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December 19, 2010

Creating Proxy Files in Adobe Premiere CS4 and CS5

Offline Proxy editing for High Definition Video

When working with uncompressed YUV video files like we do at HomeDVD, we use a technique called proxy editing.  Why do this?  Uncompressed HD video files by nature are large and as such present a data handling problem on most computer platforms particularly when editing them.  Did I mention slow as molasses in January.

It simply means that rather editing the large uncompressed files on the NLE timeline, use a lower resolution clone.  Then an average powered computer platform can work in real-time to preview and help when editing and correcting your work.  It is faster and less frustrating to the video editor.

Once the edit is done – this includes the regular raw edits, any compositing, special effects, transitions, titles, synchronizing audio tracks, etc., the chopped up and modified low resolution file is replaced by the higher quality “unedited” equivalent on the time line.  All of the edit  attributes (stored as meta tags and other functions) of the “edit”,  is applied to the uncompressed file, which can then be rendered in its final form with all of the edits, or further tweaked with finer edits.

Of course you can’t escape the final render time for the HD file which can be many hours.  A 400ft real of film for example, digitized in either 8bpp or 10bpp HD YUV 4:2:2 AVI form, rendered after edit can take up to 12 hours (Windows 7 64bit, multi-core 3GHZ, 12GB RAM) to complete.  Hint, don’t use AVI, use Quicktime with the same 8bit or 10bit YUV 4:2:2 attributes and v210 flavour, goes two to three times faster.  Same quality and same file size.  Go figure.

The proxy technique will work in Adobe Premiere CS4 and CS5 (CS3 is possible but needs attention).  I did not check if the other more main stream consumer NLE’s like Sony Vegas Pro, Pinnacle Studio etc., have this feature.

Note (update Aug 2014):
If you have CS5 operating on a fast computer platform in Win 7 and above, you don’t need to do this proxy stuff. Just do your edits on the native uncompressed YUV HD file and export/render/transcode the file format of choice directly. Crunch time is still and issue, but the editing cycle is a lot faster, which is why the proxy thing is great if you have the clunky CS4 version. In CS5 this is not a problem. Hardware assist using Adobe Mercury playback Engine or an approved CUDA based graphics card makes rendering very fast.

Here’s how its done, assuming the raw hi-res uncompressed file is created and ready for edit:

  1. create a working folder for the low res cloned video file(s)
  2. create the low res equivalent cloned file – use Adobe Media Encoder to do this. Import the original hi res file into the Media Encoder and set in low res values for export.  It doesn’t matter the final frame size or the codec used, just choose one that allows frame size changes and variable bit rates.  Quicktime will work.  It would be a good idea to use a smaller resolution like a quarter size and a bit rate that gives reasonable video quality – 6Mb/s to 8Mb/s would do.  You would like to see the color correction and compositing changes at least for the bit rate setting chosen.
  3. Export the low res clone file in the Media Encoder Queue.
  4. Save the the cloned file into its working folder just created. Use the same filename as the hi res file – just to keep things manageable for large projects
  5. Now lets edit.  Create a new project for the HD project in Premiere – use the actual full frame preset.  The smaller frame size of the cloned file will show up as a small window in the preview screens.  That’s ok, just expand the video to fit if you wish.
  6. Import the low res HD file to edit and place in the project window
  7. Drag the file to the time line and do your “edits”
  8. When checked and done, we are ready for the magic,
  9. In the project window right click on the low res file and choose Select Clip > Replace Footage. Browse for the hi res uncompressed equivalent and click Select.

What will happen is that all of the associated edits done on the clone file will be inherited by the new uncompressed file.   Now, just render the “edited” hi rez file using Adobe Media Encoder.  Use the same compression codec/parameters as the original file to yield the final edited result.  At which point the YUV file can be further transcoded to H.264, MPEG2 or AVCHD for Blu ray or DVD authoring respectively.

26 Responses

  1. annie says:

    This is interesting you all sound so much more knowledgeable than I
    I have adobe 3 & 4 on different machines. Too much messing about! Proxie files I will upload 6 in near future. Then, see if this avchd
    problem is there. Sounds nice to have read the responses. Nice group. I will need hand holding as I learn
    Pro 6 on machine that has 6 ram plus ram on video card etc.
    Please give me your steps with 6. The place where I got the camera says to just import whole folder and pull clips out to timeline. Any body have more information.
    thank you

  2. Craig says:

    I tried this, but I couldn’t get it to work. I assume I’m doing it wrong, because I have Premiere Pro CS3, and that’s one of the ones mentioned explicitly that it’s supposed to work with.

    When I right-click on a file, there’s no Select Clip > Replace Footage or anything like that.

    But even if I could find that, I’m puzzled how this possibly could work. Since you can’t import HD footage into Premiere Pro CS3 (which is why I’m looking for some workaround in the first place), it doesn’t make sense to me that you’d be able to replace a file with HD. If the software can’t read HD, why would it let it in through the back door like that?

    • Bill says:

      Hi Craig,

      Yes, CS3 does take HD files. Just choose the HDV option during setup. Select the 720 or 1080 option. The issue is, does CS3 take the hi rez HD files to replace the lo res clone. I didn’t try this in CS3, so I can’t say. But CS3 does have a Replace Clip menu option under the Clip menu. The blog post was written when I had CS4. Be sure your original HD file is in square pixel format before import to be replaced (use Interpret Footage option). It just makes things easier. Of course the file can be in anamorphic 1.33 format but change it to square pixel before edits and replacement.

