Success Tips From Five Experienced Video Editors

I recently asked a few video editor friends of mine from all across the industry for some of their best pieces of advice.

These editors and myself come from a large variety of editing positions including TV, film, corporate and freelance. Our success tips range from computer skills to routines to communication and more.

Eve Tarlo

Learn to outsmart the computer and your computer limits. For example, know where you cache is and how to clean it out. Don't edit 4K if you have a super old system. There are sneaky tricks too. When a project corrupts, you can import sequences into a new project and fresh metadata will be created. Which leads into...

Keep your NLE organized. There's a point of no return when rushing and having a messy project. Plus no computer or NLE likes to pull metadata and media from multiple locations. You'll only be asking for trouble.

Knowing your source media format and your deliverables’ tech specs up front can be extremely helpful.

Oh, and learning how to rock key words when searching for stock footage or music. As an assistant editor, I killed on music searches and the clients and editors loved me for saving time and bringing added value to the table.

I always feel knowing more about the tech will 1) make you look smart to clients and 2) save you time so you can have more time for creativity.

Evan Pease

Often times, feedback will come in that's either vague or abstract like, "this part is too 'energetic,' need a new take." That could mean too happy/fast/loud/smiley – who knows?

A huge piece of advice is to actually do two things:

1) Don't be afraid to ask for clarification. It'll save time (and money) in the long run and clients appreciate that. Also, when you ask for clarification, provide possible answers so the request itself is clear. For example, "Are you looking for something less happy/fast/loud/smiley?”

2) Typically it'll take some time to get an answer, so meanwhile, if the schedule and budget allows, try to interpret what they're actually requesting. Maybe they are looking for a take that's just more somber or serious but don't know how to say it. Try to think as your client would who doesn't know how to "direct" and work backwards in figuring out what it is they might mean. Then make a couple alternates. With any luck, by the time you've done that, they've responded and an alternative you've already made is exactly what they want. Boom, shoot that over in response and you look like a hero for having done it so quickly.

Nick Montgomery

Develop a routine. Create your own set of steps to take when starting a project and communicate those steps in a timeline to the client so they know when each goal is reached. Find your own steps to work more efficiently like a project file with pre-made bin structure, for example.

Keep to your routine…but be flexible. Each project is different and may have unique demands.

Rachel Bastarache Bogan

As an editor you wield the power to make people feel something. Every cut, every frame, every effect plays a small part in the larger whole of how the viewer reacts to what they see and hear.

  • Make your cuts where they best capture the emotion and movement.
  • Direct your viewer to important concepts by directing the eye through focal points.
  • Use layered effects to help set the mood.
  • Try not to use a technique or style just because it "looks cool." Instead, base your editing decisions on what emotional response you want your audience to feel, and push push push with every cut to drive that emotion home.

Making the viewer feel something is the power of good editing.

Josh Short

There are going to be times when you are given a mundane task like having to update 60 titles with a new font, export them and then replace them in the sequence. This stuff happens from time to time. Instead of reluctantly doing the task try to turn it into a game.

In the example above I’d do the first ten or so with care and to figure out the exact process of how to do this. Then for the next ten I’ll time myself. If it took me 7 minutes to do them, for the following ten titles I’ll aim to do them in 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Then 6 minutes for the next ten and so on. Just be careful not to go too fast so that you are reckless and mess something up.

Having fun and making games out of these bothersome tasks makes doing this kind of necessary work tolerable and will end up saving you time so you can then go and be creative with the rest of the edit.

What is your success tip?

Do you have a success tip of your own? Share your thoughts in the comments!