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10 Ways to Increase Your Video Editing Speed


Supercharge your video editing speed. We’ve got 10 ways to optimize your time in the editing suite.

Above image from WestchesterGallery

To be completely honest with you, I’m a person who prefers the challenges of the set versus the challenges of the editing room. I’m primarily a director so I’m built that way. Does this mean that I never enter the editing room? Absolutely not. The editing room is where the film is made. Many times I’ve had to edit my own work, work with freelance editors, or even edit for other filmmakers.

I’m constantly looking for ways to speed up my video editing process. Let’s be honest, for most editors who work on television, commercial and industrial projects, the faster you are the better (there’s a direct correlation between speed and earning potential). Let’s learn to be quicker with 10 ways to increase your editing speed, but in a way that doesn’t sacrifice quality for time.

1. There is a Reason We Call it a Rough, Fine and Final Cut

Editing-Film Cuts

It’s important that the process of editing your rough cut, fine cut, and final cut don’t begin to merge into one another. Meaning, don’t start color correcting during the rough cut. Don’t do a final mix of your audio in your fine cut.

When creating your rough cut focus on the most important aspect of your project: having a solid and concise structure. Doing your finish edits up front will have you distracted and could wind up being a complete waste of time.

Be sure to check out DIY Filmmaking Sucks and the blog for the Raindance Film Festival which give you great insight on the different types of edits.

2. Have a Plan and Plan Ahead


When you begin a project you’re constantly facing a completion date or deadline. We tend to plan only for that deadline. No matter what I do, no project has ever gone perfectly and I’m usually hit with some issue at the worst possible time. Luckily, I learned to plan ahead for these moments.

Set a realistic timeline, even if it’s longer than what your client desires. It’s better to pass on a project that simply isn’t feasible in the alloted time, than to miss the mark on delivery date. However long you think the project will take to edit, add 20-30% more as contingency. Don’t promise it done until then.

3. Organize, Organize, Organize


Good video editing is organized video editing. Check out this article from Premiumbeat that really goes through the finite details of file organization:

It’s easy to get lazy with file organization when you’re in a video editing session and under pressure – saving files to your Desktop with obscure file names.  If you work this way, which is of course inadvisable, ALWAYS clean off your Desktop and Downloads folder at the end of the session day.  Move the files into their appropriate organized folder and then go back and relink them in your video editing app. You’ll end up thanking yourself that you took the time.

Also, check out this great video on footage organization from Edit Cellar:

4. Placeholders Are Your Friend

I use placeholders often when editing rough and fine cuts, especially for VFX. Often I know that a specific VFX shot is going to land at a certain point in my cut, but I just don’t have the completed shot yet. Rather than break my video editing groove, I use a placeholder to signal that I’ll need to add this shot later on during the final cut stage. It also gives me a reference in the timeline and lets me edit around what will eventually be there.

5. Don’t Forget Those Ideas


During the entire production process I have a handy notebook lying around to write down ideas and things I need to remember during post. Similarly, be sure that the crew is using a camera log during production – this will save you LOADS of time during your edits, as you’ll more easily be able to identify the good shots from the busted takes. Download a free camera log template here.

6. Remember It’s Okay to Walk Away


Whether I’m writing a treatment, drawing storyboards, filming or working on an edit I have to remind myself that there times that my crew and I need to take a step back and walk away. Your project will suffer from fatigue if you just sit and work on an edit for hours on end. A recent study claims to have the perfect formula for productivity:

Work for 52 Minutes, Break for 17

Give you mind a rest and step away from the computer screen.

7. Limit Distractions


When editing, turn off the distractions that come with working on a computer. For the longest time I had the notifications on my Mac turned on and and I would break away form my video edits to answer these emails, messages, etc.

This is of course is not good for your workflow. When you sit down to edit your next film or video either disconnect the computer from the internet or (if you’re on a Mac) head over to the upper right-hand corner, click, and set your notifications to “Do Not Disturb”.

8. Use Keyboard Shortcuts


Get smart and stop using that mouse to click and search for the tools your need. Learn the keyboard shortcuts for those video editing processes instead. By using keyboard shortcuts you can drastically increase your editing speed. I like to use KB Covers on my keyboard, but there are other options out there:

KB Covers
Premiere Pro: $99.95
Avid Media Composer: $99.95
Final Cut Pro: $99.95

Editors Keys
Premiere Pro: $134.49 (PC $99.95)
Avid Media Composer: $134.99 (PC $99.95)
Final Cut Pro: $134.49

9. Save the Audio Mix for Last

Editing-Audio Mixing

Any editor can tell you that mixing audio is a time consuming process and is best served for the end of the project. You should only start a final mix once the edit is locked and client approved.

For simple video projects, doing a mix in your editing app will usually suffice. On bigger projects (with longer post timeframes and larger budgets) I prefer to do a final mix in a dedicated audio app like Adobe Audition. There’s a simple roundtrip feature in Premiere that makes this process simple.

While he is using Audition CS6, many of the principles that Larry Jordan uses in this tutorial transfer over to the new Audition CC.

10. Get Comfortable and Pick Your Spots


Video editing is a process that will keep you sitting on your rump for hours on end, so the first thing is to be sure comfortable and supported. I would suggest spending the money on a really great ergonomic chair or even a ball chair, whatever you prefer.

Video editor Jonny Elwyn has compiled an epic tweet blast of the suites of pro editors, as well as some recommendations for designing your own. Check out that post here.