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8 Life Lessons I Learned From Video Editing

Of all my classes in film school, I enjoyed editing the most. In the past (and by that I mean around 2007), I used Windows Movie Maker to produce a cringeworthy documentary about my building in Dubai and a cracked version of Final Cut Express. Formal introduction to video editing was with Avid Media Composer. In time, I learned After Effects, and I’ve used Adobe Premiere Pro for a lot of projects this past year. The current version of Creative Suite begs renewal (I’m running on CS5 smh).

I like Avid, but I see the appeal in Premiere.

EXPORT OPTIONS, format compatibility, way more fun with titles and the fact that you can further extend or crop a clip once it’s on the timeline are some reasons for loyalty. But that last feature — the lack of it — makes good ol’ Avid the number one choice when it comes to editing narrative film or documentary. Thoughtful cuts become necessary with Avid. It feels very much like assembling pieces of a story on a board (bins) and then of course the TRIM feature! Excellent for precision. I also like the layout of Avid better. It boldly occupies your entire screen, so it isn’t impossible to edit even on a 13-inch. Premiere is great for any short form content, hands down. Lets you link to clips immediately and edit. No need to transcode/consolidate. But when it’s not MOV and AVCHD or 4K footage, it stops being about the software and now it’s your system, memory and drive.

The bummer with editing is that it keeps you from the great outdoors. An editor’s role tends to be very demanding and tedious to the point of affecting health if you’re not mindful — back pain, shoulder pain, and eye strain can become normalities in life. That’s a lot to complain and crib about, but as with everything, if you flip over to the positive side, there are grand lessons applicable to everyday life that nothing better than editing a project can teach you.

1. Getting over the fear of mass

Any project in the beginning is an intimidating heap of randomness (sometimes in varying formats). But with deadlines a-tickin’, I’ve learned to shoot down any hint of procrastination by setting up projects immediately after a shoot. When you’re met with something really huge and overwhelming, don’t allow it to become a mountain in your head. Interrupt the mental panic by decompressing into just the immediate next step.

2. Focusing on the journey, not the destination

Once you’re over the fear of mass, determination on this journey is key. If the biggest asset of a camera operator is the ability to remain calm and collected in the hectic present, the editor’s role is one that tests endurance. It’s a pretty intense commitment with a lot of expected delays, especially when you’re editing a feature or full length doc. Huuuge amount of raw footage.

3. Being present and intuitive power

Editing is completely driven by intuition. The minute you feel things are getting boring, you cut. ADHD helps. When your mind wanders is the moment when people are beginning to tune out. A mindful tidbit to apply to everyday interactions.

4. Media management and organization

So how do you let your gut take over? Any editor knows that 70% of the job is media management and about 30% is the ‘creating’ part of it.

You need to declutter to allow creativity to shine through.

5. Flow

Staying super present and focused for a period of time (usually 45 minutes) leads to that sweet spot called flow. The foils are usually distractions and bad media management, but once you cross the initial roadblock, the process kicks off with momentum. And it’s so good that you remain rooted to the spot for hours and never dare to get up and leave before a whole cut. Swallow the initial uneasiness for a long, satisfying stretch of clarity.

6. Detachment and outcome independence

Okay, Type As, as much as your fixation on perfection is a necessity, for the sake of your sanity, you must learn to let go of:

– Whether the green in this shot and that shot look the same

– The sharpness of clips (is it 1080p or 4K?)

– The feedback on each cut

Internal defenses will slowly give way to a stage where you send off the cut that you spent days on and openly accept and execute based on feedback. It’s not your baby. You may feel you know how to really make it pop and you’re probably right, but there’s a line. Know the line. Respect the line.

7. Stress Management

Oh, things will go wrong — I’m talking unstable crashing softwares and evil self effacing hard drives. Sometimes, even human glitches like accidentally forgetting to save hours of work. None of this can frustrate you. Can’t let technology or emotion have that power. Lots of deep breaths and more detachment stops you from indulging in the pointless pursuit of beating yourself up over things you honestly can’t control.

8. Problem Solving Skills

Knowing the solution to any technical snag offhand comes with experience but who can really keep up with all the upgrades? The editor’s best friend is internet forums — Avid, Adobe, Creative Cow. When there’s a problem and the go-to solutions don’t work, the only way out is patient, persistent research. Shoutout to online forums — the importance of community cannot be stressed enough. If you’re willing to ask for help when needed and do everything in your power to understand a problem, there is no way it won’t be solved.

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