Easy Video Editing in Photoshop. Yes, Photoshop.

My daughter, Nicole (I call her Nicky), is in grad school in a different state. During one of our phone calls, I was complaining to her about the poor quality of video I shot while sightseeing in New Orleans. Admittedly, I don’t use a decent video camera — just the video mode of my beat-up 3.2 megapixel Canon PowerShot — but the results are usually good enough for my personal Web site. I told Nicky, “The one I took of the Brennan’s waitress making Bananas Foster is way too dark; you can’t see what she’s doing. And the one I took of the white alligator at the aquarium is all blue.”

Nicky’s the digital video expert in the family, so I thought she might volunteer to fix the movies for me. No offers were forthcoming, though.

I let fly a hint like a stealth missile: “If these were just regular photographs, I could fix them in Photoshop in a second — run a little adjustment layer or something. Is there a simple command in one your video programs, like After Effects or Final Cut, that could fix the alligator’s color cast?”

Still no response. I was about to ratchet the conversation up a notch (“Remember when I gave you life? And the months when I sustained you with milk from my body? Coming back to you now? Okay, now about these videos that need fixing…”) when Nicky headed me off at the pass.

“You could fix those in Photoshop,” she said. “The Standard version can’t do it, but Photoshop Extended CS3 and CS4 let you run any adjustment layer or filter you want on video.”

Now it was my turn to be silent. I had Photoshop Extended, since that’s the version that comes with Creative Suite Premium, but I thought the Extended features were limited to counting paramecium in slides and reading X-Rays.

That kid knows how to get me: Tell me about an Adobe software feature I needed but didn’t know existed, and I’m champing at the bit to get off the phone and fire up the software. “Thanks, hon!” I said. “See you at Christmas. Bye!”

Figure 1. Not sure if you have the Extended version of Photoshop? Look at the splash screen as it starts up, or choose About Photoshop if it’s already running.

It Begins with a Video Layer
I’ll spare you my initial failed attempts to work with video in Photoshop (such as choosing “frames to layers” — don’t do that unless you like working with 500 layers) and instead describe the few simple steps involved. Just keep in mind you’ll need either Photoshop CS3 Extended or Photoshop CS4 Extended to follow along.

The first step is to bring the video in on its own layer, called a Video Layer. In Photoshop, choose File > Open and double-click on the video you want to work on. It automatically appears in the Layers palette as a Video Layer, complete with a thumbnail of the first frame and a cute little filmstrip icon.

Figure 2. Here’s the “before” version of my dark Brennan’s movie after opening it in Photoshop as a video layer. On top is the first frame of the video in a new Photoshop document, and below that is what its Video Layer looks like in the Layers panel.

To import a video into an existing Photoshop file, choose Layer > Video Layers > New Video Layer From File, and then choose your video in the Open/Save dialog box.

In either case, when you’re in the Open/Save dialog box hunting for the video, make sure “All Readable Documents” is selected at the bottom of the dialog, or the videos may be grayed out. Photoshop can open most common digital video formats, including MOV (QuickTime), AVI, MPEG-1 and MPEG -4, and even FLV if Flash Professional is installed.

It’s important to note that Photoshop is not actually importing your video. It imports a high-res preview of the file. Because that preview is smaller in file size than the video, experimenting with effects is fast. It’s only at the end of the process, when you render the video out to QuickTime video format (from the File > Export menu) that Adobe applies your changes to the video. And even then, they’re applied to a copy of the video, leaving your original intact.

Play the Video in Photoshop
It wouldn’t be much fun to work with video if you could only look at the first frame. You can play the video with the controls in the Animation palette (Window > Animation), which opens up in Timeline format, like a full-blown video editing program.

Figure 3. When you’re working with a Video Layer, the Animation palette transforms itself into a Timeline palette by default. Drag the blue button at the top (the Time Indicator) to move to any point in the video, or just click the Play button lower left (or press the Space bar) to play the video right in the Photoshop document window. This is the Animation palette from Photoshop CS3 Extended. Click on the image to see a larger version.

When you play the video in Photoshop CS3 Extended, you can’t hear audio. (Don’t worry, it will be there when you export the modified video back out to QuickTime.) In Photoshop CS4 Extended, Adobe added the ability to hear the audio while the video is playing.

