A Simple Checklist For Editing Your Digital Videos

One of the more time consuming aspects of video production is the video editing process.

When I first started out, I found it hard to quickly edit my raw video footage shot on my camcorder into a professional looking production. I'd often spend hours in front of the computer trying to tweak and add captions, and often thought "This is tough work!".

Over the years, I've learnt that with experience, you establish a "workflow" for your video editing.

You clean up unwanted scenes, add transitions, captions and music in a very systematic way. These days I easily use only half the time or less to edit my videos.

Here I'd like to share with you a simple checklist for editing your videos so you get a quality production.

There are always five major steps in any video editing workflow. Follow these strictly and your video output will be so much better. Let's run through these give steps now.

1. Choose A Video Editing Package

The first thing to do is to select a video editing package.

There are tons of video editing packages out there. The industry standard is Adobe Premiere, which is used by professionals in the film making industry. The equivalent competitor packages are Sony Vegas and Final Cut Pro, both of which excel in video editing functionalities. The problem with these packages is that they cost a lot of money and are usually out of the budget of a beginner or intermediate level video editor.

Start by choosing a good video editing package

I'd recommend that you start with a basic video editor package first. Understand the video editing basics before you move on to more advanced packages. The more popular video editing packages in this category include Adobe Premiere Elements and Corel VideoStudio. These have basic video editing features like scene detection, titles, transition effects and music support - but include advanced features if you'd like to get more creative.

The best way to learn these packages is to learn from the product manuals. When I got my copy of VideoStudio, I practically ran through every single instruction step in the PDF manual to familiarize myself with the product's capabilities.

2. Import Video Files

The next step in the video editing process is to import your video files into your selected software package. There are three ways of doing this - using FireWire, a video capture device or directly using a SD memory card.

FireWire is a communication protocol used by camcorders and computers. What you do is to hook up a FireWire cable to the FireWire port on your digital camcorder on one end, and to a FireWire port on your computer. These days, most computers have a FireWire port built in for this kind of connection (you used to have to purchase a dedicated FireWire card to plug into your computer's expansion slots - but not anymore).

The second approach is to use a a video capture device that streams video from your digital camcorder into your computer. What you do is to hook up your camcorder to one end of the device (usually with RCA cables), and your computer to the other end of the device (using a USB cable). These devices are usually slick and come with video capture software to ensure the video transfer process is smooth.

Finally, if your digital camcorder captures video directly into a SD memory card, you simply need to plus that memory card straight into the card reader slot of your computer. You then simply drag and drop the video files into the folder of your choice on the computer, ready for video editing. This is my favorite approach because it is fast, clean ans simple. SD memory cards can now store a lot of video due to their immensely large memory sizes.

One thing to also take note is whether your camcorder supports high-definition (HD) video. Standard definition (SD) videos usually have AVI, MOV, MPG, MP4, MOD, etc. as file extensions.

HD videos tend to be captured as TOD, MTS, M2TS files. Some video editing software programs don't support MTS or M2TS - so you should select your package carefully. VideoStudio and Premiere Elements do support these formats.

The screen for importing video files into Corel VideoStudio

3. Edit Your Video

Right, once you've got the video into your computer, you can then edit your video using the editor of your choice.

Most video editing professionals do a "rough cut" at the start of the video editing process. They load the video into a "timeline" in the program, then trim out the parts that they don't need. This is important for cutting down the video to the most essential footage that you want.

Once you've got the video trimmed down, you can then get on to the creative options.

One of the first things I do (e.g. for wedding videos) is to add titles and transition effects. Imagine that you have the wedding couple at the church and you want to cut away to another scene where the couple is on vacation - you'd use a transition effect for this. And you'd add a title, e.g. "Together In Paris ..." to depict the vacation.

The other thing I'd do is to add special effects like an old movie effect to instill more flavor into the production. Some video editing packages provide add-ons to give really cool stuff (e.g. Adobe After Effects).

Packages like Corel VideoStudio offer great special effects

One final thing I usually do is to include sound and music to my video. You want to make sure you add music tracks that are relevant and support the effect and mood you're trying to create.

The final step is to then include closing credits - the better video editing packages contain standard closing credit templates you can use to produce professional looking results.

4. Save Options

Once your video is properly edited, preview it in the editing software. What the video editing software will do is to render the video (usually takes some time) and then show you what the production would look like end-to-end. Once satisfied, you can save a video to any number of formats, e.g. AVI, MOV, MP4.

You can also convert HD video to SD video to save some space. The output video file can also be burnt to a DVD or Blu-ray disc or uploaded to the Internet (e.g. into YoutTube, Vimeo, and so forth). Read this article for more information on video sharing options.

Wrapping Up ...

And that's all to the generic video editing process. When you're editing videos, follow this workflow so that you're more systematic and efficient in editing.

Remember, when you're starting out its easy to lose yourself in hours and hours of video manipulation or trial and error. Try to stay focused and finalize the video production so its ready to share. Until next time, good luck and have a great time editing those videos!