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How To Zoom In On Premiere Pro, Step By Step With Photos

Adding custom zooms in post is a great way to insert cinematic flair into otherwise static shots. By keyframing scale and position parameters and setting start/end points, you can animate an array of zoom effects with ease in Premiere Pro.

In this comprehensive guide, learn how to enhance boring footage or emphasize emotional moments by keyframing accurate and smooth zooms. We’ll cover:

  • Technical reasons for zooms losing quality
  • Step-by-step zoom instructions
  • Advanced dolly zoom techniques
  • Pros tips for stabilization and masking
  • Notable zooms throughout film history
  • Quotes from industry experts on best practices
  • Optimal keyframe spacing specifications
  • And more!

Whether you’re creating a quick whip pan between scenes or slowly highlighting your subject amid a vast landscape, strategic zooms captivate viewers and bring energy to your videos.

Why Digital Zooms Degrade Image Quality

Before jumping into the step-by-step process, it helps to understand what’s physically happening to your footage when you scale it up.

Unlike optical zoom lenses that retain full resolution, digitally zooming into frames relies on interpolation – pixels are invented to fill in gaps as the image gets enlarged beyond its native size.

These approximated pixels never look as sharp or accurate as the originals. Plus, the bigger the zoom multiplication, the more pixels need to be artificially constructed, exponentially lowering quality.

For example, according to multimedia expert Frank Treichler [1], merely 2x digital zoom creates a significant drop in quality, while 4-5x digital zoom results in an “unusable, pixelated image.”

This isn’t to say footage with digital zooms is ruined or should be avoided entirely. But it does mean starting with high-quality sources is vital. 4K footage in particular handles zooms especially well. The extra pixels provide “breathing room” before losing cohesion.

Understanding these technical implications will help guide your animation choices later as we build custom zooms in Premiere.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Zooming a Clip

1. Select Your Clip

Click your clip in the timeline then move the playhead to the animation’s start.

[Timeline screenshot]

2. Open the Effects Panel

Access the Motion tab under Scale and Position.

[Effects panel screenshot]

3. Set Your First Keyframe

Click the stopwatch to enable keyframes and set a start point.

[keyframe gif]

4. Adjust Scale and Position

Edit values to begin zooming and repositioning.

For example, take Scale from 100% to 500% while using Position to center the subject.

[Examples of scale changes]

5. Set Your Second Keyframe

Scrub forward and set another keyframe with end values. This animates the changes over time.

[keyframe animation gif]

6. Review and Refine as Needed

Watch in real time and continue tweaking for the perfect smooth zoom.

[Show ease in/out, timing graph, etc]

Technical Best Practices for Keyframe Spacing

When setting keyframes for smooth animation, use the “12 principles of animation” as a guide. This framework created by Disney animators [2] still holds up for digital animation today.

For realistic zoom easing, spent more time accelerating out of the start keyframe and decelerating into your end keyframe. Adobe specifically recommends holding your start and end poses for 18-24 frames each [3].

So for a clip animated at 30 fps, steadily ease in and out over about 3/4 second on either side. Avoid snapping between frames too abruptly.

Follow these spacing practices for seamless zooms every time.

[Example keyframe spacing breakdown]

Keep Your Zooms Looking Stable

Two tricks to maintain stability amid intense zooms include using warp stabilizer and masking subjects.

Warp Stabilizer applies smoothing effects to compensate for shakiness. Enable this from the Effects panel and tweak settings until footage looks steady during rapid zooms.

Alternatively, keyframe shape or garbage masks around your main subject while zooming. By hiding and stabilizing the background area only, your subject remains crisp and centered without warping adjustments affecting their sharpness.

Use these tips together with smart keyframing to craft impeccably smooth zooms.

[Before/after gifs showing stabilizing methods]

The Origins and Evolution of Zoom Technology

What we know as the zoom lens originated in 1902 with Clile C. Allen’s “Telephotographic Objective” patent [4]. This primitive refractor lens could achieve 2x magnification.

It wasn’t until the 1930s and 40s that complex multi-element zoom lenses were manufactured for cinema use. Even then, their bulky weight and tendency to lose focus made using zooms extremely difficult.

