7 Workflow Tips for Becoming an Efficient Video Editor

August 9, 2019

7 Workflow Tips for Becoming an Efficient Video Editor

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In life, crossing the line between idea and action is as simple as getting started. In a book about personal motivation, Scott Belsky penned this brilliant philosophy, “An idea can only become a reality once it is broken down into organized, actionable elements.” When applied to the filmmaking world, ideas that start with organization can mean the difference between delivering a great film quickly and burning countless buckets of midnight oil attempting to assemble every piece of the puzzle in a haphazard fashion.

While organization and creativity may not always go hand in hand, having a few assets at your disposal can help expedite the creative process and make your video production projects painless.

Start with a self-assessment

In the filmmaking world, we all claim to be the expert of our domain. Filmmakers’ projects are always better than their contemporaries’; their editing is always seamless, and their finished product is worthy of screening at the finest film festivals the industry has to offer. While this advice may not apply to you, take a step back from your edit bay and consider that maybe your workflow isn’t as streamlined as it could be.

As you review your most recent projects, do you find yourself scrambling to locate files? Are you constantly switching between multiple drives to track down content? Are you willing to admit that maybe, just maybe, you could use some post-production refinement before embarking on your next creative adventure? Admitting you have room for growth is the first step. Doing something to fix it is the next one.

Preset preparation

Having your ducks in a row before embarking on any filmmaking project is key to ensuring a streamlined workflow. However, there are ways you can integrate template-based workflow solutions into your film production. Work with your director to make sure your camera settings are configured accordingly before the shoot. Most prosumer level cameras allow users to save certain settings. Whether you’re looking to shoot cinema-grade 3840×2160 at 24 fps, or 1920×1080 at 60 fps to slow things down, being able to quickly and easily switch between video formats can save time on-location that can be better spent shooting, rather than setting the production specs.

Purge old habits

The easiest way to solidify a streamlined workflow is to realize the way you may have been doing things in the past isn’t the best way to do things in the future. This starts with the way you begin the editing process. If you’re used to simply uploading all of your video files and other content into one general bin within your video editing software, that’s perhaps the first place you can make a big change. Clear visions at the outset help make for clean results at the finish.

Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who handles all multimedia work for BioCentury, a biotechnology publishing company in Redwood City, CA, summed this thinking up perfectly. “My protocol is probably different in that I consider myself an ‘experiential editor,’” Fitzgerald said. “This means I want all of the media ingredients on hand but still desire the freedom to let a story breathe on its own — apart from a rigid academic script. Much the same way musicians seem to make beautiful music, streamlining for me means understanding what I am trying to do and what the vision of the project is.”

Templatize your workflow

The key is to organize your assets by the type of file you’re working with while working within a template project workflow. Think of it this way: Your house is built on a foundation of concrete. This foundation serves as the base for all of your supporting elements that form your home. Much the same way, your films should be structured with a solid base. Determining what you’ll need to develop in the editing process begins in the pre-production phase of your video project.

Ideas that start with organization can mean the difference between delivering a great video quickly and burning countless buckets of midnight oil.

The easiest way to do this is to create a project template. Call it something like “Project Base” and work from there. As you build up this template for your films, create bins and assign names reflective of the type of content you’re working with — video, music beds, audio tracks, lower thirds, etc. Once you’ve done this, save the project, then duplicate it every time you start a new one. Be sure to do a “Save As” for the new project and name it according to your specific film.

“The most important part of the video production process starts in pre-production,” said Robert Weiss, who runs MultiVision Digital, a New York City-based production company. “Making sure that all resources are known and what the key message points will be. We need to essentially see the video on paper first. Going into post with a plan makes the effort that much more efficient.”

Use bins liberally

Having bins and folders established in your video project makes the allocation of assets much easier. As you import video files, graphics or images, being able to drag and drop them into their respective bins means you or your editor can easily find and manipulate the content without wasting time searching for the files one by one. That means, much like Kenny Rogers advised in his song “The Gambler,” “Know when to walk away and know when to run.” Set yourself up for an easy exit by doing the little things before you even shuffle the deck.

All filmmaking professionals know that efficiency is the key to effective video projects. Naming your folders, even taking the time to name your individual clips, means the little bit of time invested right out of the gate has prepared you for success once you sit down to polish your video project.

Stock up on common content

If you’re in the business of turning around online videos that share similar visuals — opening sequences, title slides, motion effects with interchangeable drop zones — you likely know that stock footage and motion graphics templates can make your post-production life much easier. Utilizing online stock footage companies can be a great virtual partner in delivering excellent visuals at a decent value.

While your project budget may not allow you to take the time to capture that breathtaking time-lapse of the Grand Canyon, or a high-speed video of a model eating an apple in slow motion, integrating stock footage can be the driving force in creating memorable web videos.

As far as using motion graphics templates, the resources you can find online can either be a stopgap in delivering the look you need, or it can serve as a valuable learning tool to create the visuals you want but weren’t sure how to produce.

“I find templates to be a good resource and a great source of inspiration,” said Nick DiNinno, whose been involved in several notable Hollywood projects. “Sometimes it can be as small as a special effect, or a video clip that starts the creative process. “

Additionally, using a graphics application like After Effects, Illustrator, or Photoshop can help you create polished lower thirds and title slides that can be easily adjusted for each project. Simply highlight the text or image layer, duplicate it, and adjust with the content you need for your existing video project. Having high-quality lower thirds and graphics in your video template should boost the production quality of your video projects and leave a lasting impression with your viewers.

Set up watch folders

Anyone who’s been in the editing world longer than five years knows that while variety may be the spice of life, it can wreak havoc on a streamlined video production process. Whether you’re using ProRes, AVCHD, CinemaDNG or XDCAM format clips, unifying your creative process by integrating multiple clip formats can slow your post-production efforts to a halt if your editing system isn’t up to the task. In the past, you had less than a handful of video formats to choose from when ingesting or exporting your content. Nowadays, utilizing watch folders can save you the hassle of watching your computer painstakingly render your video files into your idyllic video format.

Depending on your interpretation of the phrase “watch folders,” the term actually refers to the process of encoding a large amount of content into the desired video format. There are several software options when it comes to encoding your video files. Compressor is the standard Apple-based platform, while Adobe’s Media Encoder software plays nicely on both Windows and macOS based platforms. Encoding.com offers exceptional resources for editors looking to take their encoding needs into the cloud.

When it comes to delivering the goods to stakeholders, using a cloud storage service like Dropbox or Box.com allows you to upload and deliver the files without the hassle of needing to safeguard a public video link. If you use Vimeo, you can password protect your video and even enable in-player commenting and version tracking.

Keep the end in mind

If there’s one thing utilizing a template-based workflow can do, it’s that it makes your end-result that much easier to deliver. Who wants to keyframe a motion graphics element over and over again if it can be replicated and refined with a few simple tweaks? Why waste a day rebuilding new title slides and lower thirds when you can change one piece of the puzzle and export a new graphic file? These questions and many more can be solved by using template-based video production processes. Your video projects are sure to benefit from your streamlined approach to post-production, regardless of the format of your video files.

This guest post was contributed by Videomaker.

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Dave Sniadak

Dave Sniadak is a writer for Videomaker.com - an online learning resource for independent filmmakers and videographers.