Join Rob Garrott for an in-depth discussion in this video Creating stories with editing, part of Getting Started with Video Production and Editing.
- To quote our staff author, Ashley Kennedy, "Every film has three stories: "the story you write and conceive, "the story you shoot in camera, "and the story you edit." Each part of the video production process has a huge impact on the final product. But editing is where the project actually comes together. In video editing, you take all of the elements of your project, the picture, the sound, the graphics, still images and assemble them into a coherent message to your viewer. That message might be a feature length narrative film, or a 30 second commercial for the local car dealership.
But every video project needs the editor to make crucial decisions about what shots to use, where and when to use voice-over and dialog, as well as the types of music and graphics that a project needs. Even if an editor isn't actually creating the music or graphics, the decision about where to place those elements falls to them. And through all of this, the editor creates and controls the timing, pacing, structure, and transitions of the piece. It's through editing that the audience's heartbeat and breath can be elevated or softened. It's really an amazing thing to be able to manipulate the viewer's perceptions by how you put various elements together.
Editors don't just craft the story, they also have to do very technical tasks like fixing shaky camera movement, or correcting for mistakes in exposure, or blurring out the license plate on a car passing through a shot. Video editing at its core is an artistic process, but it's these very technical and complex elements that require an editor to have an intimate relationship with their tools. The primary tool of video editing is the NLE, this stands for Non Linear Editor. Non linear editing is a term that distinguishes computer-based systems from the old days of linear editing where a film or video image had to be laid down in sequence from beginning to end with no ability to take a clip and split it apart.
Thankfully though, modern video editing happens in the computer with tremendous control over where and when clips and other elements occur, and there are a wide variety of software packages to choose from. Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro X, and Avid Media Composer are generally considered to be the top three applications. But other apps, like Sony Vegas, have many of the same features and compete for attention in the professional space. These applications have a very deep set of options to give pro-video editors the tools they need to solve any kind of creative or technical problem they might encounter.
This depth can make them seem very intimidating, but their used at the very highest levels of film, commercial, and corporate video. Sometimes though, a project may not need the depth of tools that a professional editing app offers. In that case, a more consumer friendly application, like iMovie or Premiere Elements can meet the needs of your project. No matter what level of storyteller you consider yourself, the important thing to remember is that video editing applications all work essentially the same way. They import clips of video, audio, still images, and graphics into a place where they can be organized into bins and they give the editor a timeline where those elements can be put together end-to-end or in overlapping ways that can be viewed back for review.
Each of these tools has their own personality, and you should never choose a tool based on what everyone else is doing, or if a recent blockbuster movie was created with it. Always choose a tool that meets your creative needs, and vibes with your taste and workflow. If you have a clear creative goal, the editing software should fade into the background and allow you to create. In addition to the NLE, video editors often have to use other tools like Photoshop for manipulating photos and still graphics, or after effects for creating motion graphics that can be rendered out as clips and incorporated into an editing project.
This can be very overwhelming. Each of these applications are fully featured packages in their own right. But the most important thing to remember about the tools of video editing is that they're all subservient to a creative goal. Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned veteran, never lose sight of the fact that this is a creative process. Everything that you do and learn should be helping you to create better projects and communicate with your audience.