Start editing now! Let's see how to edit an entire video – from the moment you import footage to the moment you start the export process.
Editing a video isn't that difficult. It seems like an extremely complicated task, but if you break it down step by step and approach each step in a simple way, you will find that it is not difficult at all. You can do this now. So let's start this journey together.
Know what to expect
Getting started on your video editing journey can be daunting to say the least. Learning a program like Premiere, FCPX or Resolve is like learning a new language. Every move you make has to be small and step by step. The first step in this journey is to simply see what the programs look like, whether they are paid or free. Knowing where things are, knowing which panels are doing what, and knowing what to expect the first time you open it – all of this helps to push aside some jitter the first time.
If you're not interested in Premiere, FCPX, or Resolve, check out our list of the highest paid and free programs currently available to you.
Prepare your footage
Later in this post, I'll talk about how to stay organized within a machining program. For now, though, we'd like to explain the importance of organizing your files before you start editing.
I'm terrible at organization in real life. My desk is a disaster and the space around it isn't much better. While failing in one organizational area, I succeed in another – managing video files. The key to good file management is simple: folders.
Creating folders on your desktop or hard drive is the first step in the process. But that takes time. It's boring – but I promise you'll thank yourself later when you're in the weeds trying to find a specific clip.
Separate your files by date from download or recordedThen put these folders in a different folder with a broader name. For example, I usually have a Footage folder on my desktop. In this folder I have folders with different names for projects like "Colorado Vacation". In this folder I will divide the footage into days or dates. So there would be "Day 1" and then "Day 2" with all the footage that was shot that day. You can even go a step further if multiple cameras have been used. For example, within "Day 1" I have "Sony a6500" and "iPhone" to separate them even further. Once you've followed these simple steps, it's as easy as possible to add these files to your editing program.
Okay, let's go – import. Importing your clips is easy, but there are a few things to keep in mind when importing your footage that need to be set so that your workspace is in the state you need it to be. If this is confusing, let me dwell on it!
Your footage can consist of different frame rates or resolution sizes. So you can decide for yourself how and in what size your video should be played. Would you like a detailed explanation of frame rates and resolutions? I've linked our easy-to-follow articles below.
First click on File> Import (or Import media). Here you can choose the video clips you want to edit. All you have to do is select the file or folder and click Import. Once you do this, your clips will be placed in what is called the file Media browser or Media pool. Think of this as a place where all of your files (audio, video, tracks) can live while you prepare them for inclusion on your timeline.
You can also organize files and folders in your editing program. Usually they are referred to as container or folderHowever, this is just one way of breaking down your scenes, days, audio, and video into a cohesive, easily accessible layout. It's just like before, when we organized your video on the desktop or hard drive, it just happens in yours Media browser / pool.
Renaming your files can save you hours and hours of work. While this sounds like a no-brainer, it is a tedious but necessary step to maintaining your sanity. Not only does this save you time looking back on your clips to find something you need, it also provides creative clarity as you always know what kind of footage you have without leaving anything out.
Bring clips to your timeline
What do you do with the clips when you have them ready in folders / bins? First of all, you want to trim the clip to the correct length. What do I mean by that exactly? If you recorded a character / subject that says lines, there is most likely time before and after the lines that you don't need in the video. Think about when to say "action" and when to occur.
This is usually done by double-clicking the clip. This will display it on the source monitor, which is usually positioned in the top left of your screen. Think of this window as the prep station where you prepare the clip for your timeline.
To make cuts to the clips in your source monitor, press the button Mark In and Mark out Actions. These can be found in most major programs. This is how it will look in the three big NLEs.
Final Cut Pro X offers a drag-and-drop method, much like editing a video clip on an iPhone (Apple is clearly sticking to what they know).
Label your clips
Labeling clips is highly recommended. By labeling, I mean assigning a color to the particular clip. Think of this as a way to visually organize your timeline without having to read which clips are what. For example, I usually refer to clips with a talking head (interviews) as yellow. Why? No reason, it's just the system I'm used to. Then I will label all B-roles in red. So if I look at the video on my timeline, I can tell where those clips are and where I am while I am editing. You can do this in any major editing program.
Once you've added your clip to your timeline, you'll find that there are multiple titles to choose from. They're usually stacked on top of each other with Track One on the bottom. In general, it's a good idea to keep your footage on Track One. Any clip placed over a track is selected as the primary clip. So, placing your clips on Track One is a good starting point to work with the rest of your footage.
