Getting started in video editing? Follow these ten tips from an experienced editor to reduce headache and maximize your workflow.
Cover image via Gorodenkoff.
As an editor who has been cutting for over a decade, there are a few things that I often see new editors get wrong — fairly regularly. This is mostly because they just don’t know what they don’t know.
In this post, I thought I’d share 10 quick tips on things to avoid to really improve the professionalism of your work. I’ve included four tips on organization, three tips on audio, and three on assorted other topics.
1. Messy Bins
One of the most important work habits you can develop as an editor is organizing your work in such a way that, if necessary, another editor could sit down in front of your project, recognize the latest sequence, and start cutting on their own. Finding things should be intuitive and logical.
So keep the bins inside your project well organized, and maintain the same logical system for your backups on an external hard drive. Make sure you copy of all downloads, screen grabs, and imported files to this hard drive as well.
It’s frustrating to open a project and find files are offline and the source path is on the desktop or system downloads folder, so save yourself some extra work.
2. Messy Timelines
Image via senrakawa.
Keeping an orderly timeline makes it easy to find clips and keep your sequences organized. On larger projects, it’s easy to let your cuts and sequences get out of hand, so to keep things in order, follow these rules:
- Name your tracks.
- Keep each component on its specific track.
- Use and maintain color coding for different clip types.
- Don’t leave random junk at the end of your timeline.
3. Bad Versioning
This was organized by an actual video editor. pic.twitter.com/VzYjMJ61DL
— Matt Penn (@mattpenndotcom) January 18, 2018
Director and Post Supervisor Matt Penn shared this image of what bad versioning looks like. Versioning is a crucial skill for young editors to learn, and it has two basic parts:
- Make a copy of your editing timeline.
- Name it clearly.
Normally the * or an empty space in a file name means that the named clip or timeline will sort to the top of the bin, when arranged in alphabetical order.
Also adding the date into the name of the timeline quickly lets you see which sequence is the most recent.
4. No Autosave/Project Back Up
Image via recklessstudios.
Closely related to versioning is making sure to set up your Autosave preferences to save at a regular interval (say every 5-7 minutes), so that if your computer crashes, you don’t lose too much work.
Most NLEs default to either deactivating the autosave, or saving in intervals that are too far apart. In 15-20 minutes, I’ve made too many decisions, fine adjustments, major changes to lose all that work, so I need the software to safe more often.
The first thing I do when I start working on a new system is check the autosave (and levels of “undo”) preferences. Then I load up my custom keyboard shortcuts.
5. Audio Bumps
Image via antb.
Another bad editing giveaway is clips and pops in the audio. These happen when someone makes an edit but doesn’t join the audio signal at the zero crossing point, so you get a jump in signal between the two sides of the edit and a slight click or pop.
The easiest and fastest way to get smooth audio transitions between all your clips is to set your default audio transition to about two frames. Select your entire audio edit and hit “add default transition.”
This one-size-fits-all approach might not work in every area of your edit, depending on what you’ve got going on, but it’s a solid start that you can finesse later.
6. Lackluster Audio Mixing
Image via edwardolive.
One of the best ways to keep up the energy and emotion in your audio mix is to bring up your music in the quiet spots, and drop it down when you need to hear someone talking.
New editors often drop the level of the music during dialogue but fail to bring it back up (even if only subtly) during a gap. This is just basic audio mixing, but without it, your edit might feel a little flat. This is especially true of any kind of promo or trailer, when you need to sustain energy throughout the project.
7. Not Enough Music Edits
It’s all too easy for new editors to take one track and slap it, start to finish, under their edit.
This will create a music layer, sure, but (depending on the nature of the edit) it won’t necessarily fit each section.
Here’s an example. This video breakdown of How to Make a Blockbuster Movie Trailer from the Auralnauts, features at least three, if not four, distinct sections of music.
It might feel like they’re all from the same track, but there is no doubt that it is a complex music edit that creates seamless transitions between the sections of the narrative and delivers the necessary level of emotion and intensity throughout the video.
Taking the time to find the correct piece of music for each section of your edit and then seamlessly weaving them together will sound a lot better than a one-track-slap-and-run.
8. Bad Title Design
Continuing this list of crimes and misdemeanors of new editors, we come to bad title design.
Here there are a few things to watch out for:
- Spelling mistakes.
- Difficult to read text (lack of shadow, background, or poor font choice).
- Overly large font sizing.
- Misplaced text (For example, too close to the edge of the screen).
If in doubt, stick to one font (the client’s font), and keep it small, discreet, and short.
9. Incorrect Codecs and Frame Rates
These days, most editing applications try to make your life easier as an editor by taking care of codecs and frame rates for you. It’s usually only when something goes wrong that a new editor realizes that you can’t just chuck anything on a timeline and expect smooth sailing.
Mixing frame rates on a timeline might mean that your multi-camera shoot won’t sync up, or you might see strobing or stuttering or strange motion artifacts.
Also if you’ve got a hodgepodge of codecs, resolutions, and file formats, the resulting image quality will be all over the place.
Read up on a few of the basics, such as what the manual of your chosen NLE has to say about best practices regarding codecs, timelines, file formats, and supported frame rates.
10. Lack of Career Investment
Image via Stock image.
Lastly, I think its worth pointing out that if you want to build a career in film editing, and you’re planning on continuing to teach yourself, then you need to avail yourself of some decent training materials, other than what you can find on YouTube for free.
Check out this rundown of the 15 Best Video Production Blogs for more great resources.
Looking for more filmmaking and video production tips? Check out these articles.