You find yourself stumbling nervously through the dark stormy night as thunder rolls across the sky and the heavy rain lashes at your back, searching for a reprieve from the weather, and more importantly - answers.
You continue trudging across the windswept landscape and you feel as if you’re losing hope when suddenly a light appears in the distance - salvation. You thrust open the doors to the editing suite and walk through to behold, me, the editing lord, sitting on the rolling office chair throne.
“My child,” I speak, “what is it you seek?”
You stutter nervously, your emotions are a mess, this is the moment that you’ve worked so hard for.
“My lord…” you steel yourself, “I, I seek… Three tips to improve my video editing.”
“Well you’ve come to the right place, I’ve actually got a blog about it so have a read.”…
Video editing is an artform, as much so as painting or drawing. In written art forms, you start with a blank canvas and then from that you add elements with the artistic tools at your disposal until you’re left with something emotionally evocative. Video is the exact same. And more.
Any Joe Blow can throw a bunch of clips together into what then becomes simply a longer clip. Video editing takes more finesse than that, and to deliver professional results it requires skills that are honed over time and practice.
That being said, there are a few things to keep in mind when editing that will drastically help you improve the outcome of your video. Let’s have a closer look at three of them.
Use the right tools
Depending on what project an artist is working on they will have a different set of specific tools for the job. Fine line work requires finer brushes, large watercolour canvas pieces need watercolour pencils, body art requires a special kind of paint. There is no ‘one solution that fits all’, and the same goes for video editing.
When editing, you need the right software for the job (this is your canvas), sometimes that’s professional video editing software, sometimes it's audio editing software and sometimes you might need some animation software as well. Every video is going to have different needs and to accommodate these needs you will require a variety of tools.
Software is just the beginning. Once you get that down you need to think about transitions, music, colour grades, titles, animatics, and so much more.
There are a large number of factors to consider when editing that make a video look more professional, but having the right supplementary tools like those listed above is important. Pick and choose which will have the most effect, and which will drive the point of your video home.
If you have a super dramatic and slow moving video then you won’t have fast paced transitions, it wouldn’t make sense to confuse your audience with slow dramatic shots and then fast energetic transitions.
If your video is fast paced and super high energy then you wouldn’t use a slow orchestral piece for the music, once again this would confuse your audience.
In the instance you create a series of short videos for social media, you wouldn’t tack a bunch of long credits on the end or a lengthy outro because these would interrupt the flow of the video, but for something like YouTube these elements would make more sense.
I know a lot of these things sound very self-explanatory but I cannot stress enough how important it is to firstly use the right software and secondly use the right element at the right time. Select the right music, the right colour grade, the right transitions, etc.
Just throwing music or transitions into a video with no real purpose behind them doesn’t make your video look professional, it makes it look messy and distracting.
Tell a story
This one might also sound a bit silly but bear with me here.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, well imagine how many words a sequence of moving images can speak. Film is an artform and is used to evoke a response in your audience. So when you are editing be sure to keep that emotion or response in mind before creating your piece.
It’s important to tell a story or express your point in the edit, not simply choose the prettiest or coolest images and then throw them together. Sometimes the coolest images will be the ones that express your point the best, if that’s the case then great, throw them in, if not, save them for later.
Cut footage that doesn’t add to your story, don’t add elements that might confuse or overstimulate an audience and select the right shots to evoke the response you’re looking for in your audience.
Essentially, make sure your video (and every element within your video) actually means something, ensure that it serves a purpose otherwise you’re not truly creating a video, you’re just creating clutter.
Watch your footage before you edit
Don’t just start throwing footage into a timeline and chopping it to pieces as soon as you get a hold of it. Be sure to take the time to look through the footage you have and determine what shots will be the best fit for your video.
Similarly to elements, each shot is going to evoke a different response in an audience. Your job as an editor is to ensure that the right shots are in the right position within your video to evoke that desired response. How are you supposed to do that if you yourself haven’t watched the footage back to see how each clip makes you feel?
Your video will come together far more smoothly if you already know what shots you are dealing with, as opposed to searching through and having to find something that fits every single time.
Basically it all comes down to knowing what you have at your disposal, so that you can create the most effective finished product.
Okay, I promised only three tips but here are a few quick ones that’ll help improve the quality of your video edits.
Shot variation is a good thing to keep in mind. Basically just changing what types of shots are in your footage, if you have a lot of shots that look very similar then throw something a little different in there to spice it up (only if the other shot makes sense though).
When cutting away be sure to cut on an action, this is called a match on action cut and it makes more sense to your audience as opposed to cutting when there isn’t much movement in the frame.
Colour grade your videos. Colour grading is an art in itself but a simple dash of saturation can go a long way when your finished product is distributed. Try and select a colour grade that matches the mood of your video.
Normalise your audio if you have anyone speaking or any background noise. Be sure that all the audio for your video is consistent and your audience doesn't need to change the volume of their output device to listen to your video.
Finally, edit to music if you can. If your video is set to a backing track be sure to edit to the beat of the music so that none of the transitions feel jarring or jumpy, and your video has a clear rhythm.
“I hope this information shall serve you well young Squire, now go out there into the wide world of video editing and make me proud. Oh, you have something to say? Please just leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.”