How does video editing work, and what is good video editing anyway? In Part 1 of our series on How to Edit Better Videos, we break down some of the key elements of great video editing with some tips for finding your own editing style.

How To Edit Better Videos Series – Part 1
What is great Video Editing anyway?

Every video editor, filmmaker, director and anyone who has ever watched a film or video has their own idea of what great video editing looks like. Just as everyone has a different idea of what is a great film, song or music video, a lot of it is a matter of personal taste. In this series of posts, I’m going to try to breakdown what I think are the key elements of great video editing. Along the way, I’ll reference a ton of great stuff on the subject which may interest you. You can then decide for yourself what YOU want to take away from these posts because in the end a lot of it comes down to personal taste and everyone’s taste is different.

Take, for example, Director Paul Greengrass. Who is Paul Greengrass? He’s the guy who directed the second two Jason Bourne films – The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Not the fourth movie, but no one saw that one anyway right? Matt Damon apparently said he won’t do any more Bourne films unless they can get Greengrass in as the director.

If you’re not familiar with the Bourne movies, watch this sequence from The Bourne Ultimatum. The cinematography is by Oliver Wood, and the video editor, Chris Rouse, won an Oscar for it. If you watch the clip you will see why; great action footage complimented by great editing.

A Video Editor with the Right Balance

This type of video editing is hard – getting a balance between all that action and fast pace without losing the thread of the story, making sure the audience can follow what’s happening, and yes, not making people feel sick with all that motion, it’s a real skill!

You may think The Bourne Ultimatum was an awesome action film, or you may have thought you were going to be ill every time they used the hand-held camera. It’s largely a matter of opinion (and perhaps the strength of your stomach).

Are they ‘good movies’? Matter of opinion. Are they well-made movies? Definitely. But of course, that’s just my opinion!

Instead of telling you how to edit better videos as if there is only one way to do it, my aim in this series of posts is to tell you how I edit my footage, and you can either take on some of the ideas or take a different approach. It’s all good! The world is a far better place with diversity – different styles of editing create different stories and things would be very dull if everyone thought they had to follow a specific set of rules. Paul Greengrass and Chris Rouse certainly don’t, and neither should you.

Speaking of which, I couldn’t resist giving you this version of that scene created by Keshen8. He’s taken the original soundtrack from Ultimatum and recreated the scene shot for shot. In Lego. Wicked!

Of course like anything, video editing does have some basic rules and it is best to know what they are. (Otherwise, how can you break them later on?). I’ll introduce you to some of them through this blog series. Some are more important than others, but virtually all of them have been broken by someone at some point.

Video editing is sometimes called an ‘invisible art’. If you notice the editing, it might not have been done as well as it could. Video editing is like the frame around a picture; if you notice it too much, the framer has failed. It’s the picture you want to notice, not the frame.

Video editing is the same (and I use the term to include film editing, since virtually all editing is now digital non-linear, regardless of how the original footage was shot). What you want the viewer to see is the story, content or activity in the footage, not the techniques you used in the edit.

This is one rule I do think should be followed in general – but not always. Examples of this abound whenever a particular convention is broken, and this new style becomes popular. This is one rule I do think should be followed in general – but not always. Examples of this abound whenever a particular convention is broken, and the new style becomes popular. I’ll give you some examples of this in the next post, 7 Rules of Video Editing. Till then, keep on making movies!

  • Thalia Kemp is the video and sound editor at Sonic Eye in Sydney, Australia.