Editing video is a skill everyone should learn. It should be required learning like reading, writing and arithmetic. Why? Well, partially because I’m on a mission to help people make and use video for learning purposes. For real, video makes up most of the internet traffic right now. More and more people are using the medium to communicate. Making videos for learning requires that you become an editor even if you end up hiring someone to do it for you!
So let’s get to it!
A good edit is one that no one realizes is there.
~ Chris Karel
10 Things You Need to Know About Editing Video
As our ability to communicate around the world continues to grow, we need to grow our communication skills to keep up. I’ve personally communicated with learning professionals in Nigeria, Australia, Germany, Scotland, U.A.E., England, France, and Canada. All of my communications were videos. This has been normal for years now! What I’ve realized is that technology has outpaced our collective knowledge on how best to use the medium. Specifically, most everyone I’ve met wants to make videos that help their learning audience. So let’s baseline this knowledge base.
The edit starts in the script
The script or storyboard is your editing roadmap. Remember, a good learning video focused on improving the #KSB is created in the script or storyboard. Once the content has been ideated, drafted, revised, and approved by the subject matter experts, only then are you able to record a “good” video. Following best practices like my Ultimate Guide to Scriptwriting will help you start a “good” edit.
More options = better edit
When you record, gather as many takes as you need to make the best content. If you have options as a video editor, you can improve the flow of the edit. If there is only one take and it’s a bit off, then the video will be a bit off.
B-roll is like butter
Sure you don’t have to cook with butter. There are alternatives. However, butter makes things taste better by improving the texture, flavor, and consistency of food. B-roll plays the same role in video. Sure, you can skip b-roll, but the video will not be as good. Also, if you have a tough transition to make (like going from one clip to another where the person’s facial expression or body position doesn’t match) then laying a piece of b-roll overtop will make it taste delicious and go down smoothly.
The audio has to be good
Audio is the most important part of a learning video. There are no shortcuts to this skill. You have to record clear, quality audio. Then, you have to make sure the audio mix is consistent throughout the video. Here are my suggestions:
For online video that is typically played on a mobile device or a computer in a busy office, try to normalize your levels close to -3db without topping out at 0.
Overall Mix: –6db to -20db
Dialogue: –6db to -12db
Music: -14db to -20db
Sound Effects: -15db to -24db with occasional spikes up to -7db.
Avoid music during instruction
Music is a great way to get into a learning video. Sometimes, music can aid in keeping the story moving along. However, if your on-camera talent is speaking directly to the learner for an extended period of time, do not play music under their message. It will be distracting.
You see it before you hear it
As a general rule, we see things before we hear them. Light travels faster than sound. Therefore, when you edit video, you should put text or graphic overlays onto the screen before the narrator references them. Break this rule when it comes to editing dialogue between two people. When you show the reaction of someone’s face it can be very effective to hear the other person’s voice without visual distraction.
Give text 4-7 seconds to breathe
When you put a list on screen, use text to support the narration, or offer a title, allow the learner four to seven seconds to read it before you take it away. Keep your amount of text to as few words as possible. This is dependent on the learning audience. Young adult audiences may be able to handle 2-4 seconds. Whereas, mature adults and children will need longer to process the visual cues.
Jump cuts are salty
A jump cut is overwhelming like too much salt in a soup. You need to understand jump cuts before you start editing your video. They are common and effective if used correctly. Used sparingly, they can elevate a video the way a few grains of coarse salt make caramel taste amazing! However, if used improperly they can make a learning video hard to watch.
Cut on motion
Motion helps our eyes follow things. Cutting on motion means you make a cut where motion begins in one clip and it ends in the second clip. If your actor walks to the right in clip one they should keep walking right in clip two.
Sound effects can sweeten the sauce
Adding a few effects to the entrance of graphics or a subtle twinkle to a text callout adds to the fantasy of video. Most people loved animated cartoons as a kid (and some still love them as adults!). The sound effects added to a video keep the viewer engaged. But use them sparingly.
Video editing is quickly becoming a “must know” skill as prevalent as driving a car or tying your shoes. Taking the time to learn the “language” of editing will help your learning videos exponentially in the long run. It all starts with a good script. Then, take your time to get multiple takes of all your pivotal scenes, get that b-roll, make sure the audio is clear, and use on-screen visuals such as text and graphics with intentionality. Learn about jump cuts and how to use them, add a dash of well-placed sound effects, and use music to add some aural interest.
Once you think you’re done editing, make sure to watch back your completed piece in full to catch any black empty frames or audio issues. This is just the beginning of your journey in editing and there is a lot to learn. But now that you’ve got the basics, you’ll learn more with each project and be a learning video editing pro in no time!
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