Are you getting started as a video editor, or working on a one-off project? Here’s what you need to know about editing your own video clips.
Cover image via Joan B.
In this post, I’m going to guide you step by step through how to edit a video clip for the first time. You’ll soon see how easy it is, using free software that works with Windows, Mac, and even Linux.
For our example, let’s assume that you need to include a video clip in a PowerPoint presentation and you just need to tidy it up or trim something out.
If you want to add some text to label the speaker or title the project, we’ll cover that in the Extra Credit section at the end, but for now, let’s keep things as simple as possible.
In this write-up, I’ll show you how to do the following:
- Bring a video clip into the software.
- Trim out a segment you don’t want.
- Save the clip out as a new file to use elsewhere.
The process is similar across many editing programs, but for our purposes, I’ll show you how it’s done using DaVinci Resolve, since it’s free, so you can follow along. This is a great program to use because it works on all platforms.
It is an incredibly powerful application, but you can ignore 99% of what you see on the screen and simply follow the steps I outline below.
Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page at this link until you see “Download Now.”
Select your operating system, download, and install the software.
Open DaVinci Resolve 15
When you open the program, you’ll see the screen below. You can either double-click on “Untitled Project” or select “New Project.”
You’ll see this screen. Ignore almost everything — you don’t need to know what it all does at this stage. At the very bottom of the screen you will see 6 buttons: Media | Edit | Fusion | Color | Fairlight | Deliver
Click on “Media” to change to the Media Page.
Drag and drop your video clip from wherever you have it stored (on your desktop, for example) to the bottom half of the screen where you see “No clips in media pool” to bring your clip into DaVinci Resolve.
It’s likely that you will see the message above if the frame rate of your clip doesn’t match the DaVinci Resolve default of 24 frames per second. You don’t even need to know what the frame rate of your clip is, but if you see this message, just click on “Change.”
Now click on the “Edit” button at the bottom of the page to move to the Edit page.
Drag and drop the video clip from the Media Pool into the stripy timeline at the bottom of the screen.
How easy was that? You’ve now brought your clip into DaVinci Resolve and are ready to edit it!
How to Edit a Video Clip in DaVinci Resolve
Now that you have your clip on the timeline, there are couple of things that will make your life easier when it comes to trimming out the segments you don’t want. In the center of the screen, you’ll see a row of buttons, including “Timeline View Options” (1). Click on it, and turn on “Audio Waveforms” (2). It’s also helpful to know that you can zoom in and out on your timeline with the slider here (3). Or press CMD +/- on a Mac.
Zooming in on your clip will help you to see what you’re doing while you’re editing, and turning on the audio waveforms will also make it easier to see the sound on your video, such as people talking — in case you need to edit out a few words.
This extra step will just make things easier. If you can see wavy lines (waveforms) in the green section of your video clip (as you can see below), then you’ve done this correctly.
Removing a segment from your video is very easy.
First move the playhead (the vertical red bar) to where you want to make a cut in your clip. You can move the playhead by dragging it or pressing the spacebar to play and pause the video. You can also use your left and right arrow keys to line everything up to the correct frame.
The video will play back in the top right-hand window of the screen.
Press the B key on your keyboard to turn on the Blade tool, or select it from the row of buttons in the center of the screen.
We’re now going to make two cuts: one at the beginning of the segment you want to remove and one at the end.
Click on the spot in your clip on the timeline where you want to make the first cut (likely where the playhead is) and click on the blue video strip to make the cut. Then move the playhead to where you want to make your second cut and click again to add the cut.
You have now defined the segment you want to remove from the middle of your video. Press the A key to return to the Arrow tool, and select the piece you’re going to delete. Your timeline should look something like the image up above, with the piece you want to remove selected.
Press the backspace key to delete the red highlighted segment. Click on the gap between the two clips, and it will highlight in light grey (pictured above). Press the backspace key again, and it will remove the gap, bringing the two clips next to each other.
If everything looks and sounds okay, you could stop there and move to “Save a Video clip in DaVinci Resolve” down below.
