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Best Practices: Export faster

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    11. Best Practices: Export faster
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The last step in production – the thing that stands between the final edit and the final delivery – is export. Nobody gets to go home until the export is finished so editors need the final export to go out as fast as possible

Exporting is about compression – while preserving as much of the image detail as possible. By default, Premiere Pro prioritizes quality for exports, but that doesn’t mean your exports have to be slower. This Best Practices guide covers features in Premiere Pro (and Adobe Media Encoder) that can streamline your overall workflow and ensure faster exports with better Previews, and Smart Rendering of key codecs. If your system supports it, you can also use hardware acceleration for H.264 and HEVC (H.265), two very processor-intensive formats.

What the Timeline tells you

Timeline colors tell the story. The thin colored line along the top of the Timeline in Premiere Pro indicates what’s happening underneath with that part of the sequence. If the line is yellow, that means your content is accelerated by the Mercury Playback Engine (a combination of software and GPU technologies). If it’s red, Premiere Pro is solely using CPU processing, for example for an After Effects composition. If the thin line is green, that means that Previews have been generated for this section of your sequence. 

Green, red, and yellow lines on the timeline indicating the status
Green, red, and yellow lines on the timeline indicating the status

How to create Previews

Premiere Pro renders sections of your sequence when you create a Preview, which you can do by choosing Sequence  > Render Effects In to Out (or Render In to Out). “Render as you go” means creating Preview files. These take a moment to generate, so do it when you’re taking a break from editing. Previews can provide smoother playback, but there’s an extra payoff when exporting.

Using Previews to speed up export

Premiere Pro’s default Previews are optimized for playback, not image quality. If you select Use Previews in the Export mode, Premiere Pro will apply the Preview render files for your export. That may give you a speed boost, but you will be re-compressing an already compressed file, which is not ideal for quality. You can get the best of both worlds (editing performance and optimal export quality) by choosing a high-quality codec for your Previews.

Use previews for your exports
Use previews for your exports

Changing Previews to Mezzanine codecs

When using previews on export, it’s important to make sure they’re robust and of high enough quality. By default, previews are disposable renders designed to generate quickly. 

To create high quality previews, open your Sequence Settings and change the Editing to Custom. Then switch to an appropriate Mezzanine codec. By doing so, the Preview files are now of high quality – usable for export. 

As an example, our Best Practices: Create your own project templates, has a series of sequences that are set to ProRes 422 for Previews.

This is similar in concept to choosing to Transcode on ingest. See our Best Practices: Working with native formats for detailed instructions on setting up ingest workflows.

Smart Rendering of codecs

If your Preview codec matches your output codec, your export time can shrink from minutes to seconds.

Generally, whether or not there are previews, when media is exported, it gets re-compressing. Premiere Pro and Adobe Media Encoder do a great job of preserving image quality. By default, the source footage and effects are compressed to the final output codec, transforming media as little as possible.

Using high-quality Previews for export, removes the need to recalculate the encoding, at a negligible impact on quality. This is key in fast turnaround workflows. When you create high-quality Previews with the same codec as your output codec, Adobe Premiere Pro intelligently speeds up your workflow: instead of recompressing your media, Premiere Pro copies the already computed Previews into the output file.

Technically, Premiere has the capability of doing this type of file copy when sources are untouched and merely edited (shortened) and output to the same codec. An example would be XDCam originals, edited (no effects) and then output to XDCam. But today that almost never happens: at the very least, every clips gets a little color correction. Since every clip will get an effect – the source codec no longer matters, as long as the Preview files and output codecs match.

 Smart Rendering is available for a range of formats, both mezzanine codecs and key cameras codecs. For a full list, see Smart rendering.

Accelerating h264/HEVC (H.265) output

High compatibility distribution formats, such as H.264and HEVC (H.265) work on a very wide range of devices and platforms. They offer fast upload times in relation to their file size and that’s why they are preferred codecs for YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and others.

But that versatility come with a cost: time. The H.264 and HEVC are processing-intensive formats which place high demands on your system.

Premiere Pro supports Intel Quick Sync Video technology, available in Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs for hardware-based decoding and encoding of H.264 and HEVC files. Decoding means smoother playback; encoding means faster exports (See Premiere Pro hardware acceleration requirements).

To use hardware encoding for H.264 and HEVC files during export, select that option in the Export mode. If your hardware does not support it, you will only see Software Encoding.

Using hardware encoding
Using hardware encoding

The results will be significantly faster in hardware encoding. The only caveat? Hardware encoding is generally limited to CBR and 1 pass VBR. Generally, data rates need to be slightly higher to ensure quality – meaning slightly larger files.  

About these Best Practice guides

Adobe helps you get to the finish line faster. Learn more in our new Best Practices guides for video editing and production.


  • Joe Newcombe is head of sales and marketing at Support Partners, a system integrator for broadcasters and post-production facilities. He’s based in the UK. 
  • Jeff Greenberg is a consultant, master trainer, and author of Adobe Premiere Pro Studio Techniques. 
  • Maxim Jago is a Paris-based filmmaker, master trainer, and author of Premiere Pro Classroom in a Book. 
  • Alex Macleod is a production professional, broadcasting consultant, and owner of Media City Training in the UK. 
  • Jarle Leirpoll is a filmmaker, editor, and Master trainer based in Norway. He is also the author of The Cool Stuff in Premiere Pro
  • Ian Robinson is a broadcast motion designer, and regular Adobe MAX trainer. Ian is based in Silverthorne, Colorado.


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