The Lair of Creative Genius Photo  courtesy of Michael Schmidt  analogphoto@film-sound-color.de

Video editing is a marathon of a task. It consumes numerous hours and requires focused attention. The video editing suite should be one that allows you to be productive and efficient. Most importantly, it needs to be comfortable, in order to provide for the physical and mental health of its occupants, because you’re likely to spend a lot of time there.

Give It Some Space

For an ideal set-up, you should choose a space that allows you to comfortably house your editing system, has enough storage for extra equipment and materials, as well as furniture and amenities that suit the needs of you and your fellow collaborators. A ten foot by twelve foot room is a good place to start, and depending on your needs, a bigger space would be useful. Editing is most often an art of collaboration and the edit suite should be able to accommodate the different needs of you and your collaborators.

Furnish Your Space

Ergonomics are an important part of any work space. The workspace itself should be arranged so it’s efficient for the work being done and provide comfort over long periods of time. For this reason, look at your desk and chair as some of your primary editing tools—both items will most likely outlive any computer system.

The workspace itself should be arranged so it’s efficient for the work being done and provide comfort over long periods of time.

Your desk should have enough room to hold all of your editing equipment and be at a height which allows you to sit up straight and look directly into your monitors with no more than a 15 degree vertical angle below your line of sight. The computer keyboard and editing interfaces should be at height on the desk at which your forearms are horizontal to the desk surface.

Photo courtesy of Michael Schmidt analogphoto@film-sound-color.de

Your chair is just as important as your desk. It’s wise to invest in a well-made office chair. The chair should be adjustable in height to have the hips at a 90 to 100 degree angle to the body, provide lumbar support, swivel and allow you to place your feet flat on the floor.

Before outfitting your lair, consider the needs of your collaborators and how they work with you. Collaborators are often dependent on you to do the heavy lifting of the edit, but they do like to see progress and to be involved in major decisions concerning an edit.

Photo courtesy of Brian Nealy
Photo courtesy of Brian Nealy

It doesn’t hurt to have a spare chair, similar to your chair. This is for active collaborators who like to be upfront and involved in the detail work of editing. However, there are many collaborators who prefer to sit back while you work. In this case, it helps to have a good couch or set of comfortable chairs for the collaborators to relax in.

To coincide with seating, a work surface for collaborators is useful. A good set of side tables and a coffee table that can extend to a working desk height is versatile and helpful in the edit suite.

Sight and Sound

The luxuries of comfort are important in any edit suite, but even more important is the work that’s being done. For that reason, it is most important for the edit suite to have the proper display equipment.

Collaborators like to see what’s being worked on. An over-the-shoulder view of your workspace is a possibility, but it’s not always favorable. A properly equipped edit suite should have a producer’s screen—a separate monitor that sits above your workspace and plays back the output from the timeline. The screen should be big enough for a collaborator sitting at the back of the room to see the video in full detail.

Video doesn’t solely consist of moving images; sound is always a factor. Although some editors choose to work with headphones, the best option for an edit suite is a good set of studio monitors. Look for speakers that are robust enough to fill out the room at a high volume when needed, and have the fidelity to clearly produce every nuanced sound that is part of the edit. These speakers should be positioned so there is a sweet spot where you sit.

Refining the Room

One thing editors always have to deal with is perception. The color of a room can influence how someone interprets color. For this reason, many editors prefer neutral gray walls, often with a flat finish to reduce reflections.

To help with the sound of the room, invest in some sound absorption and diffusion panels, as well as bass traps for the corners. This will help to lessen sound hot spots and prevent unnecessary sounds introduced by the room.

Lighting is also a key factor for any editing suite. One popular method is to have your individual screens backlit, while also using a small desk lamp to read notes. The rest of the suite can be lit with recessed lighting in the ceiling that is controlled through a bank of dimmer switches. The light temperature and color of any room lights should match with the color balance of your screens.

World domination doesn’t happen overnight, nor does the perfect edit suite. An editor’s space is built over time, after much thought and experience, determining exactly what is needed to create great stories.

Chris “Ace” Gates is a four time Emmy Award-winning writer and video producer.

1 COMMENT

  1. Your article couldn’t be more timely, although seeming a bit quaint at the same time. After spending my entire working career in video production in the same area of Florida, I am moving to another part of the country. After a lot of serious thought and debate, I have decided to simply set up shop in my new home instead of wasting money on yet another new studio setup. I have had five studio setups since 2001, with some costing several thousand dollars a month in rent, not to mention the cost of furnishing a uber-hip client-friendly edit environment. While my studio areas had a constant flow of clients and talent shooting in them over the years, the edit suite had a grand total of… Five client visitors over the past sixteen years. And none of them were in the last three. Long gone are the days when clients used to come in and sit all day while we broke for lunches and plowed back into the edit session far into the night. These days, the clients seem perfectly happy to make revisions and suggestions via emailed Quicktimes. I can’t speak for other editors, but I surely don’t miss having clients sit over my shoulder for ten hours a day telling me stories of their kids’ baseball games and bad jokes. I for one welcome the development of the studio-less post-production company as one of the best things to happen to the industry in a very long time!

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