In this video seminar you’ll learn:
- Key concepts
- Video Editing Process
- Common Projects
- Salaries and Jobs
This seminar is for people who are interested in getting started in Video Editing.
The slides shown in this online seminar can be viewed at nobledesktop.com/presentation/getting-started-inVE
My name is Jerron Smith. I'm an instructor with Noble Desktop, a software training company in New York City. My background is a little unusual. My first job out of college was actually teaching high school. Several years later, I earned my master's degree in communication arts, specializing in filmmaking. While working on the degree, I did a lot of video editing or video shooting, and started working in video editing professionally. I worked in television for a while, and I've been teaching software classes on video editing for about 20 years.
A lot of people are interested in video editing thanks to sites like YouTube, Vimeo, and the proliferation of social media sites that support video. It's one of the hottest areas of work right now. Nearly every company is interested in expanding their traditional media from still images to videos and animation. Because of that, however, there's a lot of confusion about video editing, but this video is going to make it more easy to understand. We're going to talk about a couple of things that should be helpful to understanding how the video editing industry is, how it works, and how you can get started in it.
We're going to be looking at big concepts in video editing, and to do that, we're first going to do a little disambiguation. I love that word because there's actually a lot of confusion when you say the words “video editing.” Then, we’ll talk about the history of video editing and about some of the software that's commonly used throughout the industry. We're going to talk about the recording process, and the types of common projects a video editor might work on. We'll wrap up with some salaries and job talk. This entire session is about an hour and 15 minutes or so. If we have time, I'd like to go into Premiere Pro, which is a mentoring program that we teach at Noble Desktop, and about the workflow in that program. Most of this session is really an informational session about how you can get into the video editing industry and what you need to do.
What is Video Editing?
So the first thing we need to answer is what is video editing? This seems like an obvious question, but not always. At its simplest, video editing is a way of combining different videos, audio images, motion graphics, and text together to create a new video. I specifically did not use the word “compositing” because that refers to a term used in motion graphics and visual effects.
For example, films are not shot in chronological order, but rather in the order of how each scene is lit. Commercials are shot the same way. If you're going to create a promo, you might be taking video, images, text, or graphics from different sources and combining them together. Sometimes those sources include different sizes.
Video Editing is effectively combining different video and visual sources together with audio and creating a new form. That's the simplest way of explaining video editing, but it's actually a lot more complicated than that.
What Do Video Editors Do?
So another question is, what do video editors do? Because if you've never actually seen the parts that go into a finished video piece, it may not occur to you what video editing consists of. Editors combine raw footage together for a film or video project. Typically, someone has an idea for a film and writes a story. Money is then procured so that the film can be made. A director and chief creative officer are hired for the film project, and then the director shoots the video.
The process is similar for a short film. For example, my daughter did this for a college language course. She and her classmates shot a film project where they pretended to be in a Korean restaurant because they were learning Korean. They had to basically created a set and got permission to shoot in a small restaurant. They had to shoot scenes of the exterior of the restaurant, of them walking in, and the entire scene of them being in the restaurant. Inevitably, you have to take multiple takes, for example, if the first time maybe didn't work out well, maybe we didn't like the timing, or maybe they made a mistake.
You may have a couple or up to 200 different attempts at the exact same part of the scene, and you record them all. When you're finished with that, even that little short project, you may have hundreds of video clips to work with. On average, a two-hour film actually has hundreds of hours of raw footage. Probably most well-known example of that is Coppola’s Apocalypse Now . Coppola shot almost 200 hours of footage for what eventually ended up being a film that was less than two hours.
As a video editor, you could cut a lot of video. Even short projects such as commercials and promos have a lot less footage than a feature-length film, but always more footage than what you see in the final result.
Then, a video editor has to organize that footage and put it together. For this, video editors need to be familiar with storytelling so they can craft a compelling story. You've probably watched films that seemed to go nowhere; that's usually the result of bad editing. The footage is assembled, and then it gets refined and cut down. This process is similar to a sculptor working with a block of marble—they chisel small pieces to reveal the final piece.
That's how films and shows are created. Then you add music, sound effects, graphics, and visual effects, and when you're done, you have something that you can call a film or a video project.
Zach Staenberg, the editor of the Matrix trilogy, says that editing is what makes a movie, a movie. If you've never actually seen the video editing process, it's quite interesting to see how much raw footage goes into making a film or any other project. In the end, the video editor’s job is to craft that footage into a film.
Why the Confusion about Video Editing?
So the question is, why is there so much confusion? One of the problems is that the term “video editing” gets conflated with a lot of other terms. My youngest daughter and her friends are in their twenties. I listened to their conversation about video editing, and they were describing everything except the actual editing.
Many people use the word “video editing” for anything that involves video. They see a video and think that it must be video editing. They confuse it with motion graphics, visual effects, and videography, but the actual editing is its own discipline.
Motion graphics, motion design, and animation applies traditional design principles and graphic design principles to creating animated projects.
If I want to sell a product, I can do that with a print ad, or I can do that with a commercial, a promo, or with social media. I have to decide whether I’m going to shoot video of the product or if I’m going to build an animation for it. Sometimes animations can convey more information than video.
