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Editing Tips

After you're done recording or gathering the video or audio clips you want to compile and edit together into a finished product, you'll likely do well to keep the following in mind.

Organize Your Clips

Watch through your video clips and remove any unneeded extras. Organize the remaining clips, images, music, and any other elements of your video into folders or "bins." Name your files to make them easier to locate. Utilize color coding to keep them visually distinct, if desired.

Save Early, Save Often

The old computer mantra applies here, as always: save early, and save often. Create a project in the editing software, then save it. Import your stuff, then save it. Save your work frequently. Not only is this a safe practice to get into in case of power outages or hardware failure, it also allows you to experiment a little so that if things go completely wrong, you can exit out and re-open your last save.

Backup your project files onto a storage device such as an external hard drive, DVD or flash drive. This is particularly true in the Ross lab, as the iMac hard drives are wiped clean upon log out. Don't use the iMac hard drive to store personal files. It's highly recommended to get a hard drive of your own and plug it into one of the provided powered USB hubs.

Additional Audio

Add music or sound effects to your video to break up monotony, compliment, or create interest. Make sure that they are at a proper volume relative to the footage being shown, and do not cover up any voice audio in your recording (unless you're going for some kind of an effect).

Edit Audio

Use audio editing software to make any audio corrections or record new audio. Programs like Final Cut Pro have fairly advanced audio editing capabilities and are usually good enough, but standalone programs like Soundtrack (part of the Final Cut Studio suite) are specifically designed for it.

Watch out for hard "sounds" that indicate where you've made a split in the audio and think about using an audio transition to mask it slightly. Look out for recordings that only produce sound on one "channel" (left or right, manifested in your earphones or speakers), and apply filters to correct for it.

Also, use headphones when editing your project. This will allow you to better hear the audio and not disturb others in the vicinity.

Visual Effects

Visual elements such as transitions, slow motion, split screen and other effects will add flare to your video--and who doesn't want more flare, right? Just don't overdo it with flashy transitions or animations... some of them can look quite cheesy. Often a "cross dissolve" works a lot better than a "spinning checkerboard washout."

Text and Titles

The more advanced editing applications allow you to create transparent text slides that overlay your video. The Final Cut Studio suite has a standalone program dedicated to this kind of activity called LiveType, which can get quite intricate and impressive. Final Cut Pro will allow you to add text, too, and is often adequate.

Add title slides to introduce someone, call something out, for creative effect, or to add credits to your video. Use text to create captions or highlight elements in your video. Make sure the text is visible and is easy to read in your final output.

Edit Clean & To the Point

Edit out any unneeded filler frames or video that is in your project. Remove unwanted "ums" or "uhs" from audio or remove frames to shorten a clip (but consider the tip below about ethical editing).

Use Still Images

Don't be afraid to add still images to your videos. If you're concerned about them looking "funny" (not moving like the rest of the video), they can be animated using panning or used in a slideshow. iMovie makes this quite easy with their "Ken Burns" filter, but most video editing software makes it easy in their own way, too.

Video Adjustments

Many programs allow users to make video adjustments to change properties like contrast, color, or tone of video clips. This can be important when two clips don't match in something like brightness or color. You can apply filters that allow you to modify properties like that, but don't depend on them--there is only so much they can do. If your source video was recorded way too bright, applying a filter can tone it down, but it can't bring back the washed out detail.

Edit Ethically and "True"

When editing, it's tempting to make things "perfect." In doing so, you run the risk of changing the meaning of your subject, or the context of what someone said or did. So after you've finishing making your desired edits, watch your video completely through (it may help to take a break or grab someone else for a fresh pair of eyes). Make sure that your edits represent your subjects accurately. For example, editing someone's interview to take out an abundance of pauses, "ums," or "uhs" is fine, but if those things are part of what makes that person unique, consider leaving a few in there.

Tutorials, Training, and Teaching

Who was it that said "the smartest person is the one who knows they know nothing?" Maybe that's a little extreme when it applies to video editing but the spirit is the same--no matter how proficient you think you are, there are always new things to learn.

There are many software tutorials available online at places such as or Lynda. Use these tutorials to learn new editing skills or if you're having issues editing your video. On the Editing Station iMacs, there is a DVD saved to the dock that will open a plethora of Final Cut Studio training videos.

Search around. There's a vast internet community of video professionals out there, many of whom have likely ran into the same issues or questions you will, and have already worked through them. Use these resources to your benefit.


The majority of these tips come courtesy of the Carl D. Winberg, MD Presentation Practice Room.