Pro Tips, Tutorials

Getting Started With 3- and 4-Point Editing in Adobe Premiere Pro


Using three- and four-point editing is one of the best ways to keep your work precise. The idea is that you use multiple edit points to add items to your timeline automatically. Plus, even though we’re focusing on Premiere Pro here, this type of editing works for nearly every non-linear editing program. Here’s how to do it.

Edit Types

Before you start editing, it’s good to know that you have a couple of options after you’ve set all your points. There are two edit types:

Insert: This sends media into the timeline and forces any later clips to shift forward (to the right). Clips can be inserted before or after the current time indicator (CTI) if dragged to the program monitor.

Overwrite: This adds media to the timeline by replacing anything already in a sequence, starting from the edit point and extending for the length of the clip. The media can overwrite the layer, or can “overlay” above the layer. This won’t change the overall duration of the piece.

These types of edits utilize source patching, which we’ll go over next. Understanding them is crucial when you’re sending items to the timeline, because you don’t want to accidentally overwrite anything when you meant to insert, and vice versa. Also, these edits are performed without dragging anything to the timeline. They are instead done with keyboard shortcuts, specific buttons located on the editing interface, and/or by dragging clips over to the program monitor.


Source Patching

Source patching tells Premiere Pro which layer to “patch” the clip onto on the timeline when using insert and overwrite edits. In the timeline, the far left sets of V and A numbers are for source patching. They can be on, off, or silent (alt/option + click). “On” means whichever layer is selected is the one that receives the audio/video track when the edit is made. “Off” means, well, off, and nothing will come down. “Silent” (marked with a black border) means a gap will appear on the track of the same duration as the source you selected. This is great for setting a specific duration before you’ve found the right clip to fill it.

Note: Remember to also lock or turn on sync locks for layers that you don’t wish to move when performing these edits.

Okay, on to the actual editing.

Three-Point Editing

The basic idea of three-point editing is that you use three total edit points to add items to the timeline automatically. This can be two in points and one out point, or two out points and one in point, and the two points can either be in the timeline or in your source window/browser.

Set the in and out points on a clip in the source window and position the CTI in the timeline where you want the media to go. This tells Premiere exactly which section of the clip you want to place in the timeline. By setting both points in the timeline instead, you’re telling Premiere exactly where to place the media from the browser. And by using a certain edit type, you’re telling it how you want the media to be added.

If your two points are in the timeline instead of the source window, then the clip will fill that specific section of the timeline. Whichever single point is set in the source will line up with the corresponding in/out point in the timeline — meaning that if you only have an in point set in the source panel or window, it will match with the in point in the timeline. When it’s an out point set in the source, the out points will line up. This is called “back-timing” or “back-filling” a clip, because it fills the area before the CTI.

Multiple clips can be sent to the timeline at once using either edit type, known as Automating to a Sequence. This is great for getting many clips down into the timeline very quickly.


Four-Point Editing

Four-point editing works the exact same way, except you can be more precise when choosing both of the in and out points. If you have a six-second and seven-frame spot to fill in the timeline, select six seconds and seven frames of your source clip and send it all down to fit perfectly. However, it’s pretty rare that your source clips are going to be exactly the right length to fit the timeline in and out. When there’s a discrepancy like this, a “Fit Clip” dialogue box will pop up.

Here, you can select exactly what you want the incoming clip to do:

Change Clip Speed (Fit to Fill): Speeds up or slows down the clip to fit the selected section.
Ignore Source In/Out Point: Choose whichever end of the clip you’d rather cut off to fit.
Ignore Sequence In/Out Point: Choose whichever end you’d rather have moved or overwritten.
Always Use This Choice: Not recommended, but if you’re doing this really often and every time it’s the same, then of course this will speed things up.

And that’s it! Once you’ve mastered this, three- and four-point editing can completely re-tool your editing style and make you a faster, more efficient editor, so it’s definitely worth making it a part of your workflow.

Most of these examples use b-roll, but this is also very helpful for a-roll and interviews as well as music tracks and sound effects.

Do you have any questions about working with these techniques? Tell us in the comments below!