How can I edit a video like a pro?

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Professional video editing can make the difference between a cheesy home movie and an emotional family film. But what exactly is professional video editing?


Professional video editing is hard to define because usually, it's something that you hardly notice. It's only when things go wrong that you'll notice a lack of professional video editing. Of course, you don't need to hire a professional video production company to get professional video editing. Instead, you just need to follow this guide.

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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.


Your guiding principle as an editor should be this: Aim to get it done, not to do it perfectly. Your video’s job is to do something for the business, such as generate leads, not to win an Oscar.


It’s easy to get carried away with making sure every arrow is positioned just right, and every scene is cropped just so, but you must resist your calling as an auteur.


“What I do is make a very clean, simple edit of my video and share it with colleagues,” says Jason Valade, Master Trainer at TechSmith's, the maker of video editing software Camtasia. “If it gets past one or two people as a viable video, it’s done, and I wash my hands of it.”


To stay focused, write your goal on a sticky note and give yourself a time constraint. (Just kidding, your boss will definitely do that for you.)


Before we delve a little bit deeper, let's look at some basic ideas:


Learn the basics. There are some simple rules of video editing that you should learn and follow (and even break sometimes).


Easy on the effects. iMovie and Movie Maker each offer an array of special effects and transitions. You should avoid most of these if you want a professional video editing look.


Start with good video footage. Professional video editing is easy if you have good footage, to begin with. Excellent audio recording also makes a big difference in professional video editing.​

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Practice, practice, practice. Whether you're using a simple, free program like iMovie or Movie 

Maker, or a complex program like Final Cut or Adobe Premiere, you need practice with your editing system. Professional video editing requires you to take the time to learn the ins and outs of your editing software so that you can make the most of it.

Much of this will sound like common sense, and it is, for the most part. There are many ways to learn, master and then pass on video editing knowledge, but the most important secret is this: your editing rules are the most important. Check out the rules of video editing, learn the Rule of Thirds, check out what shooting at Golden Hour or Magic Hour looks like, and then decide for yourself what the best option is for your shoot.


Want to shoot at high noon? Let 'er rip. The sun might play havoc with shadows on your subject, but there's nothing wrong with choosing to shoot at that time.


Learn about FCPX from Stefanie Mullen, or Final Cut Stef, as she's known online. While much of the production world balked at Apple's revision to their beloved Final Cut 7, Stefanie embraced the new platform. She put her teaching background to use in educating those looking to make the switch to this extremely powerful and unique editing platform.


Learn how to make your own movies with Ryan Connolly's Film Riot channel on YouTube. Ryan uses comedy and common sense to help teach budding Spielbergs the way and the truth when it comes to visual effects, editing and more.


There are so many other sites out there with the information that we could refer to as the secrets of professional editing, but these are a few highlights. Get online and get looking for the best the world of editing has to offer. There are plenty of options out there, and your only limitation is your imagination.


Editing is typically the final process that happens before a video gets to you for final viewing. If you’ve had to make a video yourself, you’ll also know it can be a time-consuming process.


 If you’re just getting into the editing game, you may be confused as to what to do with the many millions of clips you have well, and we’re here to help. Here are eight things worth remembering to help enhance your editing chops.


starting video edits

Maintain a Project Directory

When editing a big project for the first time ever, it’s super easy to just throw everything onto your Desktop and hope for the best. Well, to say it simply, don’t do that. Every single time you start an editing project, you create something called a “project directory.” If you’re looking for the best Video Company in Melbourne then look no further. Check out Vines of the Yarra Valley’s ultimate list. 


It’s pretty simple, really. Create a project folder, and within that folder, have a few more folders called things like Raw Footage, Sound, Music, Photos, Graphics, and so on. Then you should place all of your materials in these folders according to their type. It’s also good to label each individual file with a brief description of what’s happening in it (but only if you have that kind of time). The project file (whether that be one for iMovie or Premiere) can be placed in the directory as-is – no special folders needed.


This will make your project a lot more organized and keep things easily accessible. Nothing says speedy workflow like being able to find exactly what you want, in the least possible time.


Two Is the Magic Number

Oh, the woes of failed hard drives and memory cards. A quick tip: if it’s important, keep a copy of it in a separate location. Cloud storage is acceptable, but it’s also time-consuming when it comes to video. It’s always best to keep a copy of your project directory on your computer and a separate hard drive somewhere else.


When the project is over, and you want to keep an archive of everything, keep the files on yet another hard drive and delete things off your main computer. Your hard drives may never fail, but in the event that they do, it will be worth it.


