Creating a Cinematic Black Bar Opening Effect (Tutorial)

Premiere Pro 11/02/2019 3 min read

Today we’re going to be showing you our favorite way to create a cinematic black bar opening effect! This can help to draw in your audience by slowly revealing the footage behind the bars.

In addition, Premiere Pro black bars are easy to create and make that scene far more interesting and fun to watch, especially if you use it on clips that have an interesting subject that you can isolate in the center of the frame. Let’s get started! 

How to Create the Black Bar Opening Effect

To create this effect, you’re going to start by creating a new layer that the black bars will be opening up through. It’s like making a slit for your footage underneath to be seen through that gets wider and wider over time. Time to put some footage on your timeline, and let’s begin!

Step 1: Create a New Rectangle Graphics Layer

The rectangle graphics layer is what you’re going to use to create black bars. At this stage, keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be clean or precise.

  1. Create a new Graphics Layer by going to Essential Graphics and hitting the Page icon.
  2. Select Rectangle. You can see that it pops up a new layer on your timeline. 
  3. Stretch your new layer over the duration of your footage. Pro Tip: You can also go down to the Zoom level and choose something wider like 25% just to make sure that you can see your whole frame.
  4. Go to the Color Swatch under Essential Graphics. This can also be found under the Effect Controls window. 
  5. Now, choose perfect black for your color. Make sure that Stroke and Shadow are set to OFF

Step 2: Make the Slit for Your Black Bars

Now comes the fun part: making the slit. Premiere Pro is not as versatile as a program as After Effects as far as having directional grids, centering tools, and precise graphics. You’re on your own for the most part. So the closer you follow along here, the better your results will be.

  1. Go up to Effects Controls to the Shape section. 
  2. Create a Rectangular Mask from it. 
  3. Click it, but don’t touch the mask! It’s perfectly centered right now, so any adjustments will take it off-center. 
  4. Make sure that your Selection tool and the Shape layer are highlighted. 
  5. Highlight the Mask in Effect Controls and then drag it over the two right points of the rectangle. 
  6. Now that they’re highlighted, click either one of them.
  7. Hold the Shift button and drag them out way past your frame. Holding Shift is important because that keeps everything proportional and makes sure that you’re only moving it across left and right and not up and down. 
  8. Repeat for the left side.
  9. Go down to the Inverted button and select it. Set the Mask Feather to 0 to get a nice crisp edge. 

You have successfully created your black bars! 

Step 3: Animate the Black Bars to Open & Close

Now, how do you make the bars open and close? If you followed the steps above, everything is perfectly centered, and the Shape and Mask are extended all the way past the edge of frame. 

With that in place, you can just use the Mask Expansion under the Mask Settings in Effect Controls. Here you’ll be able to control how open or closed you want your black bars to be. Here’s how to animate them to open to close:  

  1. Go to the beginning of the clip, and drag it all the way down so it’s closed. 
  2. Set a keyframe for Mask Expansion
  3. Go forwards and keyframe it to open up. 
  4. If you wanted it to come to a nice slow stop, just go to the second keyframe, right-click it, and add an Ease In.  

If you want to make the effect happen faster, just drag the last keyframe in. Or if you wanted to make it super long and dramatic, you just have to drag the keyframe way back. It’s really as simple as that. 

Since this is all being controlled by a layer completely isolated away from your footage, you can have one clip to a whole sequence under your black bars as they open up. The effect doesn’t change! Play around with it and see if you can integrate it into your next video. 

Bonus: Add Cinematic Sound Effects

If you wanted to take this effect to the next level, adding sound effects and ambiance can really help to sell the effect. For your convenience, here’s the Motion Array sound effect and ambiance used in the video tutorial at the beginning intro sequence example. 

Adding sound effects is a huge part of selling an effect. If you want to see that in another application, check out our tutorial on speed ramping! Using speed ramping during the cinematic opening you just learned might be a really cool combination. See if it could be a fit for your needs today!

And that’s how you create a cinematic black bar opening in Premiere Pro CC, from creating the first layer of black to adding the final touches with a cinematic sound effect. While it might seem hard in theory, step by step, it can be broken down into the perfect opening for you!