Editing Movies (With Pictures)

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Editing Movies (With Pictures)
Editing Movies (With Pictures)

Editing movies takes practice, patience, and an artistic eye, but with enough time, anyone can learn to expertly edit a movie. When you feel comfortable with an editing program like iMovie or Premier, the range of control over your next video will become almost infinite. Learning to edit is part science, part art, and accessible to just about anyone, and it's one of the most important things a filmmaker of any skill level can do.


Part 1 of 3: Get to Know Your Editing Software

Edit Videos Step 1
Edit Videos Step 1

Step 1. Choose the right editing software

You can find many video editing programs, from professional programs with many elements (Avid, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro) to free programs that come pre-installed on most computers (iMovie, Windows Movie Maker). Free software gets more robust every year, but you should consider purchasing a professional program in case you intend to do more than a few home movies or simple presentations.

  • Almost all programs have free trials that you can try before you buy.
  • Currently, Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro are considered "industry standard" programs. You must know them to be a professional video editor.
Edit Videos Step 2
Edit Videos Step 2

Step 2. Learn the basics of your editing interface

Different programs have different features, but the basics of most software are quite similar. Even simple programs have many tools and buttons, but every video program has three main parts that you should know:

  • The timeline:

    This is where the footage is sorted, edited, and trimmed to get the final video. It's sometimes referred to as a "sequencer" or "storyboard editor," and it's where you do most of your work. For the most part, the programs display both audio and video on the timeline. It is usually near the bottom of the window.

  • The preview screen:

    This is where you view the draft of the movie when editing. It usually starts out as a black box with buttons to play, rewind, and stop underneath. It is usually in the upper right quadrant.

  • The library or collection:

    This is where all your stored audios, videos, and images are arranged, allowing you to drag and drop them onto the timeline for editing. It usually comes with a search function and some tagging tools. It is usually located on the left side of the window.

  • Other sections could include audio controls, a "toolbox," special effects, a place to place titles, and a second video screen for reviewing imported footage.
Edit Videos Step 3
Edit Videos Step 3

Step 3. Know the essential editing tools

Each program has different names for them, but there are only a few mandatory tools for basic editing. Hover over an icon to see what it's called in your program.

  • Pointer:

    It is usually a standard mouse click icon and can do everything from trimming footage to moving and deleting clips to adding sound effects.

  • Razor or cut:

    It is usually designated by the straight razor icon and cuts the footage on the timeline into two separate clips where you click.

  • Close up:

    allows you to make closer and more precise cuts to the video by zooming in on the timeline.

  • Staggered editions:

    these are usually two or three separate tools that make changes to one clip and then move all the other clips to make room for your new change. For example, if you shorten a clip, it automatically aligns the clips that follow it with the new extent.

Edit Videos Step 4
Edit Videos Step 4

Step 4. Experiment with the program to learn about other features

Before starting any project, you should experiment with your software and learn as many tools as you can. Import old footage and make a quick practice video. Then check the internet for free tutorials or tips.

  • The internet is a great place to learn editing, and you can find countless videos and tutorials for even very specific editing questions.
  • In case you feel lost, sign up for a class at a local college or art studio for detailed instruction.

Part 2 of 3: Edit Videos

Edit Videos Step 5
Edit Videos Step 5

Step 1. Organize your footage

Whether you're making a simple home movie or the next blockbuster, well-organized footage is crucial to avoid losses, streamline your editing process, and help other team members get on board without confusion. At first it might be a drag, but painstakingly tagging and archiving your video footage will save you a lot of headaches later on.

  • Organize the folders according to the project and the date it was filmed (for example: "My_Film_Project_22-3-15").
  • Arrange clips according to scene and shot (for example: "My_Film_Project_Scene1_Shot4").
  • Consider advanced organizing software like Adobe Bridge if you're working on large-scale projects and need complex metadata and tagging capabilities.
Edit Videos Step 6
Edit Videos Step 6

Step 2. Open your editing software and create a new project

Various options will appear here depending on your footage, but the standard quality for digital video is 720 x 480 or 1080 x 720 (high definition) at 29.97 frames per second. This configuration is known as the National Television System Committee (NTSC) standard and is used primarily throughout most of the Americas (with a few exceptions). In case you have any doubts, you can ask the cinematographer or director in which setting the video was shot.

  • In case you are still lost, you can search the internet for your camera settings. You should find the type of video you are going to edit.
  • There are many modern programs that automatically adapt project settings to your footage, which gets rid of this headache for less experienced editors.
Edit Videos Step 7
Edit Videos Step 7

Step 3. Import the footage

All programs are different, but generally you can incorporate your video clips into the project with the option "File" and then "Import". This does not create the movie or order the clips, it just tells the program which videos you will edit and allows you to access them.

  • There are some programs with which you can drag and drop footage from another window to your editing window.
  • By importing footage, you can do non-linear editing, which is the process of editing videos in disorder without changing the original footage. All modern editing is non-linear.
Edit Videos Step 8
Edit Videos Step 8

Step 4. Sort clips by dragging and dropping them onto your timeline

Sort the clips and choose the shots that you like the most to start building the skeleton of your movie.

  • You can always drag clips to new positions after placing them, so feel free to experiment.
  • Start working on a few minutes of video at a time so you don't get overwhelmed.
Edit Videos Step 9
Edit Videos Step 9

Step 5. Join the scenes

After you have the scenes in order, you need to trim the beginning and end so that they are aligned cohesively. Sometimes this is as easy as removing the "action!" initial, but you also have to make artistic decisions in this part. To join two scenes, find the "razor" or cut tool to divide the footage into smaller parts. Then delete the parts you don't like from the timeline.

