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Editing is typically the final process that happens before a video gets to you for final viewing. If you’ve had to make a video yourself, you’ll also know it can be a time-consuming process.

If you’re just getting into the editing game, you may be confused as to what to do with the many millions of clips you have… well, we’re here to help. Here are eight things worth remembering to help enhance your editing chops.

Maintain A Project Directory


When editing a big project for the first time ever, it’s super easy to just throw everything onto your Desktop and hope for the best. Well, to say it simply, don’t do that. Every single time you start an editing project, you create something called a “project directory.”

It’s pretty simple, really. Create a project folder, and within that folder, have a few more folders called things like Raw Footage, Sound, Music, Photos, Graphics and so on. Then you should place all of your materials in these folders according to their type. It’s also good to label each individual file with a brief description of what’s happening in it (but only if you have that kind of time). The project file (whether that be one for iMovie or Premiere) can be placed in the directory as is – no special folders needed.

This will make your project a lot more organized and keep things easily accessible. Nothing says speedy workflow like being able to find exactly what you want, in the least possible time.

Two Is The Magic Number

Oh, the woes of failed hard drives and memory cards. Quick tip: if it’s important, keep a copy of it in a separate location. Cloud storage Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared Cloud Storage Remains Competitive - Dropbox & OneDrive Compared OneDrive is trying to catch up to cloud storage heavyweight Dropbox. Recent improvements include increased free storage space and raised file size caps. OneDrive has turned into a viable alternative, but is it better? Read More is acceptable, but it’s also time consuming when it comes to video. It’s always best to keep a copy of your project directory on your computer and on a separate hard drive How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer How to Care for Your Hard Drives and Make Them Last Longer Sometimes an early death is the fault of the manufacturer, but more often than not, hard drives fail earlier than they should because we don't take care of them. Read More somewhere else.

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When the project is over, and you want to keep an archive of everything, keep the files on yet another hard drive and delete things off your main computer. Your hard drives may never fail, but in the event that they do, it will be worth it.

Trim The Fat

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It’s very easy to just toss a clip on your timeline as is and call it a day. Don’t. Trim the beginning and the end of a clip to keep it clean – find the “hot” moment before you add it. No one wants to waste time watching an open field before the action happens, so get used to editing succinctly for your audience’s benefit.

Choose Your Weapon Wisely

When choosing a video editor, it’s all about control. Do you need something simple that only allows you to throw a few clips together and then add some titles? iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or the YouTube video editor How Functional Is The Current YouTube Video Editor? How Functional Is The Current YouTube Video Editor? A while back, Matt wrote an article about the 2010 YouTube Video Editor, and although it doesn't seem that long ago, a lot has changed. Back then, it had a few basic features, but in... Read More will be just fine.

However, if you need something a little more complex that allows you to layer videos like Photoshop and utilize keyboard shortcuts… well, then the Adobe Creative Cloud’s Premiere Pro (which is used to edit the latest movie releases, like Gone Girl) is going to be a good pick. However, bear in mind that there’s a learning curve to these editors. Sometimes it’s good to get started in an introductory prosumer editor, like Adobe Premiere Elements, Final Cut Pro X, or Sony Vegas, first.

YouTube and Vimeo provide tons of tips for any and all kinds of editing, just a search away.

Avoid Jumpcuts


Filming interviews where the interviewee constantly says “um” and “uh” every other breath is a total hassle. The good news is that you can cut these out and then layer extra video clips of shots pertaining to the content (called b-roll or cutaways) over these awkward moments. If you do this carefully, it will look like the speaker said things perfectly without a hitch.

Bear in mind that you’ll need a more advanced (non-linear) editing system for this using something like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut. Prosumer editors allow for video layering, but iMovie will not.

Use A Second Source For Sound


You’re always going to get clearer audio with something other than the camera. If at all possible, record your audio with a better microphone and separate recording system. If you have access to someone who does live sound, ask them to record things separately and sync the audio in post (again, you will need a non-linear editor for this). You can do this by visually matching the waveforms, clapping or using something like PluralEyes which does it for you. Adobe Premiere CC actually offers a similar synchronization function these days, so it’s already built in.

Unfortunately, your low end editors aren’t going to do this. If at all possible, find a microphone (like a lavalier) that can plug directly into the camera. This is a quick solution for better audio, and you should always seek to avoid any on-camera microphones as your primary sound source.

Vary Your Shots

Another important thing to consider while editing is to keep your content visually interesting. Rather than just using the same shot for the entire video, try to vary things up with more interesting angles. This can be something as simple as recording your interview with two cameras and switching between them (another way to hide awkward “uhs” and “ums”).

However, it’s important to use these cuts sparingly. Don’t do it every other second. A nice rule to keep in mind is to make cuts based on the beat of the music or at pauses when people speak. If you’re cutting fast enough to cause an epileptic seizure (and no, I’m not kidding here), you’re doing it wrong.

Tell The Story


Most importantly, always tell a story when you are editing. Keep in mind the basics of storytelling: beginning, middle, end.

Editors – as a profession – are some of the best storytellers out there. Without them, you would have a collection of random shots with nothing to tie them together. They provide the structure for the finished video, and the best ones are some of the highest-paid workers in the film industry.

While you probably aren’t necessarily looking to become a professional editor, these tips should get you by in the meantime. Have fun with it.

What other tips do you have for editing video like a pro?

Image credits: Photographersmutjespickles, Mike Licht, SparkCBC, Rena Tom, az

  1. xaGe
    November 1, 2014 at 8:20 pm

    This a good general video editing tips article, but you mention mostly retail video editors and some OS included editors. You fail to mention some of the popular, powerful, non-linear and free Linux choices.

    OpenShot openshotvideo.com/ - Think Windows movie maker like features, but better and more of them.

    Kdenlive - kdenlive.org/ is a very good, powerful and feature rich video editor that reminds me a lot of Sony Vegas I used a few years ago, but free! The little bit I do edit video I use this mostly.

    Lightworks - lwks.com/ - This is the big daddy around 25 years in the industry and used in many Emmy award-winning films in that time. There is free version with some limitations and a paid version without limitations.

  2. Jessica
    November 1, 2014 at 8:08 pm

    My main tip is film it correctly from the start. Check your sound levels, check your white balance, check your scene and make sure you dont have junk In the background. You can fix a lot in post production, but it will save you lots of headache to check these things before you're done.

  3. Joe
    October 31, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Great article! The advice to "avoid jumpcuts" may sound obvious on paper, but I think it's something that a lot of people either overlook or aren't sure how to handle properly. If a jump cut is noticeable it's instantly jarring.

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