Want to create a great video? Even without a lot of video editing experience, anyone can create a professional-looking video if they just follow the right principles.
Here’s a checklist of a few of the most important principles to follow when you’re creating your video.
1. Start with the End in Mind
Have a mental image of how you want your finished video to look, before you shoot any video. This will help a lot in deciding what shots to take and what shots not to take. It’ll help you determine what kind of equipment you need, what kind of assistance you need and it’ll help you set your budget.
By knowing exactly what you want in the end, you’ll avoid the all-too-common problem of not having one shot and having to get all the equipment out again just to take that one shot.
2. Learn the Basics of Shooting Video
No matter how good your editing is, you can’t make shoddy film look like great film.
One of the “secrets” to video editing is starting with good footage to begin with. While you don’t need to take a 6-month course in cinematography, it can really help to read up on the basics of how to hold a camera, how to pan a camera and how to take different kinds of shots.
3. Don’t Use Too Many Transitions
One beginner mistake is to use too many different kinds of transitions, especially flashy ones.
Airplanes flying in and wiping out the screen, the first scene exploding into the second scene, etc. are effects that can be used occasionally.
Your videos will actually look a lot more professional if you just used crossfades, fade-to-black or fade-to-whites. Pick one and stick to it.
4. Break Up Your Videos (Informational)
If you’re shooting informational videos for DVDs or online lessons, break up your videos.
Anytime you switch to a new topic, fade to black and show a title shot for 3-5 seconds with the title to the next section.
This helps break up the clip and prevents people from feeling like they’ve been sitting and watching the same video for 20 minutes. Instead, they can feel like they’ve been watching 4 different interesting 5 minute clips.
5. Audio is More Important Than Video (Informational)
For informational videos, audio is more important than video. Even if your video quality is low, people can still understand you and get the benefit of your product. However, if your audio can’t be properly heard, you’ll immediately lose your audience.
Again, the secret to great audio comes before the filming. Invest in a good mic. Good wireless lapel mics are very common, inexpensive and barely show up on camera.
You should almost never use a camera’s built in mic for filming informational products. Camera mics are notorious for picking up extraneous sound.
6. Learn the “Remove Noise” Filter
Background noise is often picked up, even if you’re using a high quality mic. For most beginning editors the “remove noise” filter will quickly become your most used and most loved audio filter.
This filter allows you to take a small sample of “empty” video to sample for noise. It’ll then create a noise profile and take out noise from all of your video.
There are different degrees to which you can remove noise. If there’s a lot of background noise, you usually won’t be able to get rid of all of it. Removing too much noise can result in strange pops and other audio artifacts.
All that said however, the “remove noise” filter can still be a lifesaver for anyone working with audio that has background noises.
7. Pick One Primary Application
Don’t hop from FinalCut to Premier to Sony Vegas. While it’s a good idea to dip your toes into a few different programs to get a feel for what you like, you should pick one as quickly as possible to really learn the ins and outs of the program.
Each program will have different filters, different tricks, different rendering filters and different shortcuts. Being able to edit video quickly means learning the ins and outs of one program, not to learn a little bit about many.
8. Learn the Keyboard Shortcuts
Learning keyboard shortcuts will shave hours off your editing time. Nobody expects you to learn all the keyboard shortcuts for any given program, but you should learn all the keyboard shortcuts for commonly executed commands.
Shortcuts for things like Play, Pause, Stop, Play Backwards, Split, Copy, Paste, Cut, Insert Marker, etc should all become second nature to you.
The 3 seconds you save by not having to reach for the mouse add up very quickly.
9. Supplement Video Editing with Photoshop and/or After Effects
Two programs that most video editors also work with are Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Aftereffects.
Adobe Photoshop is the world’s most popular graphics editing program. Being able to create and edit graphics is important for creating title screens, for creating images to add into videos and for creating DVD covers and boxes.