There's a link in the accompanying downloadable PDF with some examples of motion graphics and visual effects.
Visual effects is the process of creating imagery to add to video. If you have seen a movie with an explosion or spaceships, that's all visual effects. Visual effects are also simpler things. This shot is of a tube being pushed into a patient's mouth, but they weren't really going to place the tube into the mouth. Instead, they filmed the actress and the nurse miming the movement of placing the tube in her mouth. Then they built that tube in a 3D program and composited the footage together. It's entirely digital. It requires skill to create, but it's not technically what we call video editing.
Videography is the process of capturing moving images. Whether using film or digital cameras, if you’re capturing a recording or media, that's videography. If you shoot a wedding, have someone shoot an event for you, or record a seminar that's videography. Videography is the process of making the video that will eventually be edited but is not video editing itself.
What Is Video Editing?
At its simplest, video editing is putting different elements together, such as combining images, video, and text. At a more complex level, video editing consists of three main components: theory, practice and techniques, and technical knowledge.
Theory of Video Editing
The theory of video editing. Why do you make certain decisions? How do you place one video next to another and have it look seamless? Editing is called the invisible art. If you can tell that there was editing done, it is probably bad editing.
Practice and Techniques of Video Editing
The practice and technique of how to seamlessly cut video is usually once people focus on. How do I cut this? How do I assemble this?
Frame rates, dimensions, aspect ratio, pixel aspect ratio, and standards for high-definition and ultra high def television—these are all technical knowledge that a video editor has. A video editor has to know not only how to bring the footage in and what to do with it once it's there but also how to send it out so that whoever we're sending it to will be able to use it.
Social media, for example, has lots of different sizes and standards. If you're creating content for your YouTube, there’s one set of standards that YouTube uses. If you're creating content for Vimeo and other video sharing service, they have their own standards. If creating content for the Instagram feed, they have a couple different sizes of video they'll accept. Instagram reels use their own size and so do stories. So there's a lot of technical things that go into being able to output that video so that your target audience can view it.
Video editing can be confusing if you’re not used to it. If you have created graphics for the web, print design, or JPEG export, you’ve done something similar to video editing, but now you have a lot more variety. With social media platforms popping up and making their own rules for video, there is a lot more variety.
A Brief History of Video Editing
I used to be a professor of communications, so I can't do a seminar without a little history. In the beginning of film, there was no editing. I want to play the first film that was ever displayed. It's the “Arrival of a Train”, an 1895 film by the Lumiere brothers. This is all film originally was: a new medium to chronicle, capture, or document events. Some other examples are the old Edison films, a dog barking, a couple dancing, or someone lifting up weights. Because film was so new, and no one had ever seen moving imagery before, early filmmakers basically stuck the camera in front of whatever they could find.
When “Arrival of a Train” was first displayed, it was actually quite terrifying. People were scared that an actual train was coming at them because they'd never seen anything like this before. Because they were simply chronicling events, there was no need to edit that footage. They would simply basically put the camera down in front of something that was happening and record it. Then they would develop the film and show it.
The first actual video editing in a film is “The Great Train Robber” from 1903. This is a film by Edwin Porter. By today's standards, it's not particularly impressive, but prior to this, nothing had ever been edited—it was simply chronicling events. This film pioneered a lot of the traditional editing techniques that you see today. From there, video editing and the content of the stories became more complex. Russian filmmakers contributed to the development of editing and filmmaking as a process.
I'm not suggesting that you're going to become a film historian. While it's interesting to know where video editing came from, this knowledge isn’t necessary to edit film.If you’re interested in learning more about the history of video editing, there are books on video editing as a craft and an art form.
What About Software?
Let’s start with some software. Originally everything was shot on film and developed just like the film in cameras used for photography. Then those film strips were cut. A lot of the editing software now uses a straight razor blade or a safety razor blade as the icon for cutting, because in the old days, that's actually how they would cut film. They would cut it with a razor blade, and then they would splice it or tape it together. Now everything we have is digital. When I first started, film editing was mostly on its way out. You still see a few people like Spielberg that shoot on film, most contemporary film projects are recorded digitally and edited directly in the software.
Common Editing Software
There are many different video editing softwares, which causes some confusion because some of the software has multiple uses. For video editing, there is Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, and DaVinci Resolve. Why is this confusing? First, many of these programs have similar names. Second, Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Avid are all straight editing programs. Avid is probably the oldest, but we'll talk a little more about that later. Premiere Pro is pretty common. Final Cut Pro is an Apple product, while Premiere Pro is part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. DaVinci Resolve is also an editing program, but started as a color grading program and is still mostly known for that; its video editing features are secondary.
There are audio editing programs like Apple Logic Pro, Avid Pro Tools, Adobe Audition, and Audacity which is a free program. The problem for audio editing tools is that they tend to pair with video editing tools. Adobe makes Audition and Premiere Pro. Often you’ll get a video editing program paired with an audio editing program. You can do basic audio editing in video editing programs, and I know people who've edited podcasts in Premiere Pro rather than using Audition. I'm not recommending that, but it is possible. This pairing caused some confusion because you'll see people using software for different purposes than it was intended for, but it still works.
