded in audio samples, which are much smaller units compared to video frames. Switching to Audio Time Units allows subframe audio adjustments such as editing dialogue between words.
If a clip or sequence contains markers, they will appear above the Time Ruler by default. Markers are excellent for identifying important events or beats in your footage.
To learn more about using markers, visit Using markers in the Premiere Pro timeline - Adobe Support.
- Pro Tip: Check out Vashi Nedomansky’s post Extending Premiere Pro Markers for a helpful tip and a real-world example of using markers in an editing workflow.
Time Ruler Numbers
This setting controls the timecode displayed above the timeline. Time Ruler Numbers are based on the timecode of the clip or sequence, whether it’s 29.97 Drop-Frame, 29.97 Non Drop-Frame, etc. The Time Display Format of a clip or sequence can be changed by right-clicking the clip or sequence in the Project panel and selecting Modify > “Timecode…”.
Drop Frame Indicator
This feature will alert you when Premiere Pro drops any frames. When enabled, the Dropped Frame Indicator will appear on the left side of the Transport Controls. The indicator color will turn from green to yellow when dropped frames are detected. Hovering over the indicator shows exactly how many frames were dropped.
This setting activates Safe Margins. These are onscreen guides to ensure important action or text stays within a specific area so as not to get cropped by some displays. This is especially important for some broadcast deliverables. Standard action-safe is 10% and title-safe is 20%. But you can change this under Project Settings > General.
This setting turns on the Transparency Grid, a white and gray checkerboard (similar to that in After Effects) seen beneath transparent areas of an image. This setting is particularly helpful when the transparency is hard to see, for example, in a gradient.
Edit Cameras applies to multi-camera sequences. When viewing a multi-camera sequence, Edit Cameras will open a window where the cameras can be disabled or reordered. Note that the camera that is currently “live” cannot be disabled in the Edit Cameras window.
Overlays are onscreen text with helpful information such as timecode, clip name, sequence name, etc. This setting toggles the Overlays on and off based on your Overlay Settings.
Premiere Pro makes it easy to customize overlays by providing dropdown menus for each part of the screen: top, bottom, left, right. Simply select the metadata you wish to view, where you want to view it, and save it as a preset.
To learn more about overlays visit Monitor overlays in Premiere Pro.
Open Source in Timeline
This setting only applies to sequences. When active, the sequence in the Source Monitor will open up in the Timeline panel and the playheads in both panels will move in sync. This is no different from how the Timeline and Program monitor normally behave and function. It is easy to see when the Source is open in the Timeline because the Timeline playhead will turn red and you’ll see “(Source Monitor)” on the sequence name in the Timeline panel.
- Pro Tip: Open Source in Timeline is an essential step in proper Pancake Timeline editing, according to Vashi Nedomansky, credited as the originator of the Pancake Timeline. That’s not to say that drag and drop editing from one sequence to the other is wrong, it’s just not how the Pancake Timeline was intended to be used. Only when the Source sequence is opened in the Timeline can traditional three- or four-point editing be performed, driven 100% by the keyboard.
This shows the audio waveform of the clip or sequence. Create a keyboard shortcut if you find yourself switching to audio waveform view often.
Gang to Reference Monitor
The Reference monitor is a secondary viewing monitor in Premiere Pro. The Reference monitor is used for frame-by-frame comparison, typically during color correction. (Note, the Reference monitor does not support continuous playback, only frame-by-frame.) Turn on this setting to link the playheads between the Program and Reference monitors.
When a multi-camera sequence is open in the timeline, this setting shows all the cameras with a yellow bounding box highlighting the currently selected camera. Click on the other video streams to switch cameras.
To learn more about working with multi-camera sequences, visit Create and edit a multi-camera sequence in Premiere Pro.
Timecode Overlay During Edit
Turning on this setting will show the clip timecodes on the incoming and outgoing frames during a trim.
This setting turns on Mercury Transmit, a software interface that Adobe uses to send video to external monitors, e.g. AJA, Blackmagic Design, Bluefish444, and Matrox. This is the setting for sending the Program monitor signal to another display for, say, a client or producer/director. Mercury Transmit is not GPU accelerated and should not be confused with the Mercury Playback Engine inside Premiere Pro.
Learn more at Details of video preview with Mercury Transmit.
Multi-Camera Audio Follows Video
Enabling this setting means that audio playback from a multi-camera clip is based on the camera selection. Do this to reference the scratch audio from a camera, assuming production sound was not recorded directly in the camera. By default, the audio track selection remains constant when switching between cameras in a multi-camera sequence. This is usually preferred when production sound was recorded separately.
Show Multi-Camera Preview Monitor
The Multi-Camera Preview Monitor, not to be confused with the Multi-Camera view, shows the current selected camera in a multi-camera sequence. Think of this as the Program monitor within the Program monitor for your multi-camera sequence. This is the default view, but you must be in Multi-Camera view in order to enable the Multi-Camera Preview Monitor.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the Timeline wrench is the anomaly amongst the wrenches; it doesn’t share any settings with the other wrenches. However, its settings are based on the same principle: controlling how clips and sequences appear in the Timeline panel.
The following image shows the three options for customizing the information displayed on video clips in the Timeline.
Show Video Thumbnails (Yellow highlight)
This setting shows the initial frame of a video clip as a thumbnail on the clip itself. Tracks must be expanded in order to show thumbnails.
- Pro tip: Double clicking in the track header area quickly expands the track.
