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How to become an editor?

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Catherine Andrus
How to become an editor?
on Feb 18, 2014 at 5:41:22 pm

I have a passion for editing and creating. I have already graduated from college with a Bachelors in Mass Communications. I have spoken to some editors who say they have their own language that you won't learn in school.
So I would like advice on how I can become an editor. What should I do to follow this goal?

Catie Andrus
Production Assistant
Aspiring Film Editor


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Mark Suszko
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:30:45 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:33:03 pm

I can't tell by your post, but have you done ANY editing yet? Hopefully, in school? And some outside of school?

And what in particular do you want to edit? Commercials? Long form documentaries? Short subjects? Music videos? Drama? Comedy? Sports? Broadcast? Industrials? Religious? Medical/technical? Forensic/Legal? Weddings/events? And do you mean editing alone, or compositing as well?

Assuming you got a course or two in editing during school, did you make a demo reel? Or an online web portfolio? If not, you need to get some resources together and build a body of work you can point to and show people: "I did THIS", "I know how to do THAT".

You should have had some internships or "practicum" experience during school: have you used those contacts yet in your networking?



Then you beat the bushes and knock on doors at production houses, looking for entry-level or freelance work, in whatever capacity they have open. On the side, you're constantly creating your own stuff, with some friends, to improve and widen your skills, and you're entering any competitions that you can. Like writing, editing is learned by watching really good people and studying what they did, and why they did it, then doing your own hands-on practice and experimentation.

I won't tell you what software to get: I believe you should pick the NLE system that you like best, that works the way you like to work. When you're comfortable with a particular setup, you'll get better, faster. Eventually, you will find jobs or employers that use a different platform than you know. The core skills of editing apply to any platform; learning what the different key combinations are for each system is relatively easy after that. But since there are many free or student versions of the big 3 or 4 choices available, you really COULD get some hands-on with each one... just don't say you're an expert in ALL of them at once. :-)


So, tell us more about yourself and what your current skills are.


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Catherine Andrus
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 18, 2014 at 6:50:23 pm

I have done editing in school and a few projects since I left 2 years ago. I mostly use Final Cut Pro 6 which I have the Final Cut Studio at home, but in school I was taught FCP 7. I have used some other types like Premiere.
I did not make a demo reel when I was in school and so I have been researching how to make one that is catered to becoming an editor. I have read different things, one saying you should only use one project to show how to tell a story and other sites show that they use multiple clips.
I only have a small handful of videos that I did in couple and a couple since I have left. I don't know if it's to early to make a demo reel since I don't have many works to choose from.

Catie Andrus
Production Assistant
Aspiring Film Editor


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Mark Suszko
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 18, 2014 at 8:38:13 pm

Well, I don't think it's ever too early to start building a reel. But you have to be brutally honest with yourself and include only the very absolute best of your work in it. As you get better stuff, replace the least-good parts, so the thing is constantly in a process of updating.
Five to ten minutes I think, for a general reel. On your web site, you could put up several, moretargeted reels, each one for something specific, like commercials, sports, events, documentary, etc.

But the "calling card" reel should be really short and pack a punch.


As to format, the only consensus I know of is to make it short and to lead with your very best work.
An editor's reel is going to look different from a camera operator's reel, in that yes, no matter what else you're doing, every edit choice should help tell some kind of story or build a logical sequence. If I was to make a demo reel, it would include some 2 and 3-character conversations with multiple cameras. It might show some montage examples, and some compositing demos with a split-screen before/after to show how I added all kinds of subtle effects and color-correction.

If you don't have many projects to show, get going and make some new ones. Try your hand at doing a kinetic typography piece, set to a poem or well-known speech or quote that's public domain. Do a visual poem: an essay on a subject like "couples", "winter", whatever. Make up a product and create the commercial for it. Illustrate in motion and sound, some hard-to-explain technical concept. Pick a cause you believe in deeply, and make some PSA's in support of it. Then later, take the best samples of those, to the charity or organization, show it to them, see if you can get hired to make them for money.

