Tutorial: Video Editing Basics. Where/How To Start!

There are a zillion blogs and tutorials on how to create a vlog that cover the camera setup, mic techniques, how to light it and so on, but there are few, if any, that describe the methodology of actually editing it.

Most people I know that do a vlog simply grab the footage from their iPhone or whatever and slap it on Instagram (or whatever).

And it shows.

In the other corner are those who have a whole pile of footage from their holiday to Bali, a caravan trip around Australia, kids playing sport, grandchildren acting in the school play, arriving at the Deb or end of term school ball and want to make a memorable record of it but have no idea where to start.

So, on a rainy afternoon, where the entire world seems to have gone mad because of some beer virus or another, I thought I’d try and rectify that.

Where to Start

Assuming you have all your footage stored on your phone or in a camera, the first thing you need to do is get it onto your computer for safe keeping and preferably onto a hard drive separate from your main system drive (normally called Drive C in the Windows world).

If you are serious about your video and video editing, but don’t want to go to the nuisance of installing hard disks a good place to start is with a 500GB SanDisk Extreme Pro. It has enough space to last a long time, is secure and importantly, is fast enough that you can edit video and audio that resides on this drive without having to transfer it to your computer; simply connect it via USB-C.

Make sure you correctly catalogue your footage. Smartphones, cameras and camcorders are not very clever at this and usually just automatically name files with the date, time and a number such as R0010076.MP4 or P1001480.MOV. Everyone has their own system, but I tend to make a folder for a major subject and have sub folders for items under that subject.

An example might be a major folder called “Holidays” and then sub folders for each holiday for which you have footage. You can even have sub-sub folders like I have for a European trip where I had sub folders for each country.

Folder Hierarchy

Alternatively, if you take my European trip as an example, after going carefully through each clip, I determined which were of mountains, lakes, people, buildings, attractions, meals and so on and created folders for each of those. These folders could be separate or again under each country. We all find a way of doing this that suits our workflow, sometimes it just takes a bit of trial and error.

Rough Edits

Now that we have our footage roughly stored, we can start to make rough cuts and store these in “Bins” that correspond roughly to your folder setup, but one your editing program uses internally.

Bins

Now this very much depends on what editing program you use. In Vegas Pro, which is what I use, they are called “bins” (which is the original terms even back when rolls of film were still used. In fact the Star Wars character R2D2 was named after one – Reel 2 Dialogue 2!)

Other programs like Corel VideoStudio 2020 call them the “Library” and a few, especially the budget programs don’t use them at all, instead relying on the Windows (or Mac) underlying filing / folder system to look after them. Having bins – or whatever your application calls them – is far more preferable though so I’d recommend if you are looking for an editing app, make sure it does have this facility.

rough cuts

The way bins are used also varies. In general though, you can load a clip into a trimming or cutting system to define just the bits you want and then save these trimmed areas to a bin designed for those types of clips. In my Europe trip example, these are the “mountains, lakes, people, buildings, attractions, meals” etc I mentioned earlier. Different programs call these trimmed clips different things too – sub-clips or regions for example.

Again at this point, you don’t have to be precise with trims (cuts), just make them rough, the fine tuning comes later.

Storyboards

storyboard

Once you have all these rough cuts done, now the real fun starts. Many good editing applications have a storyboarding function letting you place your rough cuts and move them around at will to make a fluent story out of them. Some storyboarding functions are more sophisticated than others, but essentially, they all perform the main thing – let you visualise your story before doing the fine trims / cuts and other editing for the final output.

Music

Music

If you are planning a “music bed” to your video, now is the time to choose the piece you want to use and place it on the main timeline in an audio (or music track if there is one). Next, work out where the “beats” to the music are; most editing programs allow the placement of markers showing the location of the beats and this is the location where your cuts from one clip top another will occur.

Final Trimming

trim start

Now you use the timeline tools to make your final trims to your clips and line them up with the beats you placed. If your software supports “Slip and Slide” editing, these two features are ideal for precise placing of the clips. You might also want to investigate “Ripple Edit” letting you insert (or delete) clips into / from previously edited sections and causing everything to move up or down the timeline to accommodate the change.

Transitions

Transitions are the time locations where clips change from one to another and cause probably more grief than other part of video editing. Facebook forums for editing packages such as Vegas Pro and Adobe Premiere are chockers full of people asking for “transition packs”.

Now this many experienced editors will tell you is a Bad Thing!

Let me explain. The two simplest (and most common) transitions are straight cuts – jumping from one clip to the next, and dissolves – gradually merge from one clip to the next over a short period of time.

But there are many others including clock wipes, barn doors, star bursts, fade to white (and black), glows, gradient wipes, page peels, pushes,  rolls, cardflips – you get the idea. And hundreds more besides.

transitions

What overblown transitions (and associated special effects) are in danger of doing is detracting from your main story with their “look at me aren’t I clever” attitude!

So resist their overuse at ALL costs. If you doubt me, go back and look at movies from George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock and their peers, or even TV shows and you’ll see top flight editors and directors rarely use beyond a cut (to signify a change of scene) or a dissolve (to show a change in time).

Special Effects

The same thing as applies to transitions applies to special effects (SFX). Yes, they can be cool and even fun, but ask yourself, do they add to and enhance the main story?

I was once asked to edit a wedding video someone had shot and whoever did it had used every special effect built into the camera they could find, from black and white to sepia to backlight to low depth of field, slo-mo – you name it, they were all there. And not only did they not add to the story, they utterly destroyed it!

effects

Keep effects minimal, if at all!

Audio

If anyone ever tells you audio runs secondary to the video, they have absolutely no idea about video editing. It is as, if not MORE important. Firstly, in many cases if the audio is not there, then the story is incomprehensible. Second, we can put up with the occasional flicker or dropped frame, but stuttering audio, low or muffled dialogue, music that is too loud or the worst, audio that is out of sync with the video, will have your viewers turning off in seconds.

So pay SPECIAL attention to the capture AND the editing of your audio.

Length

Be ruthless. Do you remember sitting through parents or grandparents interminable slide shows of their holidays, or having to sit through the ritual of looking at baby snaps etc. If so, you can empathise with your audience.

You don’t want to bore them to tears with footage that really has no place in the storyline even if it is a pretty picture.

When cutting your clips, be ruthless; if it is not part of the main story, leave it out.

Having said that, NEVER, EVER permanently delete a video clip. You just never know when a particular clip might become useful in the future.

Final Delivery

The last part of the equation is the delivery of the final video? Is it destined for Facebook? YouTube? Instagram? DVD? This question is the one that dictates what settings are used to make the smallest file size but still retain quality.

Delivery

There is no one size fits all in this case and therefore some homework should be done.

Conclusion

Lime everything else, if you do not enjoy doing what you are doing, then it becomes a chore. So have fun cutting your videos to make the next masterpiece. And do explore the Help files of your editing program to learn more about the features and functions available to you. And while you are at it, have a gander at your camcorder or camera manual, or read up on the camera functionality of your smartphone to see what is available to you there too.

It’s surprising what you learn!

 


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