Ready to start editing videos? Knowing the process is essential. Explore the stages and terminology of the video editing process in this article.
This article is adapted from one part of a "Get Started in Video Editing" seminar by Noble Desktop. You can see this in the seminar by going to the Video Editing Process chapter.
The process of video editing depends on what you're doing. One common way of understanding video production is through three stages: 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. Are you thinking, no, that's for film, how does it affect me? Well, if you are going to shoot an event, there's pre-production involved in that. Proper planning prevents poor performance. The actual production, so 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, or possibly 100 takes.
That footage has to be organized and go through 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 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. It's a good idea to actually write out your idea of a story for that. What story are you going to tell? How are you going to get people to care about this skate shop?
You 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, meaning you have to assemble and organize your assets.
Scratch audio is the term for audio that will not be the final audio. Many video editors use a professional voiceover artist to narrate the final cut. Still, until you've got everything in place, you're not going to use the professional voiceover artist. You might just record some scratch audio in the voiceover.
Storyboard edits, assembly edits, and rough cuts are the stages of actually creating your content.
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 like video presentations and seminars. Many people 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. We're focusing on the editing process itself, and assuming that the footage has already been created.