The overall point is to be making something new, any time you have free time; to push yourself until you find your limits. To find out what you like and what you're best at, finding things you didn't even know you could do. Making something cool. Then taking it apart and making it BETTER. Then collecting the best of this work and showing it to anybody with functioning eyeballs, and asking for work until you get a yes".


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Stephen Smith
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 19, 2014 at 5:57:48 pm

I think internships are a great opportunity to get your hands on some "real world" stuff for your reel and make great contacts as Mark mentioned. Who know, the company you do an internship just might hire you. I don't remember the numbers but the book Knock 'EM Dead is about getting a job and spends a lot of time on networking. It is something like 75% of jobs are not posted online or they already have picked their new employee and are listing because they have to. The company I work for has never listed a job in over 30 years. We hire people we have already worked with and know would be a good fit for us. Best of luck.

Stephen Smith

Utah Video Productions

Check out my Vimeo page


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Rich Rubasch
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 20, 2014 at 2:49:52 am

I can tell if a person has a natural talent to edit in the first 7 cuts. Sequence of shots, timing from shot to shot, overall pacing in relation to subject, audio split edits if applicable, cutting to the beat or cutting for visual impact....all these things are usually revealed in the first 5-7 cuts of every reel or edited show piece. The rest of the real is just more of the same.

So make your first 7 edits count...work them, and you have to feel it...really feel it for yourself.

Try to visualize the first 7 shots of an opening sequence for a non-profit that helps at risk kids get off the street. What is the duration of that sequence? I would say under 12 seconds. But one shot will play for 4 seconds.

Look at the visual layout of your sequence on the timeline. If all the video chunks are laid out with the same duration, one after the other you probably aren't there yet.

Also, always watch an edit without sound to see if the visual sequencing is working. Try laying a completely different piece of music against it and if it is strong visually I will bet it would work with many types of music....because the base story, the visuals are working.

My 2ยข

Rich Rubasch
Tilt Media Inc.
Video Production, Post, Studio Sound Stage
Founder/President/Editor/Designer/Animator
http://www.tiltmedia.com


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Bill Davis
Re: How to become an editor?
on Feb 22, 2014 at 4:53:14 pm

It might help you in your early days to think of your editing as a series of passes.

The first one I consider the "reductive" pass. It's all about removing what's unnecessary. If you have six "takes" of scene one - you know you're only going to use ONE of them - so try to reduce the number of options. That may or may not mean you want to get your choices reduced to the final best one - you may have contenders and aren't sure which is the best choice yet, but you can usually eliminate lots of broken takes and obviously flawed choices. Reduce your choices to only what has a good chance of advancing your story.

The next pass is the "assembly pass" in my internal dialog. This is where you figure out what the natural order of your scenes will be and whether your project would benefit from breaking that natural order using techniques such as flash backs or dramatic foreshadowing. It's the structural phase where you make sure your audience has the proper signposts to keep up with the story flow. How rigid or flexible this can be largely depends on the sophistication of your target audience. A simple example is that if you're editing a continuing series where the audience knows the characters, you don't have to stop and explain character behavior motivations, since the audience will know why the character is behaving as they do - where that same response might not make sense without the back story - so you'd possibly need to have more character development scenes in a "one-off" project. This should be obvious from the script - but there's more "unscripted" stuff on the air than ever before, where the editor literally participates in to crafting story lines rather than just following a script blueprint.

The final pass is polishing where you make sure the rhythm of your editing works with everything from final sound mixes with music (if present) to the amount of time each story element requires in order to do it's job contributing to the whole flow of the piece.

Some editors do all the above in a single pass working from the first to the last scene. Others do it in stages. There's no ONE TRUE WAY to do this stuff.. As long as your ultimate goal is laser focused on helping your audience grasp the material and enjoy the ride, you can't go too far wrong.

Hope that helps you develop your own thinking about how YOU want to edit... and welcome to the craft!

Know someone who teaches video editing in elementary school, high school or college? Tell them to check out http://www.StartEditingNow.com - video editing curriculum complete with licensed practice content.


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