Keeping it Reel

4 Tips for Aspiring Editors

So, you’ve finally done it. After countless hours of deliberation, you’ve decided what you want to do. You are going to be an editor. You love cutting together different shots. You love sorting through footage. You love being creative, strategic, and analytical all at once. Pursuing editing just makes sense for you.

The question is, what do you do now?  You know you want to be an editor, but how do you make that happen? Well, we have a few pieces of advice that might help you along your way. Check out these four tips for aspiring editors and begin your journey to becoming a professional!


 

1. Practice, practice, practice

It probably isn’t something that needs repeating, but no post sharing editing advice would be complete without it. As with anything else, if you want to become a better editor, you need to practice editing. If you haven’t done much editing of your own and you don’t have any software, start with a free basic program like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker. These editing programs are incredibly simple, but they will allow you to get a good feel for editing before committing to a more advanced program. Once you have a good amount of editing skill, you can move to an industry standard program like Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

 

HOW TO PRACTICE:

You don’t need to have a short film planned to practice editing. Start with something simple. Film a school sporting event, take different shots of your neighborhood, film your friends conversing–something like that. Once you have your footage, get it uploaded, and get to work. After doing this a few times, you will start to get a feel for things like pacing and momentum.

If you don’t have a camera, you can always upload footage from your favorite movies or videos and create something entirely new. You might make a video highlighting the top ten funniest movie scenes of all time, the best one-liners ever delivered, or the scariest moments in television history. It doesn’t matter what you decide to create, just that you get in some good editing practice by creating it.

 

2. Find a mentor or take a class

Practicing on your own is a must, but there is a lot to be said for working under the instruction of a teacher or mentor as well. In the editing field, there are many secret tricks, shortcuts, and tools that can be used to help you improve.

Think about the math classes you’ve taken. Did you ever have to learn something by hand that you later realized you could do on a calculator? Did you ever learn how to solve a problem one way, only to find out there was a much simpler way of doing it? This happens all the time in editing.

When you work on your own, you may learn to do something in a round about or inefficient way. But when you are receiving instruction from an experienced editor who can pass on knowledge, you have the opportunity to grow at a much faster ratethan if you had to figure things out for yourself.

So find an experienced editor and start learning!

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3. Learn when to walk away from the computer

Condensing ten hours of footage into a five-minute clip isn’t a two-hour task. As an editor, you may put 100+ hours into a project. For your own sanity, it’s important that you learn when to walk away from a project and take a well-deserved break. It’s easy to fall down the editing rabbit hole. But instead of saying “just one more cut” for the hundredth time, walk away from your computer for fifteen minutes. You’ll probably find that a quick break refreshes you and allows you to come back to your project with a clearer head.

 

4. Watch, rewatch, watch again

A habit that every editor should form is rewatching their work. If you want to end up with the best cut possible, you need to watch and rewatch scenes you’ve finished editing periodically. This will allow you to see how the video or film is coming together in a cohesive way. When you are editing shot after shot, it’s easy to focus on individual moments instead of the overall flow of the piece. If you regularly look back on your work, you’ll be able to prevent choppiness and increase fluidity.

Once you’ve finished your project or a segment of your project, you should walk away from it for awhile and then come back and rewatch it. It isn’t uncommon in these instances to find that you have a different opinion of your work than you originally did while working on it.

Some editors also find it beneficial to watch their finished project with a group of people. Doing this can help you distance yourself from your work and view it through the eyes of an audience member.


Becoming a professional editor isn’t easy, if it were, everyone would do it. But if you put the advice above into practice, you should be a little closer to achieving your goal.

What’s next? Well, before you jump into your next project, take a look at our Film Career Guide. You may know that you want to pursue editing, but there is more to the field than you might think. With our guide, you’ll be able to explore various editing related careers and see which matchs up with your interests. Click below to download the guide now!

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This blog is a collaborative effort by CCH staff and administration who want to share their knowledge with the film school community and prospective students.