Editing basics: Using a video editor


The internet is a wonderful thing, and lets anyone who wants to upload their videos. Being able to do that is one thing: being able to make really cool movies is something different. It’s a bit of a skill: you need to practice it, you need to learn it. It’s often daunting trying to work with a video editor and trying to put a video together. So in this video, I’m going to show you some of the basic principles that you need to understand in order to make your own video. We’ll start by taking a look at the software you’ll need, a video editing program: what it looks like, and what you expect to see on it. This is how my video editor looks when you start it up, and it’s asking me if I want to open an existing project or create a new project. I’m going to create a new project, so I’ll just OK that. There are various modes of display available on most video editors: the one that’s most useful, the one I’m going to show you, is the timeline view. This is the timeline: it’s not quite as complicated as it looks. Over here I have a preview player that allows me to see where I’m up to in the editing; here I have a file browser, so I can look for video clips, sound effects, images and all the other things to drop onto the timeline; the timeline itself is here. It starts at 0 seconds, and goes on: 1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds, as much as you need. It’s also got a number of tracks. At the moment you can see nine visible. I can have a maximum of 99, I think, on this editor, but I’ve never needed that number. Many video editors have much fewer tracks available. Some of them have tracks for specific purposes: for example, you might have a couple of tracks for video, a couple for audio, one for titles, etc. What I like about this one is that on each track I can have whatever type of object I like, which is sometimes useful. Of course, what you’ve just seen is my video editor: your video editor will probably look very different. But the principle is the same, and it should have the same basic elements: a preview player, a file browser and a timeline with a number of tracks. With some video editors, like Windows Movie Maker that comes free with Windows XP, before you can use any clips, you have to import them into “collections”. There may be some things that are a little different; check your video editor’s help files for more information. The first thing we need is some video to edit. Let me find something I can use… let me take something here. I’m going to take a file at random: let’s take this one. Now I’ll just drag it onto the timeline… …and there it goes. It takes a little while to process. There’s the video. You can see that it takes up two tracks: one track for the pictures, one for the sound. And in the preview player, I can play… …and see the video. It isn’t doing very much. But there it is. On the timeline itself you can see this orange line moving: this is the “scrubber”, and it shows you where you are at on the timeline. I can move the scrubber back and forth. Let’s have a look at the controls you need for the timeline. I can zoom out… …if my film is a bit longer… …I can zoom in as well, if I need more detail. And back to normal. As I said, you can move the scrubber back and forth. There’s usually a way, if you need to —
and quite often you do — to move forward frame by frame: here we have a “jog wheel”, which emulates a professional editing suite. I use the arrow keys on my keyboard: right arrow key moves forward one frame at a time, left arrow steps back one frame at a time. The clip I have is 13 seconds long, which is a bit long: I only need a few seconds. So I need to trim it. There are various buttons, menu items and keyboard shortcuts to cut the video where the scrubber is. But one of the simplest ways is to grab it at the edge, at the beginning here, and then drag it to wherever you want to start. And the same at the end: you can edit out the end by simply dragging it like this. And because I don’t want three seconds of complete blackness at the beginning of my video, I will move it so that it starts at zero seconds. We now have a video of just under six seconds, which is just part of the original. You could upload a video with just a single take in it, but maybe you want something a bit more demanding, a bit more interesting. Maybe you need to have a video with several different clips all together. Now that you understand the basic principle on which a video editor operates, it should be fairly obvious what happens next. Let’s drag another clip onto the timeline; I’m going to put it next to the first clip. Er, if it works properly… There we go, that’s better. So we have another clip next to it. Let me just trim that somewhat. We don’t need all of that.
That should do it: that’s enough. Now, what I’ve got is a hard cut in the middle. So when I play it you can see, all of a sudden: Pling! There it goes. Isn’t that sweet? I may not want a hard cut: I may want something different. One of the most effective things to do, and this works in most video editors, is to grab this second clip and… …drag it over the first, like this. And what we have is a cross-fade. If I put the scrubber here, and if I step through it frame by frame, you can see that the first video vanishes slowly, frame by frame, while the second video appears like magic: this is a cross-fade. Now, I’m going to try to play the whole thing through. The problem is that this takes up a lot of processing power
because it’s only a preview, not a finished product. Because it takes up so much processing power, it might be a bit juddery. No, that looks pretty good. A word of warning: most editors have a range of transition effects to pretty up your videos, but in actual fact, you’ll very rarely need to use them. Watch any professional movie or TV show: they almost always just use simple hard cuts. And that’s basically all you really need most of the time: hard cuts, or cross-fades occasionally. Anything else is eye-candy, and a little distracting, to be honest. Another thing you can do, which works with some editors —
it certainly works with mine: you can see these handles here, which I can grab hold of like this, and if I push it over like that… …I get a fade-in. So if I step through, you can see, frame by frame, how it fades in from black, like that. Let me play it… like so. And I can do the same thing to fade out: grab hold of this handle here, and pull it over like that. Now we have a fade-out to black. One thing we must always remember to do is to save our project. I’m going to save it… got to give it a name… I’m going to call this one “snowscape”, like so. But I can’t upload it to YouTube yet. What I’ve just saved isn’t a video file, it’s a project file, and there’s a big difference. I won’t go into the details now, but if you try to upload a project file to YouTube —
it’s a mistake many people make — YouTube can’t do anything with it, because it doesn’t actually contain any video. What I need to do is export it. Your editor may call it “export” or “render” or “save movie file”, or something similar. I need to find an option. And yes, my menus are in German: sorry about that. I’m going to export it as a WMV file: “Windows Media Export”. I can do that… and I have various settings here, and they look perfectly OK to me, so I’m going to go ahead and save. It takes a little while: you can see this progress bar. This video is less than 10 seconds long, so the progress bar is moving at quite a pace, but for most videos… it’s not quite so fast. And now my video player starts up and plays my video so I can see what it looks like.

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