Episode 316 — Linus Tech Tips’ Editor – Taran Van Hemert
Linus Tech Tips is a passionate team of professionally curious experts in consumer technology and video production which aims to inform and educate people of all ages through entertaining videos. They create product reviews, step-by-step computer build guides and a variety of other tech-focused projects.
Taran Van Hemert is a Senior Video Editor at Linus Tech Tips. He is also a Writer, Host and Camera Operator.
In this Podcast, Allan McKay and Taran Van Hemert talk about the art of being an efficient editor, the importance of scripting, automation and customized tools, and other tips for successful artists.
Linus Media Group: https://linusmediagroup.com
Linus Tech Tips YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXuqSBlHAE6Xw-yeJA0Tunw
Techquickie YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXuqSBlHAE6Xw-yeJA0Tunw
Channel Super Fun: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXuqSBlHAE6Xw-yeJA0Tunw
[04:02] Taran Van Hemert Introduces Himself
[05:06] Starting Out as a Creative
[07:28] Learning to Be an Efficient Editor
[11:31] Scripting as a Time Saving Device
[25:41] Taran and Allan Discuss Editing Tools
[38:02] Editing Tutorials by Taran
[42:43] Common Mistakes by Editors
[49:24] Linus Tech Tips’ Publishing Process
[1:00:09] “Don’t Be a Dick”
[1:04:59] The Importance of Physical Fitness on the Job
EPISODE 316 — LINUS TECH TIPS’ EDITOR — TARAN VAN HEMERT
Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay.
Welcome to Episode 316! I’m sitting down with Taran Van Hemert, Senior Editor of Linus Tech Tips. We talk about the skills of an efficient editor, the importance of scripting and other tools, and other tips for successful artists.
I’m really excited for this Episode. I can’t believe this year has gone by so quickly! I thought it’d be really fun to sit down with Taran, after having seen some of his tutorials. I think what he’s teaching is so important: how to be an efficient artist, scripting as a time saving device, and how to take advantage of repetitive tasks by automating them. We get into so many great subjects, including the one I love the most: Don’t be a dick!
Please take a moment to share this Episode with others.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[01:07] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[1:08:56] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
INTERVIEW WITH TARAN VAN HEMERT
[04:02] Allan: Taran, do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Taran: Yes, hello! My name is Taran Van Hemert. I am an Editor at Linus Media Group. We’ve got a YouTube Channel Linus Tech Tips, Techquickie, Channel Super Fun. We’ve probably got some I don’t even know about because the company has gotten so much bigger! I’ve been here for 8 videos. I’ve been editing videos for a little longer. I wanted to be an animator, but then I realized animation was a terrible job. So video editing it was! I went to BCIT for school. I tried a number of things: camera guy, producing (which I hated!), directing. Video editing is where my heart is!
[05:06] Allan: So you grew up in BC and you’ve always wanted to be a creative, correct?
Taran: I grew up in Colorado, actually. I went to Denver School of the Arts where you had to audition to get in. I used my animation to get in (I animated with Flash). But during high school, I figured out that first of all I had to learn to draw better and second of all — it was a shitty job anyway. I apologize to any animators out there! You know how it is out there.
[06:11] Allan: I feel like it’s pretty mixed. There is a lot of crossover to other careers. Everyone is going to pay their dues in the beginning. A lot of us go into that field thinking it’s fun and you want to make some art. But when you get out of that, you start to swap things out.
Taran: There is certainly some dues paying. My first year out of the university, I did all kinds of shitty jobs. I worked on a couple of movies. Eventually, I landed contract editing with Linus, which got my foot in the door. Then I got asked to stay on full time. So I’m still here.
[07:28] Allan: That’s awesome! I think it’s such an exciting thing to talk about how you edit.
