Video Editors Take Us Behind the Scenes of Popular YouTube Channels

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Photo credit: Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

We’re sitting down with leaders on the business side of the creator economy to get their best advice for creators looking to launch and develop their careers. This week, we spoke with four video editors who work behind the scenes with popular YouTube channels Jacksepticeye, Mike Shake, and Smosh.

The editors shared how they broke into the YouTube scene, the pros and cons of working for YouTube versus more traditional media, their tips for YouTubers hiring and working with editors, the challenges of adapting to a creator’s voice and style, the editing trends they’re paying attention to, and more. 

Video editor Devin Robbins (@devinrobbins) told Passionfruit he comes from a film background, working for news television and reality television shows like Big Brother, Master Chef, and The Bachelor. Robbins said he was always interested in the YouTube world and broke into it after finding a Discord server for video editors run by people who work with YouTubers. He said he shared his demo reel on the server and was put in touch with Mike Shake (@mikeshakeTV), a YouTuber with over 2.3 million followers.

Robbins told Passionfruit one of the reasons he moved from traditional media to YouTube was to “participate in the success” of the content he helped create. He said when he was working for a news network, for example, he would not see any financial incentive for the videos he made that performed well.

“I’d make a video that would go viral on our own platform and get a million views and there’d be a bunch of ad revenue, and I would see none of it. And so when I transitioned into YouTube, one of my priorities was to participate in the success of the videos that I work on,” Robbins said. 

Robbins said now working for YouTuber Mike Shake, he receives 10% of revenue earned off the videos he’s edited on top of a base salary.

“I really encourage editors to make that a key point in their negotiations. I think it’s been talked about how 10% of ad revenue is the standard. … It works great from the creator’s perspective as well because it incentivizes me to make the best kind of concept that I can possibly make,” Robbins said. 

Robbins said YouTube editors and producers are in high demand. While he does not have plans to make his own channel, he said many editors are aspiring creators hoping to get their foot in the door and learn from more established creators.

“If I were starting up my YouTube channel right now, I would be in a much, much, much better place than had I just started making a YouTube channel. … Learning from other people by editing or producing their content is a fantastic undervalued strategy right now,” Robbins said.

Editor Spencer Agnew (@spennser) told Passionfruit he believes his work behind the scenes as an editor improved his on-screen performance abilities. Agnew is a long-time producer and editor for YouTube comedy group Smosh (@smosh), which has over 24.9 million subscribers on its main YouTube channel.

Agnew said he taught himself how to edit in college and landed a post-production internship after networking at his school. Agnew said he got his start at Smosh in 2014, after applying to an online job posting for the now-dissolved media company Defy Media, which owned Smosh at the time. Agnew has come a long way with Smosh, and on Oct. 24 Agnew announced he was promoted to director of Smosh’s gaming vertical Smosh Games.

“Editing hundreds of hours of content has allowed me to better self-direct myself in videos. Knowing what makes the cuts and what’s additive have been huge assets. Knowing every side of things is important in every job I can think of,” Agnew said.

While some editors find jobs in the YouTube world through official job postings, it seems many get connected via social media or word of mouth. Editor Trey Yates (@tr8ss) told Passionfruit he used “old school networking” to land his first YouTube editing gig with Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast (@mrbeast), a YouTuber and business titan with over 107 million subscribers on his main channel.

“People ask all the time, ‘How did you get into editing?’ And I just say, ‘Take whatever you can, whatever is out there and whatever, if there’s an opportunity, go ahead and grab it because you don’t know if that’s gonna blow up and get you to also blow up, for lack of a better term,” Yates said.

Yates said he first started editing videos freelance on the side of customer service jobs he was working. Eventually, he managed to land a job at an esports organization and found his way into its video production team. Yates said someone on the team eventually went on to head Night Media, a huge talent agency based in Los Angeles that represents Donaldson. Yates said the connection got him in the door for an editing role.

In 2021, after departing from Donaldson’s team to pursue other projects, Yates responded to a tweet from renowned YouTuber Sean McLoughlin (@Jacksepticeye), who has over 28.8 million followers, saying he was looking for an editor. Yates said he asked Donaldson to make an introduction, and soon McLoughlin became interested in his work.

“[McLoughlin] loved my editing style and wanted me to come on, wanted me to come on board pretty quickly. I started full-time back in May of [2022]. Ever since then it’s just been working on these gaming videos, reaction videos, all that stuff,” Yates said.

Another one of McLoughlin’s editors, Robin (@pixlpit), told Passionfruit they have been working for McLoughlin for six-and-a-half years. Robin has a professional background in 3D modeling and animation, but they started editing for their own hobbyist YouTube channel and making animations for YouTubers on the side of their full-time job.