There are two really common programs for graphics: After Effects and Apple Motion. There are some free programs for this, but they're not as common. After Effects is made by Adobe and pairs well with Audition and Premiere Pro. Apple Motion is designed to directly work with Final Cut Pro. Although After Effects is a graphics creation program, it's used for two dimensional animation, mostly in motion graphics animation, visual effects, and compositing. However, there are people who use it as a video editing application.
This is one of the things that causes confusion about video editing: people use software for things that it’s not the best fit for. Graphic Designers typically use Illustrator to make logos, but there are people who make logos in Photoshop, InDesign, and Microsoft Paint.
As a software trainer, I've actually had people come to me for video editing training, and they talk about After Effects. While you can edit video in the software, it's not an easy process because it's built to make graphics and visual effects for your video projects. I've had people who wanted to edit audio in Premiere Pro, which it can do to a very limited extent, but if you want to do any serious audio editing, I recommend an audio program.
Noble Desktop Video Editing Certificate
Noble Desktop offers Video Editing Certificate that covers Premiere Pro, Adobe Audition, and After Effects. We also teach Final Cut Pro in a separate class, and there are plenty of online or in-person classes to learn DaVinci Resolve, Avid Pro Tools, and Apple Motion. Right now, it's much easier than it's ever been to learn any software you want.
Even though I mostly use Premiere Pro, Audition, and After Effects, I have used Final Cut Pro for years. When I did my masters degree, we cut on Final Cut Pro and Avid. It always helps if you can learn more software, especially if you're going to work freelance. The thing to keep in mind is that software has changed based on its use in different industries. When I went to school, the two main programs for professional editing were Avid and Final Cut Pro. Over the last decade or so, Premiere Pro has overtaken Final Cut Pro in a lot of places. Maybe Final Cut Pro will come back. Who knows? Maybe DaVinci Resolve will become popular.
Certain things from video editing can be applied to any software. The concepts are the same, the organization is the same, and I'd argue that things like the technical issues of video are the same. However, the more software you know, the more marketable you can be.
If you're looking for a job, then you would need to use the software used by the company that you’re applying to. Later in this seminar we’ll talk about what software is commonly used in different areas, which is going to have both an industry component and a geographical component. Certain software is more common in different areas because certain industries are bigger in different areas.
Adobe Premiere Pro wrote Adobe has been around for a long time. I've personally used Premiere Pro for more than 20 years, and the version I picked up was not the first version. At this point, Premiere Pro is about 27 or 28 years old. Originally, Premiere Pro was used in corporate video. It ties in really well with added Adobe programs such as After Effects, Audition, Photoshop, and Illustrator.
A few years ago, there was a change in how Final Cut Pro works, so a lot of places that were using Final Cut Pro for their editing such as CNN, BBC, and Fox News switched to using Premiere Pro. Although Premiere Pro isn’t commonly used in full feature length films, it was used in Deadpool, Gone Girl, and Terminator Dark Fate.
Final Cut Pro
Final Cut Pro was made by Apple to compete with Premiere Pro. Premiere Pro was actually a bit older. A few years ago, when Final Cut Pro hit their tenth version, the software changed how it looks and operates. This change alienated many of Final Cut Pro’s professional users, and it began falling out of favor as companies went to Premiere Pro and Avid.
Final Cut Pro is still loved by certain companies, including MTV, American Red Cross, and Penguin Random House still using it. While it is still in use, it doesn’t have the market share it used to.
Films like The Social Network and Girl with a Dragon Tattoo were edited using Final Cut Pro. At one point, it was a popular editing program in the independent film circuit. A lot of films at film festivals were edited in Final Cut Pro. Although the changes made to the program caused it to lose favor, Final Cut Pro is still a powerful competitor in the editing field.
AVID Media Composer
Most video editors consider Avid at the top of the list for video editing programs. Almost every major film and network television show produced in the last couple of decades have been edited using Avid, including The English Patient and Ant-Man and the Wasp. Although Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro have been used to edit some films and television series, Avid overwhelmingly has the major market share in editing film and television productions.
Depending on what you’re interested in doing, knowing one, two, or possibly all three of these softwares may be helpful. When it comes to editing, what software you should know and how much you should know will vary depending on what you want to do for a living.
The market share for these programs can be difficult to find. I was able to check a couple of companies to track this. They were showing market share to be on average around 25% for Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, and they were showing less than 5–10% for Avid. When looking at the entire industry, this low number makes sense because Avid is primarily geared towards a specific segment of the high-end filmmaking crowd.
Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro were sold as a software solution while Avid was usually sold as a hardware and software solution. So you didn't buy the software Avid—you bought an entire Avid system, which made its price point considerably higher.
Video Editing Process
The process of video editing depends on what you're doing. When I went to school, there were three stages of working on a video production: the pre-production stage, the production stage, and the post-production stage. Editing is part of the post-production stage.
