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Getting started with editing...

Someone asked me recently how to get started editing... advice within. (spoiler: being able to do flashy edits isn't what I advise)
  1. An AP (Associate Producer) where I'm editing now asked me for advice on how to start editing and what he should work on... should he download footage from YouTube and do music videos? Should he do this or that?

    Well I told him, it's pretty simple... editing is basically storytelling. There's a reason Avid's slogan used to be "Tools for Storytellers" (They should have kept it as that - it was a good one)

    The most important thing while editing is to tell a cohesive story. Flash wizbang effects are nothing. Anyone can do that. Not everyone can tell a good story. That is what you need to work on and get better at.

    A scene should work WITHOUT ANY effects or music. If it doesn't.... the story isn't there and the scene doesn't work.

    So how should one get started?

    Well in this case in all seriousness... start cutting scenes after hours. We are sitting on mountains and mountains and mountains of footage here... So start cutting some together into scenes to start seeing how to make them work.

    How to best use the Avid will come in time. It's actually a little harder to learn the Avid and it's not as straightforward for beginners... but everything makes total sense as an editor. Avid was designed by editors. FCP and Premiere was designed by computer people. But regardless... a tool is a tool. I've edited VHS to VHS and by cutting film. Being able to tell a story is what counts and what is the most important.

    I've worked with editors who are great finishing editors and can whizbang with the best of them and polish up edits very well... but if they were given a mountain of raw footage they wouldn't know where to start. Being able to take completely raw footage and make a cohesive story is a skill that is highly sought out so that is what you need to concentrate on working on.

    If you work somewhere where there is a lot of material to work with, check with the higher ups if it is okay for you to stay after work to practice editing with the mountains of material that is in the systems. Show initiative and work hard and learn.

    Most editors are also able to offer advice and tips (but please don't overstay your welcome if we're busy).

    Assistant editors today don't even work side by side with editors anymore - they're off in another room syncing and doing whatever assistants do these days. When I was an assistant I used to do changes and work more closely with an editor.... it's a shame that isn't done as much anymore... at least in reality TV. I actually wouldn't mind assistants taking a stab at some scenes for me. I don't mind teaching at all as long as it doesn't get in the way of the work that I have to do.

    But the point is - if you want to cut... then start cutting! Find footage and learn how to work it together to create cohesive stories.

    Three shots can make three different stories depending on how you cut them together. Learn to make the edit work WITHOUT music and effects... because if it works dry... then it'll certainly work when scored.

    I hope this wasn't too much of an incoherent ramble. :)

    I just locked my cut though - so I had some time to write. I should probably get back to work now on the new episode I'm cutting. ;)

    About Author

    Chris W


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  1. BadouBoy
    Great article. I have sooo much respect for editors. Are there ever instances where a director/showrunner specifically builds a scene around a certain piece of music or effect? Also, how closely do editors work with the post-production sound team?
      Chris W likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. BadouBoy
      Wow, sounds like you are pretty heavily involved. Always assumed that sound stuff gets carted off to a supervising sound editor after locking picture. Also, I love the idea of scoring with location sounds! It adds a certain level of realism that can't/shouldn't be replicated with sound banks, in my opinion.
      Chris W likes this.
    3. Chris W
      Well I cut TV mainly or low budget features... no sound editor on those. Just me. :)
      dvxdm likes this.
    4. Chris W
      I'm actually scoring one of my scenes today... Music is extremely important to me and I don't mean to downplay it... I'll write another lost on how I work with music. Sometimes my first rough cut changes entity once I'm inspired by a certain track... Like I am now as I'm cutting it. :) My whole rough cut is changing. Ha... But since it worked fine without music it'll be even better now. :)