How to Edit Video

Just thought of the old adage, “there’s no great writing, only great editing”. I’d argue that proverb applies to any creative process. As long as the material you’re editing is editable, that is. Shit in, shit out, so to speak. You can certainly package junk nicely and give the illusion that it contains something worthwhile. Like the Eurovision Song Contest which is absolutely beautifully produced, but is still shite.

I can totally dig that a lot of folks appreciate spectacles like the ESC. They’re packaged as premium quality goods, but the entertainment value is not based on the tremendous amount of talent on display. It’s the spectacle, the party and the world-class production quality that provides the illusive nature of big-ass, television extravaganzas. It’s so huge and popular, it just has to be good, right? Whenever I get a glimpse of so-called talent shows, what keeps me watching is the real-time editing that’s going on behind the scenes. Now that’s where the real talent is; behind the console in the control room and everyone running the show. I can watch a few minutes, just to learn more about how to edit video.

I’m currently editing video footage from my 10 day yoga challenge at Kata Hot Yoga. By noon tomorrow, I should have a rough edit of the final short film with material from a couple of the classes I captured. For documentary projects like this, I work organically and just try to go with the flow, gathering as much footage as I possibly can during whatever time I’ve been allocated for filming.

Editing video is much like writing or painting. You start with a clean slate and slowly create something from nothing. Choosing which video clips to use, picking the right words to express yourself with or selecting colors to use on a canvas, are all part of the same creative undertaking. These initial choices just have to be made. But you know from the get-go that you’ll be changing them, one way or another – once you’re in the editing process. And you have to give it some time to settle and simmer. Then go back and tweak it some more.

I see editing as a reductive phase. Similar to when reducing a sauce or cooking a broth. The objective is to cut the fat, get lean and focus on the essential. Tell the story in the shortest possible way. Respect the viewer’s time.