GAMING

How To Edit Livestreams

In a previous article, we covered how to record livestreams with Streamlabs OBS. In this article, we’ll talk about how to edit your recordings so they’re fit for uploading to YouTube or Twitch (as VODs). Whether you’re just looking to clean up and archive your streams, condense longer streams into a more watchable format or create a highlight reel complete with transitions and effects, we’ve got you covered.

BEFORE YOU START...

After every recorded stream, save the raw, unedited file in an organized folder with the title and date of your stream, along with any other details, such as themes or special guests. If you record a lot of streams, consider categorizing them in separate folders organized by stream date, content or whatever makes the most sense for your workflow. Next, make a copy of the raw file and import it into your video editing software. 

If you’re new to video editing, we recommend Descript. Descript takes a fundamentally different approach than most other software by letting you edit your video simply by editing the text of the automatically-generated transcript. Not only does this flatten the learning curve of video editing, it also enables you to easily search for specific moments just by searching a word or phrase. For example, if you were streaming Animal Crossing, you could search for 'money tree' to find a spot where you explained how to grow money trees.

For more suggestions, check out our roundup of the best video editing software for YouTube.


Finally, before you get to editing, decide what you want the finished product to look like—this will determine how complex your editing needs will be and will dictate how much work you’ll need to do. Is your goal to....

  • Clean up your stream by cutting out the boring parts?
  • Condense your stream to make it shorter and give it a better flow?
  • Create a polished video complete with an intro sequence, transitions and effects?

Descript is a great way to edit your livestream recordings without the learning curve of a typical video editing program.

LEVEL 1: BASIC TRIMMING

Sometimes, all you need to do is clean up your recording a bit. Luckily, this is easy to do in even the most basic editing software, such as Windows Video Editor or Apple iMovie. Here’s what to do:

  1. Trim any “dead air” or unwanted content at the beginning. Streams often start informally, with the host testing their sound and making small talk while waiting for viewers to show up. While this is fine when you’re live, it makes for a pretty boring video, so the first thing you’ll want to do is cut right to the “real” beginning.
  2. Take a quick scan through your recording to identify any other dead spots and cut them out as well (think about it: would you want to stare at someone’s empty chair while they’re in the bathroom or answering the door?). If you’re using Descript, the “Shorten Word Gaps” tool can automatically detect and cut pauses longer than a few seconds. In other software, you can “scrub” through the video by dragging the play cursor along the timeline to find and remove those empty spaces. 

LEVEL 2: CONDENSING LONGER STREAMS

If your goal is to condense the best parts of your stream into a more digestible format, you’re in for a bit more editing work. However, it’s well worth the effort, since you’ll get extra value out of your streams by repurposing them for YouTube or social media. Since you’ve already put in the time, what’s a little extra editing work if it gets you more views?

  1. Go through your video and cut not just the “dead air,” but also any parts that aren’t interesting, such as off-topic tangents or awkward banter. Again, if you’re using Descript, you can easily skim through your transcript and delete anything you don’t like, simply by editing the text. 
  2. Add transitions and title cards to smooth over your edits and avoid jarring jump-cuts. Depending on your editing software, you may have access to just a few basic wipes and fades or a plethora of animated effects (just remember to use them tastefully and make sure they match your aesthetic). Title cards are a great way to “signpost” different sections of your stream, and most software allows you to customize the background and font, so you can match them to your overlay and other visual elements.
  3. Add an intro and end screen. Whether it’s a simple five-second screen showing your logo and the title of your stream or a full-on animated intro sequence complete with a theme song, the beginning of your video is your chance to inform the viewer of the content, get them excited for what’s to come and establish consistency from video to video. So have fun with it!

Visual effects can range from awesome to silly, so be sure to use them tastefully.

LEVEL 3: ENHANCING YOUR VIDEOS WITH EFFECTS AND MORE

If you want to take things a step further and add even more production value to your videos, there are all sorts of fun effects you can add to enliven your content. The possibilities are truly endless, so we’ll just inspire you a few ideas to use as a starting point.

  1. Insert captions and text boxes. If you need to correct something you said, provide additional information or point out something funny, it’s easy to briefly flash some text on the screen, such as “Actually, it was a triple kill, not a Killtacular.” Depending on your style (and your software), you can use plain white or black text, a cool font or something creative like a thought bubble.
  2. Create instant replays. Nothing enhances an awesome, funny or unexpected moment like good old-fashioned repetition. When you spot one of these moments, make precise cuts right where it starts and ends, then duplicate the clip and drag the remainder of your video to the right so it resumes at the correct spot. For even more emphasis, try slowing down the clip, repeat it multiple times or add music and sound effects.
  3. Play with zoom-ins and effects. If you want to emphasize something you said, a reaction you had or an embarrassing yet hilarious moment, try zooming in on your face so it takes up the whole screen. For even more comedic or dramatic effect, you can add effects like an old-timey grainy black and white filter, flaming eyes or the perfect music cue or sound effect.

DON’T FORGET ABOUT THE AUDIO!

After you’ve done all the cutting, trimming, splicing and adding effects, the final step is to mix the audio so that your video sounds clear and full. If you followed the advice in our guide to recording livestreams and recorded your audio on separate tracks, you’ll be able to adjust the volume of your voice, gameplay audio and other sources independently. This is especially helpful if you didn’t get your audio levels mixed perfectly for the initial stream. 

If you’re stuck with the combined audio track from your stream, you’ll have a bit less flexibility here, but you should still be able to clean up your audio a little. Either way, here are a few important things to keep in mind when mixing your audio:

  • Above all, make sure your voice is intelligible and can be heard clearly throughout the entire video. If you used a good microphone and set it up correctly, you probably won’t need to do much tweaking. However, if your voice sounds muffled, thin or quiet, you may need to raise the volume or use an equalizer (EQ) effect to enhance certain frequencies.
  • If you’re prone to getting excited and raising your voice on stream, you may need to use a compressor or limiter to make sure those loud parts don’t sound distorted or blow out your listeners’ ears. Compressors and limiters are effects that keep your voice from going above a certain volume. Compressors gently keep your volume in check by evening out the loud and quiet parts, while limiters have a sharp cutoff to make sure you never go above a certain volume.
  • If you’re working with separate audio tracks, you can adjust them individually to achieve the perfect balance. Start with your voice track, making sure the level sits somewhere near the top of the meter (the little bar that displays the volume level). Then, add in any other voice tracks as well as gameplay audio, sound effects and music, using your ear to make sure you can hear everything clearly. Finally, see if you need to cut anything out of a specific track, such as your dog barking in the background.
  • Export or render a short section of your video and compare how it sounds to other videos to make sure it’s loud enough to hear, yet not so loud that it’s fatiguing to listen to. The best way to compare is by uploading a test to YouTube, so you can see how the final product sounds after YouTube’s data compression and audio normalization.

THAT’S A WRAP

When you’re all done editing and mixing, make sure you render your final video using the recommended quality settings for YouTube, Twitch or whichever platform you’ll be uploading to. Then, name the file so you can identify it later and store it in an organized fashion, just like you did with the raw recording. And, if you want to learn more about streaming or making videos, we’ve got plenty of articles on both subjects to dig into.