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Short-form video production step-by-step

By Jennifer - Posted on 30 December 2015

Madeline Anderson

I work as a short-form, low-budget video producer, and most of my videos are made on my own, start to finish, with no other crew. I've had many reactions from friends to co-workers to nasty people on Youtube about either quality or why it takes so much longer for me to edit a video than to say, write an article.

Most of the videos I make need to be finished in less than a week, sometimes less than a day or even in a few hours (like when on a trade show trip). This includes travel, setup, shoot, return, backup, ingest, edit, output and delivery. Much of the time is spent on waiting for footage to copy or render or compress, which is out of the editor's control, and also depends on how much was shot and how long the final video ends up being.

This process is different than say, a professional TV show, where many other people and departments are involved, but the basics remain the same - and I do them all myself.

To understand the timing of video, please use this 23-step workflow as a reference:

1. travel to shoot (if local, 45m-1hr, or could be a car or plane trip - I've done NYC to Phoenix in a day trip)

2. set up, shoot, breakdown

3. return home from the shoot 

4. back up raw footage (~20-30 mins depending on how much was shot)

5. ingest/uncompress footage to editable form (e.g. I convert to Prores) - could take 30m-5 hours if a lot was taken.

6. watch through all footage, sync multiple cameras or audio sources

7. make selects out of what is usable

8. assemble a rough story in the timeline

9. create a narrative: get from assemble to rough cut by trimming and timing out narrative

10. place b-roll and continue trim in a next rough cut

11. search drive or (or other legal sources) for appropriate music, time music and adjust cut with music

12. audio mix dialog with music, fades/dissolves, etc.

13. fix any audio issues/run through filters, etc.

14. color correction/dissolves/transitions/image stabilization

15. add graphics, titles, overlays

16. watch video multiple times (throughout process) and smooth out edits/FX

17. render - could take 10-45 mins, depends on length/how many effects

18. output - could take 10-20 mins, depends on length

19. compress - could take 15-30 mins, depends on length

20. create upload record on sharing site

21. upload - depends on internet speed and size of file

22. wait for video to process on site - 1 minute video takes about 10 minutes… and up.

23. email link to colleague/client


And if additional edits are necessary, repeat many of the steps above. None of this is easy, especially when there is a time constraint.

Some of the "quality" issues come in when steps have to be skipped such as bad audio or shaky footage (which was either shot quickly because I had no time to set up, or if it can be fixed with a smooth-cam effect but there's no time in post), or if someone else shot the footage poorly and sends it for edit (and thinks I can just "fix" it).

Having virtually no time to actually edit is the worst part, because that's where the bulk of the work should be done - telling the story.

When you're working alone it's challenging, fun and rewarding, but also impossible to make things look like Hollywood. But I'll never stop trying to make videos look and sound their best.