editing wedding videos

Is video editing hard?

Video editing is an invisible art and often goes unnoticed. It's a tough art to learn and even harder to master. The links in this article aim to make it a little easier.

Video editing is the manipulation and arrangement of video shots. Video editing is used to structure and present all video information, including films and television shows, video advertisements and video essays. Video editing has been dramatically democratized in recent years by editing software available for personal computers. Editing video can be difficult and tedious, so several technologies have been produced to aid people in this task. Pen-based video editing software was developed in order to give people a more intuitive and fast way to edit video.

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In the grand scheme of things, editors are the ones constructing the films we see. They piece together their films' narratives out of disconnected, separate elements and create something that's not just cohesive, but something that's captivating as well.

Every aspiring editor needs to know the basic stages of post-production before they begin hacking away at raw footage. Understand the various stages that editors go through when working on a project and it'd be helpful to learn some of the terminologies that editors commonly use.

Becoming a great video editor isn't easy, but with practice and patience, you'll be editing like a pro in no time. Here are a few of the most important tips and techniques you need to know to become a professional video editor.

Choose the Right Software

Picking the right editing software is a lot like picking the right car. They'll all get your from A to B, but depending on your tastes and preferences, you might prefer one above the rest. The following is a quick breakdown of the most popular professional video editing software in the world. If you want to read more information about where each of these programs stands in the professional video editing world, check out our post on The Big NLEs.

how hard editing is

Picking the Right Computer

While having a great computer won't necessarily make you a great video editor, a faster computer will allow you to focus more of your time on the story you're trying to tell rather than your computer rendering. Everyone has their own opinions about what computer is best for editing, but it all depends on your own preferences. Here are a few tips for optimizing and picking the right computer for video editing.

A fast storage drive is one of the most important investments you can make for video editing. This is for multiple reasons, the first of which is the fact that a faster hard drive will allow your computer to access your footage and software faster. This will lead to faster render, loading, and export times. In most cases, an SSD will be close to double the price of a traditional hard drive, but it's definitely worth it.

Increase Memory (RAM)

Increased RAM will almost always lead to faster editing speeds. This is why most modern NLEs recommend that you have at least 4GB of RAM — but if you're serious about video editing, you're going to need a lot more. You'd be hard-pressed to find a professional editor with less than 8GB of RAM. The more RAM, the better.

Better Video Cards

The name really says it all, but a video card essentially outputs graphic images to your computer's monitors. For editing, you can imagine how important a good video card is. Most of the major video editing applications have recommended graphics cards, so before you commit to buy one, be sure to check out the recommended cards for your NLE of choice.

Processors

A faster processor will result in faster render times, but it's all a balancing act. If you have an amazing processor but end up skimping on the storage drive, RAM, or video card, your computer is going to run slow. You can't go wrong with an i7, but just like video cards, there's a good chance that your favourite NLE will recommend a certain processor. 

Editing For a Story

If you take nothing else from this article, remember that as an editor you are a storyteller! Editing is so much more than simply cutting footage. It's an opportunity to take your audience on a journey. Whether you're editing a complex narrative film or simply putting together a corporate video, there is a more in-depth story being told.

Every cut, every transition, sound effect, and graphic needs to tell a greater story. So while you're editing, ask yourself how each scene is progressing the story. Audiences love conflict. 

Find that conflict and emphasize it through pacing and music.

The first thing that you need to do when you sit down to edit a video is to determine who your hero is. For a corporate video, the hero might be an interviewee or even the audience. Let your hero go on a journey and overcome obstacles — even if the obstacle is as trivial as not knowing what kind of toothpaste to select. Using this technique will change the way in which you edit, and you'll instantly see an improvement in your video's quality.

Keyboard Shortcuts Are Your Friend

One of the fastest ways to tell the difference between a professional and novice video editor is to look at how much they use the keyboard simply. Editors who have been in the industry a while know that a few seconds saved here or there add up over time. So if you're serious about saving hours (if not days) on projects, it's best for you to learn how to use those keyboard shortcuts. Luckily for us, there are a lot of really good keyboard shortcut resources out there.

Cheat Sheets

One of the best ways to learn keyboard shortcuts as a beginner is to simply print out a cheat sheet that you can easily reference while you're editing. If you are preforming basic actions like playback or cutting, odds are there is a simple keyboard shortcut you can use instead. Just reference one of the following free keyboard shortcuts before you touch that mouse!

  • Premiere Pro: Free Premiere Pro Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
  • Final Cut Pro: Free Final Cut Pr Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
  • Media Composer: Free Avid Media Composer Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
  • DaVinci Resolve: Free DaVinci Resolve Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheet
  • Adobe After Effects: Free After Effects Keyboard Shortcuts Cheat Sheets

It should also be noted that you can change the keyboard shortcuts to your liking in all of these applications. So if a given function uses a certain key combination that you don't like, you can change it.

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Editing Keyboards

If you have a little cash, the best option would be to use an editing keyboard. An editing keyboard is essentially just a standard keyboard, but the keys have keyboard shortcut icons on them. One of the best places to get an editing keyboard is Editors Keys. While their keyboards can be a little expensive, they are incredibly rugged — which is very important since you'll likely be hitting the J, K, and L key all the time.

