video edits

You’ve spent the time and money to develop a professional video about your organization. You spent hours on the script and made it through the long shoot day, only to receive the first draft of your new video and…  it’s not quite there yet. 

For many this can be a deflating experience. You just sunk all this time and money into a product that isn’t where you need it to be. The important thing is to stop and take a deep breath — this is a common experience. 

Receiving the first cut is just another stage in the process. Now you’re transitioning into the editing portion, where you and your team will work with the production crew to fine-tune and hone your message, creating the video you originally planned.

To help you through this editing process, here’s my process for reviewing and editing videos for clients we create with the help of an outside vendor. 

For a deeper look at how you can make great video content, click here.  

Step 1: The Initial Watch

The first step is to watch your first cut with an open mind. As previously mentioned, don’t get too high or too low off of this early cut — the odds are you still have a lot of revisions and work to do. Instead, think of this as a lump of slightly formed clay you still have to mold.

I like to begin by watching the video at least two times before taking any notes or beginning to think about revisions. In these initial viewings, I’m really just looking for a few things:

  • Feel — Does the video capture the mood I was looking for? Do the graphics, clips, music and dialogue (if any) accurately reflect my organization’s message?
  • Pacing — Does any portion of the video drag or feel like it’s gone on for too long?
  • Message Cohesion — This is a simple one: does the script work now that you see it in video form and is the video on brand? While you should give your film crew some leeway to be creative, you want to be sure that the content still adheres to core tenets of the brand

Once I’ve watched the video a handful of times and have a firm grasp on what is and isn’t working for me, I move onto the next stage.

Step 2: Note the Biggest Errors

Now I get out the pencil and paper (or open a Word doc) and put my thoughts down. I try to be as specific as possible, for example:

  • 00:35 to 00:40, imagery does not align with message, any other footage we can use in the spot?


  • 00:56 to 00:60, interview goes on a beat too long, should be cut by two seconds

It’s important to note that at this point I’m not trying to “solve” the video; I have a professional video crew under contract to do that. I’m merely trying to note as specific as possible what seems off to me at this point and add firm suggestions or directions for improvement.

As with any good working relationship with a vendor, communication is everything. I don’t want to close off my vendor to any ideas they might have for improvement; after all, they are professionals. Instead, I just want to give them some ideas they can play with and, likely, enhance.

Step 3: Group Feedback

Once you have all your edits and feedback down on paper, bring in anyone else you’ve been working with this video project on and ask for their feedback.

Ideally, you’d like to get feedback from people who had a hand in crafting your initial video concept and have been through the early stages of development. It probably doesn’t make sense to bring a higher up at your company into the discussion at this point, especially if you need their final approval on the video. An early cut where you know things are going to change in subsequent cuts could color their view on the entire project unnecessarily.

Instead, collect feedback from people you’ve worked with and see where you agree and differ. If there are big disagreements, it’s probably worth having a meeting to discuss the video and ensure everyone has the same vision/goals for the project. This is also a great time to review your script with the group if major changes need to be made.

Remember to be wary of the over-editing problem, where people feel compelled to give edits  even if they’re not exactly necessary. If an edit seems needlessly nitpicky, have a discussion about the purpose of the proposed change and if it will actually make the video better. 

Step 4: Edits Sent to Film Crew

Once you have an agreed upon set of edits and notes, reach back out to your vendor. If your changes are minor or self-explanatory, you might be able to send these along via email without needing to have a discussion.

This likely won’t be the case so early on in the process, however. If you require more significant changes or would like feedback on why the video is crafted a certain way, then schedule a call to talk through your changes.

Step 5: Repeat!

With the first round of edits down, it’s important to keep in mind that… you’re likely nowhere close to being done.

I’ve worked on video projects which have taken anywhere from three to five rounds of edits till both the client and us here at Simple Machines are satisfied with the final product. That’s okay — with everything that goes into creating a high-quality video, you want to be sure that the final product is going to line up with your expectations. 

So take your time and keep looking at each cut with a critical eye. Rely on the expertise of the video crew you hired and keep chipping away at the video. With some effort, you’ll get there and have a video your organization can be proud of.