Post-production tips for Youtubers

How important is post-production to the success of a Youtube channel? What editing style is right for your channel?  Which post-production tips should you apply right away?


Every Youtube creator faces these questions.   To find answers, we looked at the most successful channels on Youtube, to see how they deal with post-production. Here is what we learned.

Trend towards higher post-production value

Over the summer, Youtube's fastest growing channels gained 100M subscribers! They must be doing something right. Let's have a look at their post-production choices.

Off the bat, we see that a majority of successful channels engage in advanced post-production (creative editing & high-end editing). You can still do very well with basic editing (eg. PewDiePie, Jenna Marbles...), but none of those channels makes completely "uncut" videos. When building out a channel uncut dosen't cut it anymore.

60% of Youtube's 100 fastest-growing channels use advanced post-production

The tides have turned, Youtube channels are getting more sophisticated and post-production is increasingly important to gain subs. Let's now look at some post-production styles, and some practical tips.

Post-production styles on Youtube

Here are some of the more frequent editing styles on Youtube.

Basic editing:   the raw footage speaks for itself

Zoella created one of the fastest growing Style channels. She barely use any editing, and usually go for just one long shot, with a few jump cuts here and there. 2M+ subs !

Simple jump cuts

PewDiePie is one of the most subscribed channels, each show scores 1-3M views. The editing is very simple: screencast, voiceover, PIP (Picture-In-Picture), simple outro

Picture-in-picture

PrankvsPrank nets out more than 3M subs. The editing style is simple: long master shots pieced together in series, intercut with a few cutaways (flashback from last week, view from go-pro camera)

Simple cutaways

Particularly used in TV talk shows, the classic dialog alternates 2-3 viewangles of the same scene. Simple, although it does require synching audio tracks accross all shots.

Classic dialog

Picture overlays

Creative editing:   the video comes to life in post

HolaSoyGerman is one of the most subscribed channel, daily/weekly shows, each grossing 1-3M views. The super fast jump cuts accentuate German's supercharged personality. Hard not to engage, even for someone whose mastery of Spanish stops at "Ola que tal"...

Fast jump cuts

Simple motion graphics

Simple compositing

Slow Motion

Cropped frames is a trick to create two different views from the same shot, one view is the original (eg. filmed in 1080) and the other view is a zoomed (eg. zoomed to 720p), and we cut from one to the other.

Cropped frames

Minute Physics

Timelapse animation

High-end editing:   state-of-the-art techniques/tools for polished/glossy output

Freddiew creates short films with very polished post-production. Cut on action, continuity editing, professional visual FX and CGI

Hollywoo-tube

Epic Rap Battle

Advanced compositing

Advanced color grading

CGI film

2D Animations

What type of "post-prod" is right for you? Some tips & guidelines

Your editing choices are driven by the type of video you are making. If you make daily game commentaries, there isnt much time left for editing, and your audience wants to preview gameplay, so basic editing makes sense. Here's a few tips – informed from our research & experience – for those times that creative editing does matter.

Tip #1: for music videos, edit for visual stunningness

Looking at the top 100 Music channels, you'll immediately see that they all have very high post-production standards.   It's in great part due to all these VEVO stars and their bigger budgets (the MTV-ization of Youtube...). Whatever the reason, it has become a reality for all musicians that music videos on Youtube should look polished and visually striking.

Back then in 2006, an single camera shot, uncut, was enough to "make it" as long as the artist in front of the camera had talent.

Tiffany Alvord THEN (2008)

Nowadays, music videos need more polish. Audiences want the cool music as well as visually striking moving images.

Tiffany Alvord NOW (2013)

Take a look at Tiffany Alvord's videos when she started and now. She recalls:

"doing a cover in your room was good enough and everyone loved that. Then slowly, everybody started doing more professional videos and now you have to be really competitive to keep up. Right now it would be really hard to start out in your room singing."

Practically, this means synchronizing footage from multiple HD cameras, adding subtle visual FX (classy light leaks, easy on the film burn), and advanced color grading to get visual consistency throughout.   The work of pros. The good news is that it is also getting easier to find great post-production artists to help you, and this kind of quality is now accessible - browse video editor profiles

Tip #2:   for comedy videos, integrate creative editing techniques

Ray William Johnson was already pretty hilarious when he started in 2006 without much post prod. And over the years he and his team (Justin Johns is the editor) have aptly adopted motion graphics & visual FX to blend in with their style.

Back in 2009, RWJ's videos already had distinctive transitions and soundFX.

Ray William Johnson THEN (2009)

Nowadays, RWJ routinely uses compositing, greenscreen & visual FX to add to his comedic effects.

Ray William Johnson NOW (2013)

Tip #3:   for sports videos, make the most of HD and high FPS in post

With GoPro3 and the iPhone 5s, we are seeing more and more high quality slow motion footage, and it's opening a whole new field of post-production for all of us to explore.

Dude Perfect is one of the top Sports channels, they use punchy title sequences, and lots of HD slo mo.