By default, video thumbnails appear at the beginning of a clip. In the Timeline pop-up menu, the three stacked lines to the right of the sequence name, you can change this to Video Head and Tail Thumbnails or Continuous Video Thumbnails. Video thumbnails in the Timeline are a helpful visual to identify the content of a clip. This is especially handy when assembling an edit. However, you may want to turn them off to reduce clutter when keyframing.
- Pro Tip: If you find yourself frequently turning video thumbnails on and off, assign them to a keyboard shortcut.
Show Video Keyframes (Orange highlight)
This setting must be turned on in order to do any keyframing in the Timeline. Like video thumbnails, video tracks must be expanded in order to show keyframes. When enabled, a thin line – sometimes called a rubber band or ribbon – will appear on the clip. The opacity rubberband is shown by default. Right clicking the FX badge in the top left of a clip will reveal other video and effects parameters that can be keyframed in the Timeline. Use the Pen tool to do your keyframing work in the Timeline.
To learn more about keyframing, visit Adding, navigating, and setting keyframes in Premiere Pro.
Show Video Names (Red highlight)
This setting turns video clip names on and off. Besides picture lock, there are not many situations where hiding clip names is actually more helpful.
The following image shows the three options for customizing the information displayed on audio clips in the Timeline.
Show Audio Waveform
Waveforms are like video thumbnails for audio; they help you visualize the sound. Like thumbnails, audio tracks must be expanded to show waveforms. You can change the appearance of audio waveforms in the Timeline pop-up menu, the three stacked lines to the right of the sequence name. By default, Rectified Audio Waveforms is selected. Turning this off reveals the bottom half of the waveform. Then there’s Logarithmic Waveform Scaling, which is also on by default. Logarithmic scaling exaggerates the waveform peaks and valleys to make them easier to see. Both of these settings only change the appearance of the waveform and do not affect amplitude or frequency in any way.
Show Audio Keyframes
The same principles for keyframing video clips in the Timeline applies to audio clips as well. Audio tracks must be expanded in order to show audio keyframes.
Show Audio Names
Same as Show Video Names but for audio clips.
Show Clip Markers
A great thing about clip markers in the Timeline is they can be seen even when tracks are minimized – just make sure you don’t confuse clip markers with Timeline markers. To add a clip marker, select a clip and press M for Add Marker at the playhead. If no clip is selected, pressing M will add a Timeline marker.
Clip markers are an excellent way of adding searchable metadata to your clips. But sometimes they can get in the way, for instance, when you have finished your rough cut and are beginning to finalize. To learn more about markers, visit Using markers in the Premiere Pro timeline.
- Pro Tip: Use the Find window (CMD+F) to search clip markers in the Timeline.
Show Duplicate Frame Markers
Turning on this setting adds colored lines through any duplicate frames in the Timeline. This is useful if you want to see if clips have been used more than once.
Show Through Edits
When the last and first frames of two adjacent clips are sequential, Premiere Pro will show two sets of arrows on either side of the edit point. There may be a reason for the edit; perhaps there is an effect applied to one side of the edit but not the other. But if the edit is unnecessary, you can select the edit point (CMD+Marquee Selection) and press delete to remove the edit point and join the clips.
Show FX Badges
As mentioned above under Show Video Keyframes, there are very tiny FX badges in the top left corner of video and audio clips. This indicator changes color based on specific adjustments made to the clip.
Composite Preview During Trim
This feature shows you the final composited incoming and outgoing frames in the Program Monitor while performing a trim edit. “Composited Preview” means the preview is the final frame of all tracks combined, not just the track you are trimming on. For example, if you add an edit to a clip on track 2 and do a non-ripple trim, Composite Preview During Trim would show the incoming frame from the clip below on track 1. The same also applies to trimming done in Trim Mode.
Minimize All Tracks
Clicking this setting will collapse all expanded tracks in the Timeline.
Expand All Tracks
Clicking this setting will expand all tracks in the Timeline.
- Pro Tip: Use the default keyboard shortcuts SHIFT+= and SHIFT+- to expand and minimize all tracks.
Did you know you can save track height presets? Create track height presets for different projects or for different stages of the editing workflow.
What’s great about track height presets is they can be assigned to any of the nine Track Height Preset keyboard shortcuts. Manage Presets is also where you can delete track height presets you no longer use.
Customize Video Header...
“Video Header” refers to the left side of the track where the track names are visible. In addition to track name, each video track header displays the Toggle Sync Lock, Toggle Track Output (video mute) and Keyframe controls. By default, all the video header controls are visible. In other words, “customize” means removing controls from the default layout.
Customize Audio Header...
Audio track headers have more controls compared to video. The default audio track header controls are identical to video tracks with the addition of the Show Keyframes button. This button switches the keyframe display from Clip Keyframes to either Track Keyframes (Volume and Mute) or Track Panner (Balance). Remember, unlike clip keyframes, track keyframes are not associated with any clip and will not move if audio clips are shifted.
Now you know it all!
Knowing their footage is an editor's greatest asset. These wrench settings in Premiere Pro help editors quickly interpret their footage and give them more knowledge to edit with. In any NLE, the most important settings are the ones that make you faster and more efficient at editing.
Were you already familiar with some of the wrench settings in Premiere Pro? If so, which settings do you use the most and how do they improve your editing workflow? Give us your wrench recommendations in the comments below.
If this is your first time learning about the wrenches, and which settings are editing game-changers? Let us know what wrench you plan to throw into the works!
Sean Schools is Premiere Bro, the Premiere Pro User Blog and Fansite, dedicated to enriching the Premiere Pro editing experience and user community. Sean is a Full Sail University alum and the award-winning video editor for JK Design, a New Jersey advertising agency. Visit the Premiere Bro blog and follow Sean on Twitter and Facebook.