How to Be Good at Video Editing

How to Be Good at Video EditingGreat video editors can create something entertaining and visually appealing out of very little. A few seconds of footage, an idea, and the right software is often all an excellent video editor needs to take off and create something truly unique.

Almost every day, I see an amateur video editor passing themselves off as a professional. A little experience with iMovie, and they’re the “multimedia expert” you see on Twitter or Craigslist. Their services are generally pretty cheap, and that’s where business owners looking to produce content get caught.

A good video editor is a lot like a good surgeon. Sure, anyone can prescribe soup and bed rest for the common cold, and a general practitioner might be able to diagnose and treat something more serious. It takes an experienced surgeon to perform the most delicate of operations. Video editing can be just as detailed and complex. A slight variation in color here, an effect embedded in imperfect video there, and perfect timing are just a few of the things that separate a great video editor from the rest of the pack.

Does that mean you should throw in the towel and give up your dreams of editing video on a professional capacity? Hardly.

Anyone can use a template. Spend some time creating some of your own from scratch.

I’m certainly not saying that I belong in that caliper of greats. I have years of experience and there are a great many things I don’t know the first thing about. The best editors I’ve ever worked with know what they know because they were challenged with getting it things done they couldn’t do along the way. Hours of trial and error learning nearly every day over a period of years makes a world of difference.

You can take time out on the weekend to challenge yourself. Instead of grabbing templates off the Web and seeing how they were made, start with a blank slate and create your own. You can use the final product from a template and attempt to clone it without looking at how it was done or think up an action of your very own.

Title sequences made in Adobe After Effects or Apple Motion are great examples of this. You can learn a lot about timing, virtual space, sequencing, and layering by messing around in these programs. You can also replicate a lot of the magic from these apps directly in a professional editor such as Final Cut Pro or Premiere Pro. Challenge yourself. You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn.

Watch video tutorials on YouTube, then replicate what you see.

One thing I really like about YouTube is that you can watch how someone does something without having it done for you in a template. By pulling up a video on creating a title sequence or using chromakey, you can see how it is done and apply it to your own project without having to resort to downloading the sequence or effect pre-made.

Keying a video is pretty easy, but there are some tricks that aren’t terribly obvious you can use to solve a number of issues from haze to reflections you can pick up by watching a pro do it and trying it out for yourself.

Izzy Video has a series of tutorials on Final Cut Pro X that are great for someone getting used to the new interface. You can find thousands of useful videos on YouTube just by searching for the name of your program and a general explanation of what it is you’re trying to accomplish.

Give yourself some bad footage to work with. Fixing it will prep you for bigger gigs.

If you need something to hone your skills on, go out with a video camera (any video camera will do) and shoot some bad footage. Shake the camera a bit, throw off the white balancing, move around a lot, and record a scene in a poorly-lit room. If you really want to make it hard for yourself, take a camera through multiple lighting environments in a single clip and try to make all these environments match.

These self-tests will make you a better editor. They’re the homework many pros wish they had when they were starting out. It’s better to deal with these types of issues now while you’re not under the gun of a deadline than wait until later.

I’ve edited about a thousand videos in the past two years. The vast majority of these edits were very simple. There are a few though that tested my abilities with either bad audio or poor video. Some of them required special effects and graphic elements I hadn’t used before. Every video is a learning experience, and I’m just getting started.

What about you? What are your video editing tips? How do you learn best?

Woman Holding Video Camera by Petr Kratochvil