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Premiere Pro Import Using Media Browser

Any video editor who’s been working with Adobe Premiere Pro over many years and versions has likely used DV capture via Firewire, or has captured from tape using a third-party capture card. The preferred import method for that captured footage was, and still is, to use “File > Import” in Premiere Pro to bring in the .avi or .mov clips, ready to edit. Even if you’ve been more recently introduced to Premiere Pro editing, File > Import may at first seem the most obvious, if not only, method to import your media.

However, times have changed – and so should your import methods. Modern camcorders and DSLRs are now recording video files to memory cards rather than tape. With the new workflow, there is no “capturing” of video footage – video clips just get copied from the camera media, such as SD cards, over to the computer hard drive for editing. Simple, right? Not quite.

Many Premiere Pro users are experiencing various issues with new media types like AVCHD, and many of those issues are often resolved by changing the import method. Problems can include missing audio, glitches in spanned clips, and clips that just won’t play or preview smoothly. First, the user must get the video files from the memory card onto their computer hard drive. Preferably, the video drive will be a fast, dedicated hard drive or RAID array, and not the system drive.

Some camera manufacturers provide software utilities for the transfer and/or conversion of video clips, and those are usually not needed or recommended for Premiere Pro users, as Adobe has engineered Premiere Pro to work with most native formats as recorded by the camera. We recommend a direct copy of the entire contents of the media card, without any conversion or tampering, to a new folder on your video hard drive prior to import into Premiere Pro. Create a unique folder for the contents of each SD card that you copy to your drive, such as “Card 1”, “Card 2”, or whatever suits your style of organization.

Many users will try to dig down through the AVCHD folder structure layers to find the actual video files, and then copy only those files. They might even choose to rename those files, but those actions can lead to various issues. It’s important that the original folder structure and filenames be left completely intact for best results. There can be critical information called metadata included in the folder structure, which Premiere Pro needs to correctly interpret and handle the footage for playback and editing.

SD cards are typically formatted in-camera using the FAT 32 file system, which limits file size. For longer recordings, such as wedding ceremonies and stage events that may run 1-2 hours or more, the video clips get recorded as multiple small files, known as spanned clips. For example, a Sony AX-2000 camera recording AVCHD video creates multiple files of 2GB each for uninterrupted recording of long programs.

The original clips look like this on the SD card, representing only two separate recordings made with the camcorder, the first being a few seconds, the second being over two hours worth of spanned 2GB clips –

Full Import 2

If the .mts files alone are copied to the hard drive without the supporting AVCHD files and folders from the SD card, when those .mts files alone are imported into Premiere Pro, it can create issues. When the individual spanned .mts clips are placed on the timeline, there is a half-second of audio missing from the end of each clip, creating audio gaps between spanned clip segments as seen in the waveform below.

Audio GAP

For best results, import media from your drive using the Media Browser in Premiere Pro, usually found tabbed at the lower left of the Premiere Pro interface, next to the Effects tab. Open it up and browse to the folder where you’ve saved the copied media. There is usually no need to dig down to the video clips themselves – Media Browser will intelligently recognize the folder structures for formats such as AVCHD and will present the available clips to you, with spanned clips showing up as one single, long clip. Once you see your clips listed, simply select the ones you want to work with and drag them to the timeline sequence or the Project Bin, your choice.

Media Browser

By copying the entire SD card contents to the hard drive, maintaining the AVCHD file structure, and using Media Browser for import, many potential issues can be avoided. Proper clip start and end points are also represented in the Project Bin with this workflow.

Imported via browser

Besides the elegant handling of spanned clips, Media Browser can also help provide smooth playback of clips that might otherwise be problematic if imported “the old way”. Some clips may be missing their sound when Media Browser is not used. As you can see, there are many good reasons to maintain the file structure of your media and to import using Media Browser for the best experience in Premiere Pro.

When doing a standard file copy from the memory card to the hard drive, there is the rare chance that errors could occur, possibly making a video clip unreadable. Obviously, this would be a big problem with one-of-a-kind footage. Many producers like to use a third-party file copy utility that provides error-checking, verifying that all copied data files are 100% identical to the originals.

Red Giant Software offers Bulletproof, while Sony Creative Software offers Catalyst Prepare, both of which offer video file management and verified file copying for PC and Mac users. Red Giant also offers Offload, which provides basic verified copying of video files to multiple drives on a budget.

Whether you rely on standard file copy methods or use specialty software for that purpose, it’s always a good idea to copy your precious video data to two or more separate hard drives before ever deleting or reformatting the media card. I’ve worked with many users online who’ve copied only the video clips to the hard drive before erasing the card. Without the AVCHD file folder structure, they’ve lost the ability to get the benefits of using Media Browser for import and are stuck with whatever issues they have, such as missing audio or glitchy spanned clips – forever!

Proper file management and workflows with today’s cameras will save you a lot of grief down the road and can provide a more productive and enjoyable editing experience overall.

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Premiere Pro Import Using Media Browser