5 ways to improve your next editing project

From the video editor who is just beginning their career, to the tried and true senior editor, there is always something to learn. Here are five ways the novice and intermediate editor can improve their video editing skills to consistently turn out great work.

Know your tools

There are many video editing platforms to choose from: Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve, and more. One isn’t necessarily better than the other; what’s best is contingent on the editor, the project, the workflow and the context of the edit. Each offers their own unique take on how to execute a proper edit. One thing they all have in common is that they share similar toolsets. The basics are always the same.

Screen shot of Davinci Resolve
There are many video editing platforms to choose from: Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, DaVinci Resolve, and more.

To become a great editor, or even just a good one, it’s important that you know how to wield these tools. An intimate familiarity with their editing environment and tools will help any editor work more efficiently and focus on what matters — the edit itself. The best way to learn and understand your tools is to use them on a regular and consistent basis. This means making a habit of spending time every day editing video, whether there’s a project due or not.

Keep it together

One of the biggest obstacles faced in the edit bay is a disorganized project. Again, your focus should be on the edit, not on trying to figure out where your footage is or locating a sequence you worked on earlier in the project. Every major video editing application is equipped to facilitate the organization of a project. Take advantage of these features; color code folders and sequences, utilize metadata, and properly place and label markers throughout the edit.

A simple way to stay organized is to adopt a standard file naming convention and project directory structure. When these are consistently used across all projects, it’s much easier to keep your edit moving forward.

Set a goal

One of the best things you can do to turn out a clear and consistent edit is to set a goal for the project. You should know what you’re trying to achieve through the video you’re creating. Before starting a project, determine who your audience is and what the narrative for the video will be. You can use this as the basis for every edit decision you make throughout the project. If the editorial choice helps to communicate the message of the piece and moves the audience towards the goal, then it’s the right choice. If the edit doesn’t contribute to overall goal of the video, then you shouldn’t execute it.

Stay on track

Like any story, videos can be segmented. The ebb and flow of the narrative can change pace as it progresses. There are chapters and micro-chapters within an edit, different pieces of information that are delivered in sequence to the audience. This can be a conundrum for an editor; a change in pace or the reveal of new information necessitates a change in the edit, but that doesn’t mean a complete change or departure from the overall voice and character of the piece. In other words, a change in the narrative’s pace shouldn’t mean there’s a change in the editing style of the video. The editing style of the video should be able to simply carry the narrative and reach the target audience.

The editing style of the video should be able to simply carry the narrative and reach the target audience.

As previously mentioned, you can help yourself to maintain consistency by planning ahead for the edit and setting a goal. That said, there are also more pragmatic ways to stay on track as well. Music plays a large role in many productions. By choosing the music you will use at the start of a project, you give yourself a foundation that you can cut to and keep pace with throughout the edit. Likewise, you can use techniques, such as color grading, at the end of a project to unify the look and feel of the edit.

Kill your darlings

Authors Stephen King and William Faulkner advise other authors to “kill their darlings” when writing. They’re telling aspiring writers to not fall in love with everything they write. The author should fall in love with the story and only keep what works, what feeds and supports the narrative. It’s the same thing in the edit bay. Editors should “kill their darlings;” they should only use the shots that are needed, when they’re needed, and eliminate everything else no matter how good it is.

Audiences, technology, and life in general, is in a constant state of change. In order to effectively keep up, you’ll need to grow and make progress in your craft. The best way to learn is to consistently practice. Editing should be a habit, one which you exercise with discipline on a regular basis. If you do, there’s no doubt you will grow

Chris Ace Gates
Chris Ace Gates
Chris "Ace" Gates is a four time Emmy Award-winning writer and producer. He is a big fan of animation and transmedia storytelling.

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