Reduce digital noise and grain in Premiere Pro
If you're a video creator, you will be all too aware of the problems caused by video noise – it's frustrating but unavoidable. In today's article, we will cover the easiest way to reduce video noise in Premiere Pro using the Neat Video plugin. If you're a content creator on a budget, don't worry; we will also explain how to reduce video noise in Premiere Pro for free using built-in effects.
Please note: The free way of reducing video noise in Premiere Pro is a basic built-in way of softening the video to help with excessive noise. It is not able to achieve the same desired effect as a professional video denoiser.
Numerous factors contribute to a noisy video generally caused by light-related issues such as insufficient light in the shot, incorrect low-light lens, extremely high ISO values, heat or interference. However, it must be noted that there is no better fix for grainy or noisy footage than correctly taking the time to shoot it out in the field.
If you are a run-and-gun documentary-style filmmaker, you understand that it’s not always possible to film in optimal conditions. At the end of the day, the story is the #1 most important aspect. Fortunately, with the assistance of a premium plugin and Premiere Pro, video noise can still be easily reduced even when 'optimal' light is unachievable. Now, that once-in-a-lifetime footage that has been previously unusable, all of sudden becomes a game-changing piece of footage in your timeline.
Part 1: What is Video Noise?
In its nature video noise is the same as image noise. They both are unwanted fluctuation of color (chrominance) and/or luminance that has been recorded by a camera, scanner or resulted from interference during signal transmission. The problem with video and image noise is that they obscure details you are trying to capture and, at times, noise can make the shot completely unusable.
Digital noise is randomness caused by an imperfect camera’s sensor and internal electronics, which introduce those crumbs of uneven color to a frame.
When recording in low light conditions, the signal level is low and can be brought up by increasing the ISO rate. The ISO rate (or sensitivity) describes how the camera's electronics amplifies the signal received from the image sensor. The higher the ISO level the higher the amplification. However, this also amplifies noise and so higher ISO rates will produce progressively more noise in the image.
Film grain essentially comes from the vast amount of light-sensitive silver crystals embedded into the film emulsion to capture the light. In high ISO films, those crystals are relatively large, so they are more noticeable. Since they are distributed randomly in the emulsion, they look like random noise.
Nowadays interference noise is less common than digital noise, but, as a content creator, you still need to be aware of this type of noise.
Interference noise displays as a pattern overlay caused by a disturbance in electromagnetic fields during the transmission of video signal caused by power lines, radio transmitters, obstructions, and fluorescent lights.
Part 2: How to avoid and reduce video noise?
While shooting in low light, the best thing you can do to compensate for video noise is to add more light to your shot, natural or artificial; it doesn't matter. However, this is not always possible! From intimate wedding moments to vivid sunrises on vacation, as creators, we often find ourselves in highly dynamic scenes to capture the best moments possible. Unfortunately, during these one-off moments, the darker areas (shadows) of the footage are often severely affected by video noise.
If the shot is done and you are already facing a noisy clip, you have to deal with it in the post and you pretty much have two options:
- Use professional tools for noise reduction. A good denoiser is able to distinguish between video noise and details and remove only noise. Details should stay in the picture and not get washed out.
- If you are on a very tight budget, try using tools that are already present in your video editing application. Like the Median effect in Premiere Pro. The end result won't be perfect, but at least that's something.
Part 3: Professional Way To Remove Video Noise
If you're looking for the best way to remove grain in your videos you should read the section below! If you're skeptical about plugins as they are not generic parts of Adobe software, don't worry. Neat Video has had years of research and development in the noise reduction and video enhancement sector. That's where Neat Video shines.
Noise reduction is not the only type of filtration this denoiser can offer, the full list of tools includes:
- Digital noise and grain reduction filter
- Flicker reduction filter
- Dust and scratches filter
- Jitter of details filter
In addition to that, Neat Video can also help with reducing compression artifacts.
If you have access to Adobe Premiere Pro, try the noise removal plugin for free, you can download it here. Try before you buy and see how amazing Neat Video truly is!
Step 1: Color Correct Your Clip
The first step is to import your clip in Premiere Pro and apply color corrections (if needed)
- Import your video clip into Premiere Pro's timeline.
- Apply an adjustment layer on top of your clip. NOTE: leave space for another adjustment layer for Neat Video.
- Color correct/apply presets to the adjustment layer to suit.
Step 2: Apply Neat Video Effect
Here we have to add the 'effect' of Neat Video under the effects tab. There are numerous ways to apply the effect to your timeline, but throughout this article, we will be using layer adjustments as many video editors prefer using this method as it's easy to make changes at any time.
- Place a new adjustment layer directly above your clip.
- Go to the Effects panel, then Video Effects > Neat Video and drag-n-drop Reduce Noise v5 (SR) onto the adjustment layer prepared for the denoiser.
