The Ultimate Video Editing Checklist for Beginners

No matter how short your final video will be, if you want to put out something that’ll wow people, you’re going to need to invest a lot of time and energy in the editing. And with such a time-consuming endeavor, proper planning is key. Here’s a 9-step video editing checklist to get you started.

  1. Choose a Good Editing Program

Get the right tool for the job. Going for the cheap or fast solution will haunt you throughout your video project. Choose Da Vinci Resolve (if budget is an issue – it’s free!), Final Cut Pro X (if you use Apple hardware), or Premiere Pro. It’s for good reason that these three NLEs are the most widely used by beginners and pros alike. Whichever one tickles your fancy, make sure to learn the keyboard shortcuts to save you tons of editing time!

  1. Plan Your Video

Especially when you’re working on a bigger project, it’s always good to start with the end in mind. Know the story you want to tell. Have a clear idea of the look and feel you’re shooting for. This will help you get aligned with your crew and take the right decisions that will help you work towards your desired end result. The better you plan, the smoother you’ll sail through all the steps in this checklist.

  1. Organize Your Footage

Chances are your camera man went mad and shot literally everything (they tend to do that). Make sure you properly back up your footage. Rename video files and organize them in folders according to storyline, topics, people, etc. While you do this, you can already trim the mass of material you have by removing shaky shots, unsharp shots, or other material you know for sure you won’t need.

  1. Cut The Fat

Once you’ve removed the unusable material, it’s time to cut and trim the footage you do plan on using. Remove the footage leading up to the action and after the action so only the action you will actually include in your video remains. This is also where you will lay the foundation for the pacing of your video. Make sure you are consistent and work towards creating the desired tone and rhythm of your video.

  1. Work On Your Sound

I know. It’s frustrating. You’re doing video and they tell you sound is more important. But it is. So, use your ears. Keep an eye on the audio meters (between 6 and 12db is the sweet spot!). Learn to work noise removal filters and software. Play with fade ins and fade outs, J-cuts and L cuts, cross-fades… and choose music that contributes to your story!

  1. Use B-roll to Show What You Tell

Sometimes you forget how delicious b-roll can be. And that’s why this list is reminding you! Use B-roll to add some style, create a killer intro, give the audience a break between themes or interviews, hide imperfections in the A-roll, tell a visual story, or add intensity and drama.

  1. Color Correct Your Footage

Color correction and grading is a skill on its own. Use it to improve lighting, fix color balance issues, and add artistic style to your shots. Ultimately, color correction will give your project a unified look and feel so that your audience will enjoy a film and not a mere sequence of shots.

  1. Add Titles, Graphics, and Effects

Complete your video project with all the necessary effects, messages, and credits. Make sure you spell-check and verify all names, personal titles, subtitles, and graphics. Make sure they are coherent and fit the tone of your video. See to it that your effects and transition flow well and won’t distract the audience from the story,

  1. Carefully Choose Your Output Settings

It’s the last step. Don’t mess it up! (wink) 

Understand how your audience will consume your video or what your client’s requirements are before you compress and output the video. Make sure you deliver the highest quality possible for your audience’s devices and connections and dial in the format presets (container/codec, size, frame rate, audio quality, …). Of course, save the project and a ProRes version alongside your compressed versions, to future-proof your work.

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