Video Editing Tips from RetroMotion
Developing an intuition for finding gems in the footage will allow you to craft better edits from sometimes not great interviews or inadequately executed productions. If you are in the market for hiring a videographer internally or externally, or maybe you’re a producer, these insights from my experience in video production will come in handy.
Crafting a perfect edit is much like a bobcat sighting, it’s rare, but with attention to detail and knowing a few tricks, a nearly ideal edit can be yours. FYI: A lot of the same principals can apply to edit television and feature films as well. Let’s start!
A good edit starts with a good script or audio and visual outline (A/V script). Editors can waste precious time building the foundation if a script or A/V script is defunct, or non-existent. With more time spent developing the basics, there is less time to work on nuance. The first lesson is to make sure you’re working with a professional producer that doesn’t rush to get footage and always saying, “we’ll fix it in post.” Shy away from producers that have the whole thing “in their head” to avoid building your editing foundation on sand.
Without the basics, edits are disjointed and will have no story arc or flow. Ultimately, crafting a nuanced story is key to a successful video. A well-crafted edit has a better chance of connecting with your customer, and this connection means a potential sale.
Generally, much like rhythm for musicians, intuition on an edit comes naturally for some, and for others, it does not. However, I do want to mention intuition, as I rely a lot on my own intuition for editing the first draft. After the technical work of loading the footage into the project, labeling clips and the initial roughed out sequence are completed, begin crafting a natural flow for the sequence. This is where the fun begins. This is also where intuition and good tastes start to become part of the game.
People who make good editors are continually absorbing information; they are good listeners, can quickly read emotions, and are fast problem solvers. I always tell people that good video producers and editors watch and study a lot of content. Over years of developing a keen eye, you begin to notice the techniques and tricks that filmmakers collectively often employ. A typical viewer ignores the techniques as they are immersed in the experience.
A student of video editing is taking notes. Find the style that speaks to you. What edits have you seen in the past that have inspired you? Take note of those scenes, and study why they work well. Once you start discovering the methods, you can reverse engineer them. For example, a hard cut to black suddenly on a music hit or sound effect hit is a technique that is used to emphasize an ending of a segment and leaves the viewer to imagine what happens next. This can be used for a comedic hit or a dramatic cliffhanger, and it works like a charm.
Setting the pace (Start with the music)
There are many approaches to finding a groove and pacing for a scene; however, I will typically start by finding a music track to work with. Music sets a cadence and emotional genre that give rhythm and feel to a sequence. This is the heartbeat of the video. Essentially, you’re building a moment in time, and you have to establish the mood and pace what that moment in time should mean for the viewer. Starting with music sets an undertone. Based on the music you can let a clip play out longer, or cut faster if you want to give a sense of urgency. Establish the feeling of the sequence with the producer or marketer to be sure that it’s on-brand, and start listening to music. Sometimes, your back may be against the wall if you are creating a 15 or 30-second spot for an ad. However, the emotion of the music will still influence even a short clip.
Emotional vs. informational
Dig deeper, find the emotional responses, and let the audience know not only the facts but also the whys.
Customer testimonial and talking-head style interviews that are used for marketing contain a lot of information. It’s essential to know not just the facts, but also the whys. It can be very dull to have an interviewee matter-of-factly speaks about the history of business versus how the interviewee felt when the company was young and starting out, or about their passion for the mission. If you’re selling golf clubs, the specs and details of a club may be necessary, but being able to drive the ball further then ever, making the user a better golfer has a more significant impact. Dig deeper, find the emotional responses, and let the audience know not only the facts but also the whys. I mention this because sometimes for efficiency some editors would stick to the “facts,” but what can carry more weight is why the “facts” make the customer’s life better.
You may go on to think; this is a business, after all, and we are trying to make money, not win an Oscar. You’re right; this is a marketing blog, and this is intended for advertising professionals. You may have heard the phrase “sell the sizzle, not the steak,” and that’s it. A steak is a steak, but the sizzle is mouthwatering. It envokes action. Give your potential customer something to drool over.
To get a project done efficiently, take the time to place clips, and sequences in labeled bins or folders. This saves so much more time for in the inevitable future when a client comes back for a re-edit a few months or even years later, you’ll know exactly what you have and how to find it.
On exporting organization is also crucial, make sure you have an easy to follow exporting files naming structure. The organization allows you to work fast without having to lose time searching for things.
When it comes to journalistic style or documentary editing, some edits are forced to cover up mistakes. Some edits may cover a strange look on a face, or cover up a loud background sound, or cut out any unwanted parts of the interview. If you’re not working with actors, there will be a lot of puzzle-solving to do. My suggestion is to watch everything. As you watch, start pulling out the best clips and drop them in a sequence. This will be messy, and you’re going to trim a lot of it out, but you have to see and try everything to make sure you have the best. Group all of the same questions together from each interview.
After watching all of the footage, and you’ve dropped in all of the best sound bites, you can start widdling it down. Keep watching. Make sure your intuition is working, and you’re crafting a story arch. Soon you’ll have a watchable sequence. Now, it’s time to cut anything repetitive or not relevant.
Keep repeating this process until you have a succinct storyline that covers each section sufficiently. From here, you can employ some editing techniques to make the story flow.
A popular content marketing strategy is to produce a longer piece of content, and use shorter edits of that content as advertisements to watch the full video. You, as an editor, will have to pick out the best parts of the extended video to craft a 15 or 30-second edit to create advertisements that lead back to the full story. These longer stories are intended for customers or clients that want to take a deeper dive into a brand, and will typically live on a landing page with a fillable form.
Watch and re-watch your edits. Try to view your video from different perspectives. Try watching it from the business owners perspective, try watching it from the consumers perspective. This sounds silly, but even just imagining different perspectives gives you insight into how you can help manipulate the messaging for all audiences.