Please note: By adding the effect, you will not reduce any noise or affect our clip; we still have to set-up the plug-in as described in the next step.
Step 3: Automatically Applying Neat Video Noise Reduction
There are numerous ways to apply the noise reduction effect in Premiere Pro using Neat Video as it's an in-depth and comprehensive plugin. To keep things extremely simple, Neat Video does a superior job of offering you the required settings to successfully reduce the correct amount of noise from the video clip.
- Click on the clip in the timeline and go to the Effects Control panel.
- Under Reduce Noise on the left side, click on the Prepare button.
- This will light up and allow you to click the Build button directly below.
- After clicking the build button, a new Neat Video window will open. In the top left you will see the Auto Profile button that you'll need to click.
- Generally Neat Video will choose a detail-free area that best suits the overall clip. If you want, you can always manually select your own area for profiling and click the Build Profile button. just make sure that you are selecting a large, noisy area without any details, just noise. For more information about good and bad areas for profiling, please read this article.
- To preview the changes made by Neat Video, click the Adjust & Preview tab at the top and select the Play All button.
- If you are happy with the changes made by Neat Video, click Apply down in the bottom right-hand corner.
There are many more advanced features that Neat Video has to offer. However, you will find that the automatic profile does a fantastic job for smaller APS-C and DJI Drone sensors.
Try it out for yourself and see what you think!
Pro Tip: Render and Replace
Typically, after Neat Video is applied the playback in your timeline will become very slow. We need to remember that if we are recording a 4K 24fps video for a duration of 10 seconds, that equates to 240 frames your computer needs to render for playback. Neat Video has now applied the effect to 240 frames in 4K (plus color corrections), which requires a lot of computations. Below is a straightforward way to improve the overall editing speed in conjunction with using Neat Video.
- In your timeline on Premiere Pro, select all the layers (Clip, Color Correction & Neat Video) and then right-click on one of the layers to open up a pop-up menu.
- Select Render & Replace.
- Click OK to replace it on the current timeline.
Rendering and replacing the clip will allow Premiere Pro to render the affected clip and compress the information. Please be aware that by 'rendering and replacing' the clip in Premiere Pro it will embed the adjustments made and not allow you to make changes in the future if you’ve under- or overdone the color correction or noise reduction.
Please make sure you're 100% happy with the job before doing this pro tip. In a future article, we will cover the best options to speed up your workflow in Premiere Pro using Neat Video, so subscribe for that informative information.
That was just one way of making Premiere's playback more responsive. There are many other things you could try.
Part 4: Free tools in Premiere Pro that can be used for noise reduction
Now it’s time for a free alternative. In this method, we need to treat each individual clip and its affected areas separately, which takes more time but saves some money.
Step 1: Add the Median Effect
There are two effects in Premiere Pro that can reduce video grain: Dust & Scratches and Median. In today's article, we will be using Median as the best free way to reduce video grain in Premiere. Please follow along with these simple instructions to partially reduce your video noise:
- Add your footage to the timeline.
- Under the Effects panel, search for Median.
- Drag and drop it onto your clip.
Step 2: Mask the Affected Areas
Now we will ensure that we are only adding noise reduction to the grainiest areas of the clip using masks. Previously we spoke about shooting in high dynamic scenes. If we are shooting a sunrise, the brighter areas near the sun will be minimally affected (maybe not at all), but the darker areas of the scene will need the noise reduction applied.
- Make sure you're operating in the control panel tab.
- Select the best-suited mask shape for your clip
- Use the pen tool (p) to move the mask and adjust/resize it to cover the desired area.
- Be aware that you can add extra mask points by clicking on the mask line with the pen tool for finer adjustments.
- Change the feather setting to +100 to remove the visible straight edge (Clips with straight horizons; you can reduce the feather number if needed)
Please note: if you have numerous areas affected by video noise, you will need to create multiple masks for each particular area. You can make the median effect on an adjustment layer and duplicate the layer, but you will need to resize and reshape the mask for the affected area.
Step 3: Adjust the Radius Settings
After you've covered all the grainy areas with masks and feathered them out correctly, you'll need to adjust the noise reduction's median effect. We generally find the lower numbers to be more than adequate. Use radius 1 for minimal noise, radius 2 for medium noise and radius 3 for heavy noise. However, feel free to try any radius value to find the look you like.
The median effect isn't able to distinguish between noise and details and only is going to be as good as your mask. Also, you'll have to animate the mask(s) if there is any movement or panning percent in the scene. Ultimately, you will lose more details than necessary.
For now, get out and keep creating inspiring content to tell the story you've always dreamt of. Don't worry if you capture grainy or noisy footage, there is more than one way to deal with it!