Practical Tips for Your First Video Edit.

Video production isn't just hard work

Editing video is brilliant. For me it’s like the best video game I’ve ever played and then some.

When I sit down to edit there’s the anticipation of all of the possible videos I could make out of the footage in front of me. As an editor you are not bound by the ideas you had when you planned the video or when you shot it. Now your job is to watch back all of the footage and decide again what video you are going to make, and this decision is the important one, because this is the video your viewers are going to see. They will never see the one you imagined when you planned your video, or the one you thought you shot when you were out with your camera. They will only ever see the video that you edit now.

Here are some tips to help you edit your first few videos.


  1. Watch all of your footage. Take the time to watch everything. If you shot the footage you may think you know everything you have, but you don’t. Watch it all again and you’ll be surprised by how many good little shots you have, you didn’t know about, and by how many great shots you thought you had that aren’t that great after all.
  2. Name every shot. I always had a bad habit of leaving the shots with whatever name the camera gave them (00401238_4585_125.mp4) but a friend of mine always seemed to be quicker at editing than me even though when I watched him manoeuvring footage around his timelines he actually seemed slower. The reason was that he named every shot at the stage when he watched the footage through. Consequently he didn’t have to stop and think about which shot contained the thing that he needed. He prepared better than I did so he could still produce videos of the same standard as me, in less time, even though he was slower with his mouse.
  3. Don’t use shots just for the sake of it. You have spent a considerable amount of time and effort planning and shooting your video, and one particular sequence will have stood out from the rest as particularly good, and difficult to shoot. You will want to use it in your video. You almost certainly shouldn’t. As an editor you need to look at the whole video with new eyes and tell the best story you can. That is one that gets the point across but keeps your viewers interested. If you put a sequence into your video because it was a lot of effort to make it and not because it is vital for the story you may well be slowing the flow of your story, or distorting the pace, or boring your viewers.
  4. Don’t be afraid of interesting footage. Look at the raw footage. There are bound to be segments where you are moving your camera to frame something in shot, or focusing on something. Normally you would trim these bits in favour of the seconds of footage where the item is framed and focused to the best effect. Why not use the bit of footage when you are bringing the item into focus. This produces an effect with the viewer where they subconsciously think, “What is this I’m seeing”, then as the subject of the shot is revealed there’s a tiny moment of revelation. Even if viewers are not aware of this thought process, it has kept them interested in what they’ve seen.
  5. Cut to the music. Choose a cool piece of music (one that you have the rights to use or can get the rights to use it) and cut your video to the beat. This isn’t always the way to cut a video but it is an easy way to make your video seem really cool. There’s a moment of joy that comes with seeing a cut in the image that times to the beat of the music, and cuts that seemed to jar when you watched them with no soundtrack will suddenly seem perfectly natural with timed music underneath. Cutting to music can help cover a multitude of sins. It will allow you to reuse shots to cover over the bits of footage you didn’t know you would need to shoot, and it will help you hold your viewers’ attention by giving them a bit of razzle dazzle. This also opens up a world of possibilities where you can jam incongruous images together in a kind of visual explosion during a fast section of music that will act as a break between sequences in your video. You will need to experiment with this. You will grow to love cutting to the beat.

Good luck with your video, and enjoy your edit time. Remember the pressures of planning and organising are all behind you now. The frantic running around that came with the shoot are all forgotten. Now it’s just you and the image.

Jonathan Jeeves