Editing keyboards are fantastic for learning your keyboard shortcuts, but if you already have a 'standard' keyboard, you don't have to buy an entirely new keyboard. There are keyboard covers that have printed icons on them that you can slip over your keyboard. These are great if you use your keyboard for more than one purpose. Plus, if you ever want to learn new software in the future, it's a lot cheaper to replace a keyboard cover than an entire keyboard. B&H has a great selection of video editing keyboards and covers. Just make sure the one you choose fits your keys!

Learn the Lingo

Video editing isn't just a hobby or a profession, and it's an industry. And just like any industry, there's a ton of lingo to learn. Practically speaking, you don't need to learn all of the terms on this list to become a better video editor. Still, a fundamental knowledge of the concepts may help you communicate better with other video editors or clients. Here are a few basic concepts you'll need to know:

J and L Cut

J and L Cuts are an essential tool for tying two scenes together. In a nutshell, a J or L cut is an overlap of either audio or video onto the next scene. They're named for the shape they make in your editing timeline.

A J cut is where you hear the audio before you see the visual. For example, if you were to hear a train horn and then cut to video of a train, this would be considered a J Cut.

An L-Cut, on the other hand, is where you see the video before you hear the audio. The best way to think about an L Cut is to envision a documentary where a guy is describing ice cream then cut to a video of someone scooping ice cream while he's still talking. You're probably going to get the terms J and L Cut mixed up a lot, but the thing to remember is simply the concepts. J and L cuts can add a lot of visual interest to your scene.

Jump Cut

A jump cut is a cut that allows the editor to cut out portions of time. A jump cut can preserve visual interest without the audience having to watch boring fluff. Think of a guy holding an egg over a building and then cutting to a clip of a splattered egg on a sidewalk. Even though you didn't see the egg falling, it's obvious what happened in between. 

camera editing

Montage

A montage is a sequence of shows that shows the passage of time. While you may be familiar with the idea of a montage, it's important to remember that a montage is a powerful tool that can progress your story. The most notable example is the Rocky training sequence where Rocky trains for his big fight and ends up running up the stairs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Not only did that scene pass time, but it also developed Rocky's character so that we could see his inner transformation.

Match Cut/Match Action

Match action (or match cut) is a technique where an editor will cut from one visually similar scene to another. Typically match actions need to be planed out in advance — but when done correctly, you can create a very captivating sequence by simply cutting together two similar shots. 

So now that you know, some of the video editing fundamentals, let's dive into some technique. Here's how you can cut a reel that sizzles.

Editing can be a very difficult time. A large portion of editing deals with making tough decisions like cutting lots of beloved material. It can be excruciating having to edit out a piece of dialogue or an entire scene that you love for the greater good of your project. 5 Ways To Kill Your Darlings and Make Better Cuts will help you drop the axe and make these tough decisions.

But editing isn't just about cutting down scenes. Editors have to know how to construct a cohesive flow to the scene changes that fit with the kind of movie they are making. 

Cutting on Action

Cutting on the action is a technique used to create a more interesting scene. The concept is simple when you cut in the middle of an action, and it will appear less jarring and more visually interesting. This goes for just about every scene. Cut when your subject is moving and not when they complete the action, and your scene will seem much more fluid. One great example of cutting on the action is this scene from The Matrix. Notice how infrequently the editor waits for actions to complete themselves. Imagine how boring the scene would be if we waited for each action to be completed.

One way to make the edit between two shots seem invisible is by cutting on a gesture. The viewer watches the beginning of a motion that begins in one shot and follows it as it crosses the edit and finishes in the next shot. The completion of the gesture masks the edit. Here is an example of a cut made on the subtle gesture made as the speaker completes his thought and begins a new one.

Good Music Changes Everything

Want to know the easiest way to tell the difference between an indie film and Hollywood blockbuster? Just close your eyes. As editors, it's easy to focus way too heavily on the visuals and to keep the audio as an afterthought. This is, of course, a mistake.

The best thing to do is license good music online from a royalty-free music provider. I know what you're thinking: spend money on music? I can just get free music online. While this is true, free music is free for a reason. In order to get the best audio possible, you're going to need to spend a little money.

You may be hesitant to pay money for a track that you may not use, but that's not how modern music licensing works. Most websites (including PremiumBeat) allow you to download free watermarked audio previews and place them into your timeline. This way you don't waste money buying a track that's not perfect.

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Levelling

It seems like every video editor has their own opinions about what your audio levels should be, so the following recommendations are by no means law. However, if you're having some trouble getting your audio just right, just follow these quick suggestions and begin adjusting your audio from there.

  • Overall Mix Level: -10db to -14db
  • Dialogue: -12db to -15db
  • Music: -18db to -22db
  • Sound Effects: -10db to -20db with occasional spikes up to -8db.

Your ears need to be the judge. Your audio may follow these tips perfectly, but if it sounds terrible, it's bad.