“Sean actually emailed me before any editing sort [of] came into the picture just about wanting an animation, a fan sort of animation of one of his videos. … I did two animations for him, I think. But I also sort of snuck in, ‘Hey, I know you don’t currently have any editors if you need an editor.’ And it just so happened that he was just about to go to a convention, so he needed help editing videos ahead of time, and I helped out with that. And then just of stuck on since then,” Robin said.

Robin said in the YouTube world, many editors are self-taught and fall into their roles without a formal education. 

“You don’t technically really need an education specifically in editing to start working with editing, because there’s so much content out there available on YouTube and stuff to teach you what to do. … I would say all you need is an interest,” Robin said.

Both Robin and Yates encouraged creators to take risks trying out editors who may have less experience in editing but are passionate about YouTube. As previously covered by Passionfruit, some creators, like YouTubers Chad Wild Clay and Vy Qwaint, will take a shot at hiring team members with little editing experience if they demonstrate a strong interest in YouTube. 

“Just try for a video, send someone a video and have them edit that video and see if you want to take it to another video. … You don’t really have much to lose. You don’t have to hire someone just because they edit one video for you. I think it’s good to shop around because everyone has very different styles, especially when it comes to behind the camera and getting to know people’s pace,” Robin said.

Robin also said pacing is one of the most important things in nailing down a creator’s style, which can be challenging to adjust to.

“It’s hard to explain that to someone because everyone has a different sense of pace. I know for sure that it took me a long time to get his pace. … You just have to learn to read the person and emphasize what they do,” Robin said.

Yates said he had a negative experience where McLoughlin’s audience “hated” one of the videos he edited because they could sense his quick-cut comedic editing style was inserted into the video.

“I took notes from the very fun comments on that video and definitely toned it down for the next video and everything. … I don’t want to take away the voice from Sean. … Whenever you wanna make a joke land, you have to pull yourself out of it because the joke is not about you. The joke is about what’s going on in the video,” Yates said.

Mike Shake’s editor Robbins said it took him time to adjust to Shake’s video style. He said he thinks creators should allow their new hires an adjustment period.

“There’s beginning to be a realization that hiring an editor doesn’t mean you can offload your work the second that person is hired. It means there’s a strong four to six month period where you have to chat, let that editor shadow you while you continue to do the work, and then slowly the editor begins to take a stab at how to make content the way that the YouTuber wants,” Robbins said. 

Robbins said when he used to work in the television industry, there were multiple rounds of edits and approval from other team members, reducing expectations of perfection.

“With YouTube I am representing Mike, and if I make a bad edit and that somehow ends up online, Mike is the one that faces the criticism from the comments. … And interestingly, the person who pays my bills is also the person who will take the blame if I make bad content. … And so there’s that added little bit of pressure as an editor to really, really, really make sure to put out only the best content,” Robbins said.

Agnew also discussed the differences in audience feedback from traditional media versus YouTube. 

“Getting immediate feedback from audiences is really cool. Traditional media usually has a much bigger team and a longer turnaround time, so you’re not getting that quick response to work, seeing what people do or don’t like,” Agnew said.

When asked what trends in editing styles they are paying attention to, Agnew said he has been fascinated to see what the “younger generation” of editors is bringing to the table. 

“Editing has become much more accessible recently. This has led to an explosion of different styles of editing, from extremely flashy to super lo-fi. We have stayed consistent with our editing techniques, avoiding the hyper-cutting action of a lot of modern YouTubers. It has been interesting to see what people with less formal training bring to editing—they’re not operating on the same ruleset as more established editors,” Agnew said.

Robbins said he is paying attention to trends of “authenticity,” which he said is demonstrated by YouTubers like Emma Chamberlain and Ryan Trahan.

“The editing for Mike’s channel is very, very quick. You really want the last word of the sentence to bleed into the next word of the sentence, and we do that to maintain or increase engagement. We don’t want to give the viewer an opportunity to think about clicking away from the video. This is at the moment, [the YouTube] strategy across the board. But we’re seeing from other creators, and we’re seeing a shift even as recently as the past couple of months, … where the authenticity that used to exist in YouTube is beginning to come back,” Robbins said. 

Yates and Robin are currently working on a more “cinematic” and high-production value project with McLoughlin. Robin said they are noticing a trend of more established YouTubers taking on high budget projects.

“I think more and more creators that are veterans are wanting to branch out and try different things that isn’t, say, just [making] another YouTube video, which is great. Personally, though, I also just hope that YouTube isn’t going to lean too heavily into it because I worry that it might feel a little exclusionary to smaller creators if they feel like they can’t match that standard,” Robin said.

Are you working behind the camera alongside creators? Email [email protected] for a chance to get featured in an upcoming newsletter.

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