Six steps to speedy video editing

Having become the key content player for brands and businesses, video brings our clients’ stories to life in engaging and unrivalled ways.

An important part of any content marketing strategy, video plays a huge part in bringing a brand to life, encouraging engagement and interaction. Whether that’s a small social media clip optimised for mobile or an AdSmart from Sky production for TV, the applications of video are endless.

In fast-moving digital spaces, clients may require a fast-turnaround from a video editor if they have date-specific content requirements or need footage assembling for last-minute award submissions, for example.

With video editors not always being involved in the production side of videography, we can be presented with vast amounts of footage, including long-form interviews and big collections of b-roll. It is therefore useful for video editors to work at high speeds to find the best bits, maintaining a balance of efficiency and high quality while meeting project deadlines.

Working at high speeds allows more time for numerous and necessary post-production steps, including colour grading, sound mixing, music selection, motion graphics and animation. Not only does this also allow greater time for internal review and client amendments, but it can also mean additional edits can be made. Small sections of video can be taken from longer videos and repurposed for some social media micro-content on separate platforms, giving clients additional content to work into their campaigns and content calendars.

Behind-the-scenes, a lot goes into video editing, so as a Video Editor here at Conteur, I thought I’d share six methods I use daily to speed up the parts of video editing that take the most time to allow more time for creative fine-tuning.

File Naming and Folder Structure

Sounds boring, but this first video editing tip works wonders. It pays to have a universal filing and logging system in place and sticking with it. This saves an editor so much time when needing to find a specific clip or project, keeping files neatly organised.

Within client-level parent folders, I’ve found it extremely useful to label projects first by date and, most importantly, in reverse (YYYY-MM-DD), followed by the individual project title. This method allows me to use the ‘sort by title’ function, bringing your newest (or oldest) project to the top, giving a dated reference point if I ever need to go back into an old project to re-edit or find relevant assets for separate projects.

An example of a file path using this method might be ‘NHS> NHS Leicestershire> 22.06.10 – NHS Leicester Sky Adsmart.’ This means that the next project for that client will be easily distinguishable.

Within that final folder, I also break my projects down into separate folders (Footage, Exports, Edits, Sound, Logos, Graphics, etc.) to make assets easy to locate.

Video projects can quickly build up for clients, so it’s important to be able to easily navigate folders, and I’ve found this makes life as a video editor much easier, saving time in future.

Checking the last takes first

As initially stated, video editors aren’t always involved in video production days, so it’s a must to quickly navigate to the best bits of b-roll.

It’s highly likely that there will be several takes of the same shot, and that the last shot is likely going to be what a Video Producer is happiest with. Once all the relevant footage has been imported into Final Cut or Premiere Pro, it’s quite clear what that last take is.

I save myself some time and speed up this part of the editing process by heading straight to those last clips in a series and working on those, which leads to…

Favouriting Footage

Once I’ve found my preferred bit of footage, it’s time to favourite it.

In Final Cut, I navigate to my footage, set in- and out-points and hit the ‘F’ key to favourite. This takes and sends the best part of a take to the ‘’Favourites’ bin. I then skim through all the footage in the same way and send it all there – I won’t have to traipse through the B Camera folder again. This is especially useful if that project needs to be revisited, as I will quickly be able to see what my preferred shots were from the first time around. 

The method is a little different in Premiere Pro. Subclips from the Project Panel can again be made by setting in and out points, and then either using the default shortcut (Crtl+U) or by right clicking and selecting ‘Make Subclip’.

Favouriting footage works particularly well for cutaway footage and means avoiding assembling all of my b-roll rushes in a separate timeline, streamlining the editing process.

Learn and Use Shortcuts

Shortcuts save time. Seriously.

Knowing the shortcuts to the most used video editing tools is paramount. Even better are the J, K, and L keys (rewind, stop, play), allowing a video editor to play video at varying speeds, both forwards and backwards.

Extremely useful for longer clips like long-form interviews, double-pressing the ‘L’ key plays a video in 2x speed; you can still make sense of what a person is saying while halving the time of the initial rough assembly and doubling productivity.

Hit the key again to speed it up even faster. At this point you are listening to absolute gibberish, but this allows you to speed past sections that don’t really need to be looked at, including moments where cameras or interviewees are clearly being reset or taking a moment before restarting. 

Using Audio Waveform

Once again, this is particularly great for making a start on cutting and sectioning longer interview clips.

With a microphone attached or directed at the interviewee, their audio is going to have a much greater visual presence on the audio waveform.

With footage and sound synced up for a 30-minute interview, I assess visual representation of the waveform before I’ve even started listening to and assessing the footage. I can then skip along the timeline and cut at any points I can see the interviewer is speaking (their audio and therefore waveform will be much lower).

To make life even easier, I use markers (M) to mark the interview subject’s sections. Once I’ve begun to assess your footage (in 2x speed, of course!) I will sometimes click into those markers and make short notes about the responses. If a client comes back to us long after a project has been signed-off asking for new, unused interview sections, this allows me to easily find what that client is looking for, saving yet more time.

Copy and Paste Attributes

Finally, copying and pasting attributes (colour grading, LUTS, etc.) also speeds up post-production processes.

For multiple clips shot in the same locations, making corrections to one piece of footage, and copying them over onto many other clips lays the foundation for quick tweaks to those following clips rather than starting individually from the ground up.

In both Premiere and Final Cut, copying attributes from one clip to another opens a dialogue box which allows you to select which attributes will and won’t be copied over. This is useful when only specific attributes need copying over, depending on aspects such as light levels for example, where I might want to be making more footage-specific alterations.

However, just because attributes can be copied and pasted from one clip to another does not make video editing and post-production work a simple cut-and-paste job. It still takes time to construct a story in a way that makes sense and to tell it in an engaging and visually appealing way. Certain aspects of video editing naturally take a lot longer than others (syncing up and reviewing multiple interviews, for example), so it’s useful for a video editor to use all the tools and methods at their disposal to balance multiple projects for multiple clients and to comfortably meet deadlines.