Become a better editor

There are always more ways to improve your efficiency as an editor — whether you're just starting out or you're working as a professional.

It's also important to make sure your workflow is a healthy one. We sometimes can get so caught up in the work that we neglect our health.

The techniques that video editors use to shape their content reveal a lot about how people create meaning in the world. Editors have a deep understanding of how people think, feel, remember and learn, and we use this knowledge to build powerful, moving stories and experiences. The best editing decisions come from empathy — both for the people who exist virtually on the screen and for the audience watching them.

What made the first excerpt so uncomfortable to watch was that the edits were unmotivated; every edit was random. Here's for the meaningful edits that make video editing hard: 

Get your workstation setup

While there's tons of capable editing hardware and software of all different levels and prices, if you want to get serious about editing video, you'll need a proper workspace.

Choose the best camera angles for each moment

As you look at your footage, your goal is to balance speaker intent with the expectations of the web audience. Think about where the audience would want to be looking at different points during the talk if they were in the room — that will help you select the best camera angle to reconstruct each moment. By thinking about that, you are also choosing angles that help the speaker better express his or her story.

Use more close-ups and medium shots than wide shots 

It's important to cut between different camera angles so that the audience understands the space where the TED Talk took place. But once the talk is contextualized, close-ups and medium shots hold the most meaning for the audience. It's engaging to watch speakers' facial expressions and body language as they speak and, with a closer view, you can just see it better.

Watch a speaker's body language and pay attention to the way they talk

Language is embodied. A speakers' thoughts, words and breath are all revealed through their body language. Meanwhile, each speaker has a unique rhythm and cadence to their voice. If you pay attention to these things, it will provide a natural rhythm for your editing, and it will all feel intuitive for the audience, too.

Cut on words 

The sound of a word, especially if it contains a hard consonant, can make an edit feel less obvious. When the word is one that is relevant to the main point of the speaker's talk, the edit can also highlight that word and make it more memorable. Let's listen to an example of an edit cut on a word.

Keep things moving 

The web audience has a short attention span. Framing a speaker's words with multiple camera angles is more dynamic and interesting than holding on one camera angle for a long period of time.

Break up graphics 

The slides that speakers use often stay on-screen for quite a while. We try to break the slide up into sections so that only the relevant parts of the slide are revealed in time with the speaker's words. This may or may not help in your own editing, but the point is: be methodical with directing attention.

Edit out mistakes

We do edit out both technical errors and speaker errors. We often mask these edits by cutting on action. 

Take some space from your edit

After spending some time with the same edit, it's easy to become desensitized to the material. So it's important to step away. Taking a break from edit and returning with fresh eyes can help you maintain your sense of audience and help you do your best work.

Have you been wanting to start video editing but find yourself overwhelmed by the process? When sitting down to start editing a project, the process can seem intimidating and at times, overwhelming. It is also a process that is prone to many mistakes that can make or break your video. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.

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Common Mistakes of Video Editing

Having a Sloppy Workflow

A good edit all starts with the workflow. If you don't have an efficient workflow established from the very beginning, it is very hard to make a polished and cohesive edit. The workflow for every person is going to be different, but for me, my process is very streamlined and consistent throughout each project I do. In the screenshot below, this is my workflow for my time as the head videographer at a summer camp. Each week was broken down into the days, and their activities. Within that folder, it consisted of the activity, and then into raws and selects and the different cameras that were used. That folder then got imported into Adobe Premiere, where I would start to piece together the story of the week. Having this workflow made my life so much easier and gave me the time and energy to focus on creating a great video each week. 

Cutting Too Early

Being an editor for seven years now, I am extremely guilty of this one, but I have learned my lesson the hard way. It may seem tempting when you get home from an amazing shoot to immediately start cutting your footage. However, it's important that you know what you have first before diving deep into an edit. When I begin editing any project, the first thing I'll do is skim through all my raw footage and simply take it all in. Next, I watch through the footage again, but this time I use the pancake timeline technique. I make two timelines: one for my raw footage, and one for my selects. If I like any shots from my raw bin, I simply drag it down to my master timeline. This way, by the time I start actually cutting, I am familiar with the footage and can move forward in the process.

Using Hard Cuts

When cutting dialogue, it is very easy to mess up the flow of a conversation with a bad cut. The most common error I see in beginner edits is the use of hard cuts. A hard cut in a dialogue scene is when you chop up the audio right as the actor starts talking, so there is no overlap. When cutting dialogue, you don't want to be able to hear the cut. This can be solved by using a "J" cut. A J cut means that the audio comes in before the visuals do. When doing this, the cut disappears, and the shots blend seamlessly together. Another way to fix the problem of hearing a cut is by laying a constant ambient sound below all the tracks. This is called room tone. This way, when you cut the audio from shot to shot, you won't hear the abrupt ending; instead, you will hear the subtle hint of room tone.

Editors are the invisible storytellers behind every video. They're the ones behind the scenes creating the pace, tone, feeling and narrative flow of a story. Editing is more than cutting scenes; it's about conveying stories visually. It's an art, and a tough one at that, but it becomes easier with practice and experience.