Becoming a Professional Video Editor

Part 1: Growth, your tools and your space. Step 1: Clean up your act! If a video editor's desk is a home-office catch-all, the video editor is not using space or time efficiently.

Everyone wants to "edit like a pro." But what does that really mean? Beginning this month we'll look at two parts to what sets the professional video editor apart from the amateur.

It used to be an easy call. The "pro" had access to a zillion bucks worth of expensive video-making stuff — and everyone else did not. But, boy has that changed!

Today, a few hundred bucks dropped at the computer and/or camcorder store will buy you most of the technical video creation power once reserved for the multi-million dollar TV station. So, clearly “access to tools” no longer separates the amateur from the professionsl video editor. Therefore it must be ability, right? The “pro” must simply be a “better editor” than the amateur. Actually, I don’t think so.

Take me for example. Making videos — including planting myself in a seat in my edit bay regularly, week in and week out — is what I do to feed my family. So, by any rational standard, I guess I'm a pro. But does that mean I'm the "best" editor out there? Hardly. You can easily find hundreds of men, women, and kids who can edit rings around me. Being a professional video editor presumes you can maintain a professional standard of quality in your work, but it's also clearly NOT just about being a better "technician" than someone else.

If it's not being "better" than the next video editor is, what really makes a pro, a pro?

The Professional Video Editor is Constantly Evolving

The one thing that you can bet on is that no professional video editor started out that way. The quest for professionalism always requires constant learning and growth. The good news is that you are already on that path! You’re reading Videomaker because you want to know more about the craft of making videos. So every hour you spend on this site or with printed works such as books and manuals, every hour you spend talking about editing, reading about editing, or best of all doing video editing will put you closer to being a professional — if that’s your goal.

The flip side of this, however, is that if you can’t shift your time and energy toward the craft where you want to attain professional video editor status you’ll always be at a disadvantage compared to those who can. What really defines a professional is the time they devote to practice and mastery in their field. So if you really want to reach “pro” status as an editor, there’s really only one editing “application” that you truly must learn — the application of your butt to the chair in front of your editing system.

Stuff: The Video Editor’s Tools of the Trade

I mentioned above that access to expensive tools is no longer the limiting factor that it once was — but that doesn’t mean that tools aren’t important. Any good craftsman will tell you that they are.

This is dangerous ground however, because it’s easy to make a huge mistake in this area and think, “if only I had (tool X) I could finally do professional work.”

The thing about tools is that, most often, they’re a reflection of expertise — rather than it’s source. Beginning piano players rarely get to learn on Steinways. But as they get better and better as pianists, the best of them eventually get recognized enough, or simply earn enough so that top quality tools become a part of their regular world. Put me on that Steinway and, say, Elton John on a funky bar piano and who’s gonna bring the crowd to their feet? Yep. No contest.

And so, the precise brand or model of the tool any editor chooses will hardly ever be a limiting factor, but access to some kind of workable tools– particularly when your learning your craft IS critical. Even the most talented beginner can’t progress unless they can practice. So if you have to drag your editing system out of a closet and clear off the kitchen table each time you want to do some editing, the “hassle” factor can effect the amount you practice — and that alone will delay you on your quest to become a pro.

The Video Editor’s Space: The Final Frontier

Similarly, not having a dedicated space to practice in can hinder your assent to pro status. I do a fair amount of video editing on the road and when I do, there’s hardly a time I haven’t subconsciously reached for something — perhaps a USB cable, or blank DVD — and realized that I wasn’t in my editing suite, but in a hotel room. So I think your editing space is pretty important. Just like editing itself, it doesn’t have to be fancy — but if you have all the basics well in hand –that can free you — put you “in the zone” where it’s more likely that good things will happen.

Part 2 – How to edit with superior results; tips, tricks, and things to avoid.

Contributing Editor Bill Davis writes, shoots, edits, and does voiceover work for a variety of corporate and industrial clients.

Sidebar: A “Comfort” Stop on the Road to Pro Editing!

When you’re “in the editing zone,” it’s easy to look up and realize that you’ve been sitting at the screen for hours. So a task chair with proper back and arm support, an edit surface with the keyboard and monitor at the proper height and other ergonomic considerations can remove a lot of the misery along the road from hobbyist to pro.

Another great “pro” tip is to put the things you use most, closest at hand. My software manuals, for example, once were stored right on my edit desk because I used them every day. Now that I’ve been with my software for a few years I’ve moved them to another location. Because today, I seldom need to look stuff up. So don’t be afraid to do a regular audit of your editing space with an eye to how you can re-arrange things to suit how you edit today.

Becoming a Professional Video Editor – Part 2

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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