In the previous step, we trimmed the clip to a specific time that we thought might work for our final cut. However, once you've got the clip onto your timeline, you may want to keep editing it for a few seconds or milliseconds. Realistically, once you've seen it fit and play alongside your other clips, you'll always want to shrink the clip a little further. I always cut individual clips a few times in the course of an edit. Remember, it's called "edit" for a reason. You want to be precise and cut the fat off.
To move clips, all you have to do is drag them to the timestamp you want them to play with. You have to love the always intuitive drag-and-drop way of working.
So how do you make cuts? How do you cut the fat? I've listed the most current and succinct tutorials to learn exactly how to cut and cut in each main program. For your information, it's super easy.
Working with audio
Good audio is something to see. There are several steps in the production process that must be followed in order to get a great sounding video. The first stage of the race is to record decent audio while filming. Now when you edit a video you may not have any control over what and how is recorded. If you want to learn how to record good audio, check out this tutorial on how to record audio while recording video. It's a good starting point. However, since you are an editor, you will most likely get audio files to work with, whether it's music or dialogue. Let's talk about how you can edit and manipulate these two types of sounds.
After you've worked with moving and cutting your video files, you can move on to audio. Sometimes your video files have audio files attached, which means that the audio recorded by the camera is tied to the video clip you recorded. These audio files are saved under your video files on the Audio Section of your timeline. Almost every editing program has the audio area below it in the lower half of your timeline. Most of the time you will get separate audio files recorded with an external audio recorder – like a ZOOM or H1N1. So let's say these files are all of the dialogues from the respondent, your actors, or just the sounds of everything you recorded. What are you doing with them
Just place the clip under your video file on your timeline and match the video with the audio. If you don't want to do this manually, most programs offer a way to easily synchronize the two Right click on both files and hit Synchronize.
Working with music is probably the easiest step in the whole process. I say this because you're (mostly) adding a title to your video that does one of two things: play over the footage (like a music video) or play it quietly under your video (focus on dialogue and narration). The hardest decision you have to make is choosing the right song for you. Fortunately, PremiumBeat has an absolutely monstrous music library that includes everything from polished orchestral pieces to lo-fi hip-hop.
Once you have the song, import the song exactly as you imported the footage. You have the option of shortening the audio file to a specific length or you can bring the whole thing onto your timeline.
Mixing up can be tricky because you want your audience to appreciate each track as much as possible. They don't want to drown you out to the point of incoherence. How do you read the audio levels for easy listening? We'll talk about audio levels first – how to read them and what decibels to aim for. To monitor your audio, look for a live preview of the levels on the right side of your timeline. It will look something like this:
First things first, your audio should never go beyond 0dB. If your into music, this is key as you don't want to blow your audience's speakers (or drums) through loud, distorted mayhem. If the music is to be played over footage – like a montage or music video – it is a good idea to keep it below -6dB. How can you decrease / control the volume of your clip? Audio clips can be lowered by dragging the level on the clip itself. In most cases, the audio clips have a horizontal line running across the clip. Dragging it up or down controls the volume.
So what decibels should your overall video be at? In general, it's best to be between -10db and -15db. To decrease or increase the volume of your entire timeline, every program has one Audio mixer Tool that allows you to control individual tracks as well as the entire timeline.
Audio levels can be one of the most difficult aspects of video editing, and as a result, there are entire careers devoted to mixing and mastering. Even so, the tools built into the programs are pretty good for everyday editors like you and me. If you're dealing with very loud audio, or audio with quality issues – it might end too soon or just completely useless – here are some tutorials that will focus on polishing up bad audio.
Now that you've placed your dialogue or music on the timeline, let's add some sounds that will prevent your original audio from working.
I add sound effects to everything. Especially sound effects that are believable off-screen. By that I mean, if the recording you're editing is a building, why not throw city / car sounds underneath it? Even if there are no such sounds, it adds credibility to the world you are creating. Here's an example of what I'm talking about to put it into practice:
Where can you find sound effects? How do you go about recording them? There have been many times that I've found myself deep in a cut and needed a certain little sound. Do I buy a sound recorder or do I request a sound from whoever recorded the footage? Under no circumstance. I use my cell phone! Your phone is one of the most valuable elements for recording quick sounds and clips that can be used to add small but important layers to your project.
