How to Clone Yourself or a Crowd in Premiere Pro (Tutorial)

Premiere Pro 03/02/2021 4 min read

Do you ever look at film or video and ask yourself, ‘how did they do that?’. Visual effects are being used everywhere, from Hollywood blockbusters to TV commercials, and as an editor, you may wish you had those tools at your disposal. Fortunately, you can create a ton of visual effects in-camera, with a little bit of editing trickery. We’re going to show you one of these excellent visuals; how to clone yourself in Premiere Pro.

Part 1: Planning Your Shot

The technique we are going to show you works best with a bit of pre-production. Planning the shots you want to achieve can help make the editing a lot easier and give you a better overall result.

For a clean edit, it helps if your subject doesn’t cross lines of the frame. Start by setting your camera up and lock it in place. Your camera mustn’t move position while you are filming, or you will have a lot of problems in the edit.

Think about your shot division and where you can place your subject without them crossing another space. In the example, we have divided the area into five clear sections in which our subject can exist.

Next, you need to consider the length of your shot. If each of your clones will have specific actions to complete, you should always record for the longest possible action. For example, if our main subject has to deliver a script to the camera that is 60 seconds long, we want each take to last approximately the same length.

Once you know the position and duration of each of your clones, you can begin filming. Film the sequence for each of your clones, being careful not to cross the space you have allowed for that version. For our example, we would have five separate takes, with our subject in a different position for each.

Top Tip: It can be super helpful also to film your scene without a subject. This clean take can be used to patch areas in your end composition if you need to.

Part 2: How to Clone Yourself in Premiere Pro

Once you have all your shots imported into Premiere Pro, you can begin to edit your composition.

  1. Place all of your clips on the timeline, stacked on top of one another.
  2. Go to the Free Draw Bezier or Rectangle tool and draw around the subject on your top layer to create a mask around your subject. You should immediately be able to see the second layer below it. If your camera didn’t move during the shoot, your layers should match perfectly.
  3. Continue through the layers, masking around your subject, until each clone exists in its own box. If you have spaces between your masks, you can either adjust them slightly or place the clean clip you took of the area at the bottom of the stack.
  4. If your clone moves and goes slightly out of frame, you can adjust the Effects Control Panel’s Mask Expansion.
  5. You can also blend the lines between your clips using the Mask Feather settings.
  6. Finally, add an adjustment layer above your stack and drag it to the length of your project.
  7. With the Adjustment Layer selected in the timeline, go to the Lumetri Color Panel and add a Look to your film to tie it together. You can download some awesome free LUTs here.

Part 3: How to Clone or Duplicate a Crowd in Premiere Pro

While it becomes more complicated to do, you can also clone groups of people using the steps above. You may need a bigger space to accommodate your clone groups, but the technique is the same. 

A final element you can add when duplicating a crowd is an in-front of camera shot. As you can imagine this is tricky, as your subjects are sure to cross the lines you have set, so for this, you will need a green/blue screen.

  1. Film all of your other groups’ scenes as described above. Keep the camera in position.
  2. Position your actors in front of the camera, ensuring there is enough depth between them and your previous shots.
  3. Place a greenscreen behind the actors so that they are not overhanging the edge of your screen.
  4. In Premiere, att your in-front-of-camera shot at the top of the stack, and crop the edges, so it is just your actors on the plain background.
  5. Go to the Effects Panel and add the Keylight effect to your clip. In the Effect control panel, use the color picker to select your screen color.
  6. Play around with the edge and feather settings until you are happy with how it looks.

Part 4: Top tips for Cloning

Make Sure your Subject(s) Don’t Move

While you want your groups to be moving in the shot, they need to be careful not to move into another section of your frame. Like a single clone, the more space you allow between each of your sections, the easier the edit will be. It might be helpful to your actors to lay our markers so they know where the lines are.

Mix Things Up

Unless you are creating a piece where all of your clones need to be wearing the same uniform, it’s a good idea to make some character changes between each Section. Change clothes, hairstyles, and even actions between takes, so your final piece looks as varied as possible.

Try Some Interactions

It can be challenging but think about some exciting interactions you can have between the groups of clones. For example, if a subject in Section A waves at their clone in Section D, try and time the filming to look like they are waving at one another.

With a bit of rehearsal, you can create elaborate scenes where characters interact with their clone counterparts. If it is your first time with this visual trick, keep it simple and build from there.

Inside is Always Easier

If you want to create a composition with cloned groups, it may be tempting to move the filming outside where there is more space. It would be best if you were careful, however, as this can cause many continuity issues. Remember, you have no control over clouds, birds, and traffic, or other elements that may change from take to take. Pick an environment that you can control to ensure your takes all match up.

In-Camera visual tricks like this are a lot of fun and can be used for both promotional videos and creative projects. Now you know how to clone yourself in Premiere Pro, you can play with the technique and use it to create all sorts of cool visual effects and sequences. If you’d prefer to use AE, check out this handy guide to cloning yourself in After Effects.

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