What does a video editor do?

The language of video and film is learned so early and instinctively that we take it largely for granted. Watch any commercial sequence, maybe a movie, music videos, or advertising commercials – all follow certain conventions we understand implicitly.

Many of those “rules” in video storytelling are achieved with editing. A process of refinement; to edit in any medium is to hone and shape, optimize and enhance work. In film terms, it exists in every selected shot, hold, cut, and much more.

Finishing Touch

Traditionally a post-production job, video editing tends to begin when potentially extensive footage capture has wrapped. Hollywood directors and producers often consider the sometimes lengthy editing process where the movies are truly made.

Editor and FXhome friend mzak landed an HBO gig for his video on editing empathy into the drama series Big Little Lies – a fabulous essay on its effectiveness. Concepts and techniques that can all be learned online and used by all.  

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So video editing is important, and video editors are coveted, perhaps more than ever. But what does anyone need to begin working as a video editor? What ability or education would a wide-eyed hopeful require, and how do you gain experience?

An Editing Overview

According to most definitions, the typical responsibilities of a film or video editor are in readying content for distribution. By threading together scenes, sounds, graphics, animation, and effects, the editor assembles raw production material into a coherent final product.

This could be for broadcasting, recorded screening, on-demand streaming, or indeed all of the previous. YouTube videos right up to commercial adverts, TV shows, and feature films all qualify – with studios, production houses, and media companies among possible employers.

Often working on a freelance basis, the role is not “entry-level” with professional posts varying by training and experience. Assistant editors might expect to earn a salary of $24-34K on average, while more senior jobs can command $47-$95K dependant on the production budget. Hours can be long and shift-based, operating within edit suite environments and closely collaborating with the director or videographer.

The Job Description

Just like the actors, film and video editors will follow a script of sorts. An initial brief should provide basic project information, perhaps expanding to offer a creative editorial template for what’s expected. Scene and shot lists, storyboards, and a copy of any screenplay might add extra guidance.

Predominantly digital, the modern editor will likely work in digital formats rather than film. Cutting and splicing reels of celluloid film might be a rarified occasion, but the digital transfer of stock could be necessary during footage assembly.

Preparing daily rushes, creating rough cuts, and managing the versioning of stored files would be important tasks here too. Some editors may also be asked to select music or get involved with writing services – all add to the basic art of sequencing the action.

Skills to pay the bills

Becoming a film and video editor demands a variety of skills beyond technical ability. A patient and critical eye for detail is vital, with an appreciation of film theory desirable. 

When freelancing, one key skill is having the motivation to meet tight deadlines and manage time effectively, even while working alone. Conversely, great editors should be team players open to effective discussion and taking

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