Taran: Here is why I’m so obsessed with efficiency: When I first started my job, there was no training. I was, like, the fifth employee. There was way too much work to do! I lived 3 hours away by bus and train (on a bad day), in Vancouver. In the first three weeks, it was eat / sleep / work / eat / sleep / work. I had to find a way to edit faster. I had to stay late oftentimes. I had to learn how to do it faster because I wanted to go home at the end of the day! Oftentimes, it wasn’t even my fault I was delayed because I wouldn’t get the footage until [3:00] in the afternoon. Can I edit and render the video — and upload it to YouTube — by [6:00]? So I started understanding Premiere really well. I learned to remap shortcuts and I had a keyboard that had some macro capability. I could chain shortcuts together, to make them one button. I started posting on Twitter because it succeeds where Google fails. You can post a photo. I would Tweet stuff out. Some of those followers trickled down to me and I could ask them these questions. And it still follows through. Basically my philosophy on user interface for an application is this: If I think of something that I want to do, I should be able to do it as quickly as possible. There should be an absolute minimal delay between thinking about what I want to do — and doing it. Ideally, I would think, “Edit the whole video!” That doesn’t work!
[11:31] Allan: I’ve seen some machine learning editing tests going horribly wrong.
Taran: Sometimes, the computer gets it horribly wrong and sometimes, it does a fantastic job. There is some interesting stuff going on with AI. But as a human, you have to watch all the footage. If you can not look at all the footage but recognize the last take (and not even look at the other ones). This isn’t a movie and we don’t have time. Just use the last one! It’s 90% good. There are some things you have to let go. They are just not important enough. You have to learn about diminishing returns. It’s difficult to say what the point of diminishing returns is, but as you learn, they’ll become increasingly clear. People look at my desk and see 4 keyboards and 4 screens and it’s intimidating. I added to keys one at a time. Having to resynchronize a bunch of clips because they came out on different tracks, Premiere doesn’t have a function to synchronize. It will try to sync everything together. Now I have a macro for it! In my mind, my macros are features that should’ve already been in Premiere. But they are not. So I make do with what I can. It works a lot of the time. You can get a lot of stuff done. It’s not that simple with a keyboard and mouse. But all my scripts are public and they have notes on them. If you know scripting, they’re all pretty straightforward. I’ve also made some videos on how to debug a script, for example. I figured this stuff out on my own. Programming was something I thought of doing as a career. I had more experience with video stuff. If you want to use automation software on top of Premiere, you have to learn how to script. Some people know how to do it in After Effects. If you want to make something cool in After Effects, you have to know how to script.
[16:46] Allan: Yeah, especially if you’re doing repetitive tasks.
Taran: After Effects has a built-in scripting language which is great! Premiere doesn’t, really.
[17:08] Allan: I think a lot of people can get intimidated saying, “That’s a lot of buttons on your keyboard!” But if you look at any program, there are a lot of buttons on the screen. Because you can’t customize the interface, you’re forced to have external devices. The way I look at it: If I have to do something more than twice, I might as well make a button for it. That way, I’m freeing up time to be more creative. All those little things add up overtime. If you add up a string of commands, you can remove 5 minutes every time you do that task.
Taran: Yeah! And every time I use the preset macro, I save 5 seconds. It’s beautiful! What I use that extra time for is learning new things. I’ve been able to keep on top of editing techniques and new stuff coming out. I’m able to figure stuff out. I’ve spent 2 weeks on how to stop video posterization. We’ve uploaded a video with graphics. There is a thing like full and partial video where your video is being compressed and uncompressed that destroys the data in between. And there’s no way to stop this! You can’t undo it. This is all because of DVI video and we’re still suffering for it. Which is the same reason we’re still suffering from the 29.9 rates per second. It’s not the 90s! Why can’t we use 30?!
[19:41] Allan: I feel like PAL and NTSC still do a lot of the formatting. There is this archaic legacy.
