With the rise of video-based marketing and increased affordability of video equipment, video editing is becoming an essential skill. At first glance, it seems daunting, but apps such as iMovie have made simple movie editing relatively easy to do. If you want to be a professional video editor, though, you need to know the tips and techniques that the experts use.
1. Know the Lingo
NLE: Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro, and other such programs are non-linear editing programs (NLEs). They allow you to modify audiovisual footage without making permanent changes, which is ideal for correcting mistakes or making several different drafts of a vide.
Codec: The codec describes the file format of your video. Essentially, it’s the way that your video’s data is stored and then rendered on a viewing device. To choose the best codec for your project, know where your viewers will be watching it. There’s a huge difference between short social media videos and feature films that need to be shown on a big screen.
Resolution: As with photos or graphics, your video’s resolution is a measure of many pixels per inch your video has. Higher resolution video is going to look better but produce a much larger file size.
Bit Rate: The bit rate is the amount of data stored in one second of video. The higher the bit rate, the smoother and more vivid the video will look and play.
This is important to know because major video publishing platforms such as YouTube and Facebook tend to compress videos. Low- resolution, low-bit rate videos might look blurry or pixelated once published on these platforms.
2. Mix Up Your Cuts
Nothing is more boring than a video that simply strings together a bunch of shots. If someone is talking to the camera, overlay shots that illustrate what they’re talking about, and let their audio extend over footage of other subjects. These are called J and L cuts, and they’re essential for professional videos.
If your video uses the “Ken Burns” effect, in which still images are edited together in a moving story, pay close attention to the timing and speed of the stills. Quick zoom-ins or messily placed stills make your video look amateurish. Aim to have the stills change at key words in the script, and alternate the direction of the zooms and pans for a more dynamic look.
Finally, when including “talking head” shots, in which someone is talking to someone off-camera (e.g. in an interview), be consistent in the framing and editing of those shots unless you make a drastic change (e.g. a closeup of their face) for dramatic effect. In most scenarios, you’ll want the speaker to be positioned at one side of the frame and looking just off-camera rather than right into the lens.
3. Use Your Keyboard
Not only does using keyboard shortcuts while editing save you time, but it can also improve the accuracy of your edits. No more mouse slips that take you off course, and no more struggles to constantly navigate your NLE’s (often cumbersome) menu system. Memorize your program’s shortcuts and use your keyboard, rather than your mouse, for a more streamlined, productive editing experience.
4. Pay Attention to Your Audio Levels
During production, it’s often easy to get an audio track that’s too quiet or too loud for the other tracks, especially if you’re recording multiple people. Pay attention to the decibel levels of each track and bring them into balance using a program such as Adobe Audition, which integrates with Premiere. When adding music, ensure that the new track does not drown out the original audio.
5. Find the Best Music
The background music you use has a huge impact on your overall video. A song that’s out of touch with the content can jar even the most accommodating viewer. Aim to find tracks that match the mood and style of the video, and as mentioned above, keep it at an appropriate volume so that it does not overwhelm any dialogue or ambient noise.
6. Use Royalty-Free Assets
Often, you’ll want to include music in your video to complement the diegetic sound, and sometimes you may want stock footage as well. You can easily get into legal trouble if you use assets to which you don’t hold the copyright. To avoid problems, download royalty-free music, sound effects, and visual assets that are legal to use through free resources such as YouTube’s Audio Library or paid services such as Shutterstock or Adobe Stock.
Video editing takes practice, as well as a deep familiarity with the best work in the field. To become a better editor, watch quality films and videos and take notes on the cuts, shots, music, and other elements that the editor used. Then, practice, practice, practice. Make several versions of each draft of your video to play with options. By doing this and following the above steps, you can find the perfect combination of compositions, cuts, edits, and enhancements.