27. 06. 2024 Charles Callaway Documentation

Making Your Own Video Tutorials, Part 18: Speeding up Your Graphics

Have you ever finished filming your video segments, inserted them into your video project, and thought “Now I just need a few hours to add the graphics, and I’ll be done!”… but you actually wind up finishing 3 days later? Then it’s time we talked about cutting that time down.

There are several aspects to think about for DIY 2D graphics and animations:

  • Obtain: Locate existing ones, or create your own
  • Manage: Once you’ve obtained too many objects, how do you find the right one?
  • Adapt: Your object library isn’t infinite, so each video requires some changes
  • Insert: This is usually the easiest part, putting the graphic into the editor
  • Position & Size: Graphics need to fit in with everything else in the video

If you’re a fan of data-oriented methods, then check out how much time you spend on each of these when you make your next video. I found out I spent basically two thirds of my time on adapting, repositioning and resizing my graphics, especially across timeline boundaries and when synchronizing with animations.

Potential Solutions

Before we look at those elements in more detail, let’s check off some boxes with some speedup methods you can use for obtaining and managing graphics (assuming you’re not a great artist and/or animator), what we might call the “better organization” theory of speeding things up.

On the other hand, there are also some “outside the box” solutions if you’re so inclined:

  • Outsource your graphics (or full video editing) to anywhere around the globe, which apparently can be pretty cheap
  • Buy templates for your particular video editor
  • Read your video editor’s manual front to back
  • Try the latest AI image generation tech (I’ve had mixed results)
  • Use fewer graphics! It’s not an option for my style, but it may work for you.
  • Generally lower your standards — Nooooo!

First Things

We want a serious level of speedup, like going from spending 3 days on adding and perfecting the graphics to just 1 day. That still sounds like a lot, but I assure you 3 days is worse.

How can we do that? For me it comes down to external graphics libraries (like the PowerPoint icon library mentioned above), my own libraries and templates, and an awareness of my most common workflows. Let’s start with the last one.

As you make your videos, pay attention to what GUI-based editing actions you use most often. Do they involve menu items, action ribbons? Is there more than one way to change an object’s parameters? Are there already speedup tools like format painters? Alignment tools? Scripting tools?

Find out if you’re faster with the keyboard or mouse. Past research has generally shown that beginners are faster with the mouse, while experts are faster with the keyboard. I hope we’re all experts here, so…

Get to know your video editor’s macro and hotkey functions. If you can modify the hotkeys, set them to your list of most frequent actions, and write the shortcuts down on a piece of paper next to your monitor until you’ve memorized them.

One of my most common actions is to copy the position and sizes of one object to another. What I really want is a “dimensions painter” that’s similar to the “format painter”. Maybe I should write to the company that makes my video editor…

Speedup, Speedup, Speedup

I also used to spend a lot of time searching for the right graphic or icon. It’s not that I didn’t know what I wanted, I just had to find it. I could remember using it a few videos ago, but it took a long time to dig around and find the right video and the right part of that video.

Now instead, every time I add a new graphic I haven’t used before, I copy it into my “personal library”, which is just a single PowerPoint file organized by type and by background color (so for example all the graphics that look good on a black background are together).

I started using PowerPoint for this because it accepts so many file types, it’s already an external source of good quality 2d graphics, you can place them anywhere you want on a slide, and it’s easy to paste them from there into my video editor. It might work better for you though if you create a “video” in your video editor that’s basically just a graphics library.

I already do something along those lines when I want a template video. It can be a huge speedup if you can just copy your video into the background and make a few changes to the graphics. I usually have templates for “me on the left, graphics on the right”, “me on the right, graphics on the left”, and “me in the center, graphics on the sides”.

Purposefully look back at your past videos to know your most common layouts. I bet you can find some commonalities like the 3 I listed above.

Do you ever forget what animation and transition features your video editor has, so you have to look them up in a manual that’s just words and graphics? Make a video showing each one with its name below it, and just play the video when you need to remember.

Do you ever forget which templates you’ve made? They’re already in your video editor, so make a video of them and play it back when you need to remember!

I also used to spend a bunch of time looking around on YouTube for good video editing ideas that other people have done. Then I would forget about them, and a month later I would have to search for them again. But we’re video professionals, so when you see a great one, do a screencast and add it to your video library of “Great Moments in Editing” and view it whenever you want.

Put all these templates and videos of those templates in a “Common” directory near but apart from your directories of specific videos. Practice good file organization!

Finally, I want to share a quick way to make a template from scratch if you plan on producing a series of videos with a common style. As soon as you finish the first video in the series, try the following:

  • Replace the background video of you, the one underneath all the graphics and animations, with a solid color block. There you go, that’s your template! You’ve just saved hours of time!
  • Make a title page that’s just a big text box listing all the animations, transitions, sound effects, etc. that you used
  • Use that title page as an index, then when you need something, look it up and copy it to your new video


I hope these ideas help, you’ll probably want to adapt them to your situation. Good call!

Charles Callaway

Charles Callaway


Charles Callaway

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