Taran: There is a lot of stuff to learn about how video and compression works, and how digital color works. That’s an enormous rabbit hole. When I learn all this stuff, I’m that much more competitive. Something I want to say to someone considering automating their work: Don’t worry about doing things in the most optimal way so much that you don’t even start! I’ve had this with anything else that’s not video editing. I work on some drawing and if it sucks, I try to find a faster way to do it. You need to do stuff the slow, wrong way for a while before you appreciate the how and the why. The most important thing is to get started, but also to know that when you’re ready, there are ways to make things faster. You just need to learn one at a time.
[21:49] Allan: I’ve been going down the path of perfectionism being the enemy for a lot of people. Sometimes, it’s about fumbling. To become an expert, you have to suck for a while. People don’t want to put in the work.
Taran: Even if they’re good results, they’re slow results when you start learning. But if you’re still getting slow results 5 years after you started learning, that’s a problem. You need to start thinking about doing things faster.
- Have you looked at every menu option?
- Have you considered every shortcut?
- Have you thought about what could be done faster?
One annoying thing I did is learn how to edit using Final Cut. When I switched to Premiere, I didn’t have any shortcuts. I picked the close approximation. But after 2 months of editing that way, I needed to remap these shortcuts. I needed to have the common shortcuts in the same area. It’s fantastic! It took me 3 days to retrain my muscle memory. Now it’s second nature. Everyone should do it their way. Everyone is different and they use different tools they use most frequently.
[25:41] Allan: Have you ever used the Contour Shuttle Pro?
Taran: Um, let me Google that. I have not used it.
[26:14] Allan: I think it has roughly 10 keys. And majority of the time, that’s all I need.
Taran: Does it have direct API integration with Premiere? And does it rely on hitting the key?
[26:44] Allan: It does. And it sucks! I haven’t spoken to a real editor yet.
Taran: If you want a perfect dial for Premiere, I recommend the Logitech Craft Keyboard. It’s perfect in every way. It’s wireless as well. I thought of using its dial. There are a lot of peripherals for Photoshop, Premiere. Most of these aren’t worth it. The one I use is Tangent Ripple Grading. It does everything I want. The scrubbing is not as fast. I’ve got some high hopes for the Monogram Systems which has a lot of the changes I suggested. The problem is this: most applications are built for keyboard and mouse. Back in the 70s, everything was built for the keyboard. And the mouse was a foreign concept. As mice got better, they became better integrated. Do you remember the scroll wheel?
[29:25] Allan: I remember when the mouse ball went away and I didn’t have to clean it every five minutes. The scroll wheel changed my life!
Taran: Right? You’ve got one more access to movement on top of the up / down. It’s a bit awkward but it’s great and every application is built knowing there is a wheel. Now there are these control surfaces which is not a bad idea. It’s natural evolution! For color correction, dials are great. But application developers just don’t code with this stuff in mind. Despite all the assurances from manufacturers, so many of them just suck. These peripherals have a long way to go. Any peripheral that promises that it can imitate keyboard stroke, that’s a shitty peripheral. The whole point is that it does things that a keyboard can’t do. You need direct control of the application! The Logitech Craft Keyboard? How does it work? I don’t know! But you don’t have to install anything and it’s glorious!
[31:57] Allan: I’m really fascinated to see where things go. Going back to automation, people make excuses why they don’t want to learn. Most programs have a great API, it’s a chance for you to customize the software. I’ll use Maya as an example. If you were to have a series of commands for your needs, it’d be more intuitive for you.
Taran: The thing is: Being intimidated by macros is not unreasonable. I’ve got hundreds of them, sometimes they break (and I don’t know why). Lots can go wrong! I would just say start simple. My first macro was literally just two keys. One is “ripple delete at playhead”. I assigned that to F1 and it’s still there 7 years later. I use that every day. Premiere should have that command but it doesn’t. I’ve never had to debug it. The more complicated macros become, the more likely they will break — but also the cooler shit you can do.