Trim the Fat

It’s very easy just to call it a day. Don’t. Trim the beginning and the end of a clip to keep it clean – find the “hot” moment before you add it. No one wants to waste time watching an open field before the action happens, so get used to editing succinctly for your audience’s benefit.


Choose Your Weapon Wisely

When choosing a video editor, it’s all about control. Do you need something simple that only allows you to throw a few clips together and then add some titles? iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or the YouTube video editor will be just fine.


However, if you need something a little more complex that allows you to layer videos like Photoshop and utilize keyboard shortcuts well, then the Adobe Creative Cloud’s Premiere Pro (which is used to edit the latest movie releases, like Gone Girl) is going to be a good pick. However, bear in mind that there’s a learning curve to these editors. Sometimes it’s good to get started in an introductory prosumer editor, like Adobe Premiere Elements, Final Cut Pro X, or Sony Vegas, first.


The first step in improving your video editing process is to choose the right software for you and your work. They usually offer everything you need to perform standard video edits, but you may prefer one over others for their usability, digital interface, and features. The key here is to choose what works for you and your editing style instead of just the latest, most advanced video editing program out there.


Top favourites include After Effects, Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Final Cut Pro, and DaVinci Resolve, which offers a free and comprehensive Lite version. You may also want to try Lightworks, Autodesk Smoke, and Sony Vegas, if you’re looking to try other less-popular yet highly capable alternatives. If you want your wedding to be the Top Wedding Video of the year, check out our ultimate list of wedding videographers to help you get the polished product.


YouTube and Vimeo provide tons of tips for any and all kinds of editing, just a search away.


Avoid Jump Cuts

Jump Cuts are cutting out portions to skip boring or predictable moments and preserve visual interest.


Filming interviews where the interviewee always says “um” and “uh” every other breath is a total hassle. The good news is that you can cut these out and then layer extra video clips of shots pertaining to the content (called b-roll or cutaways) over these awkward moments. If you do this carefully, it will look like the speaker said things perfectly without a hitch.


Bear in mind that you’ll need a more advanced (non-linear) editing system for this using something like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut. Prosumer editors allow for video layering, but iMovie will not.


Use a Second Source for Sound

You’re always going to get clearer audio with something other than the camera. If at all possible, record your audio with a better microphone and separate recording system. If you have access to someone who makes a live sound, ask them to record things separately and sync the audio in a post (again, you will need a non-linear editor for this). You can do this by visually matching the waveforms, clapping or using something like PluralEyes, which does it for you. Adobe Premiere CC actually offers a similar synchronization function these days, so it’s already built-in.


Unfortunately, your low-end editors aren’t going to do this. If at all possible, find a microphone (like a lavalier) that can plug directly into the camera. This is a quick solution for better audio, and you should always seek to avoid any on-camera microphones as your primary sound source.


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freelance editor, how

Select Good Music

Don’t just focus on the visuals; it should only be as good as your music. If you’re creating a drama film, for instance, you’ll want just the right song or instrumentals to make key moments (where you want to trigger certain emotions from your audience) more effective. Cheerful comedies can be a little forgiving, but it can also be easy to overdo it with upbeat songs. It can be difficult if you’re doing it on your own, so having a musical scorer can help take the guesswork out of it.


But before you even think of using just any music, remember that the safest option is to get music from a royalty-free music provider. You may be able to find free music, but the best audio usually comes at a price. If you’re doing a professional project, music is usually included in the production budget.


Vary Your Shots

Another important thing to consider while editing is to keep your content visually interesting. Rather than just using the same shot for the entire video, try to vary things up with more interesting angles. This can be something as simple as recording your interview with two cameras and switching between them (another way to hide awkward “uhs” and “ums”).


However, it’s important to use these cuts sparingly. Don’t do it every other second. A nice rule to keep in mind is to make cuts based on the beat of the music or at pauses when people speak. If you’re cutting fast enough to cause an epileptic seizure (and no, I’m not kidding here), you’re doing it wrong.


Tell the Story

Editors – as a profession – are some of the best storytellers out there. Without them, you would have a collection of random shots with nothing to tie them together. They provide the structure for the finished video, and the best ones are some of the highest-paid workers in the film industry.


While you probably aren’t necessarily looking to become a professional editor, these tips should get you by in the meantime. To take it up a notch, check out the best camcorders for hobbyists and the best GoPro HERO accessories to boost your current shots.


