A Guide to Video Editing: Know the Basics Before You Start

2088522072_d4f982d952_nIn the old days, video editing consisted of taking the footage you liked and copying it onto another tape called the assembly or edit tape. Then, graphics, titling, music and voiceover would be added and blended in with the select footage. This process is called tape-to-tape editing. The problem with tape-to-tape editing is quality and the time it takes to revise. It’s just like when you make a copy of something on a copy machine, then make a copy from the copy, then make another copy of the last copy… three generations later, it’s looking pretty bad. Today video editing is done using computers. The quality is far better than tape-to-tape editing because there is no generation loss.

But, before you begin the editing process, you need to prepare for the edit session by doing a paper edit. This is a technique of pre-editing, where copies of the original masters are transferred onto VHS tape or DVD with time code numbers visible at the bottom of the screen. The performer, producer or director watches all the footage and makes editing notes using the time codes as reference numbers (which are also on the master tapes). These notes will help speed up the actual edit.

If the producer finds a clip to be used in the final edit, they note the “in point” by the SMPTE time code number that is displayed at the bottom of the screen at the very moment where the clip is to begin. The SMPTE time code number will look something like this: 01:21:15:04. The 01 = the hours, the 21 = the minutes, the 15 = the seconds and the 04 represents the frames.

You can pause the tape at the in or out point so you can be more accurate when writing down the number. A paper edit might look like this: 01:21:11 (begin out with) “it wasn’t really the time of year, but maybe it was” (back into program at 01:21:22); 01:34:07 (begin out with) “she was stunning” (back into the program at 01:34:11 after breath); Pick up with “She really made them look bad” … you get the idea. It’s a way of scripting all the changes you want before spending money on an hourly basis in the studio trying to figure it out. It ‘s well worth the money to get window dubs of your raw footage to do a paper edit.

Do not be concerned with the frames — they move so quickly that you will never be able to read the numbers accurately. Video plays at the rate of 30 frames per second. This is why the frame numbers move so quickly. When 30 frames go by, one second is added to the seconds column; when 60 seconds go by, a minute is added, and so on. Video and audio reference lines or scenes are also noted. These notes will help immensely when in the studio edit. Loading it into a computer digitizes the selected footage. The clips are then assembled onto a timeline until they are in the right order. Computer graphics (titling [producer term]) are then added as necessary. Another advantage of computer editing is that the clips can be moved around easily to view your clip order or section options. This is not possible in tape-to-tape editing.

It’s a good idea to check references and view samples of previous work when deciding on a studio to edit with. Video edit studios come in all shapes and price ranges. The average cost per hour for an AVID Premier Pro or Final Cut Pro system is $150. As the quality goes up, so does the price, up to as much as $400 per hour with all the bells and whistles. I once knew of a professional speaker that spent $100,000 on a video brochure! He went to the top of the line broadcast production facility to produce his video. This was absolute overkill, especially without a producer. Remember, when looking for an editor, check out their previous work. See how quick they are, for a good editor is worth their hourly rate.

photo credit: Alan on the Dials via photopin (license)

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