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Best practices for a basic video editing workflow to improve your efficiency

With footage to sort through, timings to stick to and post-production corrections to apply, the video editing process can feel like a marathon. In this guide, we explore how you can turn it into a series of manageable sprints with an effective video editing workflow – powered by Dropbox.

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A video editor works on an edit at their home workstation

Whether capturing footage for a documentary, filming a local news segment or running a shoot at a studio – the phrase ‘it’s all in the edit’ is common in filmmaking communities for a reason.

No matter how strong your raw footage is, the final edit can make or break a video. And let’s face it – at times, the video editing process can feel long and intimidating. Presented with a metaphorical block of marble, made up of hours of raw footage, you then need to expertly and efficiently chisel that footage into a finished piece of film.

This is where video editing workflows can help. By breaking the video editing process into a series of smaller, repeatable steps, you’ll find that mountain of work starts to feel more like a series of smaller, more manageable molehills.

In this article, we’ll explore video workflows in detail – providing a basic workflow that you can adopt to make your edits more efficient and more impactful.

What is a video editing workflow?

Broadly speaking, your video editing workflow is the process that occurs after your final piece of footage has been acquired, and before your final cut is exported and distributed.

There is no single video editing workflow. Instead, different editors will have their preferred methods that suit their needs and editing styles.

While the individual stages of video editing workflows may vary, they will typically include steps like organising footage, creating a first edit, post-production, audio, and visual effects.

Why is a video editing workflow important?

Video workflows are helpful for a number of reasons: 

  • Efficiency – following a workflow keeps you on a set path, spending less time thinking about what to do next
  • Consistency – by following a workflow, you run through the same steps each time, making your process and final output more consistent
  • Improved collaboration – having an established workflow makes it easier to bring in clients, collaborators or freelancers to support

Above all else, if you find yourself regularly producing video content, a workflow will provide you with a framework to deliver your best work every time.

Sound appealing? Great, let’s get into the details, starting with the basics – your typical video editing workflow steps.

A videographer captures raw footage to send to the video editor

6 steps for an effective video editing workflow

To help you get started, we’ve created a simple workflow that introduces the common video editing stages. This can easily be adapted to suit your own needs or working preferences.

1. Gather and organise your material

Before the editing process can begin, a video plan and storyboard will have been completed, followed by production or the curation of raw footage.

Before you get started with your edit, you should sort this raw footage into folders for different sources, formats or video sections, depending on your needs.

Here are some common examples of files and formats, and the ways you can organise them:

  • Video
    • Main footage
    • B-roll footage
  • Audio
    • Voiceover files
    • Music
    • Sound effects
  • Visual effects
    • Lighting, filters and texture packs
    • Transitions
    • Motion graphics
    • Any logos, branding or other recurring imagery

With its advanced file storage capabilities, Dropbox cloud storage makes it easy to upload your files to a central location, organise them and access them from any device. You could even have a film crew upload the footage from a filming location, ready for you to access remotely from your editing workstation.

2. Decide on objectives and create a timeline for your editing

Before you dive head first into your footage and start slicing, you’ll need to think about what you need to do and why. Establishing a few clear goals, as well as key milestones in the process, will help you to see the bigger picture and stay on track.

So, with your files ready and your storyboard mapping out the broad plan for the final video, it’s time to plan your editing timeline and set aside some objectives and milestones for your edit.

Typical things you’ll want to decide on include:

  • The overall message of your video
  • The look and feel
  • The goals
  • When you need specific parts of the video finished by

You’ll also need somewhere to do all of this planning. Thankfully, Dropbox Paper is the ideal platform for creating project plans, sharing them with clients or collaborators and embedding timelines. And with a Video Production Plan document template already made, you can get started right away.

A screenshot of the Video Production Plan document template in Dropbox Paper

3. Create your first edit

With all of the planning out of the way, it’s finally time to get editing!

While there is a huge amount of technical depth to individual video editing functions, such as colour correction or audio mixing, these will typically depend on what you are trying to achieve.

Broadly speaking, and regardless of complexity, there are two broad stages to your first edit:

  • The main edit – also known as the ‘rough cut’. Organise your clips, cut them down, get the general flow and timing to a point where it fits the storyboard and goals set out in your plan
  • Post-production – polish the initial edit, adding sound effects, visual filters and corrections, smooth transitions and ensuring audio and visual elements line up perfectly

As you go through this process, it’s common to jump between a variety of applications and tools needed for different purposes, like creating visual effects or editing audio.

