How to Learn Video Editing Skills

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Do you dream of turning uncut footage into compelling videos? As a key component of movie magic, video editing is a highly desirable skill. And while the learning curve for video editing is steep, much of it happens like ascending a set of scaffolds: each concept you learn helps you better understand the next.

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What is video editing?

Video editor working at a deskWirestock Creators/Shutterstock

Video editing is the art of taking raw footage and manipulating and assembling shots into a cohesive narrative. Types of video editing include film editing, TV show editing, documentary editing, music video editing, advertisement editing, and social media video editing.

Is it hard to learn video editing?

Video editing softwareBoxBoy/Shutterstock

Since video editing requires both technical skills and an eye for aesthetics—not to mention a lot of practice and patience—it can be difficult to learn, at least initially.

One of the best ways to get started in your video editing education is to just get your feet wet. Pick a popular video editing software and go through their built-in tutorial so you have a grasp on how the interface works. From there, an external course or two can help you to better comprehend the basics, such as organizing footage, color correcting, cuts and transitions, and refining audio elements. 

Then put pedagogy to practice: Try your hand at some smaller-scale video projects to truly immerse yourself in the journey. You can work with your own videos or use uncut stock footage. It’s likely that you’ll experience some obstacles and frustrations along the way—but as long as you try and learn from your mistakes, even the most devastating disaster won’t be for naught.

Video editing requires that you understand basic visual storytelling, including composition, mood and tone, pacing, rhythm, and sequencing. That said, there are so many types of video aesthetics and mediums that what may be considered great or “in style” in one realm might not fly in another. 

If you always have your finger on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist, turn that instinct into an opportunity for TikTok short-form video editing. If trends elude you but you’re interested in the art of persuasion, try your hand at editing advertisement videos. It’s all about taking your personal interest and aesthetic approach and applying it in a way that works.

How to learn video editing

Video editor working on a sceneFrame Stock Footage/Shutterstock

Learning video editing skills requires familiarity with nonlinear editing software, knowledge of editing types and techniques, and lots of video editing practice.

Familiarize yourself with video editing software

You’ll want to become acquainted with an industry-standard program such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, or Lightworks; or a more beginner-friendly platform such as iMovie, OpenShot, or Filmora. These platforms are similar enough that you should be able to transfer between them without issue. Learn about each with its built-in tutorial, or take online introduction to video editing courses to refine your skills.

Some of the top video editing software courses can be found at:

These platforms offer software-specific courses if you want to master a certain program, as well as courses in film editing basics if you’d like a general overview that you can apply across the board. 

RELATED: How to Become a Video Editor 

Understand different types of video editing

The way you connect shots creates a specific tone and mood, so it’s imperative that you learn how to craft the right ones to fit a given video project. To ensure that you have broad yet deep knowledge of video editing, cover the following types and techniques: 

  • Continuity editing: From shot length, camera angle, scene order, transitions, and sound design, continuity editing involves choosing the best footage, putting it in order, and connecting it to audio. This is the basic kind of editing—it is telling a narrative through images in the most easy to understand order. Good continuity editing maintains the same space, temporality, and visual aesthetic between shots while getting rid of anything that might distract the audience. 
  • Montage: Editing a montage involves cutting together clips to compress a lengthy passage of time within a story into a shorter, easily followable narrative stretch.
  • Discontinuity editing: Also known as “juxtaposition,” discontinuity editing purposely does away with the tenets of continuity editing as an artistic choice. Tools such as jump cuts, contrasting camera angles, and disorienting movements can establish a jarring tone and keep the audience on their toes.

While you may not need to use every type of editing for every project, having a solid foundation across different types will prepare you for a variety of projects.

Learn video editing skills

Be sure that you become acquainted with video editing skills, including techniques, cuts, and transitions.

Continuity editing techniques include:

  • Eyeline matching: Matching actor gazes with the correct direction and relation to other subjects and objects within a scene 
  • 180-degree rule: Maintaining left/right orientation when two or more characters are facing each other within a scene 
  • 30-degree rule: Only cutting to different angles of the same subject depicting the same focal point with angles over 30 degrees
  • Matching on action: Cutting to show the second half of an entire physical movement from a different angle 

Cuts transition one scene or shot to the next. Commonly used cuts include:

  • Jump cut: a sudden, blatant transition from one scene to the next
  • L-cut: a cut that has the audio from one scene overlap onto the visuals from the next
  • J-cut: a cut that keeps a scene’s visual elements but brings in audio from the next scene
  • Match cut: a transition that retains the shot composition in terms of shapes, sounds, outlines, or actions
  • Cutaway: a cut that diverts away from a primary subject to a B-roll shot and then returns to the original scene
  • Insert: a shot that cuts dramatically closer to an individual detail in the frame
  • Cross-cut/parallel editing: a technique that cuts back and forth between actions that take place in different spaces to make connections between scenes, build tension, add contrast, and create pace

Beyond cuts, you should also learn how to do transitions such as:

  • Fade: a gradual transition between a scene and a color
  • Dissolve: a slow change from one scene to the next
  • Wipe: a transition that sees one scene replace another by moving in from the side of the screen or in a shape 

Do ongoing video editing practice

Ongoing practice is imperative if you want to learn to edit videos. Skills can only be truly mastered with repetition and variation, so practice is not only helpful but truly necessary. Here are some of the best practice tips.

  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery: Do you find the ghoulish jump cuts in “The Shining” fascinating? How about the narrative-building cutaways in “The Shawshank Redemption”? Practice is easiest when it’s driven by interest as well as motivation, so recreate your favorite transitions, visual effects—whatever video editing skill floats your boat. Even if you can’t recreate it perfectly, you’ll likely learn other helpful skills through the process.
  • Try trial and error: Sites such as World Film Collective and Elements of Film contain a seemingly endless array of uncut footage you can import into your video editing software of choice and finesse to your heart’s content. 
  • Edit (and re-edit) your own videos: If you want a more gratifying type of practice, try re-editing something you edited when you were starting out—whether that was six days or six months ago. You’ll find yourself noticing little ways you’ve improved and new areas you’d like to learn.
  • No video editor is an island: One of the best ways to ensure that you continue practicing your video editing skills is to engage with likeminded people. Whether you join a video editing professional network, a hobby group, or a subreddit, the sense of connection and community will inspire you to keep practicing.

Where to learn video editing

Video editingDarlene Alderson/Pexels

Video editing programs

One of the best ways to learn the ins and outs of video editing is to study it with an accredited program. Some of the best video editing training programs include:

These programs usually cost around $60,000 per year and provide in-depth training and knowledge about every part of the video editing process, from technical details specific to different types of video editing software to what video editing might look like in different capacities. 

Degrees

You can also study video editing as part of your secondary education. Beyond video editing-specific degrees, other helpful degrees include:

  • Fine arts
  • Performing arts
  • Communications
  • Cinematography
  • Film theory
  • Graphic design
  • Broadcasting

Certificates

Alternatively, you can earn a certificate in video editing from online outlets such as:

Content creators and channel

Many content creators provide free, accessible videos that teach introductory video editing skills. Be on the lookout for channels and creators including:

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