I think there are certain minds that are more in tune with how scripting works. You have to tell a computer exactly what to do or it’ll find a way to do it completely wrong. We aren’t all geniuses. I know about keyboard events and mouse clicks to chain something together. Start with two commands, then have three. I have a script that listens for Premiere’s warning, “Are you sure you want to delete this?” Which you can’t ignore. And it’s not a simple macro. It has to know what the window says which you have to get from the Windows API integration. Just be glad that people have figured it out before you. Of course, I think it’s worth it but not everyone should go as intense as I have. It’s worth trying it, at least. And I have a great tutorial about it! I recorded my screen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hgd5opjklrg). If that won’t work for you — nothing will.
[38:02] Allan: In terms of a beginner, are there 2-3 videos on your channel you could recommend?
Taran: Definitely look at this one:
If you don’t use Premiere, I still recommend the first video. Scripting is like another language and it doesn’t really matter if you’re scripting with Python or Lua, whatever. Learning how to speak code is pretty universal. I’ve actually learned a lot from Excel.
[39:49] Allan: I started building talks on Slide Decks in Google Sheets. But I’ve written them in Notion.so and I’m dropping them into an Excel sheet. I’m running a program to build out the Slide Deck. It actually works pretty well!
Taran: It can be difficult to find automate or macros. I get that! For some people, you won’t get back the time you’ve invested because your software may not be compatible. For whatever reason! I still think it’s worth investing time to start automating things. Give yourself a bit of time every day to automate something you do all day. Eventually, it will pay dividends.
[41:46] Allan: One really quick question, for myself: You’ve mentioned Lua. Are there any resources you’d recommend for picking it up?
Taran: No, I have no idea! I’ve only used Lua for Lua macros before I figured out another system. I think I just asked Lua for help.
[42:43] Allan: That’s how I feel! A couple of creative questions: Do you see some common mistakes you see other editors make?
Taran: Common editor mistakes? I see them all the time! The most common mistake I see is using your mouse for everything. If you’re going to Premiere and you’re clicking on the play icon, you’re wasting so much time!
[43:41] Allan: You should be hitting the L-key to speed up through the video, in my opinion.
- But sometimes you need to recognize that double speed may make things worse. You may not be able to keep up. Overall, you need to learn the keyboard shortcuts as much as you possibly can. It’s faster than using the mouse. If you aren’t sure what you need to dial, that’s what the mouse is good for. You can click and drag. The keyboard is not great for everything. Learn the keyboard shortcuts!
- Once you’ve learned the shortcuts, you’ll probably notice that your hand is going all over the keyboard. That’s when you should move your most common shortcuts underneath your left hand and use your mouse with your right.
- The third thing is that you have to learn your software choice really well. If you’re going to use it all day, everyday. You need to learn what does what. Set to scale size and scale to scale size are two different things, and it took me a while to learn that. I had no idea they weren’t the same thing. You learn these things and then you’ll have to relearn them. That’s when you start making macros because you’ve learned what the software can do. I’ve done that before. You need to know your software. And there is no excuse for not knowing it really well! The more you know, the more you’ll be able to do and do without error.
Sometimes, I wish we could go back to editing by cutting strips of film. When Premiere crashes, I think the scissors will still work.
[48:05] Allan: I used to work for ILM and you’d have those archaic optical printers. It sounds great when there is no computer that can crash. But one little tweak would take two all-nighters. And people would wish for buttons.
Taran: Yeah! I’m glad we’re using computers now. It’s the golden age of editing.
[49:24] Allan: I’m curious: What’s the process from ingesting the footage to uploading it to YouTube?
Taran: To make a typical Linus Tips video, I don’t know how the writing process works. I think there is more research involved.
- We do something called guidance. I didn’t know what any of the stuff was as a new editor. I had to Google things and still get it wrong. We’ll have the scripts on its own and the comments that could be attached to pieces — and those give info for the editor. If the writer wants the editor to show a certain photo or footage, they’ll link in the comments. The editor puts that stuff.
- Once the video is written, it goes on the teleprompter (which let me tell you: there is no good teleprompter program out there!)
[51:40] Allan: I’ve spent a fortune buying all this dumb software. The best one I found is free. It’s called Imaginary Telepromter. It’s the best I’ve seen. I can even flip the text for you on the screen.
