What You Need to Know About Video Editing

Video is a powerful medium. You can communicate a lot in a short amount of time because you get to utilize audio as well as visuals and can incorporate text and other features, too. Plus, video can be visually striking, which helps your content grab and hold people’s attention. It can be used to entertain, educate, market products and more.

Creating a video is, however, often more involved than creating other types of content. You need equipment, proper lighting, somewhere to film and a way to edit your shots. The editing process may be one of the most difficult steps, but it’s what really brings a project all together. With that in mind, here are a few tips and some need-to-know information about video editing.

Editing Equipment

Before you can begin editing video, you need to have the right stuff. At the most basic level, you’ll need two things — a computer and editing software.

You don’t need a special computer to edit video. Some older computers may have trouble, though, because editing video is demanding task. As long as your computer is relatively modern and not too slow, you should have everything you need. You can check the requirements on the editing software you decide to use to make sure your computer can handle it.

You have a number of options to choose from when it comes to editing software. If you want a free but more basic program, you can use the one that came with your computer. Macs come with iMovie, and Windows computers come with Windows Movie Maker. YouTube Video Editor is another free but basic program.

If you’re willing to pay for a more professional program, you could go with Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. You can do a lot more with these programs, but you do have to pay.

Importing Video

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Most editing software can work with a variety of file tips as long as they’re in digital form. If you’re using tapes to shoot your video, you’ll need to convert it to digital before you can edit it.

You can purchase adaptors that go from a VHS player to a computer to convert your tapes to a digital format. Hook up the adaptor, install the program, adjust the setting and then put your tape into the player. Start playing it and use the record button in the transfer program to record the clip for as long as you need it to be.

It’s also a good idea to double check your settings — including frame rate, resolution and audio settings — before you begin editing. This will save you from having to redo sections you already edited because of technical errors.

Basic Editing

After you’ve imported your video, you’re ready to start editing. Begin by dragging video and audio clips onto the timeline of your editing software and place them in the order you want them to appear. Make sure everything lines up right. Most programs will help you do this by auto-fitting content.

You can then add some fancier details such as transitions and title screens. In most cases, fade- to-black transitions are the favored choice. Placing titles over a black screen as opposed to an image makes them easier to read. You can also add music by dragging it onto the timeline.

Be sure to trim any excess footage from your video clips. Start the clip right when the first word is spoken or when the action starts. This will make your final product more interesting and engaging. Varying the angles and distance of your shots and adding b-roll — extra footage of things over the main scene — can also help make your film more interesting.

Exporting Video

Exporting an edited digital video is pretty simple. Simply click the export button, change the settings to suit your needs and then export it. For example, H.264 codec is generally the best format for web viewing.

Your masterpiece is then ready to be shared. You can upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo, burn it to a DVD, share it via Dropbox or simply save it on your computer.

Tips and Tricks

Courtesy of Giphy

If you want to go beyond the basics, here a few pointers on how to edit for a professional-looking video:

  • Record Sound Separately. To get higher quality audio, don’t use your camera as your main audio source. Use a separate microphone or one that plugs into your camera to get a better-sounding recording. You’ll have to make sure the audio and video sync up, of course, but a lot of editing software will do this for you.
  • Use Effects Sparingly. There are tons of fun effects that come with video editing software, and it can be tempting to use as many of them as you can. This may be fine for a vacation video or other just-for-fun projects, but if you want professional quality, try to avoid over-using effects.
  • Clean up Dialog. If you have a lot of speaking in your video, chances are there plenty of “ums,” “hmmms” and long pauses. Cut these out as much as possible to make your video more engaging and professional. You can do this by using very fast audio fades. You can also cover up these hesitations by cutting to b-roll during the fades. This takes practice, but once you get it down, your films will appear a lot smoother.


Nobody expects you to be a master video editor the first time you try it, but this basic information should be enough to get you started. Editing video is a skill that takes a lot of practice to perfect, but once you get good at it, you can produce much more professional-looking videos.


Lexie Lu is a freelance web designer and blogger. She keeps up with the latest web design news and always has coffee in close proximity. She writes on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.