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5 Ways to Become a Better Video or Film Editor in 2013

Jonny Elwyn
By Jonny Elwyn

If you’re looking to up your post-production game, here are five ways to become a better video or film editor.

Whichever NLE you’re favoring at the moment, implementing the following five thoughts on how to improve your craft in should help you to become a better video editor.

1.  Get Faster

Speed is an essential quality in a good editor. By speed, I simply mean the time it takes to perform the edits. The danger with opting for being seen as a fast video editor, is that the time for the thoughtfulness and consideration required to produce quality projects can get squeezed out as schedules get shorter and expectations get raised. Therefore “getting faster” is really about saving time on performing the edits to make time to think about your edits. Here are some suggestions on how to save time in the edit suite:

  • Set up blank template folders to keep your projects consistently organized — which you can copy and paste onto your edit drive with every new project. If you want an app for that, use the free Post Haste app from Digital Rebellion.
  • Memorize keyboard shortcuts for your NLE of choice. Print out a cheat sheet and look at it often. If you find yourself using 2 or 3 strokes to perform one action, set up a keyboard shortcut that does all of those things in one hit. Pro tip: The PremiumBeat blog is a very helpful resource when it comes to learning keyboard shortcuts!
  • Tidy as you go. Keeping your edits tidy and organized is one of the best ways to save incremental amounts of time. I try to have my bins, sequences, and folders laid out in such a way that if another editor had to sit down at my edit with no outside input, it would be obvious what the latest sequence is, where the title graphics are, how the project is structured, and so on.

2.  Turn Around More

A director once said to me “I feel like I’m working with the back of your head.” It was a comment that I’ve taken to heart. The layout of many edit suites has the client, director, and producer sitting behind the editor (even though everyone might be looking at the same monitor). It’s essential for video editors to remember to turn around and talk to people face to face.

This was something that came up in the insightful discussion between three seasoned editors on one of the best That Post Shows of 2012, whereby they suggested one of the best ways to be seen as a creative collaborator (and not just a pair of hands driving the edit) was to always try to stop editing, turn around, and have creative discussions face to face with your director or producer. Yes, you are there to serve someone else’s vision, but its important to be seen as a fellow navigator as well as the driver.

3.  Watch More Work

Awareness of emerging creative trends is just as important as knowing the latest tech developments. I also hate watching my own work, but a crucial step in improving as an editor is returning to old work, reviewing it, and assessing what worked and what didn’t. What was surprisingly good and what would I definitely change? In going through this sometimes cringe-inducing process, I hope I’ll stop making some of the same mistakes time and time again and hopefully see that I’ve grown as a video editor.

4.  Make Time to Learn

The most obvious way to improve is to make the time to actively learn new things. Watch some tutorials or learn a new piece of software. Buy a book on editing and learn video editing theory. Go to a conference or a Supermeet.

I think it’s also important to try to learn about fields similar to your own, but different enough to bring a fresh perspective.The classic story is Steve Jobs taking a calligraphy class in college and what that meant for the future development of the first Apple Mac. As an editor learning about typography, graphic design, photography, scriptwriting, storytelling, music composition, or painting could all help me become a more creative, more inspired, film editor — a worthwhile investment.

5. Get More Exercise

Being a video editor is a sedentary job. I sit on my backside 40+ hours a week. I’ve written a few posts on my own blog about how bad this is and some of the steps I’ve taken to combat it.

I think the most effective tip is setting up a little app to beep at me every half hour or so. I get up, take a quick stroll, stretch a bit, and get the blood flowing again.  Taking short breaks like this has definitely helped me stay healthier, feel less tired by the end of the day, and helped drive away any bad ergonomic problems.

What steps are you taking to become a better video editor? Share your secrets in the comments below!