If you are a beginner in the editing world, or if you are just looking for ways to improve your editing skills and boost the quality of your final cuts, then you will find valuable information in this article, where we'll cover the best practices to edit video like a pro. Editing like a pro doesn't necessarily involve expensive software or the latest computers. Although these resources don't hurt, and can certainly add to your workflow, a good editor is defined by their skills. You must choose your editing tools based on the purpose of your project, and of course your budget, but also by your personal preference. If you feel more comfortable and get your way around better with particular software, then that's the one you should use.
You can achieve great and professional editing results using both first-class software like Adobe Premiere Pro —learn how to download Premiere Pro free or with a subscription!— and middle-tier or even amateur free video editing tools (like one of these Top 5 Free Video Editors), as long as you know what you're doing. Awesome editing skills are a must for the best final product and come in very handy when working with multiple video elements such as stock footage, motion graphics, overlays, etc. All of which you can find in our list of the Best Stock Footage Sites in the market. Here are the 5 tips that make for great editing.
It's All About Storytelling
Before you dive into technical concepts and specific editing tasks, it's important to have clear what are the goals of your work. Editing is first and foremost telling a story. Make it interesting, outstanding, and compelling. But essentially your video or film needs to be coherent: it must tell the audience a story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it must be as fluent as possible. This means the storyline must prevail over amazing, eye-catching shots.
Of course, you want breath-taking scenes in your video, but if they don't make sense to the plot they'll do more harm than good. You should also put narrative as your highest priority when deciding how to enhance visual power: make long dialogues audible while cutting to b-roll scenes that illustrate the words spoken, add music that relates to the content and lifts it, etc. Stock footage, as well as stock motion graphics and stock music and sound effects, are a great and affordable resource to improve visual appeal and content richness. A good trick from professionals is to use the basic storytelling structure based on the main subject (that can be either a character, an element, or even a concept) and its journey from one point or stage to the other.
Regardless of what your project is (a shaving foam commercial, a corporate branding video, a YouTube marketing campaign, or a short film, for example), always think about who or what your main subject is, and what's the best way to tell their story with your material.
Keep it Visually Interesting
There are a lot of techniques and resources to make content stand out and final cut to engage and satisfy audiences. In general lines, you must always keep the focus on the storyline, and think of the best way to make it as fluid, dynamic, and vibrant as possible. Several basic techniques achieve this. One great way to ensure a powerful visual appeal is to use different angle shots. They are called “J and L” cuts, in which you hear the audio before you see the image, and vice versa. Jump cuts, where you reduce the action in a long scene to a shorter, straight-to-the-point show. Montages, where you develop a sequence in a series of shots. And these are just a few of the options. There are a lot of editing methods to assure you eliminate tedious extensions of scenes and you keep a pace for your video or film to be as visually interesting as the concept or idea behind it.
Spice it Up with Extra Content
Another great tip is to find the conflict in your story (this is the part viewers engage most with) and boost it up with editing. And there are lots of extra resources to do this. B-roll, for example. If you have long dialogues, you can keep the audio going while cutting to clips that illustrate what is being said in the voice-off. You can use secondary scenes to add richness and depth to your custom shots as well. Music and sound are also great to increase the viewing experience. Choosing the right music and sound effects can really make a scene or montage stand out on screen. Another visual-boosting tool is motion graphics. They can certainly add to your video aesthetics and catch the audience's eye.
Use Pro's Work
Here's the key: if the b-roll, music, motion graphic, and any other extra you include is not professional-like, it will easily sink your entire production. While doing all the extras yourself (or with your team) could be ideal, if you don't have the time, the budget, and the skills, it's simply a bad idea. If you don't know much about music production or motion graphic design, learning might be interesting, but the level of skill you'll need to get professional results would take a lot of time.
Using content created by experts is the smartest choice. But often times hiring pros to work on your project is expensive, and producing extra content takes time, not only money. For this reason, stock content is a big lifesaver: you are able to license work from dedicated videographers, musicians and sound technicians, and motion graphic designers, at affordable prices, and straight away. Stock footage, stock music, sound effects, stock motion graphics, and templates. Use them and mix them to get the best out of your project.
Take Care of Technical Aspects
While you don't need anyone to tell you the importance of this when it comes to image quality and cleanliness of cuts, there are other technical aspects that are sometimes forgotten. Sound can be difficult to edit if you're not familiar with the matter. But if you don't take care of it, the audio levels in your video/film will be fluctuating and uneven – something a pro would never allow.
With sound editing software you can fix this. The best way to go when you're not an expert in sound edition is to normalize audio, which will fix the fluctuations without altering the final sound. Another technical aspect to keep in mind is the relation between image resolution and processing speed. Sure 4K and higher resolution give you wider editing flexibility, and that's great, but if you do not have devices capable of processing and rendering such large files, all it'll do is slow you down. Unless you can upgrade to larger processing capability computers, it could be wiser to edit in a lower resolution to speed up your workflow.
Be Organized and Precautious
It's a key to saving time and stress. Organizing your workflow at every stage is the best way to always know where everything is and what is next to do. Keep a folder for every project, and divide it into sub-folders for all the different types of files you have: raw material, b-roll/stock footage, music, sounds, graphics, photos, etc. Then either add descriptions to each file or keep a spreadsheet with all the filenames and descriptions, along with a working schedule. You can customize this organizing system to your preference, making sure you have a process that works smoothly for you.
The organization will also help you prevent disasters. We all know what is the main nightmare of an editor: losing data. The obvious solution to avoid an accidental loss of files or work in progress is to keep backups for all the important files. The smartest way to keep backups in video editing is to always have copies of all the files, in different locations. When you're working on a project and you have everything on your computer, keep backups of your relevant content and your work in progress in a separate hard drive. This way, if the worst happens, you will have a way to continue editing from where you left it, without wasting time and without stressing out. If you apply these simple tips, you will not only save time, money, and headaches when editing video. You will also improve the final results of your projects. And that's exactly what pros do.