Taran: Thank you for that!
- The script goes off to the teleprompter.
- We usually film on one set. We have two computers and they ingest footage all day. Then it goes to the server which Linus built. Our server works really well.
- I’ll import the footage into Premiere and open the script. I used to have the script on a different screen. Now I have the macro that brings it up. You go down the script and I use it to edit the A-roll. (The B-roll is shot separately.) We used to have a problem with B-roll because the context was missing. Every person on the team introduces more blocks of info and you have to transfer all of it to the next guy.
- Once you cut the A-roll (and I always use the script). That takes 10-20 minutes. There are a lot of times you want to find funny moments or outtakes. The writer has planned the video. You have to do graphics and animation and make it all work. It’s kind of like painting by numbers. Most of the stuff has been figured out at the writing stage. It used to be more chaotic but now it’s so much better when the writer knows what’s going to happen.
- After that point, the writer will review the video and put it together. Then it gets rendered out and other editors approve it. If it’s good, we transcode it and upload it to YouTube.
By this point, we’ve standardized the process. Do more scripting first (as far as writing, not coding)! That’s the foundation. The reason my videos are good is because I talk about the stuff I really understand — and I still have to do a lot of research! I can’t imagine becoming the guy who reviews motorcycles, for example. I don’t want to cover stuff that I don’t understand.
[59:35] Allan: That’s probably how you pick your topics as well. It’s things that you’re passionate about.
Taran: Or something I’ve figured out by being an editor. Like I did a video on sharp-bilinear. Why are all the video games bad on your tv? You should be using sharp-bilinear.
[1:00:09] Allan: With the LTT Video, what’s the end size of all material?
Taran: Anywhere between 50 to 500 GB. And we keep everything, all the footage we’ve shot! I’ll send you some fundamental principles of being an editor: Nobody will work with you if you’re an unpleasant person, even if you’re incredibly talented. So, don’t be a dick!
[1:02:32] Allan: I think you’ve dropped so many value bombs here! One being that you have to continue to evolve. After people get that first job, they think they’ve arrived. They stopped pushing themselves to learn and stay relevant. It’ll keep bringing more opportunities to you. If you have that list, please send it to me? Where can people go to find out more about you?
Taran: Just go to my YouTube channel. You can watch the 4-hour tutorial. Have you watched it?
[1:04:01] Allan: I did! And I loved that you made it that long! I think for a lot of people who make excuses, you’ve put everything in it.
Taran: The excuse I hear the most is, “I didn’t have time.” As I’ve gotten older, I believe you have to make time. If you don’t — no one else will. Most of the stuff I’ve learned, I learned on the job. If you don’t, you’ll screw yourself.
[1:04:59] Allan: Most of the time, people tell me they don’t have time to learn scripting. Whenever I used coding, it’s in that crunch time when I have to deliver something. That argument is moot! People like to make excuses. But what if? What if you learned it, what would that lead to?
Taran: The time to figure out scripts is before you need them. You need to know how to do it. If you’re in a time crunch, you can’t figure out new things. When there is a horrible deadline, I’m good at doing stuff but not learning new things. I think you can only say I don’t have time, if you’ve tried it. Two more things:
- It’s very critical to get exercise when you do this job. My mood and productivity has improved since I’ve started going to the gym. Consistency is so important, especially when you work at your desk.
- The second thing to try is no-string Thursday. Every Thursday, I do anything else other than sitting like a zombie in front of tv or social media. You have to think about how to live the rest of your life. I’ve learned it’s important to have life experience and philosophy. Find yourself a living philosophy!
[1:08:48] Allan: Taran, thank you so much! This has been epic!
Taran: Thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Taran for taking the time to chat! I’d love to have him back some time in the future!
Next week, I will be speaking to two VFX Supervisors for the Apple TV+ show For All Mankind Todd Sheridan Perry and Jay Redd.
Have a great week!
And rock on!
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