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This tutorial will be using HitFilm Pro but you can follow along in HitFilm Express if you have the VFX: Distortion pack, VFX: Retro 2 pack, and the VFX: Neon Lights pack.

what does a video editor do?

What does a video editor do?

A career in video editing might seem exciting and alluring, but what is it exactly and what does take to become one? In this article we examine the role as defined by the film and video industry, with insights into the ideal software for developing such skills.

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what does a video editor do?

What does a video editor do?

A career in video editing might seem exciting and alluring, but what is it exactly and what does take to become one? In this article we examine the role as defined by the film and video industry, with insights into the ideal software for developing such skills.

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.  

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.

video editing timeline

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.

Creating storyboards for filmmaking

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 direction.

While not always dependant on academic training, some formal qualifications could also be desirable. A degree or diploma in communication or media studies, graphic design, or the visual arts are often recognized as relevant subjects.

Diploma courses on filmmaking, including video editing and film post-production, could also provide a useful foundation.

Learn with HitFilm 

Training can also cover gaining experience with editing tools, the most crucial being software. Many film and video editing job postings will expect a working knowledge of certain suites such as Avid Media Composer and Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

Many of these have been synonymous with the film and video business for years but can be expensive to learn. Costly courses or buying premium software are particularly prohibitive for beginners or students, so thankfully, more accessible solutions exist.

HitFilm Pro for filmmaking
HitFilm Pro

Available as a totally free download for Windows and Mac, HitFilm Express is an all-in-one video editing and VFX software supported by online learning resources. Every bit as equipped to master essential techniques, users of all levels can hone skills rapidly with FXhome’s YouTube channel.

Essential Features

HitFilm Express is particularly unique here because it adds powerful visual effects capabilities. While not central to a video editor’s remit, recognizing how animation, 3D modeling, and VFX fit the post-production workflow is undoubtedly useful.

As an editing environment, Express boasts a non-linear approach with a timeline unlimited by video and audio tracks. Work simultaneously on scenes to achieve complicated composite shots and make quicker, sharper cuts with the dedicated editing trimmer.

Timeline clips can even be adaptively re-trimmed on the fly before adding instant dissolves or fades between shots. Such stock-in-trade techniques are then supplemented by built-in audio mixing, color correction, grading, and more.

A Better Understanding

Hopefully, those looking to discover film and video editing, or pursue employment in the field, will better understand the role.

Those hoping to explore the art across personal projects or vlogs can still produce like the best with HitFilm, while would-be pros seek work. YouTube is furtive ground for awesome editing from the likes of This Guy Edits, with it all eminently achievable in Express. Novices can learn a skill, put it into practice, and share the results.  

For career seekers, it’s also a great final tip to think about using such software to showcase core skills. A company or client is more likely to find and hire you when they can view evidence of talent. Like artists or designers might have a portfolio, hopeful video editors should assemble an engaging showreel. 

No matter your aims or wherever they take you – have fun becoming the best editor you can be!

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Mark Billen

Mark Billen

I'm a freelance artist, musician, and writer based on the south coast. Passionate for video and filmmaking, I'm the former editor of Web Designer magazine and I regularly contribute creative tech articles to iCreate and Broadband Genie. @Mark_Billen