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There’s a lot more that goes into editing video than editing still photographs. You have to consider which editing software to use, how to transfer clips from your camera to your computer and how to cut and combine those clips to create a final story. It can be an overwhelming process, but with a little patience and practice, you too can become a pro. First, it’s important to consider the basics. Welcome to Video Editing 101!

Choosing Your Software

Although all Macs come with the free video editing software, iMovie, something more advanced is usually preferable. Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere are both professional video editing programs that are fairly easy to use, but will cost you about $19.99 a month or $200-$300 to buy straight out. At the end of the day, the higher quality software is definitely worth the cost.

Keeping Your Files Organized

It’s important to stay organized from the get-go in order to save yourself the headache and frustration of searching through unnamed folders for lost clips later on in the editing process. When starting a video project, you’ll want to make sure you have all of your files on an external hard drive, and are working off of and saving everything there, rather than on your desktop. Working off of an external hard drive will keep your computer running faster and for longer, and will reduce the risk of losing your work if your computer crashes mid-editing. Put all of the video clips you shot in a labeled folder, audio clips in another labeled folder and still images in a third. Keep all of those folders inside of a main project folder, also labeled. You want to make it easy for yourself to find everything in one clearly labeled spot. 

Starting A New Project

When you start a new project in your editing software, the first thing you want to do is set your scratch disk so that all of your progress is being saved to your external hard drive. You can do this under the Preferences option in the toolbar. Make sure you’re saving everything within the same project folder that holds your footage so that everything is organized and in place.

Importing Clips

Once your new project file is open on your editing software, start importing your clips just a few at a time. Import files by going to File>Import and selecting the clips you want to work with. If you import everything all at once, it can be overwhelming and hard to keep straight. Once you have a handful of clips in your library on the top left window, click on each clip to change the name from the auto-generated numbers to something relevant that will make the content easy to remember. This will make it a lot easier when you’re looking for that specific clip of the dog catching a frisbee or the girl diving into the pool.

Cutting and Pasting

The most basic editing skill you’ll use is cutting and pasting the clips. Save yourself time by familiarizing yourself with the keyboard shortcuts for your editing program. Start editing by double clicking on an individual clip in your library. The clip will play in the display screen on the top left. Use the in and out markers (the “I” and “O” keys) to select a specific section of the clip. Once a section is selected, click on the viewer screen and drag down to the timeline at the bottom. The clip will be displayed linearly across the timeline, as well as in the top right display screen. Continue dragging clips down to the timeline and start combining and tweaking them until they start to fit together.

Making Your Video Flow

One of the hardest parts of editing video is making the cuts and jumps look natural. While a lot of this comes with practice, there are a few tricks that will help make your editing process, and the video itself, go more smoothly. Start by editing together all of your audio on the timeline at the bottom. Avoid obvious drops and cuts in the audio by right clicking at the point where two clips meet and adding a crossfade transition. This will make the first clip fade out and the second clip fade in for a more natural sound.

Once the audio is cut together with transitions in place, start adding B-roll over the top of the interview video. Pull down a B-roll clip to an open part of the timeline and delete the audio track it’s paired with. Then start placing the B-roll footage where you want it in the video. When cutting between multiple different shots, it’s less jarring f0r the viewer to cut from a wide shot to a detail to a medium shot, than it is to cut from wide to wide to wide. This is why it’s important to have a lot of varied B-roll to work with. Play around with fade ins, fade outs and cross dissolve transitions between video clips for a natural flow. 

When your video is ready to be exported, scroll all the way through your timeline to make sure there aren’t any extra clips hanging out at the end. To export, go to File > Export > Media if you’re using Premiere, or File > Export > Using Quicktime Conversion if you’re using Final Cut Pro. Under Export Settings, change the format to H.264 for optimal web playback, and select the Vimeo HD 720 preset for high quality video and fast uploading. Save your project in your project folder, and make sure you watch the final exported piece before uploading it anywhere to catch any mistakes or weird settings. Don’t worry if you have to export more than once – it’s better to take the time to get it right, and the export settings will become second nature after a few tries.

The most important thing to remember when learning how to edit video is that it takes a lot of patience and practice, but once you start to become more comfortable with the editing software and keyboard shortcuts, you’ll be editing like a pro!


Setting out to make some videos of your very own? Rent The Indie Filmmaker or The Serious Cine Kit from Lumoid.

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