Figure 4. In Photoshop CS4 Extended, click the speaker icon to the right of the navigation buttons (in the bottom left corner of the Animation palette) to hear the audio track while the video plays. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Work with Video Like a Still Image
This is when your experience modifying still images in Photoshop comes in. Just about anything you can do to a normal Photoshop layer, you can do to a Video Layer. And Photoshop applies what you do to every frame in the video.

This includes all the options from the Image > Adjustment submenu (Color Balance, Channel Mixer, Shadow/Highlight, etc.). Most items from the Select menu are also available. You can add Adjustment Layers for non-destructive color/level correction. You can even add a Layer Mask to the Video Layer, or mask the video with a vector path or custom shape! Seriously, the mind boggles.

My needs were more simple: I only wanted to lighten a too-dark video. For a too-dark photo, I’d add a Curves adjustment layer. So that’s what I did, right above the Video Layer.

Figure 5. You can use almost all of your Photoshop skills and tools to improve videos, such as Adjustment layers.

But then, I hit a speedbump. As I fiddled with the curves in the dialog box, I saw only a preview of how my adjustment would affect the first frame, which wasn’t that important to me. What I really wanted was to make the waitress’s face and smile more visible during a funny bit in the middle.

No problem. I cancelled out of the Curves Adjustment Layer dialog box, dragged the playhead to a frame where she looked up from the pan, and opened the adjustment layer again to make sure the curves were good on that particular frame. I knew that this curves adjustment would apply to all the frames in the video, but moving to an important frame before making the adjustment helped me focus on what I wanted to achieve.

Figure 6. Here’s the frame I wanted to optimize the most before the Curves adjustment (top) and afterward (bottom). The “fixed” version is still dark, because I shot it on the terrace at night, but at least now you can see what the waitress looks like.

Since this video wasn’t for a client, just to share with my family and friends, I was satisfied and exported it to video by choosing File > Export > Render Video.

Figure 7. The Render Video dialog box is monstrous, but I simplified by leaving everything other than name and destination folder at the default. For more control over the final video, click on the Settings button. Also, note that you can render just part of the video (Range: Currently Selected Frames) if you want to test your settings. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Want to see the final result? Here’s the before and after of my Brennan’s video, about a minute long (click to play). I didn’t include the final JPEG snapshot of the dessert poured out of the sauté pan and onto a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream. That’s in my food porn folder, which you aren’t allowed to see.

Pushing it Further: Spots, the Wonder Alligator
Remember that white alligator video I mentioned at the beginning? It had a strong blue cast, as a lot of underwater photography does. The color cast was doubly obvious because the alligator (whose name is Spots) lacks the usual pigmentation and is an eerie white.

Spots usually stays so still that aquarium visitors think he’s made of wax, but something about me piqued his interest. I shot some cool video of him swimming right up to the glass to check me out.

Here are the before and after videos (click to play):

This Layers panel shows what I did to get rid of the blue cast:

Take another look at that Layers palette. Notice the Smart Filters layer? Yep, you can convert a Video Layer into a Smart Layer, and then apply non-destructive Smart Filters to it. Amazing.

For fun, I applied the Crystallize filter to the video (I hid the filter before rendering the color-corrected “normal” video above), then exported just a brief portion of it back out to video. Click to play:

I can’t remember when I had so much fun in Photoshop. And it’s great to know that I can leverage my image-editing skills on this new class of media without buying another program. It’s small potatoes compared to professional video editors, but for right now, what Photoshop Extended lets me do with videos is just what I need.

Posted on: November 5, 2008

Anne-Marie Concepcion

Anne-Marie “Her Geekness” Concepción is the co-founder (with David Blatner) and CEO of Creative Publishing Network, which produces CreativePro, InDesignSecrets, InDesign Magazine, and other resources for creative professionals. Through her cross-media design studio, Seneca Design & Training, Anne-Marie develops ebooks and trains and consults with companies who want to master the tools and workflows of digital publishing. She has authored over 20 courses on lynda.com on these topics and others. Keep up with Anne-Marie by subscribing to her ezine, HerGeekness Gazette, and contact her by email at amc@cpn.co or on Twitter @amarie

32 Comments on Easy Video Editing in Photoshop. Yes, Photoshop.

  1. There’s still something wrong with the color correction — that gator is white! 😉

  2. With this, DSLRs that shoot video and final cut, soon all traditional movie making equipment will be obsolete!

    Terrence Kevin Oleary
    Principal/Creative Director, TKO creative

  3. cool
    Do you know how to do frame by frame?If you could post something about that that would be just GREAT!

