POV 101: Editing Your Film

With helmet cams ubiquitous at ski resorts and on trails, everyone is a filmmaker nowadays. But making a good movie takes some practice, planning, and just a pinch of luck.

Mar 4, 2013
Outside Magazine

Having the right software can mean the difference between 1 view and 1 million views.   

The first rule of editing: Keep it short. You have four minutes, maybe five if you push it. We viewers are busy: We need to check Twitter, send emails, text, and make it look like we’re doing work, all at the same time. We don’t have time to watch anything long. That means cut.

If you have 10 seconds of you packing up your car, use three. Find someone who doesn’t do your sport and get their honest opinion on what to cut. Just because you think 40 seconds of ski waxing is exciting doesn’t mean your audience does.

That said, you still have to follow the arc of the story. This is the most difficult part of making a video, keeping the balance between action and lifestyle just right. Cut out what you don’t need, but make sure you leave the introductory parts in.

Audio is just as important as video. If you have crappy sound in the video, consider muting the recorded sound and just using background music. Find a piece of music with some rhythm (and it doesn’t have to be The Glitch Mob, Pretty Lights, or AWOLNATION’s Sail) and edit to that. Think of what the slow, dun-dun-dun Jaws theme did to all those shots of open water.

When it comes to transitions, less is better. Your video editing software will come with a ton of cool transition options (example). George Lucas can almost get away with using them because, well, Star Wars. But you’re not him. You can fade in, fade out, or do a hard switch to the next clip. Nothing more. Ever.

Speed up the boring parts and slow down the exciting parts. If you need to, you can even shoot things you know will be boring (hiking, driving, packing) as a timelapse. Don’t be afraid to double back for a slow-motion shot either. If you’re pulling a trick on your skateboard, you can show it to us in normal speed, and then again in slow motion to really get the point across.

Finally, while a picture may be worth a thousand words, a few well-placed words can save a video. You can make grainy old archival footage work by adding narration or subtitles, so the video just has to work as a visual.

Filed To: Culture, Video, Cameras
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