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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Rocha

The Basics Of Video Editing

One of the most undervalued aspects of film production is the editing process. Everyone knows the name of famous directors, actors, and other crew members, but does anyone remember the names of the editors? If you do, props to you!

But editing is one of the most difficult parts of a film’s production, because it’s what ties in all those stunts, camera shots, hair and makeup, sets and props, and all the other things in between. It’s what creates the final look, after months, or even years of planning and shooting. So, if you’re looking to go into the editing side of things, let’s just say, we salute you!

And if you’re interested in editing films professionally, but you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Here are 5 tips about the basics of video editing, to help you get started.

1. Choose The Right Software To Start

For some of us, having access to the “best” software and apps in the business can be tempting. After all, the professionals use them and they swear by them, because of all the various functions they have. Stop! Slow down!

Yes, the professionals may swear by them, but that’s because they’ve had years of experience! You’re just starting out. So, the best way to learn is by starting off with the basics. You can even edit your videos online, use pre-set visual effects and transitions, and even auto-editing software. While they may be basic, they will help to give you a leg up into the video editing industry.

By getting familiar with the basic functions, how they look, and how to use them, you’ll be able to transfer that knowledge to more advanced software and apps. And don’t forget, the professionals were, at one time or another, amateurs and beginners too. They just practiced with what they had, and eventually developed the skills to make their craft better. It just takes time.

Eventually, you’ll find yourself moving on to the more complicated editing software, because you’ve done your research, and you’ve practiced to the point where you will need more professional software and apps. Don’t worry though, even if you do, there are still loads of tutorials and guides that will help you out! Take Adobe Premiere Pro, for example, they have loads of video and written tutorials, for all the functions on their software that will help you make your edit the best it can be.

2. Get Organised

One of the most tedious and tiresome things you’ll need to do, as a video editor, is to organise all your files, from still images to captured footage, and even your audio and animations. Organising your files into folders (and in video editing jargon “bins”) will ensure you know where to find the specific footage, animation, audio, or image you need.

This especially helps, when you have a major project on your hands (like a billion-dollar feature film to edit for). When you sign up for a project, no doubt you’ll receive lots of files, particularly filmed footage, and recorded audio. Now, it’s no good just dumping it into your “imports” panel, and scrolling through them, to find the one you need. So, before you even start editing, organise your files. That way, it’s easier for you to access them.

This is why it can be a tiresome process, because you may receive as many as 30 takes of just one scene, because the director or actor wanted to film the scene perfectly. So, you’ll need to sit through and watch (and listen) to all your files, to ensure you have everything you need, and to be able to sort them into the correct folder/bin. Of course, once this is done, it makes the editing process so much easier, and you’ll spend no time at all piecing together a film you can be proud of.

3. Start The Process

The best way to start your practice is by starting the editing process. Of course, for many beginners, it’s tempting to edit your videos as you go along. So, you’ll start placing clips onto your timeline, and at the same time, you’ll insert your transitions, filters, special effects and all the little things that make up the final video. As professionals, we’d highly recommend that you don’t do this.

The reason why is that as soon as you start editing your clips, you’ll soon get tired of the rest of the video, and you’ll eventually give up, because everything is taking too long to edit. The best way to edit your projects, especially longer and more complex edits, is to start with a rough cut, or an initial draft. Essentially, you need to piece together the video, with the clips you want to use, and when you’ve reached the end, you can then start editing the clips themselves, and adding all the transitions and special effects to the video.

By creating a rough cut you’re making the editing process easier for yourself, because then you won’t have to feel daunted by the amount of footage you have left to edit. Not only that, but if you’re working on a major film project, you can consult the storyboards that the director or producer gives you, to make it easier. And you don’t need to even focus on the other aspects of the edit, because there will be other editors working alongside you, to work on those extra things. So, by making a rough cut, you’re making it easier for everyone involved.

4. Neaten Up The Edit

Now that you’ve chosen your editing app, and you’ve organised your files, and you’ve got a rough cut, it’s time to neaten up your edit. So, you’ll need to watch through your rough cut and neaten up the timeline. This means making sure the cuts between clips are in the right place and that you’re using the right transitions for each new scene. You can even start looking into adding visual effects, filters, and even animation to your video.

This process can take some time, and it may need the expertise of others, who are knowledgeable in these fields. For example, CGI animated characters. Most editors aren’t animators, so they may not know the intricacies of creating realistic animated characters, like cyborgs or aliens. So, animators may need to step in and help out here. Nevertheless, this part of the process is exciting because it is here that the visuals, inside the director’s head, comes to life. But it’s also frustrating because you’ll have to spend hours looking at each shot and scene, frame by frame, to ensure that the edit is as smooth as it can be.

Of course, if you’re working on a simple video, you don’t need to worry about all of that. You can just focus on making sure your video is as smooth as it can be, so making sure your cuts are in the right place, the angles of the scene are correct, and even the audio is synchronised to the video (if you filmed with individual microphones.

5. Export The Video

Now that your edit is complete, it’s time to show it to the world, but as you can probably tell, if you just save it as a project on your computer, people will need your files and the software you used, to watch the video. This would be so much of a hassle and people won’t be able to see your video on larger screens because of it. So, you’ll need to export the video. Most video editing software will have an export function, where you can export your video into one file. Of course, if you’re using advanced software, you may get lots of export options, like H.264 Match-frame rates, or .MOV files, or even .MP4 or MPEG4 files.

Generally, you’ll find descriptions for the export right next the file format, so you know what the best use for the video would be. So, you can choose which file format you need. If you’re uploading a video to YouTube, then you’ll need the H.264 format, which will be a .MP4 file. So, it doesn’t compress as much of the video, as other formats (like ones used for cinematic releases, like .AVCHD files.

These files are large and are usually produced by the cameras themselves, because there’s a lot of data there that needs to be read, and only the more powerful computers can read them. So, these files are best for distribution for major cinema chains, or for other major exhibition spaces.

Get Editing!

Now you know what the basics of video editing is, go and try it out for yourself. Remember, practice makes perfect, so if it seems like your edits are taking forever to complete, that’s because you’re still learning what the basics are. Once you know, you’ll then be able to pick up the tips and tricks that will make your editing process much faster.

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