What is video editing?
At the heart of it, video editing is the art of crafting stories. So, what exactly does that mean? Well, to put it simply, video editing involves taking footage previously captured on a film set and cutting it up into different sequences to form some type of cohesive story. This is primarily done today via a non-linear editing system (video editing software on a computer).
While bringing stories to life may sound like all fun and games, and believe me it definitely can be, it’s also extremely challenging. When you break it down there is one thing that matters above all else.
Regardless of the story you’re trying to tell, whether it be a full-scale Hollywood production, corporate promotional video, or even a personal vlog, emotion should be at the center of every video editor’s mindset. Whether that emotion is happiness, sadness, anger, confusion, inspiration, motivation, etc., there must always be a central feeling to drive your story forward, connect with your audience and accomplish your goals.
Being able to create this emotion from countless shots and clips is the biggest hurdle to overcome as a video editor. Luckily, we have a plethora of tools at our disposal that allow us to give it our best shot at bringing about some emotive response. Some of these tools (without getting too far down the rabbit hole) include:
- Shot Pacing
- Color correction/grading
- Stylistic effects/filters
- Visual effects
- On-screen text
- Sound effects
What are the actual steps involved in video editing?
The first step in video editing often begins with Assembly Edits. Here at Discover Mediaworks, this means having our producers organize their RAW footage into folders on our centralized server. Oftentimes, these folders are sorted by location, date, card number, etc. From there, producers will import their footage into our video editing software to be organized on an even deeper level; utilizing markers, additional folders, and multiple sequence timelines.
After the initial assembly edit has been completed, Discover Mediaworks’ video editors take over and start to develop a Rough Cut. This is exactly what it sounds like, a “rough” cut of the project. This means that there might be some loosely cut together shots, template music, and even a scratch voiceover. However, nothing is set in stone at this point. After reviewing the rough cut, internal teams and clients are able to provide valuable feedback, which in turn allows the video editor to “trim the fat” of the rough cut into a more refined piece also known as the Fine Cut.
In a fine cut, you’ll find improved pacing, more stylized graphics, and maybe even different music altogether. It’s at this point that the internal team and/or client has a second opportunity to provide final feedback for changes to be made before it goes onto the next phase of development.
Once all pertinent changes have been made in the fine cut, a reference video and audio file are then sent over to the audio engineer for sound design and mixing. This step of the process is simply referred to as the Audio Cut. Sometimes whether due to budget, time, or both, it may be up to the video editor to complete an audio mix. While there’s nothing wrong with this, it should be known that any video could almost definitely benefit from having a dedicated audio engineer. Sound is as, if not more important, than the visuals being shown on-screen after all.
The Final Cut of an edit is the last stage of development before the video can be exported and archived. To create a final cut, the video will insert the audio track mixed by the engineer, color correct/grade the footage, and apply any other stylistic visual effects. It should be known that even final cuts can have multiple versions sometimes though, which is why your naming strategy must incorporate some type of versioning structure.
Is video editing the right career for you?
If you’re the type of person who likes to be creative, utilize technology, works well with others and isn’t afraid to get weird, video editing might just be the right career path for you.
Okay, awesome. Having read that sentence, you’ve officially decided you want to become a video editor. Now what? Well, I’ve prepared some resources down below for you to start your training.
Before you begin though, know that everything I’ve said up until this point has been a pretty wide view of what video editing is. Don’t be afraid to dive into these resources and seek out your own to master both the technical and theoretical concepts of video editing.
And remember, anybody can edit a video, that’s not hard. Being able to edit a video that conveys emotion is the mark of a true video editor. So what are you waiting for? You’ve got a smartphone, don’t you? Get out there, go film something (or download stock footage), and begin your epic video editing journey today.
Seriously, go freaking do it!
Resources for getting started in the video editing industry
- For learning video editing theory
- Walter Murch’s book, In the Blink of an Eye
- For learning technical editing techniques
- For learning advanced VFX
- For getting contacts in the industry
- For landing your first video editing gig
- Offer to work as an intern for different facilities (you’ll be able to learn a lot working at an actual place)
- Work on passion projects to develop a reel you can show to others
- Decide on an area you’d like to live, move there, and be ready to hustle making new contacts and working your butt off!
Want to learn more about the post production process? Check out this blog – Audio for Video: The Unsung Hero of Production.
About the Author:
After watching Star Wars A New Hope for the first time as a child, Sam fell in love with the idea of becoming a famous movie director. It was this idea that would motivate Sam to practice different filmmaking techniques with his friends, study behind the scenes videos from famous movies, and attend some type of film school.
Sam graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film and a minor in history. From there, Sam went on to become one of three business owners in a production company called Variant Productions, based out of Kaukauna, WI. It was during his time at Variant Productions that Sam honed his filmmaking skills. He and the rest of his team created numerous high-end corporate promo videos, complex music videos, and even a full length documentary that highlighted a local paper mill restoration.
Since then, Sam has moved back to the Madison area and is now the senior editor at Discover Mediaworks. Sam enjoys watching movies, camping with his family, creating personal vlogs and spending time with friends.