3 Key Characteristics of Great Film and Video Editors

Which traits do successful editors possess that help them craft dynamic visual stories?

Editing is an art form that dwells in both the technological side and creative side of filmmaking, which means its craftspeople have to be just as tech savvy as they are artistic. With so many skills and attributes that benefit the craft in different ways, what are some of the more crucial ones that young editors can learn to hone early on? In this short video, editor Roy Schneider gives a basic explanation of what an editor is, but in doing so, provides a pretty solid argument as to why storytelling, instinct, and versatility are some of the most important characteristics in successful editors.

Great editors are a lot of things: they are hardworking, adaptable, and able to nurture a director's vision while still employing their own expertise in the editing room. However, Schneider touches on three traits in particular that form the foundation of every great editor.

They are storytellers

Regardless of which phase of production you're in, story is king. Great editors know that their #1 goal is to ensure that every clip, every edit, and ever transition is put in their timeline to serve the story, and perhaps their #2 goal is to have the courage to cut out that which does not—no matter how good it is. Having a keen understanding of visual language is key to being a great visual storyteller and editors need to be able to recognize how different arrangements of clips affect viewers emotionally.

They are instinctual

There are very few hard and fast rules in editing, and most of those are technical in nature. When it comes to the creative side, great editors rely on their instincts to know when to make a cut, how to transition between shots and scenes, and how to pace their edits using different editorial techniques, because there isn't a playbook for editing. You can't say "the best duration for a cut is X seconds long" or "every close up needs to be proceeded by X shot size." Editors have to feel the edit, because that is ultimately what their audience will do. 

They are versatile

Many editors don't just edit video footage. They also work with audio, color grades, and visual effects to some degree, which means being a jack of all trades will help you reach higher levels in your career. If you don't know much about mixing audio, creating LUTs, or crafting 3D effects, devote some time to learning about these areas of post-production so you can have plenty to offer clients who want to hire you.

Which traits do you think great editors possess most? Let us know down in the comments.     

Your Comment


They are psychologists -- They need to get into the heads of their collaborators and figure out what they want when often times they don't know exactly.

April 28, 2018 at 8:44PM


Editors are the unsung "heroes" of the industry.

April 29, 2018 at 12:48AM


You have so much popularity, why not give real value in your content?.
What it got to do with free content?
If it say nothing dont post it. Newbys will only get confused by this kind of posts

April 30, 2018 at 11:13PM

amity zmora

That was well edited. I've always admired the editing work of sports and Reality TV editors. To me, crafting a story from almost nothing is the biggest challenge any editor can face. Regarding the video above, as an intermediate editor, there's much to be analyzed the way he cuts the piece together. I always try to watch videos on editing and see the way they piece it together. I try to analyze the order of cuts and analyze any editing themes he/she may be trying to convey; and there’s definitely a rhythm to his madness. There’s always something to be learned; depends on how you look at it.

May 5, 2018 at 8:22PM

Seth Burke

May 7, 2018 at 8:43AM


https://bit.ly/2whg61u tried it it was awesome would recommend to everyone

May 7, 2018 at 8:45AM, Edited May 7, 8:45AM


As the Producer/Editor of this piece, I am a little disappointed in some of the negative and attacking reactions to what was created as an introduction to the profession of video editing for underserved students in NYC. The piece was created for the Garden of Dreams Foundations MSG Classroom. I created it to introduce the profession of Video Editing.

As for those who questioned my background, I am a 9-time Emmy Award Winning Video Editor and have been doing this for over 30 years. I have worked as a Senior Editor for some of Top Post Houses in NYC, ESPN, Fox Sports, MSG, HBO, and even Sesame Street.

For those that question the originality of the content... I wrote every word, though the sculptor concept was something I read and liked, I (my DP Directed by me) shot all the original footage. I edited every edited piece in the video as well. I did get music videos from Zac Brown, but it was used only as footage for the edited tease. I worked hard on this piece on my personal time to help educate a bit. It was never created to be how does an editor think, or the psychology of an editor brain when editing.

I offered it to NFS because I believe there is something to be learned from this video about the personality traits of an editor and what we really do.

The Best of Everything Always my Friends!

May 8, 2018 at 1:50PM

Roy Schneider
Executive Producer/Director/Editor

Thanks for chiming in to describe the purpose and intent of the video! I hope the negative responses don't discourage you from sharing more of your expertise in the future. I am personally not interested in editing but I am always interested in the betterment of the community as a whole and I am sure your knowledge is highly valuable to many who come here. Now, if my nose isn't too brown, I'll be off to bumble through some edits I shouldn't have agreed to do. Ha.

May 13, 2018 at 12:08PM

Aaron Castillo
Director/DP/Graphic Designer/Animator/Musician