Surely video editing is just cutting a bunch of video clips together, right? Anyone who has just bought their first piece of editing software will know it’s a bit more complicated than that. Read on to find out more about what video editors actually do.

Video Editors – What do we actually do?
Part 3 of our How To Edit Better Videos series

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of video editing:

“Video editing is the manipulation and arrangement of video shots. Video editing is used to structure and present all video information, including films and television shows, video advertisements and video essays.”

So yes, at its heart, video editing is cutting a bunch of footage together, but for me, the Wikipedia article gets to the heart of what video editors actually do the Background section; “The goal of editing is to manipulate these events to bring the communication closer to the original goal or target. It is a visual art.”

In plain English, the video editor’s goal is to cut a bunch of clips together so that they tell a story. The goal of a video editor is to communicate something, whether it be to entertain, enthral, convince, train or inform the viewer.

Video Editing is much more than ‘cutting out the bad bits’ of video footage, it is the craft of creating a story. This is done in a whole lot of ways, not just visually. Although web videos sometimes have a way to go to catch up with movies or well-made television shows, essentially they are all the same. The editor’s job is to cut a series of video or film clips and sometimes still images together in such a way that they tell a story or communicate an idea.

In film, TV and high-quality online content, the whole editing process from start to finish consists of the following steps:

Offline editing:

This is where the raw footage is cut into an assembly, a rough cut and then a fine cut – this is where the ‘story’ is constructed. Sometimes the footage is downsized to what is called ‘proxy’, which is a lower-resolution version of the footage, making it easier to cut quickly.


Graphics can include anything from adding titles to creating animations, or special effects. In large organisations, this is sometimes done by another team. In small setups like Sonic Eye, it’s done by the editor or occasionally sent out to another professional who is focused on graphics creation if something custom or complex is needed.

Online editing:

This is the process of taking the finished cut for colour grading, adding in the sound and the graphics, and exporting the video, film or television content in the correct format to broadcast or present. The Online editor or their assistant will re-point the proxy (reduced quality) footage to the full-resolution (original) footage, so that colour grading can take place at the highest quality. In some organisations, the online editor will also add in the graphics and sound.

Sound Editing

Once the Offline editor has completed a final cut, the audio is sent to the Sound Editor. They will polish up the sound quality, adding in sound effects and music tracks, and balancing the sound. They then export this and send it to the Online editor, who will combine all of these elements into the finished film or television show, output to the correct specifications for that platform.

That’s how it works in larger organisations. In a small setup like Sonic Eye, everything is done by the video editor unless there’s anything particularly specific or complex, which might be outsourced to a specialist.

Wikipedia’s definition of a video editor also says;

“Video editing has been dramatically democratized in recent years by editing software available for personal computers”.

I can vouch for this, and it’s fabulous! I can remember hanging out at an Apple show many years ago, and ogling the home video editing setup they had there – an Apple II computer with a pair of hard drives – dreaming of having this bit of kit myself. I’m showing my age here, I can remember asking the guy at the show how much it would cost buy this equipment, and he didn’t blink when he answered “$30,000”. That’s Australian dollars, but still, you get the picture. That’s how far things have come.

Fast forward more years than I care to count here, and now I have that video editing suite, in fact, a better one, and I can tell you it didn’t cost me nearly that much! So, software in hand, where do you start? How do you become a video editor?

I’m sure there are younger folks out there who are doing it already, but at the same time a quick look at some of the video content out there should show you that cutting a bunch of clips together, isn’t all there is to it.

My best advice to aspiring video editors out there is just start doing it. Get some kit together (I started out with iMovie and Garageband) and just start making videos. Lots of them. Once you’ve overcome the initial learning curve of using the equipment, you’ll find many helpful guides online that will help you gain new skills, or learn new techniques.

That’s another big change from when I started – the amount of information available is incredible and I still use those resources constantly to learn new ways of doing things, shortcuts, and editing ideas. If anyone tells you you’re not good at it, ignore them. Some people will always say this, and besides, to get good at anything you need to practice.

If you find that you have the ‘video editing bug’ like I did, you’ll soon find yourself spending money on professional training courses, a Uni degree or film school and as you progress, your editing will gradually get better and better.

Get cracking!

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