Being a good video editor is a lot like being a superhero. In fact, truth be told, the best editors are the Clark Kents of the production process, saving the day with super-human feats of wonder, while maintaining an unassuming outward appearance.
Here are five tips for video editors and superheroes alike. If you strive to be either, observe these five basic tenets and you will surely attain legendary status.
1. Be Invisible
Like the coolest superheroes, good editors should have the power of invisibility. That is to say, when viewers watch a masterfully edited program, they should not notice the edits (and certainly not the editor). Cuts should be paced properly and flow naturally. Special effects and flashy transitions should be used only when specifically called for by the content: Invisible is always the better option. Whether you’re out to foil a diabolical deed-doer or create a professional program, don’t call undue attention to yourself. The next time you sit down to edit, remember to slip on your cloak of invisibility (just don’t forget where you put it down).
2. Be Consistent
Have you ever noticed that superheroes always wear the same outfits? While they may not be very creative when it comes to wardrobe, they are incredibly consistent. Take Superman for instance: blue tights, blue shirt, red shorts, red boots, red cape and a big “S” on his chest. And it’s always the same. You’ll never catch him flying in to save the day draped in purple and green (after all, those are the Hulk’s colors). While the analogy isn’t exactly perfect, it is important for video editors to maintain continuity. Jump cuts, changes in screen direction and other continuity errors can cripple your productions like Kryptonite. Good editors need to recognize such hazards and thwart their evil efforts in the edit bay. When it comes to editing, continuity is king.
3. Be Selfless
Being a superhero is a thankless job. Think about it: These caped crusaders put forth immense effort and go to extreme lengths to save the planet again and again, yet the general public is oblivious to their work. Sure, one or two people know how it really happened, but most people never stop to recognize the men and women behind the masks. It’s not about getting recognition, it’s about doing what’s best for humanity (or the program). Being an editor is, likewise, a thankless job. Good editors know this, and it makes them even better. Want to be a better editor? Face the fact that your production is probably not about you. One of the great disciplines that all editors must learn is to edit for the tastes of a specific audience. Throughout the course of a year, you may edit one video for residents at a retirement facility, another for grade-school kids and a third for business people. Successful editors are able to lay aside their personal tastes and tailor their edits to match the preferences of each audience.
4. Cut It Close
You may have noticed the precise timing that is common to most superheroes. For whatever reason, superheroes tend to cut it cavalry close. They always come to the rescue a split second before the rope breaks or the bomb detonates. They are never there early and never late, either. Keep this in mind when you edit your videos. If your edits aren’t tight, they aren’t right. The timing and pace of your edits should be tight enough to bounce a quarter off. This means taking the time to trim that extra frame or two.
5. Use Your Power for Good
Probably the most important thing for both editors and superheroes is to use the power for good. Video editors have great power to alter the reality that viewers see on the screen and with this great power comes great responsibility. As an editor, you can manipulate the footage you edit to alter the perceptions of your audience. Little things, like changing sequences, omitting footage or taking shots out of context, can make the good appear to be evil and the evil appear to be good. In the end, in order for video to maintain its credibility with the public, it is essential that video editors commit themselves to truth, justice and integrity in the edit bay.