Editing is an extremely important part of the filmmaking process. Unlike acting or cinematography, however, editing functions best when it goes unnoticed. Here you’ll find a few editing tips to get started, from software to star wipes.

SOFTWARE

Both PCs and Macs have editing software available. For basic editing needs, on PCs you can use programs like Windows Movie Maker (recently discontinued and renamed Windows Live Movie Maker, part of the free Live package download) and iMovie on the Mac. Higher end software includes Adobe Premiere CS5 on PC and Final Cut Pro for Mac.
Which software program will work best for your needs? It ultimately depends on the complexity of your editing. iMovie and Windows Movie Maker are best for simple projects that don’t require a lot of extra graphics work, chromakeys, and other advanced features. Some of their drawbacks include not being able to export projects to certain formats and other compatibility issues. Premiere and FCP will work better if you need advanced functionality, but they have their own drawbacks, which include high memory and processing requirements as well as a high price tag. Overall most camps probably only need one of the simple programs.

TELL YOUR STORY

Editing’s basic purpose is to convey your story. Your job as an editor is to help the audience through the story with you, using whichever throughline you’re working with. It could be a song (as in a music video), an action (as in a movie), or voiceover narration (as in a documentary). The point is to assemble your footage in a way that makes sense for your viewers.

FOLLOW YOUR SCRIPT

An important reference here is the outline/script you created at the beginning of the process. This will serve as your basic blueprint during editing. Be flexible, though; you may find a better way to tell your story as you edit.

FRESH EYES

If possible, have someone who wasn’t involved in the shooting process edit your piece. “Fresh eyes” always bring a lot to a project. Some things that seemed to work well or were funny at the time of production may not have actually come out that way, and it’s helpful to have someone present who is unprejudiced from shooting.

TRANSITIONS

One mistake many amateur editors make is throwing in too many transitions, such as star wipes or graphics or other features they discover in the editing software. These might be impressive at the time, but most audiences will find them cheesy and annoying. Remember that editing is an invisible art. Most modern day movies eschew these various transitions, and only use a few: cuts, cross-fades (to show the passage of time), and fade ins/outs.

PACING

Have you ever watched a film that just felt slow? Usually this is the result of poor pacing. If you are watching your video and you are bored then the audience will be bored as well. The majority of Internet audiences are not interested in watching content more than 3 – 5 minutes in length. If you look at something in your video and doubt that it should be there, take it out. A good rule of thumb for editing scenes is to start the scene as late as you can for it to make sense and to end it as early as you can for it to make sense. This will help things move along at a good clip.

MUSIC

Music is an important part of any video piece. However, many amateur video editors use music as a crutch to try to bring excitement or meaning to their work that isn’t present in the edit itself. YouTube is a veritable wasteland full of badly edited content taken from TV shows with a pop song slapped over it.
Before you add any music to your video, watch it without music. If it works without music, you’re good to go. If the music is the only thing holding it together, you’ve got more work to do.

As with everything else, the best way to learn how to edit is just to sit down and do it. Take some time, experiment, and you’ll be cutting like Walter Murch in no time.

Article courtesy of Summergy Media, the camp industry's leading production company specializing in promotional videos for summer camps.

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