Professional YouTube video editing tips from the team behind Premiere Gal

Image a woman using secrets of Photoshop on the computer.

Kelsey Brannan is the founder, creative director, and host of Premiere Gal, a prominent educational YouTube channel and training platform for emerging video creators and editors. Together with video editors Rikard Tholén and Jiva Brown, Kelsey produces engaging video tutorials and provides resources that help others create better video, photo, and audio content.

Images of YouTube team Rikard, Kelsey and Jiva.

In this article, we take a behind-the-scenes look at how the team — which is distributed across Poland, California, and Thailand — works. We’ll find out how they make use of the Adobe video ecosystem around Adobe Premiere Pro to create their videos, how they grew their community to over half a million subscribers, and we’ll also get some exclusive top tips on being a YouTube editor.

Creative strategist Rikard Tholén, video editor on the Premiere Gal team, recently was a guest on Adobe Live. In this video, he walks us through how to use powerful extensions designed for Premiere Pro to automate your work, increase the speed of your editing, and free you up to be creative.

How did you begin your journey into the world of video editing?

Kelsey: I created Premiere Gal in the summer of 2016. At the time, I was working at the State Department in a small video team and we did public affairs for our educational exchange programs. Our team made the switch to Adobe Creative Cloud, and when video was blossoming, everybody wanted to create vertical videos and learn how to add captions for accessibility, for example.

Image of Kelsey Brannan.

We had to educate people abroad, in all the different embassies, how to do these things, and I really enjoyed it. I always wanted to create a YouTube channel and make a career out of it because I wanted to share my passion for video editing. Eight years later, we have over half a million subscribers, and I’m really grateful to have Rikard and Jiva on the team. They’ve really helped because initially I was editing everything myself and on my way to burnout. It’s so nice that we’re able to expand and bring in their vision and creativity.

Image of Kelsey Brannan.

Kelsey created Premiere Gal while working at the US Department of State.

What does your end-to-end video editing workflow look like in practice?

Kelsey: Once I come up with an idea for a video, I assign the project and all the tasks to Rikard and Jiva and record the video. Everything is set up at my office, so I don’t have to reconfigure each time I film. I have a set softbox light, USB mic, and a Canon EOS R camera, which import seamlessly into Premiere Pro. All I have to do is insert an SD card and offload the footage to LucidLink to share it.

Also, inside of LucidLink, we have a recurring assets folder, which is divided up into subfolders (for example, “stock footage”, “music”, and “extensions”) that we all have access to. It helps us keep everything organized because we all want to be able to open up each other's projects, especially because we work across different time zones.

We have an outline for each video but a lot of the funny moments in the edit tend to be improvised. In a recent video I mentioned that I like outer space, for example, and Rikard had my head floating in space [see below]. These little things that Rikard and Jiva add in the edit really make it special.

Image of Kelsey Brannan.

How does working in 3 different time zones and continents affect your workflow?

Rikard: YouTube is a living organism. The algorithm can change at any moment, there could be power outages or a bad internet connection, and of course your audience is also waiting for you. Therefore you need to be on a pretty strict schedule and aim to finish a video well in advance.

It really helps that we’re spread out across three continents and time zones: We cover all 24 hours of the day, so someone can always be editing something. We work really collaboratively, and when someone goes to bed, someone else will pick it up from where I left it.

What are the top tools from Premiere Pro and its extended ecosystem that you find yourself using the most?

Image of Kelsey Brannan.

Kelsey: We always want to use what works best for us and want to improve the quality of your recordings and outdo ourselves. The ecosystem around Premiere Pro allows us to do that and gives us a lot of choice on what to use for various aspects of our workflow.

We didn’t have to have a color grade template, for example, but the things you don't have to do but decide to do often make the difference between a good and a mediocre edit. They bring our edits to the next level, almost like the chef's kiss of our tutorial content. I’m also always on the hunt for new tools or shortcuts that might enhance our workflow further. And I also expect my editors to keep up to date with, and know how to use, all these new tools and even suggest better workflows. Saving time is just as important.

Rikard: What separates a YouTube video editor from a traditional video editor is that you are expected to be very well versed — a jack of all trades.

You can’t ‘just’ be good at cutting and editing but you also need to be good at color correcting, storytelling, motion graphics, animation, writing, directing, and producing. A lot goes into video editing, and the more skills you can master, the better it is for you. Otherwise there will always be someone who knows a little bit more than you.

Another valuable trait of a video editor is speed and accuracy. Being fast without losing any of quality is something creators are willing to pay a lot for. Extensions and plugins come in handy here: They help speed up those tedious and time-consuming tasks that steal a lot of your creative energy.

The one extension I use by far the most is Film Impact’s Motion Tween tool for creating seamless transitions between cuts and animate graphics in Premiere Pro. We include a lot of zooms in our videos, as it makes them more dynamic and helps with engagement, and Motion Tween is invaluable for that.

We also use FireCut for Premiere Pro. It’s a huge time saver and automates repetitive tasks but it’s also great for adding captions to a video. FireCut uses AI to let you transcribe audio in 50+ languages and also allows you to apply stylization and animations directly within Premiere Pro.

