Video is probably the world’s favourite method of absorbing information, and while I don’t have any tangible, empirical verification for that claim, I think we can all agree that The Lego Movie would have been a whole lot less fantastic as a podcast. So it’s no surprise that everyone trying to get their own message out there has considered the audio/visual option at some point.
One of the more under-appreciated skills in the production is editing video: often considered a technical role rather than a creative one. Anybody can appreciate impressive cinematography, but in video editing your job is to go unnoticed; when people are aware of the edit then you haven’t done your job properly. Editors are the ninjas of the video production process, or perhaps those dudes with hats from The Adjustment Bureau. The truth is editing will make or break a film. Perfection is so expected from viewers that a lackadaisical approach will be noticed immediately. That’s why I’ve put together this list of tips for you to consider – ones you might not find on your average web search (there is some great general editing posts online, such as this one on TED).
Know your software
There are three major editing packages out there and regardless of how familiar with editing you are, you’ll need to brush up on what you’re about to work on. If you’re not sure which program to go with, consider which is best suited to your purposes. Final Cut X is a popular choice for beginners thanks to its user-friendly interface and magnetic timeline, but don’t let that fool you. It’s also ideal for short videos with a lot of filters, such as a music video. Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of software is a good all-rounder that is especially convenient if during your edit you intend to create graphics and animations to be incorporated into footage (the suite contains Adobe Premiere, Photoshop and After Effects). Finally there is the Avid Media Composer, which is better suited for larger productions, being the favourite of TV editors. The latter tends to be more expensive, but has everything an experienced editor could need.
Know your video format
If you’re new to editing, this is essential information. Video format options must be consistent throughout the production lest you need to spend a lot of time rendering timelines, transcoding footage or potentially ruining your edit. Your camera operator will know to what format your footage has been filmed (e.g. 1080i 50fps) and you’ll need to set up your timeline to match this, and the same goes for any graphics you create.
Timing is everything
That TED link above will go into specific detail about when to make cuts, but the most important thing you need to know is that edits need to feel natural to the viewer. There are many ways to do this, such as abiding by the 180° rule or editing in time with any non-diegetic music, but essentially if you’re watching your video and you can’t help but notice a cut, then it’s probably not timed correctly.
Audio is also everything
If there was a job even more under-appreciated than video editing, it’s sound engineering. Most audiences – especially if you’re producing for online – will stop paying attention in the first few seconds if your sound quality is anything less than perfect. A distracting background hum, an echo, quiet dialogue, unsynced foley, inconsistent audio quality – all of this reduces immersion and interest. If you’re low budget then the video editor will probably have to edit the audio as well, but do not underestimate this task! Tiny foley touches can give personality, while the music can define how you interpret what’s happening on screen. This is why every time there’s an argument in Keeping Up With The Kardashians they always cut the upbeat music and switch to slow piano.
Perfection is a myth
A good editor will be a perfectionist to the nth degree, but it’s worth remembering that people are flawed: especially the people watching video. There may have been minor inconsistencies in your video or audio, but that doesn’t mean everything is ruined. Human brains observe a scene and only absorb the relevant information from what they see, so you can get away with mistakes, like these famous movies. If Brett Ratner can make a mistake, anyone can (okay, bad example).