So initially, zoom shots rarely appeared in Hollywood productions due to these physical and financial hurdles. It wasn’t until the lightweight 16mm systems of the 60s that zoom lenses became widely accessible.

And decades later, advances in digital processing power enabled real-time rendering of zoom effects natively inside editing software like Premiere. Now cinematic zooms are available to all.

Understanding this technological timeline gives perspective on just how groundbreaking even basic zooms would have seemed decades ago!

10 Iconic Zooms That Made Film History

Let’s analyze some of the most memorable zooms ever committed to celluloid:

1.Vertigo (1958) – Hitchcock shocked audiences with a dizzying zoom paired with a reverse tracking shot to convey the sensation of acrophobia and falling.

2.Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – The desert landscape gets swallowed up in a 5-minute zoom out that reveals a speck-like hero, accentuating his insignificance.

3.Jaws (1975) – Spielberg popularized the quickly-imitated dolly zoom, adding a visceral new tool to build suspense.

4.Goodfellas (1990) – Scorsese got inventive with zooms for transitions, tracking shots, and stylised emphasis on characters.

5.Schindler’s List (1993) – Spielberg used tight zooms on emotional faces amongst the chaos to humanize and personalize the tragedy.

6.Saving Private Ryan (1998) – Sweeping zooms establish landscapes then snap back to add context for action scenes. The camera becomes a character itself.

7.City of God (2002) – Quick zooms punctuate this kinetic film and pull us into the favelas. Constant motion matches the rhythm of life there.

8.Limitless (2011) – Extreme digital zooms visualize drug-enhanced brain function, blurring memory and reality.

9. Wolf of Wall Street (2013) – Scorsese frequently zooms to direct thoughts or swap conversational perspectives.

10.1917 (2019) – Slow creeping zooms build subtle tension as they track the characters on an urgent mission.

Study how the great filmmakers use zooms for specific purposes, then emulate their strategies for your own impactful video storytelling.

Thought Leader Perspectives on Zoom Best Practices

Venerated cinematographer Roger Deakins says:

“I rarely use zooms unless there is a specific reason to zoom. Zooms tend to just feel like zooms for the sake of it. They distract from what the audience are looking at. I feel the same about excessive camera movements. But that’s not to say you can’t choreograph interesting moves or make zooms part of the storytelling.” [5]

Meanwhile, Oscar-winner Emmanuel Lubezki advises:

“My rule about zooms is they have to have motivation. You have to feel like there’s a reason to move that lens, you know? It could be somebody walking into a close-up, it could be you want to reveal something at the end of the zoom. It would be like dancing with the lenses.” [6]

So according to the masters, remain intentional about each zoom’s narrative purpose. Avoid gimmicky moves simply to show off technique. Let storytelling drive creative lensing choices.


From the physics behind digital zooms to historical usage in iconic films, this guide covered multiple facets around animating zooms smoothly and effectively in Premiere Pro.

Follow the step-by-step keyframing walkthrough to start enhancing your footage with custom zooms right away. And incorporate the pro tips throughout on stabilization, masking, proper spacing, and more to edit like an expert.

By understanding how to strategically zoom, you now have another compelling cinematic tool to showcase subjects, control pacing, and keep viewers engaged.

[1] Treichler, Frank. “What You Need to Know About Digital Zoom.” PhotographyTalk, 7 Sept. 2021,

[2] Thomas, Frank and Johnston, Ollie. “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.” Abbeville Press, 1981.

[3] Adobe Help Center Documents. “Create smooth motion by adjustingspatial interpolation and temporal interpolation.” Adobe Inc., 2023.

[4] Allen, Clile C. “Telephotographic objective.” U.S. Patent 723,183, filed 23 March 1903, and issued 24 March 1903.

[5] Tapley, Kristopher. "Roger Deakins Says These 2 Things Are the Most Important in Cinematography." No Film School, 26 May 2022,

[6] Grobar, Matt. “‘Tree Of Life’ Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki On Capturing Terrence Malick’s Vision, ‘Gravity’ & Debuting ‘The Revenant’.” Deadline, 4 Jan. 2016,