Learn How to Edit with These Free Resources

Editing Timeline
Editors are often the unsung heroes of storytelling. Learn the basics and beyond with these helpful lessons. 

Editing is an art form learned over time, and even those considered to be the best in the business openly admit that they are still improving their craft with every new project. If you want to learn how to edit, there is an abundance of resources available. But where do you start? 

Some might say to rip the band-aid off and dive into a timeline immediately. Others will suggest rising through the ranks as an assistant editor. Signing up for classes is also an option. So is reading books about the craft. Walter Murch's In the Blink of An Eye is a must for every editor and filmmaker. Reading and watching interviews is another great way to learn from those who have done it before, like this one with editor Lee Smith or this video series where top editors share essential advice. The point is, everyone learns and comes up through the ranks differently.

The most important thing to understand about editing is that you are there to serve the story. It's not about you. If the story doesn't work, you're going to lose the audience. Now, it's possible the story doesn't work no matter how much you rearrange or edit the provided footage. The issues could stem at the script level or at the production level. Maybe the footage isn't piecing together that way it could and reshoots are necessary.

Many productions try to avoid this by bringing in the editor early on to collaborate during prep. Some productions even go as far as having the editor on set cutting the footage the same day. Editor Maryann Brandon did so for J.J. Abrams's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The same can be said for editor Colby Parker Jr. on many of Peter Berg's films, like Deepwater Horizon and Lone Survivor.

While we are on the subject, for the producers and directors reading this article, we can't stress it enoughthe earlier you can bring on an editor, or for that matter, any of the key department heads like production design, production sound, post sound, or wardrobe into the process, the better off your project will be. No Film School has interviewed hundreds of filmmakers and having more time with a project is one of the most recurring requests. 

The tools used by editors to shape stories are just thattools. Learning how to use Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve, Apple's Final Cut Pro, Vegas, or any in between is a matter of simply reading a manual, whether it's in printed or video form.

While it's important to understand what the software is capable of and how to do it, it's only a small element to good storytelling. The conversations about which software is better over another is white noise. The demands of each project are going to be different and the tools you will need to tell that story will change. So, is it important to know at least the basics of each program? Yes. But that's only the start. 

Dive into the links below to learn more about improving your skills as an editor. 

Editing Feature Image

Books 

Interviews

Avid Tutorials 

Adobe Premiere Tutorials 

DaVinci Resolve Tutorials 

Final Cut Tutorials 

Vegas Tutorials

Do you have a favorite resource where you learn how to advance your skills as an editor? Let us know in the comments below.       

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1 Comment

I've taught several people how to edit and I always say the same thing – that the best way to learn is to jump in at the deep end and start tackling projects, and projects that are bigger than you think you can handle

For the beginner, the complexities of tough edit problems force your brain to grow & adapt in ways you can't imagine until it starts happening. Trust that you can do it, and take the leap :)

March 23, 2020 at 10:30AM

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Jeff C
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