When it comes to video, your body can’t win: you’re either out in the field carrying heavy equipment for long periods of time, or sitting in an editing suite in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Both of these things are conducive to a host of injuries, from carpal tunnel syndrome to muscle and eye strain.
Here we’ll give you some advice for setting up your editing workspace in a way that helps you take better care of your body.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is an approach to better movement in a workspace. These little injuries have nothing to do with being out of shape: if you put a bodybuilder in front of a computer and if he types away in the wrong way for long enough, he’ll feel the pain just as you do. Ergonomics helps you arrange your workspace and your posture in a way that aligns with your body’s natural range of motion, reducing tension and the potential for repetitive stress injuries.
First step: Keep your desk clean
You’d be surprised how much an organized space can help you diminish stress. Keep clutter away from your workspace as much as possible, and keep important documents and things you use most within arm’s reach.
Invest in a comfortable chair that promotes good posture, and a desk that’s at the proper height for your arm length (or adjust your current one, if that’s possible).
Pressure point #1: Your wrists
Wrist pain is a common complaint of workers who spend a long time at computers. Contrary to popular belief, however, wrist pads actually complicate the problem by putting more pressure on your wrists.
To minimize pressure and help your wrists form a natural angle, set up your desk and chair height so that your forearm is at a 90 degree angle from your upper arm. Keep your hands and wrists relaxed. When using the mouse, use your whole arm to move it, rather than just your hand or fingers. Learn as many keyboard shortcuts as you can to minimize mouse use.
There are also a variety of mouses that claim to be more ergonomically sound; if you don’t like the way yours fits, go to your local tech store and try a few out. Just make sure they are compatible with the software and operating system you’ll be using.
Pressure point #2: Your eyes
Monitor height is extremely important for both eyes and upper body posture; positioning it correctly will prevent you from hunching over or straining to see the screen. Your monitor should be positioned at arm’s length away from you, and should be raised enough that your eyes line up to 2-3 inches from the top of the screen. If it’s too low, find a sturdy box or a few books you can use to prop it up.
Minimize glare from windows and lights, either by removing light sources or repositioning your monitor to face away from them. You can also purchase an anti-glare screen for your monitor. Every 20 minutes or so, look away from the monitor and focus on something at least 20 feet away to give your eyes a break.
Pressure point #3: Your head, neck and back
Keep your shoulders relaxed and your head centered over them, not bent forward. If your head leans forward or back for an extended period of time, it will cause tension in your neck, which will transfer down to your shoulders, elbows and wrists.
A good way to align your spine is to pretend there is a string attached to the top of your head and picture someone pulling you up from it. Now sit firmly against your backrest without leaning into it, keeping your stomach engaged and keeping a natural S curve in your back.
Keep your feet flat on the floor; raising up on your toes creates tension in the lower back. Adjust your chair height to make sure your thighs are parallel to the floor.
Last but not least: Take frequent short breaks
It’s important to take short, 30-second breaks several times an hour while you’re editing. Rendering and exporting time is a good time to stand up, stretch and walk around the office for a few minutes.
If you’re feeling tense, roll your shoulders, neck, wrists and ankles. Gently stretch or massage out your hands and wrists. If you can, get out of the office and step outside for some fresh air for a few minutes. It’s a great way to reduce stress.
If you’re interested in learning more ergonomics for video editing, check out these articles:
- Video University: Adjustable Chairs, Ergonomics and Video Editing
- Event DV: Editing Ergonomics
- Creative Cow: Ergonomics