  • There are many programs where you can drag the start and end of clips to make them longer or shorter.
  • You should never permanently erase footage, as you never know what will be useful to you, even for the blooper reel.
Edit Videos Step 10
Edit Videos Step 10

Step 6. Add transitions, effects, and titles when you're happy with the footage

These are essential for most movies, but can only be effective after you've organized and cut your footage completely. Most programs have specialized windows and menus for titles and transitions, and you should experiment to see which ones fit your project.

  • The most common transitions are fade-in and fade-out, which is when the image slowly appears or disappears from the screen.
  • For more complicated special effects, transitions, or animations, editors often turn to programs other than post-production (for example, Adobe After Effects).
Edit Videos Step 11
Edit Videos Step 11

Step 7. Make adjustments to the color and sound of your movie to your liking

It is not necessary for all movies to follow this step, but if you want a professional look, you need to balance the audio and video so that all shots look the same and there are no jarring changes in volume. Fortunately, there are many programs that have built-in "automatic color correction" and "volume equalizer" functions.

If you want a professional-looking film, you will need to do it manually or hire someone who knows how to do it

Edit Videos Step 12
Edit Videos Step 12

Step 8. Stop and watch the movie at various points

You may need to repeat this step 5, 10, or even 50 times depending on the project, and it will be tedious. Invite your friends, colleagues or other members of the technical team to see the project with you and give you feedback. Every time you see it, take notes about what you want to fix.

Taking a few days away from the project before watching it can help you gain new insights

Part 3 of 3: Mastering the Art of Video Editing

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Edit Videos Step 13

Step 1. Learn shortcuts and shortcuts to optimize your workflow

The best editors spend less time making the edits themselves than thinking creatively about them. Print a list of your program's shortcuts and keyboard shortcuts and learn how to use them effectively.

  • Make templates for your favorite effects and titles so you can use them instantly.
  • Learn how to use multi-camera editing, with which you can easily cut between multiple cameras shooting the same scene.
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Edit Videos Step 14

Step 2. Learn how to use different types of cuts

Editing is the art of telling a story by cutting or juxtaposing one shot before another. Experiment with different types of cuts and transitions to find out what works for your video. Regardless of what you wear, the best cuts are usually the ones with a continuous feel.

  • Hard cut: an immediate cut to another angle, usually in the same scene. This is the most common cut in the cinema.
  • Violent cut: an abrupt change to a completely different scene.
  • Jump mount- A rough cut that is made within the same scene, usually from a slightly different angle.
  • Cut J: when you listen to the audio of the next shot before watching the video.
  • Cut L: When you watch the video of the next take before listening to the audio.
  • Action cut- A cut in the middle of an action (for example, when someone opens a door) that "hides" the cut in the action.
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Edit Videos Step 15

Step 3. Consider what your creative goals are when editing

Video editing is very technical, but it is an art form, and cuts, colors, and sounds are your brushes. When editing, ask yourself if that decision supports the creative goals of the film. Discuss the following frequently with the director of the film as you work:

  • Rhythm: How quickly should the scene progress? Comedies tend to be fast so that a lot of jokes can fit. However, thrillers or dramas often feel slower to develop tension.
  • The perspective: Do you want to highlight a particular character or many? For example, in Scorsese's classic Good Boys, all shots concern or include the narrator Henry Hill, while movies like Lord of the Rings often cut to large group scenes.
  • The topics: Does the director have a certain style or idea in mind? Should certain lines of dialogue, images, or colors be prominently displayed whenever you can?
Edit Videos Step 16
Edit Videos Step 16

Step 4. Use longer takes and make fewer cuts to build tension or highlight key moments

Asking the viewer to view the same image or camera angle for a long period of time slows down the scene and gives them more time to slip into the moment, which is helpful when setting drama or attracting attention. to the importance of a moment.

A recent example is the edition of 12 Years a Slave, in which the very long takes gave the viewer a feeling as to the slow and difficult years the protagonist endured

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Edit Videos Step 17

Step 5. Use shorter takes and frequent cuts to give a scene a quick pace and energy

In particular, comedy and action benefit from quick editing and very short takes. Cut between each line of dialogue or each action to give urgency to a scene, as viewers feel they are experiencing the action as if they were there.

While moving very quickly through edits can feel frantic, this might work in case the scene is high-pressure or nervous (for example, the scenes from the sci-fi movie Snowpiercer)

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Edit Videos Step 18

Step 6. Study other editors and movies

Like any other creative endeavor, observing and critiquing other artists is essential to being a good editor yourself. Study your favorite scenes, TV shows, and movies by focusing on shot selection, shot length, and cutoff frequency.

  • Ask yourself why an editor made that decision. How does it help the video move forward?
  • What are the editing examples that you like or admire? A good starting point might be recent Oscar winners for best editing or Vimeo "best of" videos.
  • If you see something you like, try imitating it to learn how it was made.


  • Start by experimenting with the various tools. The best way to learn something like this is to be practical.
  • In case you don't know how to do something, find a tutorial. You will likely find the tutorial you need on a Google search or a website like YouTube.
  • This process is slow, so be patient.
  • Save your movie frequently. Save it in multiple files so you can always go back to an older version.
  • Get involved in the community! In most forums (specifically video games, film or technology) there will be people to help you.
  • In case you get stuck, make a file of your work, view it on a different platform (for example, your TV or iPhone) and write it down on paper.


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