      If you can’t find the HDV setup option, search for HDV as an upgrade feature from Adobe.

      I don’t know if this will help in CS3. Bill

  3. Taposh says:

    Hi. I am using Intel Core 2Duo 2.53GHz, 4GB RAM with Matrox MXO2 mini, CS5.5. I recently worked on a project of around 1hr & 10 min. programme with multi cam (sony 1000p camera) footage. Captured HDV 1440*1080i (1.3333)mpeg. Editing was just fine in matrox 1440i sequence, real time preview with color correction (just somewhere), nothing to worry. But render is the issue. It took 5hrs more to complete. Can you suggest the issue of long time render.

  4. Jet says:

    Thanks! This is interesting and insightful. Although this will be a very confusing process when you link them to after effects beforehand.

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  6. Rajesh says:

    Please suggest me how to make fast export in adobe. because for preview i have sound graphics card i cant edit mts file with multicam 5 -6 but real trouble is mts export.

  7. Mikee says:

    Does anyone know how to do this in Premier Elements 9??

  8. Melissa says:

    Thank you, this was very helpful!

    In response to yubayog and having to manually change the folder settings in Adobe Media Encoder, there is actually a way to go about that (at least in CS5.5, not sure about other versions). BEFORE moving any files into the AME, you can set the folder you want the files to output:

    Go to Edit -> Preferences -> General

    Find the “Output” section and check the box labeled “Specify output file destination:” and choose the file destination by clicking the “Browse” button next to it.

    Any file you bring into AME will automatically set its output file to your chosen path. If there are already files in the Queue when you change the output destination, they will not be effected. So if you chose to send multiple files to multiple destinations, simply change the output path before adding the files to change the destination.


  9. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the tip, Bill. I’m giving this a try—right now!

  10. Marco Boerner says:

    I wish they would include a proxy option into the interface like Adobe After Effects does. Would save so much time and it would only be a mouse click (keyboard short cut ; ) away!

    • Bill says:

      After Effects does a lot of neat things, but it is not an editing tool. I know some people use it as such, but its so clunky. However, for fast simple edits, coupled with the many super filters it supports it works great in a one go operation.

  11. Its definitely brilliant YouTube video in terms of features, genuinely pleasant, its quality is genuinely appreciable.

  12. yubayog says:

    nice idea, but the question is, what if you have hundred of footages to replace?
    My trick is to rename all the proxy extension with original file extension, so if you got lot of footages to replace (like I always do) premiere will automatically recognize them all.
    Here’s my workflow for MTS extension from panasonic camera
    1. Create new folder for proxy files
    2. Reencode all original MTS files using TMPGEnc Xpress,
    with MPEG2 Transport as container, frame rate and size
    are similiar to original files, but with lower bitrate,
    I use 8 Mb/s.
    (The reason I use TMPGEnc Xpress is it put all proxy
    files at one folder that I choose, while with Adobe
    Media Encoder, I have to manually change those folder
    for every files)
    3. Rename proxy files extension from MPG to MTS and Import
    to premiere.
    4. Before rendering, select files in project window and
    make it offline
    5. Rename the folder of proxy files (THIS IS IMPORTANT
    6. Select one files at premiere project window, rigth
    click and select replace footage. Now premiere will
    automatically replace all of your proxy files with the
    original HQ files
    It’s work for me, hope work for everyone to.

    • bwerba says:


      Looks like you have a clever way of handling more than a single file in one go. I’ll look into it and try it.

      Thanks for the tip.


    • Lukypuky says:

      add 3 – so you must rename all your files from MPG to MTS? … so I think it is useless like the first guide, dont you think? :)

      • yubayog says:

        I believe there a lot of free tool out there that can do thousand of file renaming with just few clicks.. for me, I use file manager like Speed Commander..

        Give it a try mate.. :)

    • Taposh says:

      That’s the real step as far as premiere is concerned. Premiere is familiar to such step. I follow the same step.

  13. Vladimir says:

    sorry for my poor English. Several months ago I tried to convert. MTS (1920×1080) in DV – avi (720×576) and replace after editing (make proxy) … Oops! I do not remember учфседн, but the AP said, “not the right format,” and refused to accept the file. MTS instead. Avi … Then I converted .MTS in H.264 (720P) and the replacement came…
    PS by the way:I bought a core i7 and Geforce GTX 460 video card (cuda) and now edit any files witout problems

  14. Thanks. I often and editing on my laptop with a client and don’t like to say “well, when its `rendered’ it won’t play that choppy” It also helps to go into preferences before you add any clips and set the default output folder (In CS5, it is under General -> Place output files in:) to the specific folder you want these files to be saved to.

    • bwerba says:


      A lot of the crap in CS4 is gone with CS5. Editing is so much faster, though render is still the gotcha. CS5 supports NVidia CUDA cards so render should be faster. I’m going to try this out soon.

      • Rajesh says:

        use cs6 it works fast. and as per my knowledge render speed depends on core and ur nvidia or ati cards for realtime preview. so which vendors card u r going to use it is just for better and real time preview just no relation it with render speed dear.

  15. Teber says:

    Thank you so much! I appreciate your work for explaining this problem that I had! Thank you very much once again!!!!

    • bwerba says:


      Thanks for your comments. I am a full time user of Adobe products and will share what I’ve learned or discovered from others. New stuff coming. Stay in touch.


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