Pre-production is the planning, securing your finances, hiring your cast and crew, scouting your locations, and all the things that go into planning for production. If you're thinking, no, that's for film, how does it affect me? If you are going to shoot an event, there's pre-production involved in that. Proper planning prevents poor performance. The actual production, shooting, and creating your video content is the production stage. Editing is brought in at the end of that. Editors are part of the post-production final stage where everything comes together.
So you’ve planned everything out. You've got your money and hired your cast and crew. You go to wherever you need to go and shoot that, maybe it's your local park that you’ve rented out, but that's your production. You create this content. Even if you were going to just shoot someone walking down the street, you're probably going to shoot that more than once. Maybe the lighting was off. Maybe someone got in the way of your shot. Maybe your camera couldn't keep up with a person walking and you lose them. You end up with one, two, three, four, possibly 100 takes.
That footage has to be organized, have some video editing. Everything starts with the concept. There's a concept or a story involved here. Usually the video editor doesn’t come up with that. A writer writes a story. The director has that story rewritten possibly several times, and that rewritten story becomes what they produce.
Now, if you're editing something with a narrative, you'll have the script in front of you so that you know what the story should be. Often in the editing process, new things are revealed. Maybe something doesn't work the way you intended it to, or the way the director wanted it to, and maybe you have to come up with a workaround, but everything is based on that original concept.
If you're producing your own content, such as a video for social media purposes or a skateboarding promo for a skate shop, then you’ll be the one coming up with the concept for that video. I'd actually write out my idea of a story for that. What am I going to tell? How am I going to get people to care about this skate shop?
I might create mood boards, which are collections of images or videos that help to inspire the look and feel of this project. You also have to consider if you need a script, a voiceover, or dialog, and whether you’ll be writing that script—which can be fun—or if you’re going to hire someone else to write it. Returning to the example of the skateboarding promo, that might have a voiceover.
Then you have to decide if you’ll shoot your own footage. Many promos and content for social media are compiled from footage from stock houses, which means that you have to assemble and organize your assets.
Scratch audio is the term for audio that will not be the final audio. Because I do not like the sound of my own voice, I try to avoid doing voiceovers. I’m going to use a professional voiceover artist who is infinitely better than I am, but until I've got everything in place, I'm not going to use the professional voiceover artist. I might just record some scratch audio myself in the voiceover.
Storyboard edits, assembly edits, and rough cuts are the stages of actually creating your content. I am going to look at that a little bit later if we get into Premiere Pro.
Essentially, video editing is about refining. You start with rough content, and you polish it until you get what you’re looking for. That's what these different types of edits are.
The final cut locked does not mean it's the final version of your film or project; rather, it means that the video content and order isn’t going to change. Next, it’s time to add effects, compositing, and graphics. After determining your sound effects needs and getting approval for audio voice overs, you can complete your sound mix.
Once these steps are wrapped up together, you can deliver your final project to your client.
That's a simplified version of the process. Not every project will require all these steps. Maybe your project doesn’t have a voiceover, and so you may not need a script. Maybe your promo is just going to be edited against music, in which case you wouldn't need additional voiceover scripts or a traditional actual dialog script. If you have some kind of idea for a story or concept, you would write your plan for what you want to show. Maybe there is no audio in your project, which is unusual, but possible, so you may not need scratch audio.
In some cases, your client may give you the final recorded audio for the voiceover, or they may already have their music rights locked down, which means less work for you. If they don’t have everything prepped and ready for your edits, that may become more work for you.
Types of Video Editing Projects
Video editors work on a variety of projects: Film and TV Editors work on narrative projects, which means a story with a script, for example, a sitcom or a procedural drama. Many video editors work on advertisements, promos, and commercials, which are known as short form projects. As a video editor, you may also work on music videos or corporate video projects. I’ve edited a bunch of video presentations and seminars. Many of my friends work as video editors in the news industry, and they cut interviews and documentary style footage. If you’re looking to travel, you may be able to do travelogs or travel promo videos, which are very popular right now. Perhaps you want to edit wedding, sports, and event videos. There are a lot of different types of content people create. For social media video, you’re often seeing short promos, which use the same kind of promotional or commercial cutting, but are usually shorter.
These are some examples of the type of projects that video editors often get called to work on. I’m focusing on the editing process itself, and assuming that the footage has already been created. I'm thinking that it's already been shot by someone, and you're being tasked with creating the project. But that's not always the case, as we'll see in a little bit.
Video Editor Salaries
Most people edit videos not for fun, but for profit. So let’s talk about what you might make as a video editor. This can be tricky to calculate because the information on various industries and how much they make is actually really hard to come by. A lot of people don't talk about it.
There are trade organizations that keep track of this in various industries. If you're a designer, for example, you might be familiar with AIGA or Graphic Artist Guild. They have some of this information, but their surveys tend to rely on people responding accurately, which isn’t always the case. Another place to find information on salaries is the companies that find jobs for you, such as Glassdoor or Indeed. They keep track of the industries themselves and have insider information throughout their site.
