Nov 22, 2011

5 Ways to Improve Your Editing

Video editing has become one of those skills that any interested candidate can pick up and perform with ease.  That's not to say that everyone is good at it however.  Here are a few simple guidelines that I use that you can follow to help improve your video editing.

1.  Stay Organized

Editing is really about organization.  From sourcing the best footage available to creating effective sequences, your ability to keep track of footage is what will make ultimately make your edits stronger.  On a smaller scale this involves labeling tapes, hard drives, and files, where on the more ambitious side it means keeping editing logs, transcribing dialogue from unscripted takes or interviews, and diligent note taking.  The rules vary between  individual projects and time lines, but organization means efficiency and that goes a long way whether you're an employer or employee.

2.  Try Everything Once

Early on I began broadening my own editing by trying every kind of project I could think of.  I created animations, experimental shorts, and narratives, and this only become more varied during my time in film school.     The beauty in trying out these styles and genres is that they each require a different sensibility in how they're cut together.  It's also a great way to find out what you like and what genre your style of editing favors.

3.  Mimic Editing You Like

This may sound like cheating, but homage is one of the best ways to enhance your skill as an editor.  Create vintage filters, cut music videos, play on cliches.  Editing is as much about understanding timing as it is about the footage you select.  By mimicking the pacing of a popular commercial or music video for instance, you'll gain an appreciation for the subtlties that separate that style from telling a longer story in a narrative.  It's always better if you learn the rules before you start trying to break them.

4.  Use Music For Inspiration

I still often use music when editing my home videos and travelogs as a way to motivate a more ambitious edit and experiment with styles that I don't get to try everyday. Understanding how a jump cut or a more elaborate transition effects the rhythm and dynamic of video is something that you can continue to experiment with and learn from. In general, using others as inspiration is a great way to springboard your own original edits.

5.  Keep it Simple

The mark of an amateur editor is too many cuts, transitions, or abrupt scene selections that remove the viewer from the story or cause confusion.  Even when editing something with high energy, the goal of the editor is to keep a common thread throughout the entire video.  Part of that means knowing when to cut away, what to cut to, and the meaning or relationship that is created for the viewer by doing so.  An experienced editor will see when it's better to let something play out or when it's necessary to elaborate.  

There is no one right way to edit, and this is part of the beauty in it.  Play around enough and you'll see how the choices you make as an editor can have dramatic effects on the outcome of a project.  Like all skills, practice will only make you better.

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