  4. If anyone reads this then it might be useful to know that to add effects I had to add an adjustment layer. I spent hours battling with my computer and ending up with only one frame edited. The add adjustment button is on at the bottom of the Layers window. It looks like a circle which is half black, half white, cut diagonally across

  5. However, how would I deal with the sounds? I rendered the video after editing… But I heard no footprints of any sound.

  6. this is great information! It would have helped on my last video project.

  7. Hi,

    Thanks for the tutorial. Something I am stuck on though is blurring the image. I want to add lens blur to my video to make it look out of focus. Whatever I do just results in the first frame of the video being blurred. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  8. I can’t even…speak. Photoshop ceases to amaze me. Thank you so much for sharing this, you are a wonderful teacher.

  9. You need to convert the video into a smart object before you can apply effects to the entire video. This is a great post though. peri.moritz

  10. I was told from my professor that you can do this. I didn’t believe him at first, but because you posted this, I now know what to do for my class demonstration. The video filters are pretty cool as well. Great way to fix problems made on a video camera.

  11. Thanks for this. A really good demo that is easy and quick to digest.

  12. Very good article, helped me out a lot!

  13. Thanks a lot for these guidelines! Just got CS5 extended (trial) and that is the first clear set of instructions I found on how to do something useful with my videos. I was wondering if I should buy the extended or standard edition of CS5. Now I know I need the extended version as I will be able to edit my videos with it. Thanks again.

  14. Thanks for the great intro to video in P-Shop. Here’s a tip that may save some time/headaches for others…

    I’m using CS4 and tried to apply a plug-in to all frames of a video. One would think it would work the way adjustment layers do, but it doesn’t; I found that it wouldn’t apply the plug-in effect to _any_ frame (including the preview frame) if I just opened the video file and added the effect. Instead, I had to make the changes I wanted to see into an action, and then perform a “batch” of 1 file (the .mov file). Then it worked. Beautifully.

    Of course, the old-school way of doing this is just to Export->Still Image Sequence from Final Cut, and then perform the action to the batch of still images that FC exported. Doing it in Photoshop just saves you a step, and saves the video a generation level.

  15. seriously, best post ever. this has helped me so much.

  16. hi i am using CS3 extended and im having problems, all i wanted to do was up the contrast but i cant get it to stay past the first frame. is there something i need to select in order to apply it to the whole video?


  17. i go to the top and click on layers and the words video layer or anything similar is not here how can i get it in there. also, my help button for photoshop tells me i cant get help without being on the internet but as you can see i am on the internet. plz contact me at Fuller28@rocketmail.com plz hurry i have an assignment that is about to be due.

  18. I just spent hours trying to find something to tell me if I could edit videos with photoshop CS5 extended. then I found yours. Thank you so, so much!

  19. I think I followed all your instructions, used S/H, increased saturation, and Curves to reduce contrast further. I exported/rendered the video before and after merging adjustment layers with the video layer, before and after converting the video to a Smart Object. In all cases the first frame ONLY was changed at all. What did I miss? Thanks, John

  20. What a wonderful thing. I can of new this, but was under the impression the each frame had to edited separately. Guess I’m really “ole School.” I am still learning lots of NEW things about PhotoShop, but this, by far is the best. It will definetly help will all the visoe I always wanted to color correct and adjust the lighting.

  21. Extremely helpful, thank you for posting.

  22. Hi,

    I only see white screen after I’ve imported the video in CS4. What do you think is the problem?

  23. It’s small potatoes compared to professional video editors, but for right now, what Photoshop Extended lets me do with videos is just what I need Share Tips

  24. Joining 2 or 3 videos together?:::: How to please cant find as yet?

  25. Hi. Forgive me for my lack of knowledge, but what do you mean by making the changes into an action and performing a “batch”. I am a novice user who can do alot of cool things but sometimes I don’t know the terms or how to do the more indepth features. I would appreciate your assistance.

  26. Nevermind. I added an Adjustment Layer and it did the job. Thanks anyway.

  27. Great! Glad you were able to figure it out. 

    Love how this 5-year-old post just keeps on ticking … 😀

  28. For me, I’ve been using PS for more than 10 years and quite happy I’ve heard that PS can do video editing too. Since a fter iPad came out, I personally use iPad to do the editing instead. Some of my PS works here at http://www.newsportpro

  29. this website also use PS too sports

  30. Disable rich-text what is this for?

  31. why i can’t tick on quick time export   file AVi in photoshop CS5?

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