Professional-grade editing software has never been more accessible, but many amateur video editors are jumping in with both feet before truly understanding the craft or the art of it. Here are five of the most common mistakes to avoid as you begin your video editing career.
It’s truly never been easier or more affordable to own and master any given editing software. Naturally, the accessibility to pro-level NLEs, as well as free training via YouTube and other resources, has created a surge in the editing community. Just about everyone I know has a copy of Premiere Pro, FCPX, or DaVinci Resolve on their laptops — unfortunately, many of them don’t really know how to edit properly.
That’s not to say they don’t have the technical skills mastered, but rather that they don’t have the creative fundamentals of editing down. And so there are many amateur editors who mistake technical skill for creative ability, when in reality the two are mutually exclusive. Below are five of the most common creative mistakes that inexperienced editors will make:
1. Cutting Too Much
Arguably the most common mistake of amateur editors is over-cutting their footage. In other words, many editors are tempted to use every last bit of coverage in hopes of creating the most dynamic edit possible. In reality though, less is almost always more. Sometimes hanging on a shot for a long time is exactly what a scene needs.
Just because you’ve got a ton of coverage to work with, doesn’t mean you need to include it. Choose only the material that’s best for the scene, and never use footage just because you’ve got it.
2. Cutting Too Little
On the other hand, amateur editors can also struggle with not knowing what to cut out. It’s quite common for inexperienced editors to want to keep in every last bit of dialogue and every single transitional shot as a means to “make the most” out of the footage they have. But an editor’s job is to EDIT.
It’s just as important for a good editor to know what not to use as it is to know what footage will work best. Don’t be afraid to get out of a scene early or to cut out a montage or transitional shot if it just isn’t working.
3. Editing for Dialogue
It’s very common for inexperienced editors to allow for their edits to be driven by dialogue. They’ll cut to a close-up when one actor is speaking, and then cut to the close-up of the other actor in the scene as soon as they respond. This ultimately leads to very boring cuts reminiscent of what you might find on low-budget television programs.
Sometimes landing on a close-up shot of an actor when they’re not speaking is far more powerful, as their reaction can speak a thousand words to an audience — or at least more than the reverse coverage of the other actor might.
4. Overusing Transitions and Filters
Nothing screams amateur more than the over use of transitions or filters. Of course, there are some (rare) cases in which you may want to pile on the filters, or go overboard with transitions for stylistic effect.
But nine times out of ten, a simple cut is all you need to transition from one scene to the next, and filters are just unnecessary. Only use effects or transitions when you absolutely need to and never as a means to randomly “enhance” your edit.
5. Opening With the Master
In film school, everyone is taught to shoot a master shot and close-ups for just about every scene. The master shot is almost always used to open up a scene, and then as the dialogue takes over, close-ups are used to cut between the various actors in the scene.
There are certainly times when this is the best way to go, but it shouldn’t be relied on as a formula, as it can feel very generic when it’s employed scene after scene. In some cases, you may be better off starting on a close-up, or in other cases maybe you stay on the wide shot for the entire scene. Always look for creative ways to use your coverage, and never rely strictly on the master/close-up/close-up formula.
If you had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring video editor, what would it be? Share in the comments below.