What Is A Keyframe In Video Editing (and Video Animation)

In this article, we will explain what a keyframe is, what it does, when to use it, and how to use it when you’re editing videos with Premiere Pro, or creating animations inside After Effects.

So buckle up and read on.

What is a Keyframe?

In video editing or video animation, a keyframe is a special type of frame on the timeline of your software that indicates the start and the end of a change you are making to a parameter like an effect, audio volume, or position.

Keyframes are used a lot in animation.

What you’re really doing with keyframes is you’re assigning movement to different values of your video.

Let’s look at an example to make things clearer.

How to use keyframes in Premiere Pro

1. Open up Premiere Pro, import your media or create a text graphic.

2. Select the media you want to create keyframes for.

3. Go to the Effects Control tab.

4. Click on the tiny stopwatch button (it says “Toggle animation” when you hover your mouse over it) to create a keyframe.

The diamond-shaped items on the timeline represent the keyframes.

You need to create at least two keyframes to animate your video or graphic elements.

5. Set different values for your keyframes.

All the parameters that have the Toggle Animation button active will let you create keyframes.

So, as you can see there are a lot of things you can control with keyframes.

In my example above I keyframed the Scale parameter inside Premiere Pro to go from 100 to 110, which is nothing else than a zoom-in effect that looks like this.

If you expand the Scale effect you can see that the scaling is represented on the timeline through a graph.

This graph lets you make more complex animations.

Adjusting keyframes

By default, keyframes will have a liner animation, just as you can see in the screenshot below.

While this can work very well in most cases, you can make the animation smother by right-clicking on the keyframe and playing with the interpolation options.

The Ease In and Ease Out options are looking great and they are super easy to set up.

This will automatically smoothen the velocity of the animation.

You can set this manually as well by adjusting the velocity using the blue handles on the graph, or by moving the position on the keyframes on the timeline.

There are countless options.

Keyframes in video editing

Keyframes in video editing are used to edit a video, not animate it.

So here you’re keyframing effects, not motion parameters.

So instead of having an object move around from one position to another, you are changing the parameter of an effect.

Say for example you’re using the Gaussian Blur effect in Premiere.

You can simulate a camera going from out of focus to a focused shot by keyframing the blur effect.

Here’s how to do it.

Example: Fake camera focus effect

The way you can create this effect is by using a blur type of effect and keyframing it.

Any blur effect will work fine.

For our example, we are using the Gaussian Blur effect that is built into Premiere Pro.

Go to the Effects tab and search for Gaussian Blur.

Drag and drop the effect over the video clip on your timeline.

Go to the Effects Control tab and look for the Gaussian Blur effect we just added.

Click on the stopwatch / Toggle Animation button to start keyframing.

Set the first keyframe to about 60% business. Doesn’t have the be exactly 60%, anything around that value should be fine, I just found that to work best with the footage I have.

Depending on the quality, sharpness, and bit rate of your footage, a different blurriness value might work better. In general, for higher-quality footage, you will need to apply higher blurriness.

Move forward a couple of seconds and set a new keyframe with 0% blurriness.

So what we did with these two keyframes is we simulated a fake camera going from out of focus to focus.

To make it even more realistic you will need to set a couple more keyframes so that the video doesn’t go directly from out of focus to 100% focused.

Make it look like you’re using the ring on your lenses to scan for the perfect focal point.

Use a couple of keyframes to simulate that and play around with the position of the keyframes on the timeline until you are happy with the outcome.

That’s it!

Why keyframes are important

Understanding what keyframes are and how they work is a must for any video editor or animator.

The possibilities are literally limitless once you get a grasp of it.

So start playing with it, use them on different effects, and step up your video editing game now.

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Cristian Stanciu is a freelance video editor, owner, and post-production coordinator of Veedyou Media – a company offering video editing services to videographers, marketing agencies, video production studios, or brands all over the globe.