Optimizing Your At-Home Video Editing Setup for the Long Haul

By in Video Editing

Remote video editing is becoming a natural part of the post-production workflow. Whether it’s pandemic-induced or the result of technology enabling more flexible work environments, more editors are shifting their video editing setups at home from temporary to permanent.

So where does that leave all the makeshift setup you cobbled together in those first few weeks of lockdown? If working from home is here to stay in some shape or form, how can video editors improve their setup and remote video editing workflow? Now’s the time to audit your setup and make moves for the long haul.

Boiling your adjustment down to just a few factors will help keep your sense of efficiency, sustainability, and sanity intact. You’ll have to consider your physical setup, your workflow connectivity, and your mental well-being. Bag all three to make the most of editing from home.

Keeping Comfortable

Everyone’s situations will differ, especially in terms of space and budget. Regardless, these suggestions will serve most scenarios.

Designate a specific workspace. Maybe your video editing setup is a whole room, a corner of a room, or even a temporary station that you build and dismantle each day. Whatever your arrangement looks like, try to keep it separate from your home space. This will help reinforce the line between your working life and home life, which is key to defeating both overworking and procrastination.

Evaluate your ergonomics. Check that your desk, chair, and monitor are all aligned. Place your monitor so the top is three inches higher than the bridge of your nose. When you sit in your chair, your knees should be at the same height or slightly below your hips with your feet flat on the ground. Your desk height should keep your elbows below your shoulders (not out in front) when reaching for your keyboard. These videos from ergonomist Shelby Cass will guide you through it.

Consider standing. Purchasing (or building) a standing desk lets you spend at least part of your day on your feet. Editor Walter Murch is a strong advocate for standing, so if it’s good enough for Walter . . . Consider a motorized standing desk that allows you to sit for some of the day, as it can get pretty tiring, or a tall, barstool-type chair with a supportive back.

Invest in extra tools. Even if you’re working from a laptop and external hard drive, it’s well worth investing in an external monitor and keyboard so you can adjust the ergonomics of your setup as needed.

We've all got to start somewhere! This was my hacked-together standing desk circa 2012/2013.

Fine-Tuning Your Workflow

Wi-Fi. The foundation of a remote video editing workflow is the fastest internet connection you can afford. Then, see if you can run a wired line to your computer or boost your Wi-Fi signal with extenders if you’re working further from the router. The faster you can download and upload, the more time you’ll save every single working day.

Asset management. How are you or your team sharing vital media and connecting creative assets back into your offices’ existing network? Have you moved to an entirely cloud-based solution? If you’re a freelance editor, you might be juggling multiple platforms across different clients.

Whatever the case, do a little research to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workflow. For example, does the service offer a dedicated file management app or in-browser user experience? Desktop apps can maximize your available bandwidth and manage file transfers more effectively than their browser-based counterparts—but depending on your facility and project scale, a web browser interface could be an easier way to enable remote access for sharing footage and quick edits. Your facility may also need to ensure they have enough licenses for the remote solution of choice.

Collaboration. If you work as part of a team, you might have experimented with different ways of communicating and collaborating remotely. Perhaps you took a Band-Aid approach to what’s now become a longer-term challenge. Now’s the time to reevaluate and settle on a remote video editing workflow that works best for the whole team. One common approach is remote access or virtualization, using PCoIP to access on-prem systems and edit pretty much as if you were sitting at your desk. A more robust solution is a turnkey cloud environment that is accessible from anywhere and that you can spin up or down as projects dictate. In this case, even if you are working with high-res media, you can stream lower bit rate proxies for editing and playback in real time.

Also, try to find one reliable method of enabling a real-time video review session; it’ll come in handy when the director or producer wants to “sit over your shoulder” and “try a few things.” You might find video calls and screensharing to be sufficient, but if latency and audio-video syncing issues are too distracting to work through, there are several paid subscription services that will enable this kind of synchronous video playback.

Staying Sane

Know your habits. The best way to work from home will partly depend on knowing yourself. Are you a self-starter, or do you like hitting targets set by others? Do you need structure or flexibility? Are you energized through collaboration or prefer the efficiency of solitude? Take your own tastes into account and set your daily work habits accordingly. If a small action like working with the door closed or headphones on helps keep distractions away, do it.

Define your boundaries. Establishing a defined workspace helps keep the personal and professional separate, but that philosophy should extend beyond where you sit. Whether you want to stick to a rhythm of specific work hours or embrace the new flexibility to fit work around other commitments, be transparent about when you’re in work mode. Set specific work shifts and hours of communication—it might be tempting to reply to that after-hours email, but doing so blurs important boundaries.

Socialize. Even with boundaries in place, staying home and away from the social interaction of a workplace can invite loneliness. Strong relationships are essential to your health and those of your team. Be intentional about being extra social when you need it.

Now may be an ideal time to adjust your video editing setup at home, but this overhaul doesn’t have to be a one-and-done event. You may grow into new habits over time, or may have to adjust depending on a project’s needs. Keeping adaptability front of mind will help you flex as new situations arise, while getting the best of what working from home can offer.

Powering Greater Creators—From Anywhere

Yesterday, remote work was a nice-to-have; today, it’s essential. Get the resources your team needs to work successfully in any environment.

Jonny Elwyn is a freelance film editor and writer from London, and the author of How To Be A Freelance Creative.