Adobe After Effects is a powerful motion graphics program. Unlike a video editing program, a motion graphics program specializes in special effects. It works much like Photoshop, with layers and effects, except it works on a timeline.
In After Effects, you’ll be able to create just about any special effects you can imagine, export it and add it to your video editing program.
You usually can’t create very many special effects in an editing program. Likewise, though you can edit in After Effects, you’ll usually want to edit in an editing program instead. (It’s much faster.)
10. Learn the Basics of Color Corrections
Learning how to use tools like White Balance, Levels and Curves can make your video look much sharper and more color balanced.
Because of lighting, sunlight or just the way your camera works, your film may come out with more blue, red or green than it should have. The whole clip will have a “cast” of color overlaid over it.
Color correction allows you to remove this color cast and restore the clip to how the colors look.
In addition, color correction will allow you to increase and decrease brightness and contrast to create a video that really pops, rather than a video that might have slightly dull colors or light.
Learning to use these tools well takes just a few hours to half a day of reading tutorials and experimenting.
11. Background Music
Background music can really add “vibe” to a particular clip. In an intense moment, playing suspenseful music can help really get the adrenaline flowing.
The trick to background music is to select the right music, but make sure it’s subtly in the background enough that it doesn’t interfere with the conversation on screen and isn’t consciously noticeable by the audience.
12. Stick to Basic Fonts
Unless you’ve studied typography, it’s usually much safer to stick with proven fonts like Times, Arial, Tahoma, Garamond, Helvetica, etc.
Selecting type is an art and science in and of itself. Beginning editors who use outside the box fonts usually end up making their videos look amateurish rather than creative.
But what about the creative fonts you see in the opening of Spiderman or The Matrix?
Those fonts were constructed from scratch by professionals to match the vibe of the movie. Yes, creative fonts can really add spice to a video – But there are so many things that go into choosing and creating fonts, that unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s safest to just stick with proven fonts.
13. Computing Power
How much computing power do you need?
It depends on what kind of editing you’re doing. If you’re just cutting clips together to create a whole video and you aren’t editing regularly, you’ll probably be able to get by on 1.5 GHz processing and 1GB RAM.
On the other hand, if you’re running Photoshop, FinalCut, After Effects and Maya (3D animation) simultaneously, you’ll probably want at least 2.2 GHz processing and 2+ GB RAM. Duel-core processing is a huge plus.
The more hard drive space you have the better. The amount you need depends on your video source.
If you’re taking videos from your iPhone, then the video sizes will be relatively small, taking up about 1 GB per hour. On the other hand, raw video footage from a high def camera takes up 13 GB per hour.
You should have enough room for at least 4 hours of video. In other words, if you’re editing iPhone videos, you should have at least 4 GBs free. If you’re editing high def, you should have at least 50 GB free.
14. Making Notes in Your Edits
For any projects that take more than a day or two, you should carefully note what’s what with markers.
Markers are little bits of text you can put above your timeline. For example, you can put “Mark talks about zebras” in the part of the speech where Mark is talking about zebras.
This can help you find the exact spots you’re looking for on your timeline much faster. It doesn’t matter as much for short videos, but once you’re getting into complex projects the many hours spent trying to find the exact moment in a clip where something happens can end up taking a lot of time.
15. Understanding Compression
When you’re first getting started, it doesn’t really matter if you understand compression. But if you want to produce videos to the exact quality and file size you want, then understanding compression becomes quite important.
It’s not just a trade-off of video quality to file size. You also have issues like whether you want square pixels (for computers) or rectangular pixels (for widescreen TV.) You have issues like interlacing or not, which can change how certain things in your video looks.
Most people will usually only need to produce to one or two formats. In other words, you’ll primarily be editing for web videos, or primarily for DVDs, etc. You really just need to learn enough to find the one or two compression settings that you can use regularly.
If you follow these tips for editing video, you’ll be able to create high quality, professional-looking videos yourself without having to spend thousands of dollars on the project.