But depending on what’s going on in your clips, you might want to find a smoother way to join the two clips, as well as adjust the volume of the sound. For our purposes, we will add the default dissolve.
Joining Clips in DaVinci Resolve
First, make sure you still have the arrow tool selected by pressing the A key. To add a dissolve between two clips, simply select the joint, which will highlight green (1). Right-click on the joint, and choose “Add 12 frame Cross Dissolve” (2). Or with the joint selected, press CMD+T on your Mac to add the default transition.
You’ll then see the cross dissolve added to your clip (3). This will blend both the video and audio on both sides of the joint. To see the result, position the playhead before the dissolve and press the space bar. If you’re not happy with the length of the dissolve, you can click on either end of the white outline and drag to extend or shorten it.
If you want to remove it altogether, just select it and press backspace, as you would expect.
Selecting the left or right edge of a clip, instead of a joint, and adding a default cross dissolve will make the video either fade up from black (left-edge) or down to black (right-edge), respectively.
Adjusting the Volume of a Video Clip in DaVinci Resolve
To adjust the volume of a clip, with the Arrow tool selected (A key), grab the white line in the middle of the green audio bar and move it up or down. You’ll see the size of the waveforms update as you make the change.
Ideally, you don’t want your audio to “peak,” which sounds bad. If you do, you’ll also see a red bar in the “Control Room” audio meters on the right-hand side of the screen.
Adjust the volume so that the waveforms fill the space but don’t get cropped at the top. You don’t want the audio to hit zero on the meters.
Save a Video Clip in DaVinci Resolve
Assuming that you have made all the edits you need to, adjusted your volume correctly, and are happy with the way the video looks, then you’re ready to save out the final video clip as a new file.
We now need to move to the “Deliver” page using the bottom row of buttons. (Once again, ignore almost everything on this page.)
In the top, left-hand corner, you’ll see the Render Settings panel (above). Click on the drop-down arrow to the right of the YouTube logo (1) and choose 1080p. Next tell DaVinci Resolve where you want to save the clip by pressing “Browse” (2) and navigating to the location. Click “OK.” Then click “Add to Render Queue.”
On the right side of the screen, you’ll now see a “Job” in the Render Queue, which is your video clip, ready for export as a 1920 x 1080 HD video suitable for use on YouTube or in PowerPoint.
Click “Start Render,” and wait for DaVinci Resolve to render out your edited video clip. Depending on the power of your computer and the length of your video, this might be as quick as a flash or take some time.
That’s all there is to it.
In this example, DaVinci Resolve will export the entire timeline, so make sure you don’t leave any extra bits on the timeline when you’re editing.
It will also export with the default “Timeline 1” for a file name, but you can easily change this by renaming the final file later.
Extra Credit — Adding On-Screen Text
If you want to add some on-screen text to your video, it’s very easy to do in DaVinci Resolve.
On the Edit page, select the “Effects Library” tab in the top left corner. This is in the same place as the Media Pool tab where we initially dragged out the video clip into the timeline at the beginning of this process.
Select “Titles” from the list, and choose a “Lower 3rd” (on the Left, Middle, or Right of the screen) from the list.
Drag and drop this in the same manner onto your timeline — in the video track above your video clip.
You should see something like the image above.
If your Title clip is too long, just grab the right edge of it and make it shorter — or use the Blade tool to cut it like we did before.
You can also make the text fade in and out using the same default dissolves on the left and right edges of the clip, as we did previously.
Move the playhead to a place in the timeline where it is on top of the Title clip, and select the Title clip in the timeline.
In the viewer and the Inspector tab to the right, you will see the details of the Title tool, which you can now customize to your liking.
Any adjustments to the font, size, or weight will automatically update in the Viewer.
Lastly, if you want to add a title to your video that will appear on its own, simply lasso all of your timeline by clicking and dragging in the stripy area around all of your clips.
Slide these along to make room for another text clip, which you can drag and drop from the Titles list in the Effects Library as before.
Adjust the contents in the same way by moving the playhead so you can see it in the Viewer, and then select the Text clip in the timeline to open up its properties in the Inspector.
Looking for more video production tips and tricks? Check out these articles.