How to Edit Videos Like a Pro

Tips for Creating Great Content

By John Chevalier as seen in Technologies for Worship Magazine

So, you want to get started editing your own video? The good news is that in the last several years what was once a fairly pricy endeavor is now within reach of almost anyone. Both Macs and PCs come with video editing software pre-installed and ready to go. Getting your footage into the computer is a snap. But now what? Let’s take a look at what it takes to edit great videos like the pros. Here are a few tips for creating great videos.

Learn the software

For the purpose of this article we will not be recommending any specific editing software, as there are many out there to choose from. Whether you are editing on a Mac or PC take the time to learn everything the software is capable of doing. The more you know, the better your video will look and the more efficient you will be while editing. There are training manuals and an abundance of YouTube videos that can help you.

Start with good footage

I live in the wine country of Northern California and we have a saying; “Good grapes make good wine!” The same applies to video. “Good footage makes good video.” There is no better way to learn how to shoot good footage than to shoot and edit an event for the first time. You’ll immediately know what looks good and what doesn’t. Seeing footage on the computer, instead of reviewing it on camera, will immediately make you a better camera person. My first tip is go shoot video that you can play with before you jump into a project that really matters. Watch what you’ve shot. Are your shots steady? How do they look in the frame? One important thing you’ll learn right away is to use a tripod for everything. Shaky shots are very obvious and distracting no matter how small they are.

Learn what good video looks like

How do you do this without hours of training? It’s actually easy because we all have the best training tool right in our homes. A television set. Watch TV. Watch for the way scenes change, how often the camera angles change, what types of transitions are used between cuts. Watch different types of shows too; sitcoms, documentaries, the evening news, and your favorite television series will all be cut differently. Don’t think about what you’re watching as a story, but evaluate it and study how it was made. Once you begin to see this you will start to get an idea of how quality video is edited. You can’t achieve good results unless you know what you’re aiming for.

Use a workflow

All seasoned video editors use a workflow that allows them to gradually perfect their video. Let me outline this for you.

Import only the shots you need. Most video editing software allows you to import select pieces of footage. This not only keeps your computer clutter-free, but also gives you the opportunity to be familiar with what you’ve shot. This is important, especially if you’re working with different pieces of footage or have several takes of the same scene.

Review what you have. Go through every clip and start the process of choosing which shots you are going to use. You can always change things later, but this is your first pass over the footage and where you want to begin putting your story together.

Start building your rough cut. You’re not going to worry about clean cuts here. Just start bringing the footage you’ve chosen into your timeline. This includes each part of your story, as well as different camera angles of each scene. You can either sync different angles now of just get them close enough to sync later. The important part is that you are getting everything into the timeline and your project is starting to take shape.

Fine-tune all your cuts

Now that you have your story together the work begins. You need to look in detail at every edit point and trim any unwanted footage. Make all your cuts clean. You will be tempted to start adding in effects and transitions at this point, but do not get ahead of yourself. What you want to do is make sure all unwanted footage is removed. Watch each cut closely and be detailed in your trimming. Once this is done you are ready to start adding in all the extras that will take your video from the amateur to the professional level.

Add in the extras

At the most basic level the extras consist of transitions, special effects and titles.

Let’s start with transitions. The most common transition used in production is no transition at all. Clean cuts will give you a professional looking video. The second most common transition is the cross-dissolve. This fades out one video clip while fading in the next and is used most often between scene changes. Again, you need to consider what you are communicating and if the transition helps the story or detracts from it.

After your transitions are in you can decide what video effects to use. Different software will have different effects. You need to ask the question, “Does this effect help tell the story or detract from it?” The biggest mistake new editors make is using too many transitions and special effects. I have a rule: Keep special effects special.

Finally, add all titles and credits. Choose easy-to-read fonts. Block type fonts work best, as serif fonts can seem to jump when watching the video. Keep fonts simple and look for how well they can be read. If you are using titles over the top of video, the rule of thumb is to add a drop shadow. This makes the text stand out better.

The final step

Now that your video is completed it is best to get away from it for a while and watch it again the following day. This allows you to see things you didn’t see the first time, and make minor changes that will take your project to the next level. Most of the time these are not drastic, but again, a little fine-tuning always helps.

Conclusion

As you move forward in learning to edit video remember these two important points: the more you edit the better you will get. Learn the software and take the time to learn what good quality video looks like. Remember, practice does not make perfect. Practice makes permanent. Learn your new craft correctly. You’ll be happy you took the time to do it properly, and so will your audience.

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