How a Video Editor Can Stay Focused Under Pressure

by Steve Secor | June 5, 2018

Editing video content can be difficult in the best of times, but when you add a tight deadline into the mix, you increase that pressure by four or five times. Ever since my first job out of college in television news, I’ve had to learn to get used to editing under high pressure and tight deadlines. That can be stressful, but it doesn’t HAVE to be the case. Let’s look at two common situations that create intense editing pressure and some tips on how to deal with them.

Problem: SUPER-Tight Deadline

We’ve all been there. Client and/or Creative Director edits come in: “Just rearrange the video structure a bit to get A, B, and C closer to the open. Could you also try inter-cutting between X, Y and Z near the end? And what if we tried some new music? What if we morph this to that?” Immediately, no matter what the time-frame, you’re thinking “Ouch. That’s gonna take a least a couple days, maybe even a week.” Then that inevitable next line: “…Oh, and we need that by tomorrow morning.”

Enjoy that all-nighter, folks. Grab the Red Bull (since I don’t do coffee!)


Well, there’s no way to avoid the hard work here, but there are a few ways to make sure it’s productive.

1. Confirm that your assignment, notes, revisions, suggestions, etc. are accurate. Double check with the creative director to make sure you 100% understand what’s being asked of you to avoid any miscommunication (this happens more often than you might imagine). Try to visualize the effect those changes will have on the video as a whole, and bring up any challenges you foresee so you can discuss them with your creative director before heading off into a long night of editing.

2. Break for exercise. I don’t mean that you have to go bench press for an hour or run 6 miles at3 am, but don’t hesitate to get up from your desk and go walk around for 15 minutes or do squats next to your desk. You’ll give your eyes a rest from the screen, increase blood flow to your brain, and likely come back to the cut with new ideas—or at least feeling refreshed and ready to keep working.

3. Know when to stop. Your deadline might be 9 am, but if you work until 2:30 am and find that you’re no longer making progress, stop. Either go home and get some sleep or at least take a nap on the couch to refuel your brain. Come back to the cut early the next morning with fresh(er) eyes, and you’ll have a lot more luck. Just don’t forget to set your alarm to be back in the bay by 7 am to finish it up. Maybe, uh, set a second alarm, too. Finally, re-reference that Red Bull from before 😊

Problem: Editing with a Crowd

Editing in front of other people in your room can sometimes be a fun, collaborative experience. Other times it can be stressful and awful. During the awful times, it can be extremely hard to keep your brain focused on solving the creative problems, while simultaneously receiving live feedback from people in the room. That’s especially true when you are working with ultra-creative people who are not only throwing out new ideas, but also wanting to share the latest funny YouTube video (and come on, we ALL do that!).


1. Just Ask. In some cases, you might be able to get the space and privacy you need just by asking for it. “So I actually have a few ideas in my head that I think will be really great, but I need a bit of time to flesh them out. If you like, I can spend a few hours working on them and let you know when they’re at a good place to check out.” Now of course, this isn’t always possible. In situations where you’re under a tight deadline and have a stressed-out creative director, project manager, or client who wants to be present for the cutting process, you’re stuck with them. It might even work for you to ask someone else on your team to be in the room and make small talk and keep people occupied as you make changes and revisions.

2. Stay Calm. In these situations, keep calm, don’t rush, and stay focused on one task at a time. Deeeeeeep breaths. It helps—a lot.

3. Organize. Finally, proper organization will make your life infinitely easier and less stressful. It only adds to the stress if you aren’t sure which drive/disk/web application you saved all your files to and have to go searching for 30 minutes just to pull clips together.

Obviously there is no way to set rules that will apply for every situation. The nature of our work means that we rarely ever see one project that is exactly like another. Deadlines loom, schedules change, and overall communication can sometimes be very difficult. I am fortunate to be surrounded by a team of talented, creative, and organized people who use software tools to help ensure that deadlines are tracked, communication is clear, and that we have everything we need. But that doesn’t remove all stress from the job. The plain fact is that situations, ideas and plans are constantly changing. But if you can communicate what you need, ask for help, stay organized, and stay calm, you’ll have a better chance at reducing stress. Good luck, and may all of your deadlines be met.