Is Knowing Multiple Editing Applications Necessary to Being a Great Editor?

All too often, an editor will bounce between multiple editing programs, never learning the software's true potential or the speed and freedom of keyboard shortcuts. Editing is an art; it's easy to get caught up in the technical aspects of an editing program and lose sight of this.

How many Oscars does it take to prove this point?

Three time Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker ("Raging Bull," "The Aviator," and "The Departed"), who also has four more Academy nominations ("Woodstock," "Goodfellas," "Gangs of New York," and "Hugo"), is a great example. When you watch her work, you can see the rhythm and the pacing, which varies appropriately from film to film. But her art is so much more than that. She spends her time focusing on creativity for each new edit — including watching other films for inspiration and collaborating with her director, Martin Scorsese. Schoonmaker, who started out in the industry by cutting film negatives, works exclusively in LightWorks with a custom controller that has become as familiar to her as her old flatbed film editor.

Pick One and Stick With It

Schoonmaker is not alone in picking and sticking with one software. Many professional editors work exclusively in one editing software often because it was what they were trained on or what that specific software was designed for. LightWorks was made for feature film work where Grass Valley’s Edius was designed for broadcast TV. Vegas works well for short projects, and DaVinci Resolve was made for color work. Adobe Premiere Pro, AVID Media Composer and Apple Final Cut X were built as multipurpose editors but each has its unique strengths. If you are new to editing, most software offers free trials — a great way to see how the software will work on your projects first hand.

Sticking with an editor that you have mastered means you will be able to work quickly and efficiently.

You should also carefully research your software, its cost, its system requirements and reviews from users working on projects similar to yours before purchase. This will help ensure you find the right software for your work. Remember, a skilled editor can create great videos in any software package, provided he has mastered non-linear editing.

The Value of Being Your Own Boss

If you are an independent producer of content, you have the luxury of dictating your workflow. Sticking with an editor that you have mastered means you will be able to work quickly and efficiently. In many small business situations, time really is money. Delivering a quality video on time — or even early — will be more impressive to your client than catastrophic delays because you're struggling with a hip, new editing package.

Art Not Keystrokes

Unless you're collaborating with an editorial team or VFX team that is doing software-based file sharing or you're a freelance editor picking up gigs on sites like Craigslist, you'll do just fine mastering only one piece of editing software. By doing this, you can focus on the art of cutting. There are so many decisions an editor must make when an editing a sequence — how to cut, when to cut, how long to hold, which shot to use, what's the best reaction shot, and which shot delivers the most emotion just to name a few. It's hard to be innovative when you are trying to remember a new interface or keyboard shortcut; however, muscle memory from repeated use of the same keyboard shortcuts and editing prowess are wonderful and keep the creative juices flowing.

Wéland Bourne is an award-winning filmmaker as well as a VFX and motion graphic artist.

Weland Bourne
Weland Bourne
Weland Bourne is an award winning filmmaker, as well as a VFX and motion graphics artist.

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