To tie back to what I said about being a jack of all trades, a YouTube video editor could be seen as a one-person army. For example, you never have the budget or time to send your footage to a colorist. But you need to either learn the fundamentals of color grading or get help from extensions. So recently, we started using Red Giant’s Magic Bullet.

Kelsey: Specifically, we use Cosmo for skin smoothing and cosmetic cleanup and Colorista for guided color correction on the timeline. It also gives us some great color effects, for example, to enhance the light in the background or make my eyes pop a bit more. Magic Bullet helps our videos have a unified and consistent look and saves us a lot of time too as we built a reusable template in Premiere Pro.

I also worked with some motion designers to develop our own Gal toolkit, which includes more than 1,500 effects transitions, titles, overlays, and elements for Premiere Pro. We continue to add to the toolkit, and you can just double-click the tools to apply them to your timeline. It’s unique in the sense that it's designed by editors for editors and is very focused on the user.

This is where we get all our motion graphics, titles, sound effects, transitions and overlays from.

Jiva: Another tool that we find really useful is Premiere Pro plugins for Envato or Storyblocks. They enable us to never have to leave Premiere Pro to download stock footage, which helps us stay focused and organized.

What are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on together and why do they stand out to you?

Jiva: Any video that is more story than tutorial-based is a lot more fun to edit. I really enjoyed our recent LucidLink video on fast video editing collaboration, for example, because there’s a bit in it where we had to film together and for some reason that’s much harder. The footage was very long for what ended up being a short moment in the final edit, but it was a lot of fun.

Kelsey: We also experimented with AI recently and created some stylized music videos with Musicbed for a video called “WORLD’s First AI generated MUSIC VIDEO”. What I liked about it especially was that I set a challenge for myself and tried a different approach, rather than just presenting another tutorial. I’m always trying to come up with new storytelling techniques, and this video featured some different perspectives, like editing at home versus in the office and how to overcome the challenges that are part of that.

Rikard: My favorite videos to make are the ones that cover Premiere Pro updates. It’s a win-win situation for me: working and learning at the same time. Even though I read up on all the updates anyway, it’s very helpful and interesting to get a deep dive into them. Kelsey always makes sure to fully understand new updates and features before she records, that’s why her videos are so great. They always help me stay up-to-date, so I can implement new features right away.

Can you share a few tips for people who want to become YouTube editors themselves?

Rikard: What’s really cool about becoming a YouTube editor is that you can learn anything. I’m totally self-taught: I learned everything about editing from YouTube and trying things out myself. It’s very easy to start because you have everything right there, for free. There are unlimited resources, and whatever niche problem you encounter, there will be 200 videos explaining different solutions. Watching a lot of YouTube is just great for helping you become a better YouTube editor.

There's a lot of good educational content out there. Not everything will be for you, and that's okay. You will have to find what you like and stick to it. Then use it in combination with your creativity to master it.

You can also look at the most popular videos, break them down, and study them. Look at the cadence, how it’s shot, how often they make cuts, if they use graphic elements, what type of music they use, their energy, and what tools they use to keep you engaged.

Jiva: You also get a lot more sense of what goes into making a YouTube video work by just putting your own stuff out there. There’s a lot of attention-grabbing stuff on YouTube, but you learn a lot more if you try to be a YouTuber and run your own channel, for example. You don't need to become big, but if you try enough, you force yourself to learn.

Kelsey: Also, when you’re editing a video for YouTube, you often start with a longer edit and need to have this kind of sixth sense to know when something is dragging on too long. So we do a lot of retention editing and use different types of add-ons in our edits to try to spice things up.

It also helps to have that awareness as an editor to tell the creator of the video it might be better to re-record a section to make the video more concise and easier to edit. The final product is only going to be better as a result.

Even if you have to keep to tight deadlines, you want to make sure your video is as good as possible. Some YouTube creators who get a lot of views only post once a month but they really spend the time on crafting a good story to tell, which is why people watch.

How do you deal with the stress of tight deadlines and look after your mental health?

Rikard: It’s important to take time away from the computer, as it will otherwise become associated with that stress and anxiety. Going on reflective walks in the woods can be amazing for your creativity and stress levels. So many times I have figured out certain edits, creative solutions, and workarounds while I've been out on a walk.

I have also noticed a big difference in my creativity and resilience since I started to meditate. I can now edit for longer periods without burning out creatively.

Because you sit or stand still so much and your body tenses up, especially if you are in a time crunch, it's important to move. Go for a run or exercise in another way: This will help you feel less tired, help with any pain and tightness, and boost your creativity.

Your breathing can change depending on your mood, stress, and posture. This can cause you to be less effective and to get fatigued faster. Taking 10 minutes a day to work on your breathing can be an absolute game-changer. Watch Wim Hof's 10-minute breathing guide on YouTube the next time you feel drained.

Learn more about Premiere Pro’s AI-powered video editing features and give them a try by updating Premiere Pro. And to enhance your workflow even further, explore the many extensions that are available as part of the Adobe Video ecosystem today.