Over the years we've put together several free packs of different sound effects and soundscapes – check out these below.
SECURE YOUR WORK!
Hello, dear reader. I want to pause this article by asking you to stop and save your work. No matter what program you use or how long it takes to finish a video, save your work. Auto-save can't be trusted and you won't notice if it doesn't work. If you want a step-by-step guide to storage solutions and storage best practices, I've included a list of good resources below. Secure your work. Okay go ahead
Now that you've beautifully edited all of the footage and audio together, it's time to make your footage look the way it should look. There are many ways that you can approach color grading and grading. So let's start with the basics.
Most of the time you will work with and apply LUTs. What are LUTs? In short, this stands for "Lookup Tables" and is basically a color correction preset that you can apply to your footage. Think of this as a filter that is designed to make your footage look a certain way.
There are thousands upon thousands of LUTs, and most of them give your footage a very simple, straightforward look (like the orange-teal-green look that was so popular two years ago). We have created several free LUT packages over the years. You can download as many as you want:
If these free LUT packages aren't doing anything for you, there are dedicated companies and websites that sell a wide range of different LUTs. Here are some of the most popular options. (For your information, almost all of these packages work with any editing program).
Basic optimizations and corrections
Regardless of what program you're editing with, there are a few simple tools you can use to correct your footage. These tools live in the colour Section of the machining program. Premiere Pro says it all Lumetri colorwith DaVinci it's called colourand with FCPX it is called Color and effects.
You can use these tools to raise or lower the lift contrastlighten or darken Exposurechange that Color temperatureand raise or lower the shadow and Highlights. These changes are the essential steps required to get the image where you want it to be. If you're not sure how the tools work, just play around with them and watch how they affect the picture. If you don't like what is happening right now, just change it back!
Continuity is possibly a video editor's most valuable asset. While LUTs seem like a simple solution, they are a great way to make a name for yourself as an editor or a marksman. Creating a consistent look across the board is crucial for an industry professional to be visually recognizable and coherent.
Adding titles to your video is a simple but complicated step in the editing process. The formula for movies is simple: you add titles at the beginning and possibly at the end to mark the conclusion of the story. However, I bet you'll need to add some titles here and there throughout the life of your video.
YouTube, social media, business, and commercial work typically require lots of titles and graphics. In this guide, we're just going to go into where to find and add the titles that are available to you in the native software (like in, no plugins or downloaded fonts), and we'll talk a little about how to get some too Find pre-made lower thirds in case you need to add someone's name or title to the bottom of the screen.
First of all, you want to add that title Tool. You will find this in a different place for each program. So let's take a look at where to find them in the main programs:
Many of the built-in fonts included in nonlinear editing software can be a little dated – you have your default Times, Arial, Cambria, Verdana, etc. If you want to add a touch of originality check out this stacked list of 101 FREE Fonts!
In order for these fonts to show up in your NLE, download the font, close the editor, if it is open, open it again and it should be in the list of available titles. If you're interested in adding a little sparkle to your titles, you can do so in just a few simple steps. Here are some simple animation effects that you can learn in minutes.
Just like in the "Import" section, this step requires you to know a little about the video size and codec you want. However, the overall idea is simple.
You export your video as a specific file type so that it can be uploaded or played in a specific way. You also export the video to any folder or destination where you want the video to be live. I usually export the video to mine DesktopOnce the export is complete, I'll watch the final video to make sure everything is okay and put the file where I need it.
Diving into all of the many export options available to you would take hours and hours, but there are resources available to help you learn all the things you can do. I can say that most likely you need to export your video under H.264 which will create an MP4 file. I've included a list below which outlines some of the most popular options, what they mean, and when you would choose them. We can talk a little about the basics of exporting for your program. So let's start with Premiere.
Final Cut Pro X.
In case you're wondering how to export your video for YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Instagram, let's just go straight to the source and see what the current uploaders need.
Video editing is both the easiest and the most difficult step in your video production journey. It's an art form and it takes years of trial and error to feel completely comfortable in these programs. But as with any craft, it takes time and effort. Just don't give up. I still have days when I ask myself, "Why am I doing this?" Remember, finally seeing the final product – a finished video – is a feeling like nothing else!
Cover picture above Sutipond Somnam.
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