How to Edit Videos Like the Pros: Beyond the Basics.

Part 2: Beyond the Basics. There is one application that is guaranteed to turn any hobbyist to a pro. Read on.

Okay, if I didn’t scare you away from the idea of professional editing last month, let’s move on to some of the more advanced stuff. Like what makes the difference between basic editing and actual professional editing. In my opinion, at least, the difference is pretty simple. Beginning editors concentrate on how to do the tasks of editing well. They’re concerned with how well they accomplish the process of editing, the cuts, the transitions, marrying the audio and video on the timeline so that nothing’s wrong with their work.

The professionals change their perspective. They stop worrying about what might be "wrong" because they’re confident in their skills to handle that. So they shift their perspective from simply "how to do things" to how things should be done.

At the earliest meeting with a new client, the beginners will be thinking about how much to charge, how much time the video will take to make, whether their cameras are good enough, what extra help they will need. The professionals will know all that in advance. They’ll spend the same meeting listening to what the client needs.

I’ve been writing this column for more than ten years now, and the next sentence could be the most valuable single piece of advice I’ve ever given in this magazine.

"In a meeting about new business, the one who’s listening is the one who’s winning."

Listening means you’re focused on what your client needs. And once you understand that, you can make them a video that actually helps them succeed. And people who can do that successfully are the people who are hired again and again. That, in a nutshell, is the major difference between amateurs and professionals.

Practical Tips

As you master your post-production software, you get to turn your attention away from how to push the buttons and toward which techniques will be the most effective in telling your client’s story. That presumes that you’re well versed in editing workflows and can tell what techniques will work best for this particular project. The way to learn what works best is trial and error. So the path to superior editing is always going to be… (insert drumroll here…) practice, practice, practice.

The best editing trick you can know is any trick that helps you solve a customer’s problem right now. So the more tricks you can learn, the more different situations you can solve. Early in my career I learned about typesetting — so I can solve titling problems. I learned about audio recording, so I can solve audio problems, I learned about all kinds of music so when a client is selling cowboy boots, I know what sub-genre of country might appeal to their target audience. The point is that for superior results in editing, the editor needs to be superiorly curious about a lot of things.

At its core, video editing is fundamentally about communicating with people. So the more you know about different kinds of people, the better off you’ll be.

Project Planning

Okay, that’s the theoretical stuff, but what about practical tips for readers who are thinking about making the transition from hobbyist to pro? Consider the old warhorse saying that’s warmed the hearts of faceless functionaries and bureaucrats for generations: "The job’s not done until the paperwork is complete and filed." It’s exciting when you’re editing video and audio and making your video. It’s heartwarming to deliver a master and have the client congratulate you for a job well done.

Of course, it’s undeniably much less exciting to have to turn your attention to all the mundane tasks like labeling and filing your tapes, backing up your project files, sorting all of your project notes and backing up all the no long-er necessary files off your hard drive. But it’s vitally important when each job is complete to have a system for wrapping your current project up and properly preparing for the next.

Remember that it doesn’t matter what that system is. You can file six different project elements in six separate places, all under a common job name/number, or you can shove everything, including all the paperwork, data discs, tapes, etc., in a bankers box and shove it on a shelf. The key thing is to have a system, and to make use of it. You should have a way to mark every script, file, tape, tape case, hard drive volume, and virtual file — so that when you next need to get your mitts on them, you can rest assured that all files and media are in one place. Trust me on this.

In the two parts of this article we’ve looked at what it means to "Edit like the Pros." We’ve learned that "pros" covers a lot of territory. The skills necessary to do a good corporate video might not be everything you need to do a good dramatic style film. And vice versa.


Practice, Practice, Practice

A friend once told me that anyone who studies any subject for a few hours a day, consistently, for a half a dozen years or so will automatically become a world class expert in that particular subject. I don’t know if that’s totally accurate, but I can tell you that if you study video creation even half that much, you’ll find yourself much better than anyone who just "plays" at it.

So, the key to making the transition from hobbyist to pro is simple. Practice. Study. Improve. And chances are you’ll look up someday and discover that you’re the person everyone calls when they need a video done right!

I get asked a lot "what’s the best editing application to learn" for someone who wants to build a career in this field. People expect me to name a particular brand of hardware or software. And I have a good answer, even if it’s not the one they expect. I tell them: "There’s one application that every single editor-to-be MUST absolutely master before one can really be considered a ‘pro.’ The ‘application’ of your rear-end to the seat in front of your computer."

Do that often enough, and learn just a little every time you do — and trust me, you will become a "pro." It’s as simple as that.

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

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