4 Ways to Animate Your Video with Keyframes

Trevor Holmes


Post-production can be daunting when you’re just getting started, and it may seem like you have to know your software inside and out before producing impressive effects. In reality, getting comfortable with a few tools and techniques can go a long way. For this post, we’re going to focus on one of our favorite techniques: keyframing.

Keyframes can be thought of as beginning and ending points. When you set more than one keyframe, you can create smooth animations over time. Using keyframes in video editors, you can animate things like a video clip’s scale, motion, opacity, rotation, crop… anything!

The following are four concrete examples of ways we use keyframes in Adobe Premiere to add effects to our videos at Wistia. Please note: there are many more use cases for keyframes. This is just a sampling.

1. Mimic camera movements

Sometimes what we envision in pre-production doesn’t work out as planned, whether it’s framing, how we rack focus a shot, or something like snap zooming.

Most of the time, I find myself using keyframes to heal a shot, or to copy an effect that would have been captured in production (snap zooms, rack focus, framing).

For the shot above, we used keyframes to animate the scale of the clip and achieve that snap zoom effect. It was a quick way to accomplish an effect we wanted without having to re-shoot this scene.

Here’s another example where we did a rack focus at the end of the video using a blur effect. We ramped up the intensity of the blur with keyframes to create a lens blur you could create in production.

2. Animate split-screen shots

This technique is probably the most popular use case for us. The best example that comes to mind is the intro to Parks and Recreation. There are a ton of split screens that are animating in and out of the frame to create an interesting high-energy sequence for the show’s intro video.

This technique takes a little time, but can be done without heading into a graphics-heavy program like After Effects. Basic video editors are super capable of this.

We’ve applied a basic version of this technique in our own library of videos, most recently in our Help Center.

We wanted the video thumbnail to display the editing software with a logo, but we knew we wanted to show a human in the video. Using keyframes, we were able slide my face onto the scene after showing the logo and the software for the first couple of frames.

This created a smooth transition between the thumbnail and the first line of the script.

3. Give more energy to photos in video

If you have to use photos in your video sequence, keyframing motion, scale, and rotation can create interesting effects. Read: it makes photos appear way less boring.

So why not just use the Ken Burns effect? While this does a similar thing, you can’t achieve more custom effects like animating opacity or rotation.

We recently used this technique in our 2015 rap-up video with a few photos of our team. Bet you didn’t even notice, did you? ;)

4. Create custom animations

You can use keyframes to animate anything you want. Maybe you want to animate the perspective of a shot in a screencast. Or maybe you want to create an old-timey vignette at the end of your video as a sign off.

Or, maybe you just want to create a simple motion graphic in Premiere, like this:

Either way, you don’t need an effects program to achieve this result. Editing programs like Premiere and Final Cut allow you to do this fairly quickly and simply.

Want to learn more about other editing techniques?

We recently released a guide on “Editing Basics for Business Video” that includes a video tutorial on keyframes, L-Cuts, and working with stabilization in post.

There’s a bunch of other tips in the guide, so be sure to check it out!

Trevor Holmes


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