This example is from Glassdoor, which if you’re not familiar, is a job posting and career site. For them, a video editor is involved in the production of video and post-production of filmmaking. They have a range and salaries by the way, and you can break this information down by area and region. This example is from the northeast region. They had a range starting around $38,000 and topping out around $112,000, and that is just for the job title “video editor.” There's a couple other titles involved in this, including junior editors, senior editors, editors. Sometimes there is no differentiation. The average is about $55,000, and that is just for video editing.
Senior Video Editor
Senior video editor is usually a managerial position. Senior editors manage junior editors, and they're more involved in project oversight as well as editing. As a senior position, they have a slightly higher salary range of $50,000 to $134,000, according to Glassdoor, for an average of around $81,000.
Junior Video Editor
Not mentioned here, but there is also a job called “junior editor.” Junior editors make less, and sometimes are just called video editors. Some places that hire editors don't use that junior/senior editor system, they refer to everyone as an editor. It varies between workplaces.
In video editing, you're looking at a salary range that's a bit higher than traditional design jobs, but if you really want to get wealthy, I suggest going into banking or finance. Editors don't starve, but they're not going to be millionaires. Video editing is a stable job, and it can be a profitable job.
These examples are looking at the salaries of employees in general. If you're going to freelance, it's a different experience because when you're freelancing, you're going from client to client, from contract to contract. Depending on whether you're doing onsite or offsite freelance, you could actually make a lot more money. Most of the editors that I know are not in staff positions; they’re freelancers. In New York as a freelance video editor, you might spend a couple days working for TruTV, Discovery Network, or Fox News, or maybe you’re working for one of the networks like ABC or CBS. All of their pay scales are very different.
Video Editor Jobs
Job Posting: Video Editor, Overtime
This is an actual job posting for a video editor from Indeed.com. The company, Overtime, makes videos and social media content for sports, and they specialize in high school and high school sports. They’re looking for a video editor to edit content for their YouTube page and their social media platforms. Social media editor is what this job is. You'd be working with a social media team. They create mid-length and long-form documentary style reality programming. Think reality TV specifically from a high school sports perspective.
If you look at the Who You Are section, they’re asking you for your skill set. They want people with experience; it's not a starter job. They want experience, but they don't say how much. They're interested in people who combine video editing with visual effects, which really means motion graphics. They want people to understand how editing for social media is different from editing for television.
Which is definitely true. Editing for different platforms like social media versus broadcast television have different audiences. Things for social media are usually quicker and shorter, because most people aren't going to sit in front of their phone for 20 minutes watching a single video. Whereas you can get people to sit in front of a film screen to watch a movie.
On the right side of this job posting, they’re talking about what they recommend you do before applying. They want you to look at their social media content to see if it’s what you want to do. They also want a cover letter because they want to know why you want to work for them.
They're looking for someone who's interested in creating content for them. I looked at their content. I'm not into sports, so this is not the kind of job I would ever apply for because I don't care about the content. They're looking for someone with passion who is interested in creating and telling the story, because video editors are storytellers.
You wouldn't be shooting the video in this job. You would have footage given to you and would have to figure out how to tell a compelling story from hundreds of hours of footage, as they say in the posting.
Video editing isn't only technical skill; it’s also your ability to take completely different and separate content and craft into something people care about, to craft a story, a narrative that people will actually want to engage with. For a video on social media. One of the major things we were looking for, according to my social media consultant, is human engagement and interaction. That's what Overtime wants in a video editor.
Job: Video Editor, Part Time, SiriusXM
SiriusXM is a satellite radio producer, and they were looking for a part time video editor to create promotional material, often from Zoom recordings. They are a radio show that mostly makes radio content. They were taking their interview Zoom video and trying to make promos for it that they can distribute along their social media channels.
This is another social media editor job. Over the last decade or so, you've seen social media grow faster than any other segment of video production. Most of the jobs that I see now that used to be for trade shows and internal presentations, are going to social media.
On the right, this was a ginormous list of what you’ll need to apply for this job, and I had to make the text of what they wanted so small.
One of the questions I often get asked is, “Do I need a college degree to be a video editor?” Not necessarily. The first job posting that we looked at from Overtime did not list any educational requirements. SiriusXM is looking for someone with a bachelor's degree or someone with enough experience to compensate for that. They also wanted someone with three to five years of experience. It's not an entry level job.
If you look at that list, there are a lot of really specific things listed, such as “a strong editorial eye for developing creative and strategic video programming,” “product management skills,” “public speaking skills,” “presentation skills,” and “written and verbal communication skills.” They also wanted you to have the ability to shoot and light video as well as edit the video.
They didn't mention recording audio, which I think it's interesting, because I assume they're using Zoom for that. This is an interesting job because it combines not only an editor's skillset but also a manager's skill set. They also want someone who understands how to do the initial recording themselves. Depending on what your skill set is, this may not be a job for you. They also list proficiency in other software like AfterEffects, Photoshop, and similar programs as a requirement. They want someone who can not only basically edit the video that they already have but also who can help them shoot and create more video and graphics.
