Video noise will be a problem for all editors at some point in their professional lives — it’s frustrating but inevitable. Noise occurs when the footage is recorded and is generally caused by a light-based issue; not enough light in the shot, the wrong lens, too high ISO, can all contribute towards a noisy video. Fortunately, Premiere Pro has a way to help you reduce noise in your video projects.
If you’re editing a video with noise, you will understand how even the smallest amount of grain in the darkest parts of your shot can be distracting. It can spoil an otherwise excellent film! There’s no better fix for noisy video footage than taking the time to shoot it right. If you do end up needing to fix some noise, here are a couple of simple methods you can try in Premiere Pro CC and After Effects CC, without using plugins.
Part 1: What is Noise Reduction?
Noise reduction is the process of fixing the grainy areas of the shot. The electronic sensor creates the noise in the camera (CCD) and measures the light for each pixel in your image. How you set up your camera will dictate how the sensor measures the information.
When you are shooting in low light, there might not be enough information for the sensor to record the image with all its depth and detail. Since the sensor is recording light levels, the darker areas of your shot are the most affected.
When filming, the best thing you can do to combat video noise is to add more light to your shot. And remember, it’s easier to grade your footage to be darker than to edit out any noise from your footage. If your video is grainy, you will want to try these noise reduction methods to make it less noticeable.
Part 2: Steps to Reduce Noise in Adobe Premiere Pro
The first thing you need to know about this method of noise reduction is that there’s no ‘one size fits all’ option. It would be a beautiful thing if there was a drag and drop effect that could identify and reduce noise. But until then, each clip needs to be treated individually.
Step 1: Add the Median Effect
There are two effects in Premiere that you can use to reduce grain: Median and Dust & Scratches. While you can use a plugin to achieve a similar result, you’re here to learn how to do this without using plugins. So, here’s a simple way to take the edge off the video noise:
- Add your footage to your Timeline.
- In the Effects Panel, search for Median.
- Drag and drop it to your clip.
Step 2: Apply a Mask to the Grainest Parts
The next step is to ensure that you’re only adding the effect to the grainiest parts of your clip using masks:
- In the Effects Control panel, select the best suited mask shape for your clip.
- Using the Pen tool, move the Mask around the screen and resize it to cover the area.
- You can add extra points to your mask shape to make it fit.
- Change the Feather setting to +100, so that the effect won’t have a visible edge.
- Repeat with numerous masks until you have covered the grainy area of your shot.
Step 3: Adjust the Radius Settings
Now that you’ve covered all the grainy areas with masks, you’ll need to adjust the effect settings to reduce the noise. The median effect doesn’t actually take away the graininess; it just blurs it. You’ll need to experiment with the radius settings until you are happy with how the clip looks.
Alright! The graininess of your video should start looking a lot better now. If you’d like more control, consider using the After Effects approach we’ll highlight in the next section.
If you have After Effects, there’s another (and better) way you can reduce grain in your videos. You may wonder, “Why don’t I just purchase a plugin rather than paying for an After Effects subscription?” Well, there are several reasons why this might be the preferred option:
- If you have a subscription to Adobe Suite, you will already have access to After Effects so it won’t cost you anything.
- If you purchase a plugin for noise removal, it’s likely that’s all it will do. After Effects gives you endless possibilities in your video editing toolkit.
- Plugins are created by third parties, not by Adobe. You could spend money on a plugin that within a year will no longer work the same in Premiere Pro. You may have to pay for future updates to the plugin, or the person who created it might choose not to update it, and it stops working altogether.
If you have access to After Effects, try this super simple noise removal method.
Step 1: Create a Dynamically Linked Clip
The first step is to move your clip into After Effects. Fortunately, Premiere Pro has an efficient solution for doing this:
- In your Premiere Pro Timeline, select the clip you want to move to After Effects.
- Right-click the clip and Replace with After Effects Composition.
- After Effects will open, giving you the option to save the new Project. Save the After Effects Project alongside the Premiere Pro one, so you can keep them together.
Step 2: Add the Remove Grain Effect
While you’re adding the effects in After Effects, you don’t need to do anything in Premiere Pro. The Dynamic Link will automatically update the clip in Premiere with the effects added in After Effects:
- First, check that the Effects panel is viewable by going to the Window menu and making sure the Effects and Presets option is checked.
- In the Effects Control panel, search for Remove Grain.
- Drag and drop the effect to your clip.
Step 3: Setting Your Preview Box
After Effects gives you a handy preview box to show you how the effect will look. You can move the preview window around your screen to view different areas.
- Click on the clip in the Timeline, and go to the Effects Control panel.
- Drop down the Preview Region settings.
- Adjust the width and height of your Preview Window, and use the center control to move the box around the screen. Pro tip: Place the preview window on half of the noisiest portion of your clip so you can compare the settings.
Step 4: Adjust the Noise Reduction Settings
After Effects will apply the default settings as standard, which may be the right amount of grain removal for your clip. You can also fine-tune the effect to increase the grain removal:
- In the Effects Control panel, drop down the Noise Reduction Settings menu.
- Adjust the Noise Reduction setting until you are happy with the look.
- Move the Preview Window around the screen. Make sure the effect isn’t blurring too much of the focus of your shot.
- If you want to check what the whole shot looks like, go to the Viewing Mode at the top of the Effects Control panel and choose Final Output.
- Save your project, and go back to Premiere Pro to continue your editing.
Advanced Tip: Render and Replace
Dynamic Linking from After Effects can take a bit of processing power which can cause a playback lag. A quick way to help combat this is to use the Render and Replace function in Premiere Pro.
- In Premiere Pro, right-click on the Dynamic Linked Composition in the Timeline.
- Select Render and Replace.
Premiere Pro will render the effect and clip. Essentially this will flatten them into one clip, so that it doesn’t need to process the clip information before processing the applied effects.
Video noise can be frustrating for everyone in the production process! Don’t be too hard on your camera operators, it’s a stressful job, and the screens on a camera often don’t let you see the full extent of noise in a shot. Instead, look at it as a challenge, now that you have the editing skills to reduce video noise using Premiere Pro and After Effects.