How To Edit Video: The Basics
By Peter Williams | Lead Editor, PureMotion
I know I’m stating the obvious here, but video editing is tricky business. It just needs to be said because like any subject, the difference between doing something as a hobby and in a professional capacity is night and day. To the layman, it is a common misconception that editing is a one-dimensional and simple process. It’s just not true though; there’s an awful lot more to editing than meets the eye (quite literally) when it comes to creating engaging, interesting video content that is going to be watched, shared and liked. So this post is all about shedding light on this behind-the-scenes process, for those who aren’t in the know.
How much of a video hinges on the edit?
There are a variety of factors that determine how well a video turns out. It often needs to be thought about and planned from the get-go, sometimes storyboarded, and this careful consideration needs to be followed through to production, and in turn, post-production. Capturing a brand’s key messages in a corporate video, the best action at a live event, or the raw emotion in an interview needs to be done twice; firstly by the production crew and then by the editor. So yes, careful planning and a well executed production does set you up nicely for a good video, but editing plays a huge part and it’s still all too easy to make mistakes if you aren't careful. So how does it all work?
A simplified breakdown of the processes
It’s worth stressing that these processes are ultimately simplified because no two projects are ever the same and the requirements always differ - right from the level of client input to the content and editing style. Still, it offers insight into what goes on during that mysterious process of bringing a video to life.
First thing’s first, footage, graphics, name banners, music, voiceover and anything else to be used has to be organised and accessible. We always name clips and use bins to split up scenes, angles, people, whatever works best based on what we are dealing with. Now the clips are organised and accessible, which is crucial to efficiency.
Creating a ’skeleton’ to work with
We often find we have far more footage to work with than we need. This is a good thing, because it gives us options. We consider the driving force of the video here and get our creative juices flowing. Sometimes we may have a storyboard or notes on what content and messages need to be included. If, however, a client is unsure or has left it to us, we spend the time using markers or making notes to help draw out the key points and best takes, and to cut out any unusable content. If there's dialogue, then we always use our ears as much as our eyes, listen to what people are saying and note the salient points in crafting the video. We always spend the time doing this properly, as it is the basis of the video. We end up with a rough cut of the main driving narrative which acts as a skeleton and has some sense of order and timing, even if it is loose at this stage.
B-roll is the additional footage intended to supplement the main footage. For example, if the main footage is a selection of interviews for a web design business, B-roll could be shots of designers working on a project or talking to clients. Not only does this create greater depth and detail to the video, it gives us editors flexibility in how it all comes together. One of the oldest tricks in the book for an editor is to cut down an interview using B-roll as an overlay, to hide any subsequent jumps. So it is here that we add the flesh to our skeleton. We consider pace, continuity, and use B-roll to break up interview segments, or overlay footage related to what is being said so it makes sense and adds context to the content.
Music, sound and graphics
Depending on the project, we may consider music before this stage. Sometimes cutting between shots using the rhythm of music can work really well, and sometimes we may want to it be unintrusive and just help to move things along in the background. Here we will also deal with volume, peaking and other sound considerations like the audio mix, and any treatment required (dynamic range compression for example). There may be no music at all. Now we have a better idea of how the project is looking and sounding, graphics can also be implemented and adjusted as necessary.
Once everything is in the timeline, we turn our attention to the smaller details. Here we sort out anything that doesn’t work and tweak the video until it’s right. It’s really a case of watching, analysing and adjusting - several times. Just a few considerations here would be continuity, pace, the ‘look’ of shots, audio mix and levels, transitions, angle changes and making sure the content is fluid, makes sense and sends out the right messages. Sometimes good editing means going with your gut. If something doesn’t seem quite right, we try to identify why and what can be done to amend it. Patience is the name of the game here too, which often means watching the edit over and over and making adjustments along the way.
Adding that final polish
Once the fundamentals are sorted, we focus on making the video the best it can be. Colour grading and visual effects really enhance the style and feel of a video. Contrast, vignettes, saturation, exposure and adjusting colour are just some of the options. It is often time consuming, but the results speak for themselves.
We are experts at producing a video file which is fit for purpose. This involves understanding the video’s application/s. Then we can make decisions on resolution, file size (using something called the bit rate), compression and container (.MP4 and .MOV for example). As an example, if a client needs a video to be played via a laptop as part of a live PowerPoint presentation, the file requirements may be different to someone streaming the video in high quality online.
So, there you have it. Editing is complex, time-consuming and sometimes frustrating, but also an equally rewarding process. If you have a project you’d like to get off the ground, get in touch today.