Awaken The Video Production Ninja Within: Video Editing 101

by Dan Dashnaw in Main

video-editing-tipsThis is the second post in a series I’m writing with the intention of helping you produce better video. In this installment, I’m going to dive into some basic video editing and production tips to help you earn the respect and attention of your viewers. Video editing can be a tedious and time-consuming skill to perfect, but as a Ninja it’s your duty to approach it with dignity, honor and ultimate precision. As such, it’s time to sharpen your editing skills and fulfill your destiny, young warrior. There’s much video to be made.

In my last post I touched upon the pre-recording and filming stages of production. In the name of progress, I’m assuming that you’ve already mastered that and are now ready to get down and dirty with some footage in your editing application of choice. So, here we go.

1. Cut it out. After importing your video footage into your editing application, the first step will be to cut out anything that you don’t need in your timeline. This process often benefits from a few quick rounds of slicing and dicing. You’ll probably find that multiple attempts to ‘widdle down’ your footage will usually uncover more content that you can cut to the curb.

On your first run, edit away any of the extra footage, obvious mistakes, and nonsense that you find. Then, once you’ve cleared the debris in your timeline, go back through your footage again to see what else can be cut without remorse. If it isn’t essential to the intended message or presentation, yank it. With most web-targeted video, less is often more. Kindly give your viewers their time and attention back before they demand it - it’s the courteous and respectful thing to do.

2. Tie it together. After you remove the gaps in between the edited segments that you’ve just sliced in your timeline, it’s time to smooth things out in-between each cut. This is especially true for a ‘talking head’ style video or a videoblog, where ’straight cut’ edits don’t often work very well. There are a few ways that you can accomplish this, and here are your basic options:

The first option is to use a ‘transition’, such as a dissolve or fade. Your video editing application already has a number of these included under its hood. Since I’m a minimalist (and a bit of an elitist as well, perhaps), I’m going to encourage you to stay far away from obvious ‘wipe’ and ‘peel’ transitions.  Why? Because they are overused and, well…pretty cheesy. Subtlety is good in the transition department, which as a Ninja-in-training, I’m pretty sure you already know.

The second option is to use a piece of B-roll footage or even an image to lay on top of the edit in your sequence as a ‘cutaway’. Cutaways are used to cover up transitions between clips or problems within your footage by literally ‘cutting away to’ different footage or imagery for a moment. You can accomplish this by literally placing a piece of footage ‘over’ the edit or visual glitch in your sequence, and it really does come in handy. This also allows you to preserve audio you may need to keep during a poor visual ‘take’. Here’s a link to a basic video tutorial on using cutaways which will demonstrate what I’m talking about a little bit better.

3. Spell it out. One great way to spice things up is by adding some tasteful text overlays to your video where they make sense. Text overlays allow you to call specific attention on-screen to things such as your company name, a website URL, or even key points you’re trying to help stick in your viewers minds. Again, I strongly suggest that you practice good judgment here and keep things on the minimal side. Here are some basic tips to help you utilize on-screen text properly:

  • Limit your text to an upper or lower edge of the screen so that it won’t obscure your primary content (often called a ‘lower third‘).
  • Use any text animations such as fly-ins or fly-outs very sparingly. This isn’t a circus, right?
  • Display your text for long enough so that your viewers have the time to notice it and digest it.
  • Contrast your text color with your background video, so that it stands out and is actually readable.

Again, taste is the key to achieving good results with on-screen text - I cannot stress this enough (or adequately teach it within a blog post, for that matter). Experiment within your editing application and consult other videos for further inspiration. There are plenty of good examples out there to absorb and learn from.

4. Sort your sound. This is an area where I tend to place a good amount of emphasis, as nothing irks me more then terrible audio quality. As such, here are a few tips to help you not scare people like myself away.

Start by recording your video’s audio signal properly in the first place. Be sure to get a strong audio level into your microphone that does not distort or clip. Test this before you begin filming. If you really want to ensure consistent audio levels (as I always do), run your audio track though a compressor. You can either do this within your editing application (if it offers one) or via an external audio editor or plugin.

Next, add-in some suitable, unassuming background music. Be sure to only use royalty-free or ‘podsafe’ music to avoid getting sued by a major record label (or to avoid getting the audio track stripped from your video on YouTube). To help you in your search, here’s a link to a pretty thorough blog post that will get you pointed you in the right direction.

Once you’ve found something appropriate, carefully mix your audio levels in your video editing application so that you strike a good balance between your dialog and your background music track. Fade the music in to (and out from) your dialog, lowering the volume on the music track when you are speaking. This is easier then it sounds, I promise. Of course, if you’d like any specific help with this, just drop me a line and I’ll be glad to sort you out. I aim to please.

Anyway, I hope that some of these tips will help you inch closer towards becoming a master of video form and function. As always, feel free to post questions or any of your own tips in the comments below.


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