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5 Video Editing Tips

John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. He is a former automatic-transmission repairer, welder, and hobbyist game developer.

Video content is immensely popular—for good reason. Video can convey more of the creator’s intended vision than writing or audio, which can leave the consumer to fill in many details. Content that leaves things to the consumer's imagination is a great mechanism. The author would like to note that this paragraph should not be taken as an argument that video is “better” in some way; rather, it is just different from other mediums and more suited to certain cases.

Most of the time when you’re creating video, filming is only half of the battle— editing makes up a large part of the rest of that battle. In the world of professional video production, such as on TV shows or in movies, video will often be shipped off to an editor for this stage of the creation process, but for home creatives that is often not a feasible option. Fortunately, these days, do-it-yourself solutions are easier than ever. The mechanical aspect of editing video is well documented and you can easily find tutorials on how to do certain things in any software with a quick search of Google. But what about the creative aspect of editing?

In this article, we will cover five tips to help you better edit your video from a creative standpoint.

5 Tips to Improve Your Video Editing Game

  1. Pick your cuts.
  2. Be ruthless.
  3. Don't rush it.
  4. Make Your life as easy as possible.
  5. Take a break.

1. Pick Your Cuts

Cutting between one shot and another is one of the most critical things an editor does, so I thought we’d start with it. It's also something of a judgement call by the editor; there is no "right" cut that could be applied universally. It's also something of a thankless task in truth, as no one will notice a good cut, but everyone will notice a bad one.

Knowing the right time to cut is crucial.

Knowing the right time to cut is crucial.

There are a number of things to consider, such as;

  • What kind of shots are you cutting together?
  • When is the best frame to make your cut?
  • What kind of cut should you use?
  • Where are you cutting to?

If you’re editing together something like a public talk or interview, the determining factors of how you make that cut will be vastly different to when you cut a short film or dramatic piece. Are you cutting between multiple cameras of the same thing, or are you cutting away from the current scene entirely?

Look for visual cues that can facilitate a clean cut. For example, when cutting between multiple cameras showing a speaking person, hand gestures are a good facilitator as the viewers' attention will typically be drawn to the gesturing hand, making the cut less jarring. The same rule can be applied to dramatic pieces, action films, live footage, and more. Look for action that is likely to draw the viewer’s attention, use that as your cue.

There are also many tricks that can be used if they fit stylistically with your video. For example, having something move across the front of the camera (a person, car, train, etc) obscuring the view of the scene can be a good opportunity to cut away, and works particularly well in cinematic pieces.

2. Be Ruthless

As long as you stick to the above guideline, it’s generally a good practice to cut as much as you possibly can without damaging your finished video. You don’t want to ruin the message or narrative, or make whatever it is the viewer is supposed to take away from the video obscured or hard to follow, but you do want it to be concise. Remember, people will gladly read a book that takes them over eight hours to finish, but they get disgruntled when a movie is over two and a half hours long.

Now, there can be a lot of artistic license in this respect. You want your video to contain only what it needs to contain in order to fulfill its purpose, but if it’s your project you may feel a lot is needed that could actually be cut without adversely affecting the project. Of course, it is your creative property. If you feel something is essential to the final edit then it’s your call, but it may be best to get some outside opinions on your edit before committing to anything.

Don't be shy about cutting unnecessary video from your project.

Don't be shy about cutting unnecessary video from your project.

3. Don't Rush It

There is a dark side to the last tip. It can be very easy to hear something like that, consider the fact that attention spans are at an all time low, and proceed to cut everything you possibly can from a piece of video. Including silence.

This is particularly common in video blogs, or “vlogs”, where the star of the video talks to the camera for a period of time and then cuts all the silences between sentences out so that the video is one constant stream of speech. That’s great . . . for vlogs. It doesn’t translate so well to other styles of video, however.

It’s important to leave some “breathing room” in your video. You don’t want to assault your viewers with a constant wall of sound and visuals when they are supposed to be absorbing the message or following the narrative.

The key to tip number two is that you want to remove unnecessary footage. Sometimes a bit of breathing room between action or dialogue is necessary.

4. Make Your Life as Easy as Possible

This really applies to the whole filming process, but anything you can do to make editing less tedious is definitely worth doing. Mind numbing and repetitive tasks are a perfect breeding ground for concentration lapses and a lack of motivation.

If you’re in a position to make notes during filming, do so. An example of where this would come in handy is if you’ve recorded an interview and have to bleep out offensive words. Making a note of the time any offensive words occur will save you having to hunt for them later, potentially missing some.

If you need to add particular sound effects but you keep your video and audio workflow separate, keep a note of the points where sound need adding as you edit. Little things like this seem simple but they all add up to a much more streamlined, less tedious editing experience.

5. Take a Break

Taking some time away from your project to come back with fresh eyes and ears is an incredibly useful device for catching things you may have missed in any medium, be it written word, audio production, or, of course, video editing.

Spending long hours going over the same bits of media can take its toll on your concentration. Moreover, when you know how something is supposed to be, it can be very easy for your brain to fill in the blanks—so to speak—causing you to miss the fact that it’s not the way you want it to be.

There’s no hard and fast rule for when to take a break from your editing, or for how long, but generally speaking it's a good idea to take some time away once you feel it is finished and then come back to it a week or so later. This gives your brain chance to fully detox the video from your system so that when you come back to it you’re looking at it with a different perspective.

You might not find mistakes, but you will likely find bits that you’d like to change now you’re seeing them with fresh eyes.

Best Video Editing Software and Video Editing Tips

Learn as You Go

Hopefully these tips have been of some use to any budding home creatives out there who are looking to edit their own video. Much of what has been listed above is a matter of personal judgement, and you’ll probably find that your judgement will improve the more you edit. It can be helpful to practice by editing any footage you find on the Internet purely as a learning exercise. An interview would be particularly good for beginners. Then get an opinion from friends or family on how your edit turned out. The responses [should] be far less soul crushing than editing your own work and putting it out there only to have a number of YouTube commenter tell you how bad it is.

Do you have any editing tips? Feel free to add them in the comments below.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 John Bullock