Use these Challenges to Become a Better Editor

For the video editor there’s always something new to learn and there’s always room to grow. The big question is, how do you grow as an editor? Outside of film school, workshops or technical training, there isn’t much information on how you can incrementally develop your skills to master your craft. Here are ten things you can do to strengthen your skills.

Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

Moving the mouse wastes time. One of the best ways to help yourself is to master the keyboard shortcuts of your software. This can be tricky as there are hundreds of shortcuts for editors to learn across the various post-production programs. An easy way to put this into practice is to make it a habit to learn new a shortcut each day. You can start with the tools you regularly use and make sure you activate or access that tool, pane, panel, effect, etc. though its keyboard shortcut throughout the day. Before too long, you’ll start to edit at a faster rate.

Moving the mouse wastes time. One of the best ways to help yourself is to master the keyboard shortcuts of your software. 

Use a Different Toolset

Tools can be limiting and they can also create habits. The habits you acquire through the repetitive use of the same tools can be efficient but also cause you to become stagnate in the creativity of your edits. Try using different tools within your editing programs to change up how you approach a project. For even more variety, you can gain a new perspective by editing a project with a completely different editing program than what you’re used to. A switch from Adobe Premiere Pro to Final Cut Pro X for a project might change the way you tell a story.

Conquer New Territory

Another way to learn is to do something new. If  you’re used to cutting short format sizzle reels for online promotions, take a shot at editing a long form story piece. A little variety in the style of video you edit can go a long way in developing your personal style.

Keep a Journal

It’s easy to forget our own history, especially when we rely on our own habits. A written journal or edit log can help you reflect on what decisions you made on previous edits. This reflection can help you understand your own decision making process, as well as serve as a reminder of creative solutions you’ve used in the past. Another way to keep an edit log, one that is more in line with an editor’s work process, is to create a comment track on an archived project. Captioning tools are a great way to write out your thoughts and insights into a project while timing out those comments in the edit itself. A simple viewing of an old project comes to life when you’re able to see your previous thoughts on the edit.

Master the Deep Dive Critique

It’s one thing to have a producer or director critique your final cut, but it’s more insightful to have another editor objectively look at the entire edit. Collaboration is key in editing, you can improve the quality of your edits by having another editor look at their entire project, from the way it’s organized to how you assembled your source footage. Editors speak the same language; getting someone who understands the details of an edit can be of great help when they look into what you have done.

Trade Seats

Another helpful form of collaboration is to trade seats with another editor. Each editor makes the rough cut of their own project and then they swap seats, finishing the edit of the other editor.

Watch the Audience

How an editor feels about their project isn’t as important as how their audience reacts. Whenever it’s possible, observe your audience’s reaction to your edit. Rather than watching the video, watch the audience as they watch the video. It helps to make note of their reactions and what caused them to react that way.

Look at the Numbers

Big data and the use of metrics seem to be creeping into everyday life. You can now use online metric tools to evaluate an edit. For example, there are online tools that will let you know how long a viewer watched a particular video and when they stopped watching. These numbers can inform you of when your video is losing their audience’s attention.

Paper Edits

A storyboard isn’t limited as a tool for pre-production only, and it’s more powerful than a simple reference in post-production. One way to get better at the craft is to use a storyboard as an editing tool. You can cut each shot or scene out as a separate card and rearrange the cards on a corkboard. This helps you view the story as a sequence of moments without being distracted by everything that goes into each individual shot. This method provides a different perspective on assembling a story.

Copy Cat

Video editors are some of the most astute and critical consumers of video content. Every video is scrutinized in detail and each edit is evaluated as a learning opportunity. You can learn more by not only watching videos, but by imitating them. A lot can be learned about how a sequence was created by imitating it shot for shot, frame by frame.

One of the great things about making video is that everything is in a state of progress and change. There’s always something new to discover and a new way to tell familiar stories. In order to keep up, you must always be improving your skills, which isn’t too hard to do. All it takes is a little practice.

Chris “Ace” Gates is a four time Emmy Award-winning writer and video producer. 

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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