Video editors need three things to be successful: a comfy editing suite, a strong business network and a lot of coffee. Let's break down a few important components to take a closer look at how to start a successful video editing career.
1. Preparing a Professional Editing Suite
You're going to spend a great deal of time in your editing suite, so it's important that you set this space up in a way that allows you to stay busy and focused. A spare room can make a good editing suite. Many people convert a spare bedroom in their house into a editing suite and office, complete with not only their editing equipment, but all their business equipment as well. With a very large room you can even add a viewing area, a portion of the room that a client and you can watch a production on an actual television set. A small sofa would be a nice touch.
Small spaces will work just as well and your living room can double as a viewing room if you want to take advantage of more rooms in the house.
Editing suites absolutely need air conditioning, not only for your comfort, but also to make sure your editing equipment doesn't over heat. A powerful editing computer can heat up a small room quickly to temperatures well over 90-degrees. You'll find that you're going to need to rely on the air conditioning quite often. Some editing suites have in-wall air conditioning units to help balance the load with the entire household. We can't exaggerate the importance of air conditioning. Not only does it help keep your equipment running without any issues, it will keep you fresh and working without any discomfort. For those of you who like a warmer working condition, it's time to update your fall wardrobe.
Power conditioning and grounded outlets are also critical. Preventing equipment damage, should you experience a brown out or power surge, is key. Make sure to use a surge protector and to have grounded power outlets. Also, invest in a good UPS (Universal Power Supply) that has enough outlets to power your video editing computer, at least one monitor and any external hard drives for at least a few minutes. Should your power go out while working, a UPS kicks over to the battery supply giving you a few more minutes of power to save your files and shut down your system properly. This can be a very important piece of equipment that will pay for itself even if just for that one time that power goes out. If you're editing on a laptop (which should have a battery) you won't need this unless you want to keep any external hard drives running. Many UPS systems also have power conditioning features, like surge protection.
Most editors spend a good deal of time sitting in their editing suite - as you can imagine- editing video. A good, ergonomic office chair is money well spent. Test a variety out if you can and read some reviews online. Plush chairs are not always the best. Many high quality office chairs use a mesh like material to allow heat to transfer more easily and keep your back dry. Remember, your life is going to be spent in this chair, so make it a good one.
Also spend a good amount of time researching desks, keyboards and mice (or whatever tool you'll use to control your machine). Make sure to have plenty of room on the surface of the desk to do your work. Don't forget that most professional editors have at least two monitors and in many cases three when you include a TV monitor. Logic and Bella make Pro Series keyboards that has the shortcut keys graphically laid out on the keyboard for specific video editing software and a Jog/Shuttle dial. This is great for daily editing use.
Many video editors also need a professional set of audio monitors. These can be just as expensive as a good video monitor. Audio monitoring is often overlooked in home-based editing suites. But it's critical to hear the audio accurately, just as it is to see the video you're editing, so you can make edits as needed.
A last consideration for making your video editing suite look and feel like a pro suite is to paint your walls black. Painting your walls black is a good way to make sure you see the luminosity and colors on your monitor with better precision. The lighting in the studio should also be subdued and not place any glares on the screen. Cover any windows, so that there's no light coming in. Rather than blocking them completely, you may want to use a heavy drape, so that you can pull it back when you're not working on video and provide a little variety. A matte black paint will do the job on the walls and ceiling, and adding desk lamps to light up your workspace is a good idea. As you work in this environment, make sure to give your eyes some rest and refreshment occasionally throughout the day. Your eyes can adjust to this environment, and your perception of color and luminosity can alter. Make sure to mix it up a bit.
2. Business Networking Is Key
A busy video editor spends a great deal of time locked in the editing suite. This is great for business in the short term, however it's hard to find new prospects from here. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing approach, but even the most prosperous video editors need to get out of the office and build new relationships. It's truly just as important as having the right video editing equipment.
Join a local business networking group like the Chamber of Commerce or another group where, ideally, you provide a unique skill to the group. Make yourself known and look for opportunities to provide your services to these trusted vendors in your community. Word of mouth can do a lot for your business. Also, look for video editing and creative groups to join and provide your expertise in this specific area. There are a lot of video shooters who need a good editor to bring their projects to life.
3. Coffee Is Required
Well, not really, but motivation is necessary to keep up the daily editing routine, grow the business and continue to push your art to new levels. One of the best ways to stay inspired and challenged is to find a mentor. Even editors who have been at it for awhile can benefit from a mentorship with a video editor or producer. Since the democratization of video production in the mid '90s, there has been a huge influx of video editors in the marketplace, but only a few have proven to be successful. Try to find someone, not just a video editor, but a director or producer, who can help provide you with honest critique and insights into the industry. A good mentor will help you grow, not only as an editor, but as a business. Many mentors may even throw you a few jobs that may be unattractive to them or when they're too busy.
Inspiration can be found anywhere, but it's easier to find it if you've got access to content. I can't recommend any higher Netflix for the job. A good diet of DVDs can lead to new ideas and a better understanding of the art of video editing. Don't over do it though. If you're watching Dumb and Dumber for the one hundredth time you better have completed all your clients' work for the week.
4. Get Help and Instruction from Professionals
There are a lot of good training events and materials out there that can make you a much more efficient and clever video editor. Many times, the best productions are the simplest and most basic, but occasionally you need a few more fireworks to impress your clients. The technical challenges and the investment of time can be overwhelming if you're not spending time refining your skills. Always put aside some money each month for expanding your instructional and training materials. And keep watch for training events, seminars and lectures from video and film experts traveling to your area.
It's important to stay on the technical cutting edge of the industry. Too many video producers have lagged behind by not learning the latest techniques being used in the market and relying on their methods from the 1980s. These tried-and-true methods might be fine for the most part, but when a client wants some trendy After Effects motion graphics, and all you know is simple titling from your $99 editing software, you might find they'll go looking elsewhere. Stay informed, learn new things, don't be afraid of new technology.
With the proper editing suite and good business opportunities you may find yourself one day mentoring and lecturing yourself. Best of luck!
Contributing columnist Mark Montgomery is a web content specialist and produces instructional videos for a leading web application developer.