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Editing Commercials

So, your shoot is done, and you've got some great footage. Now the trick is assembling your shots into a coherent message that will bring your client more customers. In this segment we talk about logging your footage, spot lengths and formats, adding voice-overs, choosing music, and adding sound effects. Creating the right blend of footage and graphics, along with a great sound mix will take all the hard work you've done and mold it into a great commercial.

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Video Transcript

So, your shoot is done, and you've got some great footage. Now the trick is assembling your shots into a coherent message that will bring your client more customers. In this segment we talk about logging your footage, spot lengths and formats, adding voice-overs, choosing music, and adding sound effects. Creating the right blend of footage and graphics, along with a great sound mix, will take all the hard work you've done and mold it into a great commercial. Editing your commercial can seem like a daunting task when you begin. With tons of footage and a simple script, the first step is to organize your clips. If you used a tape-based camera, you can name the clips as you ingest them, using the information on your shot log as you go. If you're using a removable media based camera, you can copy the files onto your computer, watch each clip, and rename the files. Remember to use the shot log as a reference to help speed up the process. Give the clips names that represent the shots so that you can find them easily when you're editing. Also, note the best shots as you review them. You may find that what you thought was your best take during the shoot might have a customer looking directly into the lens or a bump in your camera move. Remember to choose the shots that best represent the clients business or product. If a beautiful shot ends up on the cutting room floor, you can still use it in your demo reel. One crucial factor to get right when you're editing a commercial that airs on television is the final length. A typical commercial is thirty seconds long. Even if you're producing a 15 or 60 second spot, it's extremely important to keep the length precise. Even a few extra frames on the end of your spot are likely to get cut-off when it's broadcast. In fact, It's a good idea to give the spot a few frames of breathing room on the front and back end to ensure that pertinent audio and video information doesn't get cut off. You'll also need to determine where your commercial will be airing, and what type of video formats they accept. Television stations, cable companies, and satellite providers may handle your format in various ways, and in some cases, they may center cut HD material. Center cutting refers to the process of using the 4 by 3 center area of an HD source to fill the entire screen for Standard Definition output. If your research shows that your spot will ultimately be center cut, you'll need to make sure your spot is center-cut safe. This means shooting your footage and placing your graphics accordingly to make sure the spot you produce doesn't have essential visual information outside of the center 4 by 3 area of your commercial. While this can be frustrating, and you may feel like you're losing screen space, even big budget national commercials have been shot and edited to be center cut safe. Many commercial spots have a narrator giving information that re-enforces the visual message that your footage and graphics are conveying. This narration is called a Voice-over or V.O. Whether you're doing the voice-over yourself, using a local radio personality, or an online voice-over service, It's important that the tone of your voice-over matches the commercial. You don't want a monster truck voice-over on a relaxing spa commercial. When it comes to choosing music, you'll need to make sure to secure the rights to whatever you choose. Using popular music in a commercial without it is illegal and could potentially put you and your client at risk for big trouble, followed by big fines. Many clients will ask about this, and the rule of thumb here is that for a small budget commercial, it's usually far too expensive. There are numerous companies that specialize in music made specifically for commercials. Most of these libraries will have versions of tracks without the frequencies that cut into your voice over, allowing your music bed be more prominent. You can purchase the rights to use an entire library of music with thousands of tracks, if you're going to produce a lot of commercials. This will usually be for a fixed period of time. If you're only going to produce a limited amount of commercials, you're probably better off purchasing the right to an individual song. Attaining the right music can be expensive, so be sure to include it in your budget. Finally, be sure to select music that matches the mood and tone of the spot you've created. This becomes even more important if the spot doesn't contain a voice-over and relies solely on music. Once you've got your voice-over and music ready, you can finally start editing the footage. Typically, you can create the initial cut using your footage, and then add any supporting graphics that you need. Remember that with local commercials, the viewer needs to know where the business is, and how to contact them, so be sure to include information such as their address, phone number, and website in your spot. Once the footage and graphics are looking good, you can put the finishing audio touch on with some supporting sound effects. Again, you'll want to be sure you've secured the rights to any sound effects you're using. If your budget is tight, you can easily create many sound effects on your own. This is a great way to save money. The real trick is balancing the voice over, music and sound effects so they don't interfere with each other. When in doubt, just make sure that the message of the commercial isn't getting trampled on by guitars and swoosh sounds. So, you've got the perfect blend of footage, graphics, and sound, and the concept you thought up is now a tangible piece of finished work. In our next segment, we talk about presenting the commercial to the client for approval, making revisions, and delivering your commercial for broadcast. It's the final step before you find out if all the hard work pays off with more customers for your client, and ultimately, more commercial production work for you.