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Step 3: Editing Basics

Editing video clips together can be really fun, especially once you master a few basic features in your editing program. With a bit of patience and experimentation you'll be producing smoothly edited videos in no time. For an overview of what you can do in a standard editing program watch the video below.


Here's a recap of the main concepts you need to know to use a video editing program:

  • From Camera to Computer, the first order of business is getting the video clips that you shot on your camera over to your computer for editing. Take either a USB cord to connect the camera to the computer, or just remove the memory card from the camera and put it into a card reader that's connected to your computer. Once the camera or memory card icon shows up on your computer, it's time to transfer all those video clips, that's called importing. Next, open the icon that shows up on the desktop when the camera or memory card is connected. Then select the files you want to edit, drag and drop them onto the desktop. Depending on how large each video clip is and how many there are, this may take some time. Snack break!

  • Organization, sorting through all your video clips can be confusing so it helps to organize them with folders. Name your main folder something memorable that relates to the overall project. Within your primary folder you might want to further subdivide your clips by date, location, event, or whatever helps you keep your clips organized.

  • Back it up, your video footage is special, you made it, So don't risk losing it. Make backup copies with either DVD's or copy your footage onto an external hardrive. Should anything disastrous happen to your computer you have peace of mind knowing those memories and moments are safely tucked away on your backups.

  • Free and basic editing programs, both Windows and Mac computers come out of the box with free editing programs. For Mac's it's called iMovie, here's a lesson to get you familiar with it. On PC's running Windows you can use Window Live Movie Maker, here's a lesson to get you off and running with that.

  • General editing program layout, almost all editing programs follow the same basic structure. First you have an area called a bin, this is where all the videos, audio clips, and even images you want to use in your video are stored for you to reference. Then there's the timeline, the timeline is where you set the order that you want your clips to go in and where you'll do all the trimming. Finally you have a preview window where you can view what you have currently selected in the timeline.

    Let's review:
    • Bin - where you keep all your files (video clips, audio, images)
    • Timeline - where all the clips are cut and blended
    • Preview - this is the small screen where you can watch what you have selected in the timeline

  • Getting started, your first step in your editing program will be getting your video clips into it. Generally you'll see a control for importing, from there just select what you want to use in your project and when it's done, the clips will show up in the bin area.

  • SAVE frequently, there's nothing worse than spending hours editing something and then poof, it's gone. Get in the habit of saving your progress a couple of times every hour, especially after you've made significant edits to the project. When you first start your editing project, you'll need to name your project and give the project file a location to save it on your computer. Name your project something that's relevant to you and again, save frequently!

  • Trimming, after all of your files are in the bin, you can drag each clip onto the timeline. On the timeline we'll be able to trim videos down so we use only the most important parts of each clip. All you have to do is select where you want each clip to start and end and then use the trimming tool. Don't be afraid to try things, the changes you make in your editing program won't change your raw footage, all we're doing is editing copies of that footage, so experiment!

  • Transitions, use transitions to blend clips together. To apply a transition, just select the one you want use and drag it in-between the two clips where you want it occur. This can have a drastic effect on the feel of your video so try out a few different types and see what helps to tell your story the best.

  • Text, adding text is handy for adding titles, captions, or credits to your video. To add text just select the text tool in your editor and drag it over the clip where you would like for it to appear.

  • Sound, can completely change the feel of your video. Whether it's audio from an interview, or song that really suits the mood you want to create. To edit the audio portion of your video, look for a specialized control, something like sound and music. You'll see general controls for fading audio in and out, adjusting the overall volume, and once your audio is on the timeline, you can control where it will start and stop in your video.

  • Exporting, once you're done trimming and ordering your clips, adjusting the audio, smoothing out the transitons, and adding some text, you're almost done! Now all you have to do is assemble all those edits into one big video file so you can share it and upload to Vimeo. This is process is called exporting or compressing. You'll want to follow our recommended compression guidelines to make sure the video will look great online.

Wow, we covered a lot of stuff here! Give yourself sometime to let it all sink in, editing is a powerful skill and it takes time to learn it, but there's no reason you can't start out with a simple video project. Jump into it!

Remember to SAVE frequently, you don't want to lose those precious edits!

For reference here are our tutorials on iMovie and Windows Live Movie Maker


Video 101: Editing Basics

Average Joe is back at his apartment with a camera full of video clips that he shot. Now it's time to edit it all together, but where to begin? Suddenly Steve shows up with very strong ideas about editing, even if it's Joe's video.

New to Video School? Read our Frequently Asked Questions.

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