How to Edit like a Professional Videographer
After the conceptualising and the mood boards… the storyboarding and the script writing… after the back & forth with the client, the model sourcing, the location scouting, the filming and the audio recording… comes the editing. This is the last stage in the long process of going from a simple idea to a finished product; something that is not as easy as is often assumed. Editing to me is like walking to the gym… its the hardest part, the thing I look the least forward to and find it hardest to initiate.
However, once I have sat down & started an edit I genuinely find it difficult to leave the chair until that edit has been finished. I get hooked by the feeling of creating. My adrenaline starts pumping and, as long as I remember to actually stop for meals, as well as drink more than just coffee, I enjoy the experience. That being said, as much as I can enjoy the process of editing, I would have loved to have known a few tricks back in my early days as a videographer that could have helped me to churn out edits faster and with less stress or anxiety involved. I would also have loved to have accumulated less footage, less hard drives, and spent less time waiting for footage to render, only to discover that I am not going to include that clip in the final cut.
So, with this all in mind, I’ve created a short list of things that I’ve learned over the years in my mission to become a professional videographer living in Dubai. They are aimed at helping you to edit faster, save money, time & stress but also to enhance your creativity when you need it most… during the editing process.
Enhance your creativity & speed up your workflow
Here are a few tips for any aspiring videographer of what to do once you are ready to upload & edit your footage..
1. Edit as you upload
Don’t just upload literally everything you filmed. This not only wastes space (on expensive hard drives) & slows down your computer in the long run, but also gives you more footage to go through when you are getting down to the edit. Be selective and only upload what you know you are likely to put in the final cut. Then, when you sit down to edit and you are at your most creative, you will only have the very best clips to choose from.
2. Edit from your internal hard-drive or an SSD
To this day, I own a small army of La Clie external hard-drives that are not only big but weighty, costly, and take up space. More importantly, they are not particularly useful to be editing 4k footage on due to their low transfer speed. A typical external hard-drive will edit at approximately 80 mb/s, whereas a Sandisk ‘Extreme’ SSD will transfer data at speeds up to and over 1000 mb/s. The difference is monumental. Any experienced videographer wouldn’t dream of editing 4k footage on a traditional external hard drive, and trust me, you will save a massive amount of time by sticking to SSD’s.
3. Don’t stress about the intro
Not only did I used to be slow at editing, but this was all made worse by the fact that I took forever to actually figure out how to open the edit. Which clip sets the scene best? Which clip will capture the audiences attention the most? Which clip helps start the story? Whilst these are all valid questions to raise, don’t waste hours and even days stressing out about how to begin your edit. Just get something on the timeline and get started. All you need to do is initiate the edit whilst your creative juices are flowing. I guess it’s much the same as a writer getting writers block. You just have to get pen to paper!
4. Go back to your original notes/storyboard
Assuming you actually wrote down notes during the meeting with the client or when discussing the storyboard with your team, during the editing process don’t be afraid to go back to your initial notes for both inspiration and to keep focused on the intended message. At the end of the day the client is going to have the final cut and so to go back and remind yourself what they commissioned you, as the videographer, to do is never a bad thing.
5. Choose the audio early on
Do your best to know the audio you are going to edit your track to even before the filming takes place. This will help you to film, and then to create an edit, that matches the audio. This will add a certain dynamic composition & unique feel to your videos, and definitely shows to other professional videographers.
6. Try to use keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are essential to anyone looking to speed up their editing workflow. Again, this is all part of the process of trying to be able to edit in real time; to edit as fast as your mind comes up with new & fresh ideas. You want to be able to break down the creative blockades that are all over the place when starting out as a videographer. The faster you become at editing, the easier you will be able to navigate the difficulties encountered during post-production. Whilst I am not going to give you an extensive list here, you can find some inspiration by clicking here and this link will take you to several helpful videos on YouTube.
7. Leave the colour grade until the end
I actually find this really difficult, as I genuinely enjoy colour grading footage. A professional colour grade can turn even the most average footage into something breathtaking. However, this being said, colour graded footage will take a lot longer to render than raw footage, and so if you leave the colour grade to the end you will save yourself a lot of time. And don’t worry too much about the colour grade of, say, your drone footage not matching that of your camera image. This is indeed difficult to achieve, but the better you get the easier this will become. Be patient and don’t stress.
8. Don’t over-use transitions
It can be difficult to know when to stop editing a video, always wanting to add another effect here or another zoom there. Trust me, don’t over-edit your video content and try keep the use of simplistic zoom in and zoom out transitions to a minimum. Transitions are to be used for artistic effect, and to get you from one clip to another. Don’t overburden the viewer with tacky visual effects that cheapen your footage. Let your filming, colour grade, & your narrative tell the story.
9. Noisy image? Don’t stress…
This was something I encountered early on, particularly when colour grading drone footage that was filmed during poor sunlight or even at sunrise/sunset. I would begin to colour grade my footage, only to find that the image would become grainy or ‘noisy’. This is a massive pain to discover, but there is an easy solution. NEAT de-noise video software only costs around 100 USD, is super easy to use, and is an absolute life saver when it comes to de-noising your footage. This is a pretty important tool to have in your repertoire as a professional videographer.
10. Experiment with plug-ins
One of the traps a lot of videographers fall into in the early stages is buying a lot of plug-ins. We pay good money and download these plugins, only to find out they are either much more difficult to use than was originally displayed in the video or simply don’t make your footage look as good. After being one of the many over-eager videographer “wannabe’s” who fell into this trap I can advise against this. Whilst these plug-ins can be absolutely brilliant, helping you to create VFX you would otherwise simply not have been able to do, buy them sparingly. Take your time & choose wisely. Learn to understand how that plug-in works and what you can achieve by using it. I’ve gotten all excited and bought plug-ins that looked amazing in the promotional video, only to never actually use them in a single edit. This being said, one of the best I have bought to this day is the mFilmLook plug-in from motionvfx.com. The wide selection of LUTs not only helps me to quickly colour grade my footage, but the plug-in also offers some great tools to help you sharpen your image, add distortion, lens flares, and utilise different letterboxes, etc.
11. Minimum viable product!
You are always going to be your biggest critic! And so you should be! Thats how you learn to become a videographer worth his/her salt, by striving for perfection in every project and being proud of the work you do. However, that being said, you need to remember that time is money, and at the end of the day ask yourself, is anyone really going to notice the tiny improvements in the colour grade that took me an extra week to get done? Is the client likely to be more concerned about those minute discrepancies in the colour grade (which they may well not even notice) or by the fact that you delivered the project a week after the agreed deadline? Go figure…
12. Create a narrative that resonates
The most important thing that you need to keep in mind when creating video content is to first articulate a clear message and then to successfully transmit that message to the viewer. You want to decide what emotions to leave them feeling and to create a story that resonates with the client’s target audience. Did you effectively showcase the product/services on offer and have you captured the brand’s identity/values/ethos in your edit? This is a work in progress but keep at it, you’ll get there!