The time it takes to edit a video is one of the most often debated and queried topics in the post-production world. In short, there really is no easy answer, as the complexity of an edit and most crucially the length of the piece will ultimately dictate how much time any edit will take.
Therefore, the best way to answer this question is to thoroughly evaluate the task at hand, measure it against your own speed, knowledge, and capabilities, and then make an accurate estimate with respect to the time required to complete the task.
That said, in general: it takes around 1-2 hours to edit a one-minute video, 4-8 hours to edit a 5-minute video, 36-48 hours to edit a 20-minute video, 5-10 days to edit a 1-hour video.
Table of Contents
- Key Takeaways
- Understanding and Outlining the Process from End-to-End
- Length and Edit Complexity and How They Impact Your Edit Time
- Managing Expectations for Yourself or Your Client
- Final Thoughts
- There is no true standard for how long a given edit will take, but it can be estimated.
- Complexity and the intricacy as well as the overall length of the project will determine the total edit time.
- The number of editors and active contributors can expedite the process by streamlining and working through complex edits and tasks in parallel.
- The more you edit, and the more a team works together to edit, the faster and more efficient the entire editorial process can be.
Understanding and Outlining the Process from End-to-End
Before we can even begin to hope to answer the core question with regard to total edit time, we need to first understand the various stages an edit will progress through in its lifecycle in post.
Without accurately setting time windows for each of the various stages and requirements to reach the finish line, any edit is sure to languish or at worst crash and burn altogether.
- Step 1: Initial Ingest/Project Setup (Est. time needed: 2 hours – full 8-hour day)
- Step 2: Sorting/Syncing/Stringing/Selects (Estimated time needed: 1 hour – 3 full 8-hour days)
- Step 3: Principal Editorial (Est. time needed: 1 day – 1 year)
- Step 4: Finishing Editorial (Est. time needed: 1 week – several months)
- Step 5: Revisions/Notes (Est. time needed: 2-3 days – several months)
- Step 6: Final Deliverables (Est. time needed: a few minutes – weeks)
- Step 7: Archival (Est. time needed: a few hours – a few days)
Length and Edit Complexity and How They Impact Your Edit Time
As you can plainly see above, the time required to complete an edit can vary wildly depending upon the volume of your raw footage, the target runtime for your edit, the intricacy and complexity of the edit, as well as the various finishing and sweetening work required to generate the final end product – to say nothing of the rounds of revisions that can occur between your initial draft and the final deliverable.
It stands to reason that if you have a simple and straightforward edit, you may be able to take it from ingest to archival in a matter of days, but seldom faster than this (though it is possible).
More commonly, it is safe to assume that the entire process will likely take somewhere between a month to complete or sometimes many months.
At the extreme range, especially when working with long form (Features/Documentary/TV Series) you may be working on a single project for years before you can officially close the book on the project.
It really depends on the format of the edit, how many artists are contributing and assisting, and the length of the edit. Without taking all of these variables into account, it is largely impossible to calculate the total time required to complete the editorial project.
This isn’t to say that a single individual can’t edit a feature film or documentary on their own, there is certainly more than enough evidence to show that this is possible and more than enough success stories to show this is so, but know that this can be a long and perilous process to go it alone, and the time and energy required to complete the task will be monumental to say the least.
All of these factors and more ought to be considered thoroughly prior to undertaking an edit and setting milestones for the editorial process from start to finish.
Managing Expectations for Yourself or Your Client
Now that you have effectively run the gamut from start to finish, and conceptualized the time requirements and the particular needs for your edit, it’s time to answer the question honestly for yourself and your client as to the time required for the task at hand.
Just how long will that be? That depends. It is up to you to accurately and effectively judge this and present it to your client. It can be a delicate and tricky conversation to have, especially if the client is in a rush and you are competing for their contract with another company.
You may be tempted to grossly underestimate the time required to complete the edit, but if you do so, you may secure the gig only to fail miserably to deliver on your expedited (and unrealistic) delivery promises. Not only would this greatly harm your reputation, but would almost surely guarantee that this client won’t choose you in the future.
Therefore, it is crucial and of utmost importance to weigh everything accurately and make a sound and honest assessment of the total time required and set the client’s expectations properly.
If you do so correctly, you will not only have a happy client in the end, but you will also have ample time to move at a safe and efficient pace, and deliver everything on time and as promised, and still have time to back everything up before needing to jump to the next edit.
Also, the more edits you complete, the better you will be at being able to accurately assess and determine the time required to complete them, regardless of the format, length, or complexity of the project.
Here are some other specific questions you might have, I’ll briefly answer each of them.
How Long Does It Take to Edit a Video for YouTube?
This could vary depending on the length of the edit, but generally speaking, it could take a day or less depending on length and complexity of the edit, potentially several days if it is 30-60 mins in length.
How Long Does It Take to Edit a Music Video?
Some music videos can be edited within a few days to a week, and some have infamously (ala 99 Problems by Jay-Z) taken years. It varies wildly.
How Long Does It Take to Edit a Video Essay?
These aren’t terribly complex, and would likely take somewhere between a day and three days to edit.
How Long do Revisions Take?
This largely depends on the complexity of the notes, and the rounds promised to the client. If you are needing to drastically overhaul the edit, this could delay the final by weeks or worse. In simple and light cases, revisions could (hopefully) be done within the day or few at most).
What is Turnaround Time in Video Editing?
Generally speaking, you can expect an edit to take at least 3-5 days, and the time window could scale up exponentially if the edit runtime falls in the long form category, here it could take months or years to complete the edit.
It can be quite difficult to estimate the total time required to take an edit from start to finish, and is seldom if ever a simple or one-size-fits-all answer, but if you take the time to work through the process and stages and determine what your project requires, you will certainly arrive at an accurate assessment of the time necessary to complete the edit in question.
Whether your edit takes a few days or a few years, it still takes considerable time and effort to generate an edit, and this is something that is often overlooked by those that don’t do the actual hard labor of taking an edit from raw to final delivery.
It’s important to educate yourself as well as your clients as to the time required to edit professionally and effectively, otherwise, you may be doing a disservice to your client and worse, yourself and even your fellow editors. For if you aggressively undercut your competitors, you’re really just setting unrealistic expectations for your client and ultimately hurting yourself in the process.
As always, please let us know your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below. How many rounds of revisions are too many? What is the longest edit you’ve undertaken? What do you think is the single most important factor when gauging the total edit time?