Dropbox helps you to work seamlessly between your favourite editing apps, with in-app integrations for WeVideo, Adobe Premiere Pro, Canva and more. This allows you to keep all of your work in one place, all while jumping between your go-to editing tools as much as you need to.

4. Review and feedback

With your first edit done, it’s time for some feedback.

Reviewing drafts is an important part of the creative process. Perfect execution doesn’t happen on the first attempt, it’s the result of an iterative process that encourages experimentation and differing perspectives.

Unfortunately, as experienced video editors will attest, gathering this feedback can traditionally be a painful process – with a lot of chasing multiple stakeholders and making sense of vague comments, spread across email chains.

Fortunately, technology is catching up, and it’s no longer necessary to manage the feedback process alone – thanks to purpose-built video review and approval tools, like Dropbox Replay.

Dropbox Replay UI showing the review and approval process for video files

With Dropbox Replay, it’s easy to gather feedback from multiple people in one place.

Reviewers can leave frame-specific annotated feedback and see comments left by others, so you won’t have to deal with repeat comments.

What’s more, with browser-based reviews, anyone can provide frame-accurate feedback and on-screen markups – no special software or Dropbox account needed. You can even host a virtual watch party for your edit.

5. Final approval

Once you’ve gathered feedback on your edit, you’ll need an efficient way to implement it and stay on top of what needs to be done.

With Dropbox Replay’s built-in version control capabilities, you can track every version of your video project – including comments and markups for each – in one place. So it’s easy to keep your reviewers in the loop about any changes following their feedback.

What’s more, being able to respond to annotations and feedback directly makes final approval even simpler.

6. Delivery

When you’ve reached that ‘final_final’ edit, it’s time to share your finished work.

While cloud storage and Dropbox Replay can be great for sharing a work in progress with collaborators, you’ll often want to send a copy, typically with a very large file size that’s too big for email.

Dropbox Transfer is the ideal tool for sending large files, like video exports. Not only does it allow you to send up to 250 GB* of files at a time, but you also have a range of advanced customisation and security controls at your fingertips, including:

  • Custom-branded download pages to make a powerful first impression
  • Letting anyone access files, even without a Dropbox account
  • Add via drag-and-drop or from Dropbox
  • Deliver by copying a link or sending an email
  • Full control over access privileges, link expiry and password protection

*Available with the Dropbox Replay Add-On

Video editing workflow tips and best practices

Now that we’ve established the basic video editing workflow stages, here are some additional tips to ensure you get the most out of your edits.

Filter, but don’t discard, your ‘junk’ footage

As you make your way through the initial edit, you’ll be slicing up a lot of raw footage.

In addition to the clips you have selected, you’ll also have a collection of ‘off-cuts’, the remnants of your original clip.

While it can be tempting to delete these and clear space as you go, it often makes sense to keep the trimmed clips – you never know what might still be useful for filling in gaps in your final edit!

Think about your remote video editing workflow

As the world continues to shift towards remote collaboration – whether between the office and working from home, or teams working across time zones – it can help to have an editing workflow that’s built to handle remote tasks.

That’s why Dropbox is a perfect fit, with cloud storage, file sharing and feedback capabilities – it’s never been easier to create an effective remote video editing workflow.

Back up your work as you go

There’s nothing worse than spending hours on an edit, only for a software crash or human error to result in all of your hard work being lost.

Dropbox Backup provides a simple way to keep your files and your in-progress edits safe, even if disaster strikes.

A video editor works on a video editing project from their home studio

Video editing workflow checklist

We’ve covered a lot in this guide, so here’s a quick recap for your reference.

Before editing begins, you’ll need:

  • A clear brief
  • A storyboard
  • Raw material (either via a shoot or curated from existing footage)

The video editing workflow then consists of the following steps:

  1. Gather and organise your material – making use of the advanced file organisation features of Dropbox cloud storage
  2. Decide on objectives and create a plan – with the Video Production Plan template in Dropbox Paper
  3. Create your first edit – with all of your favourite editing apps, connected through Dropbox app integrations
  4. Review and feedback – taking advantage of Dropbox Replay to fast-track the process
  5. Final approval – using Dropbox Replay to keep your reviewers updated
  6. Delivery – sending the finished product simply and securely, with Dropbox Transfer

Get a complete video editing workflow all in one place with Dropbox

An effective video editing workflow is made possible by effective tools. Like Dropbox Replay, with built-in video review capabilities that make the toughest part of the editing workflow feel effortless.

Video has never been bigger – and, with Dropbox, it has never been easier to create a simple workflow and elevate your edits.