Want to take your video editing skills from beginner to pro? These tips and techniques can help you become a great video editor.
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.
1. 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 stand in the professional video editing world, check out our post on the The Big NLEs.
- Price: $50 a Month
- Pros: consistent updates, multicam editing, tons of online support, customizable interface, dynamic link with other Adobe software
- Cons: updates can be buggy, slower exporting than FCPX
Premiere Pro has been around for a while, but since the introduction of the Creative Cloud, Premiere has become the most popular NLE among professional video editors in the world… and rightfully so. Premiere is a fantastic program for projects both large and small, plus it’s frequently updated — unlike some of the other programs on this list.
One of the things that makes Premiere so great is its integration with its sister programs, After Effects, Audition, SpeedGrade, and Media Encoder. Users can easily send Premiere timelines between the programs when the built-in tools in Premiere won’t do the trick. There’s really no video editing job that Premiere can’t handle.
The only negative (or positive, depending on how you look at it) is the fact that if you want an up-to-date copy of Premiere, you must subscribe to the Creative Cloud, which starts at $50 a month. This is a good deal if you’re an editor or creative artist, as you likely use programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and Premiere often. If you don’t do a ton of editing, it could be a bad deal.
Final Cut Pro
- Price: $299
- Pros: fast workflow, compound clips, sleek interface, multicam support
- Cons: only for Mac, no backwards compatibility with FCP7
What started out as one of the biggest disasters in modern NLE history has evolved to become, yet again, one of the best video editing platforms in the world. FCPX is a fully functional NLE that is much more powerful than its simplistic interface lets on. FCPX has many features that editors will find helpful like background rendering and multicam editing. In a lot of ways, FCPX is very similar to both Premiere and Avid. In fact, aside from a few minor differences, FCPX, Premiere Pro, and Avid Media Composer are all very similar in their function.
Avid Media Composer
- Price: $34.97+ a Month
- Pros: great for large projects, server rendering compatibility, exhaustive feature set
- Cons: clunky interface, steeper learning curve than FCPX and Premiere
Avid is the go-to editing software of choice for most Hollywood productions. Sure, you can use Premiere Pro or FCPX to edit feature-length projects, but Avid is currently the most popular NLE for feature-length films. Avid was designed to work almost entirely with keyboard shortcuts alone, which can save a ton of time in the post-production process.
- Price: Free for Lite Version
- Pros: fantastic color features, free software, sleek design, node-based effects
- Cons: very few tutorials for editing
Another great option for video editing is DaVinci Resolve. Although Resolve started out as a color grading and color correction software, Blackmagic Design has overhauled it the last couple of years to become a powerful NLE. As an editing software, DaVinci is not quite as popular as the software listed above, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great NLE.
Blackmagic will continue to update DaVinci and I wouldn’t be surprised if DaVinci becomes more popular than the other software on this list within the next few years. The best part is DaVinci Resolve offers a free Lite version. Don’t let the word ‘Lite’ scare you away. The free version does almost everything that the paid version does.
There are other kinds of professional video editing software out there, but the four mentioned in this list are currently the most popular. Other softwares like Lightworks, Autodesk Smoke, and Sony Vegas are all popular alternatives, so if you’re looking for something different than what is found on this list, I highly recommend checking them out.
2. 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.
Get an SSD
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.
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 favorite NLE will recommend a certain processor. Check their site before you buy.
Mac or PC?
The Mac or PC argument is really quite silly when it comes to video editing. Both systems are great options, and feature-length films have been cut on both Macs and PCs. However, one of the biggest considerations that may make you choose a PC over a Mac is cost. Pound for pound a PC will tend to be cheaper than a Mac, but if you’re more comfortable with a Mac, go with Mac. The best way to go is to simply create your own computer. If you don’t have the time, you can still get great results with an out-of-the-box machine.
At PremiumBeat we use a combination of iMacs and Macbook Pros to do all of our video editing and VFX work, but that’s simply a preference.
3. 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 deeper story being told.
World renowned editor Walter Murch famously said:
The notion of directing a film is the invention of critics — The whole eloquence of cinema is achieved in the editing room. – Walter Murch
The same is true for you. 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.
One of the easiest ways to think of your story is through the lens of the ‘Hero’s Journey,’ popularized by Joseph Campbell. The story breakdown goes like this, as outlined by former Disney executive Christopher Vogler:
The hero’s journey, once more: The hero is introduced in his ORDINARY WORLD where he receives the CALL TO ADVENTURE. He is RELUCTANT at first to CROSS THE FIRST THRESHOLD where he eventually encounters TESTS, ALLIES and ENEMIES. He reaches the INNERMOST CAVE where he endures the SUPREME ORDEAL. He SEIZES THE SWORD or the treasure and is pursued on the ROAD BACK to his world. He is RESURRECTED and transformed by his experience. He RETURNS to his ordinary world with a treasure, boon, or ELIXIR to benefit his world.
The first thing that you need to do when you sit down to edit a video is determine who your hero is. For a corporate video, the hero might the 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.