In this walkthrough, we’ll cover how to use the razor tool, the ctrl+K/⌘+K shortcut, and Ripple and Trim editing techniques in Premiere Pro.
Cutting, obviously, is one of the most important parts of an edit. It’s the primary function of editing software — to cut down clips and place them in a particular order to create a story. And then, after everything is organized, you may have to cut down even further and comb through additional video and audio tracks. When you get to that point, what’s the best way to approach cutting?
Well, thankfully, Premiere Pro offers three distinct ways to manipulate and cut up a video clip — or your timeline:
- The Razor Tool
- The “Command/Ctrl + K” Shortcut / Playhead Splitting
- Ripple and Trim Cutting
There are some other ways to cut, such as the slip and slide method, but for this article, we’re just going to look at some of the fundamental edit tools. Even if you know all the different ways to cut, it’s good to know which tool works best for your particular edit.
How to Use the Razor Tool
Ah, yes. The ol’ Razor Tool. It’s the first thing you learn to use when editing your first project, since it’s the most direct cutting tool. For beginners, this is a really easy tool to get the hang of because it’s so straightforward. It’s also very useful when making a montage jump cut because you can just cut down the line and delete the sections of the clip that you don’t need.
The Razor Tool is also a huge help when working with large timelines with multiple tracks because you can simply select the clip you want to cut by placing your razor over it. So, basically, if you need to make a bunch of cuts in a row, the Razor is the tool for the job.
The razor tool, however, has its limitations. If you want it to magnetize to your playhead, you must select the magnetize option, and switching from your cursor to the Razor Tool can become tedious (even though it’s just pressing the C key. What? I’m lazy.). It also can be tricky to use on a spaced-out timeline, and it may cut a few frames you didn’t intend to trim. It’s not really a part of my editing workflow since I primarily use the ⌘+K method (we’ll get to that next), but everything in its right place.
How to Split a Clip at the Playhead (⌘+K)
If you’re a keyboard shortcut junkie like myself, ⌘+K (or Ctrl+K if you are editing with a PC), this may already be your cutting technique of choice. The way Playhead Splitting works is that when you enter ⌘+K while clicked into your timeline, the command splits your selected clip right at the playhead marker. Simple enough, right?
It’s one of the simplest, most effective cuts you can make since your playhead is usually on top of where you want to cut when you’re scrubbing through footage. You can also hold shift along with ⌘+K, and that will cut all the tracks on the playhead, not just the selected ones. This is great if you have loads of tracks on your timeline and need an all-encompassing cut on the fly.
The ⌘+K shortcut is incredibly simple to use, and it’s great for making a cut if your playhead is already at your desired cut location, but when making a huge batch of cuts, it comes up a little short compared to the Razor Tool’s speed.
The difference between the ⌘+K and Razor Tool methods is an age-old debate between editors, and you’ll get a different opinion from every editor. It’s almost like New York Pizza vs. Chicago Deep Dish — it really just comes down to preference.
Using the Ripple/Trim Tool
Whether you’re a razor tool user or a ⌘+K fan, it goes without saying that the ripple and trim tools are very helpful for trimming or expanding the ends of clips. If you want to trim or expand the end of a clip, simply hover your cursor over the end of the clip and drag it once you see the red block arrow appear. You can also select multiple clips in your timeline to adjust if you are trying to cut down multiple tracks to a certain point.
If you’re cutting down a clip and want it to “ripple delete,” which is where the clip beside the clip being cut snaps to the edit point, you can access this by going to the end of your clip and trimming it while holding Shift.
The ripple/trim tools are excellent at final-pass editing, where you have to cut out chunks of your timeline to try and make it fit a certain length without having to edit single clips.
So . . . Which One Do I Use?
Well, it’s a complicated question with a pretty simple answer: whichever one allows you to do more in less time. Once you’ve mastered each of these tools, you’ll know which one you need to use when. You’ll also find out which one works best for your workflow — some people are mouse workers, while others like to do the lion’s share of their work on the keyboard. It’s all a matter of personal preference. As long as you get your edit done and done right, then no one’s going to judge how you did it.
Want to speed up your edits and learn more Premiere keyboard shortcuts? Check out our article detailing the keyboard shortcuts all beginners should know.
Looking for more articles on video editing? Check these out.
- Roundup: 5 Awesome Editing Effects in Adobe Premiere Pro
- How to Cut an Effective Trailer for Your Next Film or Video
- What We Can Learn from Editing with the Coen Brothers
- Quality Control Tips: Checking Your Final Drafts and Finalizing Your Edit
- Creative Editing Lessons from Will Smith’s YouTube Channel