Whether you’re working on a home movie or a big-budget project, editing is the most vital stage of video production. It’s that crucial step where you create a captivating narrative by bringing together your shots, music, and effects.
But your first steps into the field of video editing can be daunting, especially as—even with the best footage—a poor edit can turn a brilliant video into an unwatchable mess. Fortunately, thanks to the internet, smartphones, and cheap video editing software, it’s now easier than ever to get to grips with video editing from the comfort of your own home.
In this tutorial on how to learn video editing, we’ve assembled a step-by-step guide that will show you how to develop necessary editing skills and improve the quality of your movies. Keep reading to find out more.
How to learn video editing: Preparation
Before you can start editing, you’re going to need to get hold of a speedy computer and video editing software to install on it. If you’ve already got both, you can skip ahead to step one.
But if you’re still looking for an appropriate editing suite to use, check out our list of the best video editing software (opens in new tab) packages on the market. Although we recommend Adobe Premiere Pro CC (opens in new tab) as the best overall video editor, you should pick something appropriate for your level of experience. Cyberlink PowerDirector 365 (opens in new tab)’s gentle learning curve makes it the best option for most first-time users.
Step 1: Snap some test shoots to work with
Kick off your editing journey by filming some practice material. You can capture your video on whatever device you have to hand, whether that’s a smartphone, GoPro, or old digital camera.
Be sure to take multiple shots from different angles during your shoot so you can practice combining them during your later edits. It’s good to have an idea of what sequence you want to end up with before you start filming, as this will help you get a feel for how to manage future video projects.
Step 2: Import and rearrange the order of your shots
Once you’re happy with the footage you’ve collected, boot up your new video editing software and open a new project. Next, connect your camera to your computer and import your footage. Typically, you can do this by dragging video files into the project resources pane of the editor or through a file import wizard.
Each piece of video editing software uses a unique interface layout. However—if you are using a mainstream package—your freshly imported videos should appear on the left of your screen. You can then drag them one-by-one to your timeline. Adjust the shot sequence by moving a video in front of or behind the clips adjacent to it.
Step 3: Experiment with trimming, cutting, and copying shots
Once your footage is in approximately the order you’d like it to be, it’s time to work out how to use three essential tools to add or eliminate sections of each clip.
First up is the trimming tool, which can cut down the length of a clip by removing pieces of footage from its beginning or end. In most video editors, you can activate the trimming function by simply putting your cursor at the end of a piece of footage and dragging.
The cutting tool, on the other hand, divides the footage exactly at the position of your cursor, creating two separate consecutive video files. Once you have divided a clip, you may wish to move one part of the split video to another section of your project. Moving the section of the clip can be done through copy-paste commands.
At this point, you should try using keyboard shortcuts to edit your video for the first time. Again, these will be specific to the editing software that you’re using. In Premiere Pro, Shift + T will activate trimming mode while CTRL + K will open the Razor cutting tool.
Step 4: Add transitions and music
Transitions are the perfect tools to help you smooth out the change from one scene to another or to add some style to your video project. Most editing tools have extensive transition libraries, and you can usually add a transition by simply dragging over the adjoining ends of two clips in your timeline.
Music and sound effects are also a vital part of any film project. You can generally import music and other sound files in the same way you added your sample video footage. The only difference is that you will need to drag them to your timeline’s audio track, which should be below the main video sequence.
Step 5: Check out advanced video tutorials specific to your video editor
To become a real video editing pro, other skills you’ll need include color grading, keying, and video stabilization. If you can get your head around these techniques, you’ll be able to remove unwanted motion from your movie, communicate specific moods, and swap out your backgrounds.
Try using YouTube channels such as the Premiere Gal (opens in new tab)—which is full of handy Adobe Premiere Pro tips and tricks—to figure out how to perform complex edits. Alternatively, have a browse of the Video Copilot (opens in new tab) and Red Giant (opens in new tab) archives. These are two standalone platforms dedicated solely to providing detailed video editing advice.
Video editing might feel like an uphill struggle at first. Still, once you understand how to access the most critical functions of your editing software, you’ll be able to take a movie concept and quickly turn it into reality.
Start learning how to edit videos by first deciding which video editing tool is right for you—Adobe Premiere Pro CC (opens in new tab) is one of the best, but PowerDirector 365 (opens in new tab) is easier to use. Then take some unimportant footage and use it to memorize shortcuts for simple modifications such as clip trimming and cutting. Once you understand how to add simple effects such as transitions, take things to the next level by following advanced tutorials on color grading and stabilization.
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