How I Edit Videos

Video editing is such a particular kind of work. There’s no hiding from it, and I kind of like that.

When I say there’s no hiding from it, what I mean is that it takes all of your attention. You can’t be listening to music while you edit, you can’t have a tv show on in the background, you can’t scroll through social media every few minutes, no. Editing demands all of your attention. You have to be listening, you have to be watching, and you have to be focused. If you have music on, you’ll miss cues. If you look away, you’ll miss cuts. If you stop paying attention, you’ll have to start over. There’s barely any time to spare for blinking.

This is why, when I could spread a video’s editing workload out to be an hour or two per day over a week or two, I instead frequently end up doing heavy edits for anywhere from four to fourteen hours in a day, depending on the project. Once I start, the work pulls me in and keeps me until it’s either done or I determine it will never be done. While it does occasionally happen that I grow to hate a project or understand it will be impossible to finish, it is much more often the former.

Of course, when I say “done” I mean, I’ve done everything I can at that point in time. It does sometimes happen that I stop editing before a project is complete. Sometimes it’s because my brain is fried and the clips are starting to blur and I can no longer make good editing decisions, in which case I’ll save it and leave it for at least a week, so that I can return to it with fresh eyes to figure out what it needs. Other times it’s because I need to switch gears and go from cutting to sound editing. Still other times, I stop because I do actually think it’s done, only to return to it later when I’ve thought of something else or found another mistake.

I first taught myself how to edit videos on Windows Movie Maker nine years ago. I was learning to write books and trying the acting thing, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable in front of cameras and I thought the best way to remedy that was to practice in front of a camera, one I could control and no one else would necessarily see. That turned out to be a good idea for me, because not only did I become comfortable in front of a camera, but I grew a sense of what a camera could see and how much it catches which later became invaluable when I started acting.

Another huge advantage came from editing. I learned how to stitch videos together and what shots I’d need to get in order to create something coherent. I learned how some planning when I was filming could save me time when editing, and a lack of planning could be saved (to some extent) when editing. When Movie Maker began moving my cuts by as much as a second upon exporting, it made me appreciate the power of every second.

Seven years ago, I worked two jobs, saved up, and bought the exact laptop I am typing this post on. It’s a Macbook Pro, and what I most looked forward to when I got it was the fact that it came with iMovie, a free video editing software that not only wouldn’t move my cuts during exporting, but had a lot of more modern editing functions that allowed me to more accurately edit a video into a closer resemblance of what I had in my head. There was a bit of a learning curve—from PC to Mac and from Movie Maker to iMovie—but I figured it out and was on my way.

Except that again my ambitions became limited by my equipment. I upgraded my camera first, because I’d need something decent when going off to England for university. With that camera I filmed more videos, but editing quickly became impossible. Even my new MacBook Pro that I’d worked so hard for couldn’t handle all the footage and the software and the demands I had for making the two work together. Its function became slower and slower until I eventually had to stop. I left a lot of videos incomplete, and I sort of gave up on editing and focused on school instead.

At some point in the last five years, I discovered how to edit with proxies. This did mean I had to drop a couple hundred dollars on an external hard drive—no one ever said editing was cheap—but it meant I was back to editing videos. They were simple at first, but as I got back into it, my ambitions for each video grew until I outgrew iMovie and yearned for something with more options.

Enter: Final Cut Pro, the biggest competitor on YouTube to Premiere Pro (which I also taught myself during a couple of months when I went to a school which allowed me access to Adobe suite). My videos weren’t just me in my room talking to a camera anymore (although they are still that, too). I was making short films, YouTube vlogs, and I had ideas for more. But my ideas took time to edit, and I didn’t have as much time as I once had. I could film halfway decent footage and being in front of the camera was not a problem anymore, but editing…frankly, I lacked the skill.

For bigger projects, short films involving people who aren’t my siblings for example, I have someone more skilled do the editing. But everything else, I edit. It helps me catch things like when an actor is opening a door with their right hand in one angle and their left in the next. It also teaches me how to put together a story from a bunch of unscripted shots when vlogging.

When I want to try something I’ve never done, I look it up and figure it out. This is how I’ve grown my abilities all these years, and I’m still not done growing. I’m still trying to catch up to ambitions I had years ago, taking footage from 2018 and finally editing them how I wanted them edited, but just didn’t know how to back then. But there remains one constant when I edit videos. I still sit to edit for hours upon hours. I still don’t spread out my work load unless you count the days or weeks between cuts when I step away so I can return and see it as if for the first time.

In the last month or two, I’ve been editing the biggest project I’ve ever edited. Not the longest, but perhaps the most complicated with the most riding on it. It’s the “pivot project” I chose after Super Roommates got cancelled. It’s been a good kind of challenge. It’s already taken several 10+ hour sessions, including yesterday when I did a full fourteen-hour editing session at the kitchen table, forgetting both breakfast and lunch, and only taking breaks when I had to wait for footage to render, export, or upload.

Although that sounds like a special kind of hell, I have to say I do like the work. It’s good to be working, first of all, especially after so many weeks of nothing. Video editing is also creative work, which is the best kind of work. It’s like a kind of meditation. You’re focused on the story you’re telling and everything else falls away. It’s freeing and engaging and I always love to tell stories. Video editing will never be something I do as a full-time job, I’m not skilled enough for that, but it’s an art form I appreciate, and I think I’m going to start doing it more often.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s