5 Steps to Improving Your Video Editing Workflow

Making movies is hard, they’re time-consuming, detail-driven, and most of all, require tons of specialized knowledge coming from hordes of hardworking individuals (see the end credits to any movie in theatres).

But at Fedora, we make tons of videos, from instructional videos for our instructors to self-produced courses. We’ve gotten pretty good at producing quality work, with few resources in a short amount of time. Here’s how.

Whether you are using Windows Movie Maker or Final Cut Pro, I’ve pulled together a couple of simple tips that will help remove any time-consuming mistakes from your video editing workflow, as well as improve the overall quality of your final product.

1) Capture Room Tone

It goes without saying that whether you’re creating a screencast or actually filming someone, you should record in a quiet and acoustically controlled environment (let me know if you are curious to learn more about how you can set this and I can go into it more in a later post). When you begin to record, capture about 30 seconds to a minutes of room tone, or, the base sound of the room, just hit record and let your microphone pick up what’s around. Later on when you edit, you’ll need to fill in audio gaps, and pasting in sections of your room tone is the easiest way to smooth out transitions. Other filler noise may sound too choppy, and hours of tweaking will get you to a mediocre filler at best. And with that said…

2) Give yourself enough lead-time between takes

Especially with screencasts, give yourself a few seconds of silent lead time between takes. If you are talking in the middle of a video and mess up a line, it’s totally fine to keep on going as long as you stop for a second or two before continuing. When you are editing, you can cut out those few seconds giving you seemingly flawless delivery. However, by contrast, if you rush between these little takes, it becomes incredibly frustrating to cut out only a few frames and still keep the audio/sound/final product crisp. Especially in producing a screencast, make sure you’re not moving the mouse/cursor at all between takes. A still mouse makes cutting around the dead periods easy to do. But if you rush and move the cursor, when you try to cut out bad lines, verbal pauses, etc., the mouse looks like it’s spazzing out and jumps around the screen. You could argue that the jump-cut works in certain cases, and I’ve seen it successfully done on YouTube a few times (such as in the TITLE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-T6zsP3fzw). It also worked for Goddard (see: French New Wave), but unless you’re audience is trying to glean a new perspective on reality, we don’t suggest it. Consistent videos work best when trying to teach new information.

3) Crossfade clips to smooth out transitions

Even with room tone to fill in the gaps between audio/video clips, there are cases where you only need to lightly smooth out the transition. The best way to do this is by crossfading. Most non-linear video editing programs will let you do this in one of two ways: a) Drag the beginning/end of one clip over the end/beginning of another or b) Line up the two clips next to each other and then apply a cross dissolve/fade. I highly suggest that you research your particular tool and its settings to figure out how to add in transitions. But remember, as with most things, less is more. Don’t add in crazy star or flame based transitions unless you are absolutely sure that it is adding something. Otherwise, you’re simply adding distractions to your video that will ultimately turn off people looking for the bare facts.

4) Save your files/projects on an external hard drive

Some programs, such as Screenflow (http://www.telestream.net/screenflow/overview.htm), encapsulate your entire project as a single file (in this case a .screenflow file), others have a combination of source files, project files and even rendering files. Basically, when you edit a video/audio clips and add transitions or visual effects, your computer needs to generate the actual images that you see on screen. This process can take up quite a bit of time, so as you go about working on a project your program might save temporary versions of those images somewhere to quickly reference later on, instead of having to keep making them every single time. These make up the various rendering files that are your project.

With an external hard drive it’s super duper easy to go back and edit previous projects, or pass off the work to someone else. You can buy one from anywhere between $50–100+ depending on the features you need: http://www.newegg.com/External-Hard-Drives/Category/ID-344). Do note, that while “quick and dirty” is the new “fast and cheap”, this is one area where going for the higher end investment could save you tons of time. You want a hard drive with a good amount of storage (at least 500GB, but I prefer 1TB+ for video projects). Also, look at transfer rates (or the rate at which data can be streamed to and from the hard drive to your computer). When you finally export your project, you’ll need to save it all onto the hard drive from your computer. If you have a 1.8GB movie that needs to go on a hard drive that can only transfer 0.05MB/sec, that could take you hours and hours, but if your hard drive can handle up to 25MB/sec, it would be done in a few minutes. There are tons of choices out there, it’s just a matter of weighing the pros and cons to figure out what you need.

5) Compress your videos after exporting them in HD

Nobody starts off wanting to produce grainy, low resolution videos. Quite the opposite, everyone wants 4K quality streamed to everyone across the world (including those in rural areas). The issue with this should be obvious, the better the resolution, the bigger the file, the better the connection needs to be in order to watch/stream/download it in a reasonable amount of time. For the most part, no one really has control over the internet speed of those who watch their videos. However, if you export your videos in the highest quality possible, and then compress them down, you’re giving someone the highest quality video downloaded in the form of a 25MB video instead of a 54GB video. (Recently, I was able to do this exact same thing for an hour long video). There are tons of tools out there for video compression, I use Handbrake (https://handbrake.fr/) because it is free and I’ve never had issues with it. Notes about how to use it properly:

a) Make sure that you go into the Picture settings and remove any cropping that has been applied

Handbrakes main layout
The Picture Settings for Handbrake

b) Also be sure to set the output format to mp4:

Output settings for Handbrake

To learn more about how Handbrake works, check out their wiki: https://trac.handbrake.fr/wiki/HandBrakeGuide

And voila, without spending more money, or changing the style of your content, you can dramatically improve both the quality of your work and decrease the time it takes to produce it. Follow me here on Medium (as well as How We Build Fedora)to get more tips on how to improve the quality of your video editing and next week as I start my 3 part series on how to use structure your video projects/workflow using Screenflow, Adobe Premiere and lastly, Final Cut Pro.