This is fairly common now. When I went to school, editors just edited—that's it—but now you're also seeing job requests for editors who can also do graphics in AfterEffects, or who are also responsible for recording audio. In many of these jobs, one person does it all. There's more merging of the skillsets here than there used to be.
That’s essentially what you need. A lot of people come to video editing from other places. Yes, I have a master's degree in this area, but most of the editors I work with don't have a masters degree. Some of them did four year degrees; some of them didn't. Some of them got into editing by teaching the software and developing a really good demo reel. It varies, so there is no one way of getting into this industry.
Once you're in, there’s also no one path or one job title. You might start off as a junior or assistant editor and then move up to editor or senior editor. You might be working in a job that has you both editing and shooting a video. It varies. A lot of places, especially startups, have a kind of entrepreneurial feel where everyone does everything.Usually larger companies tend to be more stratified, so you do one thing and that's it. Smaller companies tend to need someone who can jump in a lot of different areas. If you're looking to freelance, then maybe all you're going to do is edit. If you're looking for editing staff positions, the more skills you know, the better.
Video Editing Demo
So what does an actual editor do on a project? Let's look at this. This is Premiere Pro.
I used the example of a skating video earlier in the presentation. Let's say that you are given a job to create a skating promo video, and the client has an idea or a concept of what they want. You'd meet with them to discuss that concept. You’d take notes, of course, because that's how we do it. You would come up with an idea of what you want to show.
Now, maybe this client already has some music or audio in mind or maybe they give you an audio for the background. You're going to have to make sure that they have the legal rights to use that audio, but that's a different issue. We'll assume that in this case, they have. Maybe they're also giving you some video that they’ve created, or maybe the video is from a stock website. For this example, I'm going to assume that I have a legal right to use the video as well.
Assuming that I'm not about to shoot more video, even if I get video from a client, I may have to supplement that with stock footage, depending on what the story is that we're trying to make.
I have this folder on my desktop called “promo skateboarding,” and in that folder, I have another folder called “media.” In my media folder, I have a video, text, and audio folder, and I’m going to open this video of two skateboarders. I've got two audio files because I need to just make some adjustments, and then I've got some text. The text is a quote by Tony Hawk that wanted to work in at the beginning. I'm thinking maybe instead of just using text on screen, I might animate that in After Effects.
For something like this, I'm given the original audio file. I'd listen to and open it up in Audition, because the first thing I want to check with my audio is how loud it is. This is a waveform, which is a representation of volume over time. If you're recording your audio, normally you're told to record audio somewhere between -10 and -20 decibels. This is a lot higher. This is a song, so it's easily recorded, and it's really loud. Red, for the record, is loud. When it comes to volume, green is good. Red is bad, very, very bad.
If I was doing this for broadcast television, I would need the audio somewhere around -12 decibels. Because I'm doing it for output on the Internet, there's no standard, so I'd probably go somewhere around -3 to -5 decibels for that. I would adjust this and alter and tweak it if I needed to. When I did that, I ended up with the normalized file that we’re going to work with in Audition. Any audio that needs to be adjusted, I would do that first.
I use Audition’s tools to check the audio volume, see what it was at, and then adjust it, pulling it down to a television level of -12. When I first listened to this music, it was blowing-out-my-eardrums loud, so I adjusted that.
I want to bring all this stuff into my video editing program to see what I’ve got. The first thing in Premiere is I need to make a project, and then I'm going to bring my footage to the project to look at it. I'm going to review it, see what we have, and see if it makes any sense visually, because sometimes I get stuff from clients and it's not necessarily the best footage that we could use.
I'm going to make a new project, and I'm going to call this “Skateboard Promo.” I'm going to choose where to save it by selecting browse. I'm going to put it back in that Promo Skateboarding folder. By default, it wants to save it into the documents folder, but I'm trying to keep everything together, so I'm going to keep everything on my desktop and in that skateboarding promo folder. I just want to use that as the location to save my project. Premiere Pro makes you save a project first. The reason it does this is because it needs to actually make files of its own.
The rest of this, I can leave at the default settings at some point. For those of you who are going to use Premiere Pro, this entire interface is going to change completely. Right now in the beta format, they're trying out a different layout with the rationale that since you don't change these menus very often, they don’t need to be in front of your face when you make a new project.
Eventually this dialog box is going to look different. It's going to have the name and location and then something different in the middle. I don't know when that'll be released, but it will change. The name and location are the important things here; everything else I can change later.
Select OK, and then I'm going to the project we just made. Premiere Pro has what's called a workspace. This is its interface. When you first start the program, you're in the Learning space. Usually people start off in Editing, which is the default editing workspace, but I'm not the biggest fan of the default editing workspace, so I've made my own process, called My Editing, that I’m going to work with. Just like any other Adobe program, you can completely change the interface by just pulling these windows around, reconfiguring them and just go into Window > Workspace and you can Save as New Workspace. The more you use the program, the more you’ll realize that you want your own custom workspaces.
