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The Secrets to Editing Better Promotional Videos

Logan Baker

Whether you’re promoting a film, product, or even your own services, creating an effective promotional video can yield massively beneficial results.

Top image via Shutterstock

At Adobe Video World 2016, one of the industry’s top promotional editors held a seminar detailing all the steps needed to take in order to win over any type of audience.  Selling your work can be a difficult task, but through clever cutting and structural techniques — as well as a strong use of pathos — your audience won’t be forgetting your work anytime soon. Make your promotional video stand out from the crowd with these tips and tricks.

Universal Themes

First, find the universal theme that runs through your content — this relatable theme is what’s going to hook the audience. No matter the race, gender, and age of your audience, they should be able to relate to your theme in some way or another.

Though obvious emotions may seem like the solution, think again. Instead of jealousy, think sibling rivalry. It’s specific and personally engaging. The familiar emotional theme, one that everyone has felt at some point in their life, that’s the goal. If you can reach these emotions, your audience will be hooked.

The above Silicon Valley promo is a perfect example. Teasing the first season of the series, the editors had to tell the story to come, as well as offer a reason why these characters are like you. Aside from hitting comedic notes, the promo plays out brilliantly, leaving you wanting more. Do they succeed? Every underdog wants to succeed — and if you tune in, you’ll find out!

Once you’ve identified the central theme — whether it’s a certain type of jealousy, obsession, perseverance, or dread — you can structure the promo around this idea. The idea will be burned into the audience’s mind, which is exactly what you want.

This universal feeling can be shown through your characters’ emotions. If the subject matter is very serious and sad, use shots of characters demonstrating these emotions. This may seem obvious, but using non-verbal emotional cues can be your most effective strategy.

A great theme supports the unfolding advancement of an idea that explores human truths. — Christine Steele, Editor for ABC Television

How to Hook the Audience

Once you have the theme and ideas you want conveyed, you can start playing with the pacing. As you can see in the above American Crime promo, there’s nothing special or super interesting happening on screen; the editing is very basic, cutting to the heartbeat in a rhythmic manner. It’s Editing 101 and builds suspense and tension like nothing else. Always cut to the beat if your content fits the rhythm. One very important note to remember: the length of the clip doesn’t matter. What matters is the content inside the clip. 

Footage Isn’t Necessary

Whatever the message of your piece, say it very clearly in soundbites and text across the screen. In the trailer for TalhotBlond (edited by Christine Steele), they tell the story, promote the documentary, and hook the audience while barely showing any clips.

With the trailer’s effective soundbites, basic After Effects templates, and talking head interviews, you can see the decisions made to include some information while leaving other information out. This is just one example of how you don’t necessarily need to show the audience much. Tease, don’t reveal.

Three-Act Structure

Another path you can take is the traditional three-act structure — the problem, the journey, and the solution. The order doesn’t necessarily matter, just as long as you cover each. However, if you do decide to break your video up into acts or sections, a new music cue for each change is highly recommended, as it registers in the audience’s mind as new/different information.

In fact, you should mix up and play with the formula every chance you get. Obviously if you’re working for a particular client that needs things a certain way, you’ll be restricted to fulfilling their needs

One of the best pieces of advice I can give — don’t B.S. the audience. They’ll know instantly. Holding your audience in the highest regard is a great habit.

For more Adobe Video World insight, check out this feature on the future of the Creative Cloud.


What are some of the most memorable promos you’ve encountered? Share in the comments below.