A common issue for our budgeting purposes and giving quotes to potential clients and existing clients is factoring editing time into the equation. Because we’ve completed many hundreds of videos, we have a good idea how many hours most video projects will take without too much trouble. Even so, every project has its unique challenges. We typically build into the project budget enough editing hours so that unexpected snags and difficulties don’t cut into our expected costs, but are careful not to pad the budget and overcharge our clients, either. We also heavily benefit from having staff editors rather than freelancing our editing work, which reduces the hourly rate substantially. I would argue we have one of the best and least expensive editing costs in the industry by not relying on freelancers for our editing needs. If a company is trying to ascertain how much editing work goes into a video, though, we’ll examine a few guidelines in this blog entry.
Somewhat ironically, corporate video editing is often more challenging than narrative editing work, like short films, feature films, and scripted training videos. Any project with a script already has a clear outline for the editor to follow. He or she simply assembles the best takes for each line of dialogue or each action in the order the script dictates, then arrives at a “rough assembly” in film industry terms. The rough assembly doesn’t take into consideration issues with pacing, possible lines that the director feels in retrospect should be cut, or flow issues between scenes that need finessing. It does, however, give everyone a starting point for further editing and refinement. Corporate videos often have very little clear structure before they are shot. For instance, everyone may know the final video should be about three minutes long and include the best interview commentary from company employees or customers, along with some visual elements (B-roll) added to the mix, but the assembly is up for debate.
Arguably, every other element of corporate video work requires a less talented individual to execute well than narrative filmmaking, from direction to cinematography to producing, but editing is the one field where a talented editor makes the difference between a great corporate video and a mediocre one. There’s simply more material to sort for a shorter period of time. On a feature film, the editor’s creative decisions are constricted by the source material to a greater degree and the influence of a creative director who ultimately calls the shots. In the corporate world, an editor may be most responsible for the final cut of any given project as the vast majority of corporate work has no true “director” in charge. As a result, editors need time to play with many versions of the project and be allowed to fail multiple times. The assembly of footage is nothing like a puzzle because puzzles have an exact manner by which they must be put together. Corporate footage could be assembled a thousand different ways and each one of them may be perfectly legitimate, however different they may appear from one another.
Delving into the bones of the work, the first task an editor has to perform is basically what would fall to the assistant editor on a feature film. They need to take stock of every element and clip for the project, whether it only includes footage shot during production or also graphics provided by the client or stock footage purchased for it. An editor will typically sort footage into different sections for easy reference. At our company, we have almost all interviews transcribed to save valuable editing time. As transcription is cheaper than editing, we save our clients money by paying for such work to be done by someone else, which allows an editor to create a script after the fact using the transcription logs. They take the best quotes and rearrange them into an outline for the video.
Having done our company’s transcriptions for several years in our earlier history, I also created the outlines for many of our earlier videos. I always figured about one page of single-spaced quotes would lead to a video in the 2-3 minute range, once pauses were cut and the quotes edited slightly. The editor then takes the outline and finds the corresponding clips, cutting out the bits needed, and assembles them into the timeline (the editing software’s primary work space). The result of the work is a rough “A-roll” assembly, with A-roll meaning the primary drive of the video itself. With the B-roll sorted separately by category, the editor can then start to drop B-roll clips into the timeline at appropriate moments relative to the A-roll. In other words, the interview subject is talking about how their product functions, for instance, and the video cuts from him speaking to B-roll of the product in action. If someone talks about friendly customer service, the editor finds a clip with an employee on the phone, talking and smiling, or greeting a customer in the lobby, etc.
Aside from the primary assembly of footage elements, we have to take into consideration the time required to test different music tracks, find a piece that works with the video and its tone, and also render the results. Rendering is basically the processor-intensive task that a computer needs to finish before the video itself is turned from elements on a timeline into an actual finished piece. Every single review draft is the result of another render, so we also account for the number of additional client-requested edits and review drafts that need to be completed. Even for a two minute video, we know that editing could range anywhere from 8 hours to 15 hours of work, depending on the content. The biggest additional driver of editing time is graphical design work and the integration of video templates. Not only do templates require time to manipulate and tailor for an individual project, but they also add to the render time substantially.