How To Sharpen Footage With The Unsharp Mask Effect In Premiere Pro

How To Sharpen Footage With The Unsharp Mask Effect In Premiere Pro from Motion Array on Vimeo.


Hi guys! Jordan with Motion Array and today I’m going to be showing how to sharpen your videos in Premiere Pro using the unsharp mask tool! So let’s get into it!

How To Sharpen Footage With The Unsharp Mask Effect In Adobe Premiere Pro

This text has been transcribed from the video for optimal reading

So let’s start off by answering, why would you want to sharpen your videos at all?  There’s two basic scenarios. Even if you got a proper shot from your camera, the footage might benefit from some minor aesthetic sharpening.  Depending on everything from camera choice to lenses used, your image might be unintentionally softer than you’d like. Depending on the look you’re going for, a subtle little boost in sharpening might actually make your image more pleasing to look at.

The other option is if you completely messed up and your subject is out of focus.  If that’s your situation, we actually went over that scenario in this video here called 5 ways to fix bad footage. Check it out!

But for now, let’s go over how to subtly increase the sharpness of your footage.  And believe it or not, it’s not by adding the sharpening effect.  If you were to add this, you would sharpen EVERYTHING in your image, which would look a little off for the things that are out of focus in the background.  This also has the negative potential of increasing the visibility of unwanted noise within your shot. If I take this effect the extreme, you can get a feel for what this looks like.  It’s pretty gross.

So what’s the solution?  It’s to use Unsharp Mask effect.  To apply this effect, search for it in your effects panel and then drag and drop it onto your footage layer.  Really simple. Now we have it available to use in our effects controls panel. Thankfully, implementing this effect is almost just as simple.  There’s only three parameters that you have to account for. Amount, Radius, and threshold.

Just like before with sharpening, we can see what’s going on here.  But the difference with 'Unsharp Mask' is that it’s almost essentially searching for edges and prioritizing the sharpening of them instead of just the image as a whole.  You can find a description of this effect on Adobe’s help page.

But to use this effect, its more than just increasing the amount.  There’s 2 other parameters. Adobe’s developers describe the radius parameter as controlling “the distance from the edge at which pixels are adjusted for contrast.

Simply put, the higher the number, the larger the space away from the edge will be impacted, while keying in a low number will keep the sharpening isolated to only the areas with a discernable edge based on contrast.  Which kind of makes sense when you think about it. You never hear someone say, wow, that perfectly white solid you took a photo of is perfectly sharp? Or even, wow, the whites of that person’s eye are completely sharp.  You’re always focused on the sharpness of areas that have a discernible contrast. Which the unsharp mask helps to distinguish. So we have two parameters that we can play around with. Amount to get the severity of the effect we want to achieve, and radius to indicate how much of a limit we want to put on how far it spreads out from the area that has an edge.  You want to be able to see a difference, but you don’t want to make it look unnatural or ugly. If you’re struggling to find a place to start, use my numbers here, which may or may not work for your footage, and use it as a starting point.

Finally we come to threshold, which basically acts as an additional checkpoint for what is determined to be eligible for sharpening and what isn’t.  If you leave your amount at zero, your image has the potential to be sharpened everywhere, which like we mentioned before, might increase the sharpening of areas that should’t be.  By increasing the threshold, we’re basically telling premiere how much to focus on elements that already have a really high degree of contrast, which typically are indicitive of distinct edges.  But if you try to increase the value, you only seem to be stuck between 0 and 1. To access full control, you can either key in specific amounts between 0 and 1, or you can drop down this parameter and slide it yourself.  By playing around with these parameters, you can take an image from looking good to great in no time at all. It may be difficult to see the difference for yourselves with online video compression, so we’ve included this image as a reference so you can see the difference for yourself. 

Well, that concludes this tutorial. I hope you found it helpful, if you did, please give us a thumbs up and if you’d like to see more tutorials please go ahead and subscribe because we’re making new ones all the time.  I hope you guys found it helpful.  If you did, we’ve got lots of other Premiere Pro tutorialsAfter Effects tutorials and filmmaking tutorials!

Thanks for watching and see you in the next video.

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