Premiere Pro CS5 – Adjust Levels just like Photoshop

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The more I use Premiere Pro CS5, the more I realize how it is really Photoshop for video.  Take a look at the above images of the same moment in one of my Toby Keith clips.  Strong backlighting is a problem for any camera (even the Canon 7D).  In the past, I would have discarded the video and moved on.  But, Premiere has a powerful Levels filter just like Photoshop which can save the day.

1.  Search for Levels and drag it on to the video clip in the Timeline.


There are so many Effects included in Premiere Pro CS5, that it can be tough to find the one that you need.  CS5 includes a Quick Search function which allows you to just start typing in the Effects Panel to locate the desired Filter.  Just type Levels, click on the Filter and drag it on to the video clip in the Timeline.

2.  Levels can be adjusted by scrubbing sliders and the standard Levels graph.


In the above clip, I started by adjusting the RGB Gamma to lighten the entire clip.  You can either use your cursor to scrub left/right or click on the number and enter a new numeric value.  Next, I clicked the icon in the first line of the Levels settings to open the Levels graph.  Look familiar??  Well, it works just like in Photoshop.  Unfortunately, it does not have an Auto button, but the slider work just the same.  (NOTE – the preview image in the Levels pop-up box matches the video clip’s original format.  I rotated the video clip in the Timeline as shown in the Live preview window.)

4.  Be careful not to push to far and add digital noise.

Of course, directly manipulating Gamma and Levels and bring out digital noise.  But, there is even a great Filter for that.  Neat Video offers 32-bit/64-bit plugins for both Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5.  Take a look at my articles on both plugins.

The more I use Premiere Pro CS5, the more I want to explore its capabilities.  Premiere Pro CS5 even has an Unsharpen Mask just like Photoshop.  But, this is a video editor, so applying effects over time is very important.  Just by adding a Keyframe to the Timeline, you can animate these Effects with Premiere Pro automatically tweening the before and after.  Think about those situations when the video suddenly lightens or darkens in response to a change in lighting conditions.  That’s perfect for an animated effect!  But, that’s for another day 😉



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