Editing Workflow

It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to edit a breaking news story, or several months for a documentary. No matter the subject, format or genre, the editor is visually literate -- a person who  understands how to tell a story visually. But when working under deadlines, editors resort to a routine that is proven to help save them time and effort. As a busy student, you will want to read this section carefully and consider applying these tips to your own work. The time that you save could then be used to finesse the work, improving its quality.

As a Photographer, Think Like An Editor

As a photographer, be thinking about how the shots will go together. Therefore, to become better at your photography, shoot like an editor. The following tips from DSLR Video Shooter (and accompanying video) should help make life simpler:

  • Get transitional shots. Better seen than explained. Watch the video below.
  • Slate your shots.
  • Overlap the same action taken from a variety of angles. This is especially true of action that is repetitious.
  • When doing interviews, get the person to say their name and spell it. Also, ask them for their title so that they can be properly identified in the story
  • Get heaps of B-roll. You can never have enough. Don't limit yourself to a handful of shots. Sometimes you might even get some random footage that could be helpful to add interest to your story.
  • Practice editing, which will help you become a better photographer. Practice, practice, practice.
  • Keep a focus in mind. Don't just document everything in sight without a strategy. Be thinking about the story or what the final product will look like.

Shoot Like An Editor from Caleb Pike on Vimeo.

After shooting and editing for a while, I've come to really respect both skills. I think more shooters should learn each and learn how to think like an editor when shooter. Check out this tutorial for 7 Tips to shoot more like an editor.

More info and links here: http://dslrvideoshooter.com/shoot-like-an-editor-7-tips-that-will-make-you-a-more-valuable-shooter

Before you start editing

  • Begin by getting acquainted with the footage, looking for those 'bread-and-butter shots' -- establishing shots, shots that can be assembled into a sequence (wide, medium and close-up of the same activity), great natural sounds, or NATS (i.e., the crack of a bat against the baseball, the roar of the crowd in the stands, the crunch of dirt as the runner slides into home, etc).
  • The 'Paper Edit' -- If the program is longer than a typical news package, producers and editors are known to generate what is called a 'paper edit,' which is essentially a script written in the two-column format that contains descriptions and time-code locations for all the visuals. The paper edit is used to help visualise the assembly of shots before any actual editing takes place.

There are 2 stages to editing:

  • Rough Cut - this is where you simply lay down the shots according to your script or story needs. The shots may not be perfectly timed, but that's OK. You'll go back to tweak the clips later. But in this stage of editing, you will want to start by editing only the audio according to the script. That's right - concentrate on editing only the audio - voice-over narration and soundbites. That is, lay down the voice-over narration and soundbites first, add in some NAT pops and other sounds until you have what amounts to a 'radio cut.' You can even get a better estimate of the story's total running time before you add b-roll. But once the "radio cut" is complete, then add the b-roll. The method described here is known as Fast Package Editing, and many professionals use it to speed up their editing. More detailed instructions can be found here: Fast Package Editing
  • Fine Cut - this is where the tweaking and finessing takes place. During the Fine Cut stage the editor applies appropriate transitions, works on making sure the audio is free from clicks and pops, allows for shots to be spaced properly to maintain rhythm and pacing, applies enhancements like titles, filters and special effects.

The final edit must appear seamless. That is, the editing itself should go relatively unnoticed by the viewer. A bad edit, one that involves an abrupt cut from a shot in motion to a static shot, or audio pops at transitions will draw attention to itself. You'd be surprised how even the smallest bad edit (a jump cut) will distract viewers, drawing attention to the edit rather than immersing viewers in the story.

Choose the links below to learn more about different types of edits:

Creating a Sequence

Matching Action

Jump Cuts


Editing Workflow
Edit Terms
Adobe Premiere Guide
Fast Package Editing Instructions
Video Compression Formats