How To Speed Up Your Video Editing By A Factor Of 10

Video Editing is considered one of the most time consuming things that a person can do. At times it feels like reading Old English Backwards While standing on your head - It can be done, but it's slow. How can you speed it up? Most people that have worked with me have commented on the speed at which I edit. I've been accused of using dark magic even. You might think my work suffers because of the speed at which I edit. On the contrary, I am a full time working videographer, and I edit almost all of my own stuff. So, I guess it's working.

Notice that none of the below are about your equipment. All of these things can be done without having to buy new stuff.

The first few tips focus on how you shoot. One of the best ways to save time in editing is to be conscious of these things as you shoot the footage. Note: that even if you don't shoot but only edit, it might be good to have a talk with your shooter about following these simple rules.

Shoot Right 

A really great way to slow down the editing process is to have footage that needs attention. Your goal in shooting is for your footage to be edit ready. That's not allways possible, but if you can make sure your white balance is right. Make sure it's exposed right. Make sure it's stable. Those three things will save you loads of time when editing rolls around.

Shoot Short

As soon as I hit the record button, I'm counting in my head. I rarely let a shot go more than three to four seconds, unless there is a good reason. I learned this doing highlight reels for youth summer camps. Most guys would hit record and run these long shots of action that they would later have to slice up and pull short clips from. I try to shoot in a way that there is minimum editing needed. Most video edits will not have clips longer than a few seconds, so I try to mimic that in the shooting.

Don't over shoot.

The other side of that is to not shoot too much. Not only should your shots be short, you should not be shooting all the time. At a wedding reception, for instance, I am only shooting about 5 to 10 percent of the time. (Maybe Less). I've worked with guys who are out on the dance floor with their camera shooting most of the time. There's two fears that drive shooters to do this. One, there's a fear that you might miss some important action. Number two there is a fear that the person that hired you will see you not shooting. Here's how to overcome that fear. Look like you're shooting. There's no reason you can't be out on the dance floor, ready to shoot. Even look like you're shooting. Just don't over shoot, trust me it will save you lots of time in editing. 

Plan Your Shot

You need to think in terms of shots. I know this seems simple but I've seen enough footage from other people to know that there are lots that don't think in these terms. This goes along with the above tips, but it's the best way to think of it. If you don't have a SHOT in mind you will just hit record and let it roll. You are just hoping that you'll get something good enough to use. This can work BUT it really slows down the editing process. So see the shot. Don't just roll footage with nothing in mind.

Don't Hit Record until The Camera Is Steady.

When I'm editing other people's shots, it frustrates me to have to cut the head and foot time off a clip. It's really common to just hit record while you have the camera down, and then lift it up and get it into stable position. You'll save yourself a lot of time if you not only follow the above three steps but also, don't hit record until the shot begins, and hit it as soon or even before the stability ends. If you can avoid having to cut every clip then you will save time in the edits.

Now that you have followed the few shooting tips here are tips for when you get back to your editing station.

Organize Footage

There are lots of logging options for video editors. I don't use any of them. I can if I need to, but it's quicker for me to just make folders and drop shots into them. Whatever you do, find a method. You need to not only have your footage organized, but you need to keep your projects inside your editing software organized. You will save a lot of "looking time" if you plan out where all your media will go.

Don't watch the footage 

It's common for beginners to watch through their footage in real-time. It's magical. You're proud of what you shot. You want to see it again. HOWEVER, you're wasting time. This mostly applies if you shot the footage. You were there, you should be able to remember roughly what happened in the shots you took. I generally use the high speed scrubbing for every edit. There's times when I need to watch through footage long form, but most of the time I just scrub through.

This even works on interview editing. Your brain can process words at a much higher speed than the average person speaks. So use high speed functions. You might think that the exception to this rule, would be interviews. If you are editing the spoken word, you will need to listen through all of it BU,T Even on interviews I usually put it in high speed mode. It makes the voices sound like chipmunks, but it's a huge time saver.

Save often

I've lost so many hours over the past few years, because I got into an edit and wasn't paying attention to how often I had saved. I have my auto-save (premiere) set to 8 minutes. This keeps me pretty safe, but I still like to hit save as often as I think about it. Don't waste time that you don't have to. Save often.

Build The Skeleton - Fill The Gaps

When you're washing your car, you don't start with the wax and polish. So when you're editing why would you start with the polish. It's easy to get bogged down in the details first. Don't do it. Spread all your footage out into sections. This is very rough but it will help. Once you've done that, start organizing it along your timeline. Don't cut yet, just get it all laid out in a skeleton format. Once you have the basic flow, then start the close cuts. 

High Speed Editing

I already mentioned this in a basic form, but there is a time when I use the maximum speed that my software has. It's on multicam edits. If I have a multicam program where the talent stayed still for a long time then I'll crank up the highspeed as fast it will go. (In Premier I hit the L key about five times). This makes it impossible to understand what is being said, but I don't really need to in a program like that. I will slow it down when there are transitions. For the most part I can edit a multicam project at about 4x speed without much trouble. This only works well if the program is shot well. If you have armature camera operators, then you probably won't be able to do it as fast. 

Use Low Rez Preview

Most software allow you to preview your edit in a low resolution format. (In premier, it's the fraction right under the program screen) I turn mine down all the way. It jumps to life faster and it has a lot less drop frames. The truth is, I don't need high resolution when I'm editing, I just need efficiency and speed. 

Don't Render

I almost never render. I use premiere, so it will play almost anything without rendering. The exception is that if I have an after effects comp in the timeline, I will usually render it, or even bounce it down and import an actual clip. Almost every project I've done has unrendered material in it. I save the render for the export phase. Note: If you're computer is older, or slow this may not be an option.

Know Your Hotkeys

It saves only a second at a time, but that adds up. I have memorized the hotkeys I need on a regular basis. I have to look ones up that I don't use as much. This will save you loads of time.

Wait To Do Text and Graphics Until You're Nearly Done

I like to wait to put text on, because its a tedious process. It never fails, if I put text or graphics on the timeline early in the process I will have to go back and change it later. I have learned to wait until almost the end so that I can make sure I don't need to make unneeded changes later.

Apply Effects and Transitions Last

There are a couple reasons for this. First, the effects will slow down your playback. It's good to wait until it's nearly finished. Secondly, its easy to spend most of your energy on putting on effects and transitions, and loose the thrust of your motivation before you've neared the end. Spend the majority of your energy on stuff that is easy to waste a lot of time on. This stage is fun for me so it allows me to save something that I know I will enjoy for the end. It's my dessert.

Take Short Breaks, But Stay Tuned In

I get bored easy. I like to walk around the yard for a few minutes when I realize my eyes are getting tired or I'm starting to get bored. It's important to keep the breaks short in order to not get occupied with something else. Everyone has their own methods, but I need breaks often or I will wind up wandering off and doing something else. 

Those are my few suggestions. If anyone has anything else to add, I'd love to see them in the comments below. If there are any good one's I'd be happy to add them to the body of the article.


  1. These are great tips, thanks! :)

  2. Nice article, Really informative, the artilce would help me very much: thanks Media