One of the most important takeaways from this article is to remember your creative goal: to tell a great story. Go beyond the basics—cutting away extraneous footage and correcting the order of your clips—and take the opportunity to make your film aesthetically-pleasing and dramatically compelling so as to evoke the right emotions and effectively impart your intended message. Use your practical and technical knowledge in achieving this instead of just adding a bunch of effects to impress your viewers.


You can simply follow the storyboard used during filming. Still, there may be times when the director—or you, if you have the liberty to call the shots—will decide to make on-the-spot changes to the predetermined flow, scene transitions, effects, and other editing elements for the sake of improving the story.


Use a Fast Computer

No, we’re not about to pit PCs against MACs in this section. You can choose whatever computer brand or model you want, as long as it’s fast enough for you to store huge files and allows you to focus more on your editing work without having to worry about slow rendering. Find the perfect wedding video company to help capture those special moments here.


It definitely helps to invest in a faster storage drive (SSD) that will allow you to access your files and software faster, as well as speed up your rendering, loading, and export times. Other things you can do to shorten your editing times significantly is to increase your computer’s memory (RAM) to at least 8GB if you’re going to be doing professional or commercial work, and get the recommended video card and processor for your editing software.


Maintain an Efficient Workflow

Even with a super-fast computer system and editing software, you’ll also need to be systematic and organized in order to become a more efficient editor. One way to improve your workflow is to organize your projects and files in folders that you can use again and again. Create homes for your projects, footage, audio files, images, and graphics, in which you can also create more subsections and folders.


Another way that you can work faster is to use external hard drives for storing your footage so that you can free up more computer memory. We recommend that you choose hard drives that can be connected via USB 3.0 or Thunderbolt to enable faster file transfers. Also, consider allocating your RAM to be able to use more of it for editing and getting a gaming mouse that allows you to set specific editing functions for its buttons.


editing video

Utilize Keyboard Shortcuts

Speaking of buttons, keep in mind that most editing programs allow you to use keyboard shortcuts to perform a range of in-app editing functions. Feel free to review, memorize, and customize the different set of shortcuts for software programs like Adobe After Effects, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Media Composer, and DaVinci Resolve.


If you have a little more money to spend, the easier option would be to purchase an editing keyboard (or at least a replaceable editing keyboard cover) that already has keyboard shortcut icons in them. These are usually software-specific, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility issues with your editing software.


Learn Important Terms

The video editing industry will require you to communicate with other video editors or clients, which means you’ll have to learn a lot of lingoes. To those who haven’t heard of them, some of the terms used in video editing can be impossible to figure out without any research, which is why you’ll want to learn them early on. Basic concepts include the following:

  • Cut – Audio precedes the video.
  • L Cut – Video precedes the audio.
  • Montage – Sequence of clips showing the passage of time, usually for a transformation or character development.
  • Cutting on Action – Cutting when the subject is moving instead of after each movement to create a more interesting and fluid scene.
  • Match Cut/Match Action – Cutting together two visually similar shots or scenes
  • Cutaways – Adding transition pieces that don’t include the main subject or action to show the surrounding environment and set the mood, add meaning to the scene, or aid dramatic tension.

These are just a few, as there are certainly many other cuts and terms to learn. All you need to do is take the time to read and do your own research.


Colour Correct Your Clips

Colour is a major design element that can be manipulated to highlight certain subjects, evoke specific emotions, and set the mood or atmosphere of your scene. Fortunately, today’s video editing programs give us a lot of colour editing options that used to be only possible with photos.


Most editors do two things: colour correction, to make sure that the colours of your footage are consistent in each scene, and colour grading, to give your film a different look. Both are essential when you want most of your scenes to look as realistic as possible, or to differentiate certain scenes from others, such as when you use presets like sepia and monochrome on “flashback” scenes.


Plan Your Videos in Advance

Poor technique isn’t the only thing that can make a video look unprofessional. A lack of planning can also leave viewers underwhelmed with your finished product. By taking the time to plan your video thoroughly before you start production, you can ensure that the quality of your actual content is just as good as the quality of your footage. 


Once you’ve defined your video’s goals, write a script and create a storyboard. Then revise them until they’re as good as you can make them. Don’t be afraid to rearrange, rewrite, and delete sections that don’t work. Rambling videos bore viewers, so keep your videos as brief and tight as possible.


The more professional your videos look, the more your brand will benefit from them. And, while making professional-looking videos does take some practice and know-how, it isn’t magic or something you need to study for years. You can step up the quality of your next video dramatically just by applying the basic techniques listed in this article.

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