We all know that video editing is a job that takes a lot of time, energy, and patience. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to make the entire process quicker and easier?
The unfortunate truth is that there’s really no way to shortcut the editing process. It’s the same as becoming great at any other discipline: practice, practice, practice.
But when you look at talented editors and how they go about creating their work, you will see patterns begin to emerge. So even though there’s no cheap shortcut to get better and faster at video editing, there are a few habits that will dramatically help if you build them into your workflow early.
1. Watch ALL Your Footage
It seems tedious and time-consuming, but making sure you’ve gone through all the footage provided to you ensures that you’ll select the best moments. This is essential! There’s nothing worse than putting together a great edit only to have someone say, “Why didn’t you use THIS piece of footage?” Then you go back through all your clips and find that you missed a moment of gold. Now you have to wedge that new piece in somewhere that makes sense, which can be a tough task for anyone. Start the right way and watch through ALL the footage.
But this can be very slow and tedious, so here are two tips that can help you save time while technically not skipping clips:
At the beginning and end of every take, there will be junk footage from between when the camera started recording, and when the take actually begins. Unless you’re putting together some sort of blooper reel, these moments are usually unnecessary to review. So cut out the fat and scrub past these sections. This can save you lots of time by not watching boring and unnecessary footage.
Additionally, if your edit is mostly focusing on visuals, you can save a lot of time by using the shuttle buttons which are ‘J’ (Reverse), ‘K’ (Stop), and ‘L’ (Forward). Both in the source monitor and in the timeline, hitting the L key will play your footage at normal speed while hitting it a second time will play your clip at double speed. Each additional press will increase the playback speed. Watching your clips at double speed can theoretically double the amount of footage you can get through in the same amount of time. And if you’ve got an eagle eye, you can still pick out the best portions of video at high speed.
2. Stay Organized
Over the course of editing an entire video, you’re likely to have a slew of clips to keep track of. In order to manage everything and keep from going insane, it’s absolutely essential to stay organized. This starts with bins.
When you ingest your footage, you’re going to want to do two things. Name your clips, and place them in categories. This will look different for different projects depending on what you are working on at the time. Let’s say for example that you’re editing a narrative film. A good way to organize clips may be to have folders for scenes, then subcategories or a naming scheme that let’s you know what was from your A cam or B cam, what was the master shot, and whether the shot was a wide, closeup, medium, etc.
Over the course of creating your video you will undoubtedly need to go back and scrub through clips multiple times. It can be a frustrating process if the majority of your time is spent trying to actually find the clip you need to review. This is made even harder if your clip has an ambiguous name like 0D2A9117.MOV. By adding bins with recognizable and informative names, you will save surprising amounts of time by not going through dozens of clips just to find the right one.
3. Label Colors Are Your Friend
Let’s be honest, if all of us were to go back and look at the last project we worked on, would we see a beautiful sight or a disturbing mess? Keeping your footage organized in your project manager can seem simple, but when you take dozens, if not hundreds, of clips and place them onto a timeline, you may find yourself quickly confused and frustrated.
It can be really helpful to assign different label colors to different kinds of footage, audio elements, and graphics. Being able to see in an instant which kind of clip is at each spot on the timeline can help you to more easily keep track of all the elements in your video.
There are two different ways you can go about this process. The first is that you can right click individual clips on your timeline and assign them a label color. This can be great if you need to work with individual clips that don’t fit into larger categories. The second way is to label your clips early in the ingest stage within the project manager. By labeling clips before the get added to the timeline, you ensure than any clip taken from a portion of that piece of footage will have the correct label color.
We guarantee this will help keep stress down as you edit!
4. Don’t Be Afraid To Take A Break And Get Perspective
One surprising characteristic of a good video editor is to ensure that they don’t get tunnel vision. Sometimes when you’re working on a project, you get so focused on what you ‘should’ do that you sometimes miss out on other creative options you ‘could’ do. Watching the same take over and over can get you into a mindset based on what you’ve already seen. It can start to get difficult to imagine other options, takes, or styles to incorporate when you’ve seen the same clip dozens of times in a row.
Taking a break every hour or so can help you keep your mind from getting into a creative rut. Take a walk, let your mind rest, or work on a separate project to allow yourself to get some short creative distance. More often than not, you will likely come back with a bit of a new perspective on how to address certain issues.
This also goes hand-in-hand with receiving outside perspective. At the end of the day, bringing in a couple of trusted colleagues to give their thoughts on your work can help breathe new life into the project. Sometimes a second set of eyes is all it takes to finally see a problem that was staring you right in the face all along.
5. Review, Review, Review!
You’ve finished your edit! Congratulations! So you export, send it off to your clients and…oh no! You find a mistake! Now you need to go back, fix the mistake, re-export, and re-send the file to your client or teammates. Sending an export that has a glaring error looks bad on your part. There is one simple solution to this problem: review your footage before exporting!
This doesn’t mean scrub through and give it a second glance. Actually take the time to sit down, make your project full screen, and watch with a pair of headphones or good speakers. This may seem tedious in the moment, but this is a far better option than having a confused or unimpressed client tell you that you missed a very noticeable error.
When all’s said and done, you have a tough job as a video editor. But you also have one of the most powerful and unique positions in the video creation process. These habits will help you to ensure that you are working at your maximum capacity and will prevent you from having to backtrack to fix silly mistakes. Try them out on your next project, and never forget to practice, practice, practice! Good Luck!