When I start a new project, this is where I’m working. I got a panel called Program. This is where we’re going to see our live timeline content. After making your project, the next step is importing what you want to work with. We call that media, footage, or assets. I call it media footage usually. So I'm going to import it, and it says Important Media to Start. You can file import, use the keyboard shortcut command + i or control + i, right click > Import, or simply double click in the project to open the import dialog box. If you're on a Mac device, you can import multiple folders by highlighting several at a time. If you’re on a Windows device, it will not let you select more than one folder, but you can grab the parent folder. So if I highlight the Media folder that had the three video, text, and audio folders inside, it will import all the subfolders and all their content.
In my promo skateboarding folder where I save my project, I’m going to highlight the Media folder and click Import. This dialog box is going to tell me there’s an unrecognized file in here. This PKF file was made by Audition, and it's a preview file. This didn't interfere with my import. It just stopped that one file from importing.
In my preview of the project, I'm going to switch to my list view because it gives me a list of the folders. I'm gonna open the folder up. The audio was imported, and the two audio files that were there came in. Video came in. I’m going to make this column a little wider so I can see the full name. All those video files that were there came in. The one thing that didn't come in exactly the same is the text folder. This is a weird glitch in the program: any folder that you try to import that has a single file in it will only come in as a single file. For some reason it will not bring in everything. I'm going to click on the New Bin icon, make a new bin, click on the name and rename it “Text,” and then grab that text file and drag it in.
Text files are a little strange. Technically, they get imported, but they're not actually media. They're not editable inside of the program. If I double click on that text file, it opens my text editor so I can just copy and paste from it. Premiere Pro lets me import them, but technically it doesn't let me edit them. If I click on video and right click on that, I get a lot more options, including the new bin from sequence selection option that I was looking for. That's why I said that technically the text files do import, but Premiere Pro doesn't treat them the same way that it treats all the other files.
I don't actually want my Media bin, so I'm going to drag the other bins out of it by clicking on them and dragging them through space. The Media bin is empty, so I'm going to delete it. Just click backspace on the keyboard to delete.
I like numbering stuff, so I'm going to number the folder. I’ll make this 01-video, click on the audio and call it 02, and text I’m going to call 05 so that if I make any other bins it will be the last one.
Let's see our audio. This is the original file, the one I said was too loud, and this is the one that I made in Audition, the normalized one. This is a lot lower. If I double click on that, I can preview it right here. If I double click on the first one, it's much taller. Height equals volume. This normalized one that I made earlier is the one I want to work with. If I play that, I can hear it.
I need to make some more stuff. I know that I want to use this music, but I would also like to see what my video is. I can't really see which video this is; I can just see the names. That's not helpful, so I'm going to switch my view to icon view, which gives a visual preview. If I hover my cursor and move it left and right over the little thumbnail previews, I can scrub and preview them so I can get an idea of what this looks like visually. I cannot hear the audio when I scrub this, but if I do need to hear audio, I can click on the preview and tap the spacebar on my keyboard to play it as audio. All of these have the audio stripped.
I can see what these videos look like. It's not bad, but they're a little small. I can adjust that by using the little slider here to make them bigger or I can double click on the window to make it larger.
I'm thinking that the order I want to use this in would start with this nice overview of the city. So, I'll track back to the beginning. As they're skating over the rooftops, it's a nice drone shot. Then, I'm thinking that I'd want to go to the underground shot. I'm thinking that maybe this clip of the kids doing trick shots in the skatepark might be a good clip to go next. But, I realized that before all of that, maybe this shot of him lacing up his skates is a better choice of my first opening shot, so I'll drag that to the beginning.
This is called a storyboard edit, and it allows me to organize how I want my footage displayed so that I can organize my story. I want to vary my shot distance, so this is a nice mid shot. I'm thinking a close up of someone doing tricks might be kind of cool. Then I don't want to end up on this shot of them from behind, so I'll make that my second-to-last shot and that my last one.
Okay, that's kind of cool. Some of these I want to use more than once. This nice aerial shot is pretty cool. I might want to have this as an establishing shot of the area and then show the bridge flying out over it. I might want these at the end as well. With this, I can organize it into a nice little visual layout, and that's called a storyboard edit.
I have an idea of how I want to use these things, but I don't have any place to put them. If I double click on a clip, I can preview it in source, which lets me see it, listen to it, and trim it to shorten or pull out parts of it. If I want to assemble these together, I need someplace to do that, and that's called a sequence.
A sequence allows me to lay out my content. A sequence displays on the timeline where it says currently no sequences. So I made my project, I imported my files, I previewed my files, but now I need a place to put them. If I hover over these clips, I can see what size they are.
These all look like different sizes if I hover over them. If I look at the second line, this one is 3840 by 2160, and that one is as well. These are 4K files. Some of these 4096 ones are extra wide screen. There are several different sizes that go into my project.
I can have footage that's high def, maybe 920 by 1080, or 1287 by 1080. These are all pixels. I can have footage that is 4K. I can have footage that is ultra-wide screen that's maybe 6K or 8K as well.
There's a lot of different sizes that this video can be made in. I have to make my sequence in one of them, and I'm going to make it in whatever the majority of the footage is, which in this case is 4K.