Dude perfect

GoProCamera is there to demo what HD 120 fps can do for your videos

Official GoPro

This is the latest video posted on GoPro's channel (as of now). Compared to 2008 when GoPro first started their channel, not much has changed, except that the frames per second is higher which allows to slow down more dramatically (or it's folks making even crazier jumps ;-).

Another Official GoPro

Tip #4:   vary your editing style to keep things interesting

In three of her recent videos Michelle Phan goes for different post-production styles, different typography and different illustrations, in each one, some with motion graphics, some with visual FX, some more classic.

Editing style #1 - check out next week's video, it will be quite a different style.

Michelle Phan, Aug 30 2013

Different fonts, different illustration style from a week ago.

One week later, different editing

Editing style #3 - yet another style.

Two weeks later, different editing

Tip #5:  add pace through fast jump cuts, or cropped frames

Without going as far as Holasoygerman or lady16makeup, it's safe to say that Youtube audiences have a high tolerance for fast cuts, and have even grown to expect them. So know when to break the laws of continuity-editing and consider some jump cuts to build pace.

Better yet, cut to a view from a second camera, or used cropped frames if you only have one camera. Cropped frames is a trick where we create seemingly 2 different views from the same shot, one view is the original (eg. filmed in 1080) and the other is a zoomed in view (eg. zoomed to 720p), and we cut from one to the other.

HolaSoyGerman is one of the most subscribed channel, daily/weekly shows, each grossing 1-3M views. The super fast jump cuts accentuate German's supercharged personality. Hard not to engage, even for someone whose mastery of Spanish stops at "Ola que tal"...

Fast jump cuts

MacBarbie07 gained almost 1M subscribers this summer. Her videos use smash cuts (opening sequence) which outside of Youtube would be quite disorienting, and jump cuts in the master shot.

Smash cuts & Jump cuts

Cropped frames is a trick to create two different views from the same shot, one view is the original (eg. filmed in 1080) and the other view is a zoomed (eg. zoomed to 720p), and we cut from one to the other.

Cropped frames

Tip #6:  get some custom titles/transitions made

Many a youtube star has developed his/her own visual identity through custom titles and illustrations. For example RWJ, Michelle Phan,... You should get your own animations, it's not hard and can be re-used across videos. There are libraries of templates that makes this more approachable: TFT or Videohive"

But the best is to talk to pro Motion Designers.   Most will be happy to help out and you'll be guaranteed a unique look consistent with the rest of your videos. BTW, we have a list of top notch motion designers you can browse.

Ray William Johnson got a custom intro sequence made to go with the style of his studio's backdrop. BTW, you don't have to start with the opener, you can start the talk straight on and bring the opener 10 seconds in, like here.

RWJ title sequence

Your opener sequence doesn't have to be all fancy motion graphics. And it doesn't have to be the same everytime. Taryn Southern changes her intros every time and keeps them simple & original.

Taryn Southern varied intros

In her videos Carli Bybel uses a super short custom title sequence - @ 0:13 - which contributes to the polished/glossy look and is a good place of sponsor credits.

Carli Bybel sponsored screens

Tip #7:  pick a cool typography, and animate it subtly

Similarly, adding text to your videos is quite easy, but it's imperative that the fonts are aesthetically correct. Too often we see old times new roman font creep up into some video and ruin it. Go to sites like www.dafont.com for inspiration. And because we are making videos, consider tracking the text to some points on the image using After Effects or Motion

See how the text seems to move with Kelly Slater, that's called camera tracking, and is a way to add some text without taking away from the beauty of the image, plus it's cool.

Camera Tracking

Music videos don't have to use fonts, but when they do it's critical that the font has "style", that it blends well with the rest of the video, no Times New Roman sorry...

Matching font style

For this trip video, the editor chose a drawn-in typography as if we were logging events in a "carnet de voyage". Perfect match of the typography, its animation and the content of the video

Drawn-in text

Tip #8:  design a slick animated outro

This deserves a separate article just about "Outros". For now have a look at Troye Sivan for an interesting outro example. Also we'll check the comments if you have suggestions (we'll credit you in the next article ;-)

@3:15, the outro starts, it's clean and the calls to action are clearly distinct areas of the screen. The animation is in line with Troye's style. Nice one. Team up with a kickass motion designers to make your intro/outro

Troye Sivan outro (motion graphics)

@0:52, see a classic outro for GoPro videos. Would love to see data on the efficiency of an outro like this one. GoPro certainly adds one to each of their more recent videos.

GoPro classic outro

@13:55, Smosh often focuses on promoting only one video instead of a wall of videos. Here they even use a little mise-en-scene + voiceover to explain what the next video is

Smosh Games outro

Tip #9:  collaborate with post-production pros

Unless you are already a post production expert, it would be a shame to limit your creativity to just what you conceive as feasible. Discuss your show ideas with post-production experts, get feedback and open new creative horizons.

Voila... hope this was helpful reading.   Please share if you liked.   Or check out other articles to help you make channel trailers, or animated bumpers. And remember, don't make videos alone, reach out to professional video editors, you'll find the community very eager to help out.

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