I like this clip. It's gonna be the first one I want to use, but do I want to use all of it? I think I only want to use a little bit where he's tying his shoes. So, I'm going to trim this club. I don't want the beginning before 19 frames. I moved my playhead to where I want to trim the clip. This dark gray area is not going to be included when I add this clip to my timeline. That gives me a three-second clip. I'll mark the out so now that’s a two-second clip that I’m going to use.
I’m going to grab it and drag it to my timeline, and it’s going to make my sequence for me. Here is my sequence right there. The program took the name of the file, “Man tying his shoes,” and used that to make the sequence height and framerate.
I don't want that name, so I’m going to rename this one “Promo Skateboarding Main.” That's my sequence, and I can start adding stuff to it.
I'm going to start with my audio, and I'm going to listen to it. This is 29 seconds. That’ll work, so I’ll drag that into my timeline. I can't really see this, so I'm going to use a keyboard shortcut, shift + plus, which makes them taller. I don't want to start with this loud music in the beginning, so I'm going to right click on that audio clip and Apply Default Transition, which is going to give me a nice fade.
There are parts in my music that are higher and lower, the beat of the music. When I'm cutting a promo or a music video, I want to cut so that each clip ends to match the beat. When I made this clip, I just made an arbitrary length, but I want to have it match the beat. As you play it, listen to it, and zoom in, which is plus on the keyboard, you can see changes in the music where it's higher. I'll take my selection tool and drag that clip to make it longer so that it lines up. Now, my next clip will be right as the music changes, and that's going to hide those edits better.
Minus on my keyboard zooms out of my timeline; plus on my keyboard zooms in. Backslash on my keyboard fits everything in my timeline. Then I would go grab my next clip, figure out where I want it to start and stop, add that to my timeline, and so on and so forth until I get a nice rough layout of my clips. That'll be my rough cut. I would then use the editing tools in the program to refine that rough cut, and keep working it to make it more refined.
That's the basic editing process. Yes, I simplified it. In general, the music for a promo like this or for a music video or something with the voiceover, it's audio driven. So audio's the first thing on your timeline. I don't want to do anything to screw up the music, so I would use one of the common features in video editing programs to lock the timeline. So once that's been locked, nothing I do can interact with it. I can then freely add the rest of my clips, adjust them, trim them, shorten them, or delete them.
One last note is that for the timeline itself, I used shift + plus to make it taller and shift + minus to make it shorter. The video tracks in the timeline work like layers in other programs, if you’re familiar with those, where you can stack content one on top of the other.
Video Editing Software
Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Avid, and all major video editing programs have features for creating basic graphics, basic animation, and basic text. They all have compositing features, but for serious animation, you'd want to use After Effects, or Motion if you’re using Final Cut Pro.
That's a general overview of the video editing process, and this was a little bit about how to use Premiere Pro to do that. I could have done the same thing with Avid, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci Resolve, or any other video editing program that exists. Certain aspects of the editing process are global, specifically, things like how to cut. The principles of editing will work no matter what software you use. That's the cool part.
I make money editing and teaching editing, so I have my own preferences, but you could use anything. There's a program called iMovie that you get almost for free when you buy a new Mac, and there was a film at South by Southwest about ten years ago, edited in iMovie, which is not considered freshman level editing. Some things are global and will always work no matter what you do, and other things you'll find are better with the professional level programs. The only real reason to learn professional editing software is if you plan to work in certain industries where that software is prevalent. If I want to work in editing in New York City, I have to match what they want me to use.
Video Editing Classes
I work for Noble Desktop, and we are a software training company located in New York City. We offer classes live in New York City and also live online via Zoom. Our website, NobleDesktop.com. Hopefully I've interested you in taking a class. We have a new group of classes running for our Video Editing and Motion Graphics certificates starting in April. Hopefully, I'll see some of you in class.
Even if you don't take a class with us, there are plenty of places you can take classes. You can also learn it on your own. When I first started video editing, you had to go to school for it, but now, there are a lot of tutorials throughout YouTube. Adobe has their own references on their website, and they also have a built-in tutorial system in Premiere Pro.
If you're looking to increase your skills or maybe pick up some new skills, definitely consider taking classes with us. If you already know the software and are looking to improve it. The built in tutorials, maybe helpful for you as well.
Once again, I'm Jerron Smith for Noble Desktop. Thank you for joining our seminar on Getting Started in Video Editing. Next week we have another seminar on Getting Started in Motion Graphics where I'll talk about the motion graphics industry, which is related to video editing. I'll also talk about how to get jobs, the software that they use in those industries, and all the different ways you can combine cool stuff together. Hopefully, I’ll have time to talk about After Effects and show you how it’s used to create animation and graphics.
We try to do these free seminars a couple of times a month. We cover a lot of things, such as Intro to Graphic Design. We also do some that are on the software itself, like Introduction to After Effects and that sort of stuff. So some of them are industry based and others are software based. We're also trying this year to start some that are more specific for those of you who may already know After Effects or Premiere Pro, some one-hour or one-and-half hour seminars that are on specific things like text, animation, and effects.