A Beginners Guide to Video Production: basic video editing guide

Concept Development

A Beginners Guide to Video Production: basic video editing guide

Concept Development

Basic Video Editing Guide

This is the third post in our beginner’s guide series. The first one covers all things pre-production. In the second on we share our most important tips on filming. But for now, let’s return to our basic video editing guide.

What is video?

To start our basic video editing guide, it’s important to understand a bit of fundamental theory. Video is quite simply a series of single images being displayed in quick succession. Our eyes perceive this as movement. Different countries have varying standards at which the speed of these images should be displayed for broadcast. In the UK, for example, the PAL standard requires 25 of these images in every second of the video. In the US, the NTSC standard is 30 frames (images) a second. This is know as the frame rate.

Each one of these images consists of thousands or even millions of pixels. The more pixels an image contains, the higher the quality of video. This is the fundamental difference between Standard Definition Video (SD), which has thousands of pixels, and Ultra High Definition Video (UHD), which has millions. In the UK the PAL standard for SD 25fps while in the US the NTSC standard for video is 30fps.

“But my phone films in 4K”?

Although many phones and other device already have the option to record in 4K or UHD (and yes, there is again a subtle difference), most screens hardly meet the technical requirements to make full use of all those extra pixels. The biggest benefit of filming in 4K or UHD lies in the ability to crop your image in the edit without loosing quality. When filming in 4K, you can film a wide shot of a person from the waist up and if you want to shorten the clip or if they make a mistake in the same shot you can crop in to HD a close up of their face, skipping forward on the clip without having an amateurish jump cut. Depending on the style of your video though, a jump cut might be just what you want!


Video Editing

With that bit of theory out of the way, we really dive into our basic guide to video editing. When a camera records a piece of video it creates a high quality video file, usually in 1080p or 3840p to get the best quality but other standards can be used. When filming is over, transfer the footage to your computer to start the editing process. Video editing requires dedicated editing software. In the professional environment, many editors use packages such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro or DaVinci Resolve. Most personal computers do have some basic editing software such as Windows Movie Maker, iMovie. Although there are several different editing software available, most are similar in the way they edit video.


Start a new project

Once you create a new project in the editing software, it will generally ask you what video from the camera you will be using. It is important you remember certain details such as the frame rate of the video and at what quality it was recorded, i.e 1080p at 25fps. This is the foundation for your edit.

Video editing software generally uses a linear system of timelines. Editing a single piece of video is as simple as locating where you want the final video to start and where you want it to end. You can then ‘cut out’ the parts of video you do not want and leaving the parts you do. For example, Video A is 90 seconds in length and placed at the beginning of the timeline. Video B is 60 seconds in length and placed after Video A on the timeline. The result is that Video A will then be displayed for 90 seconds and afterwards Video B will be displayed for 60 seconds.

Video Channel 1: Video A 90secs > Video B 60secs

For our basic video editing guide, it is important to understand the concept of layers. Editing software consists of various channels or layers. The key thing to remember about video channels is that any video placed on a channel ‘on top’ of another will ‘cover up’ the one below depending on the length of each video. If there is no video present in either of the channels then a black video is displayed. The example below shows Video A placed on Video Channel 1, which is the bottom video channel. Video B is placed on Video Channel 2 which puts it above Video A and thus covers it up. If Video A is 90 seconds in length and Video B is 60 seconds in length then Video B will be visible for 60 seconds and afterwards Video A will be visible for 30 seconds.

Video Channel 2: Video B 60secs

Video Channel 1: Video A 90secs


Basic Visual Effects

Most editing software come with effects you can play around with and apply to video. The most common is the ‘Fade out’ or ‘Fade to black’ and is a form of transition in editing. It can be used to fade into a video from black or fade out from video to black. Quite often, editors place this at either the beginning or end of video. To fade in and out from one video to another (aka ‘cross dissolve’) this effect must be placed on the ‘edit’ or ‘joint’ of the two pieces of video. 1Any effect, such as desaturation or going fully black and white for no apparent reason doesn’t make your video edgy, cool or interesting. If anything, it just looks like you don’t know what you’re doing. Don’t make your business a joke.



Audio, much like video, you edit on audio tracks on the timeline of your preferred editing software. Usually, the audio tracks are numbered and correspond with a video track. For example, Video track 1 is linked to audio track 1, 2 to 2, and so on. Just drag the footage on to the timeline, any audio automatically gets placed in sync with its corresponding video track.

Sometimes, you want to record audio separately. If that’s the cases, just import the audio file into your project. This is often the case when a dedicated Sound Engineer is at work. At that point, you need to sync it up with the video it relates to. You can do this manually. Just look at at the waveform of the separate audio and match it to a visual cue, such as a clapper board or handclap. There are software plug-ins you can purchase that do all the syncing for you. A good example of this is PluralEyes, which works with most professional editing software.

Audio Mixing

The key to good sound in a video is mixing the audio levels correctly. Poor audio quality can potentially distract the audience even more than visual mistakes in the video. For a good sound mix, an editor should always be looking to utilise three basic audio mixing techniques.  Each will solve a lot of audio-based problems. These are levels, compression and EQ.


Balancing the levels is simply a case of using your ears. You should judge what level each audio clip should be in relation to the clip before it. If you’re struggling to get the level of a clip or whole section right, ask someone else for their opinion. As with most things audio, two pairs of ears are often better than one.


Basic compressors will help to reduce plosives in the audio, where the level drastically increases in a way that is uncomfortable on the ears when playing back. Drag and drop a compressor on to the audio clip. Start to play around with the ratio and threshold settings to find what sounds best. There are plenty of good compressor setting for various sounds such as musical instruments or voices on the Internet that can be found by simply searching.

EQ Effects

EQ effects adjust the spectrum of frequencies different sounds work on. So for example you may need to boost the sound of a vocal within a mix by increasing the EQ at around 3 – 5kHz, by about 5dB. This should noticeably change how prominent a vocal is amongst the rest of the different sounds within a mix. Just drag and drop an EQ Effect on to a clip just like compression. And similarly, you can find many good EQ settings suggestions by searching the Internet.


The final step in our basic video editing guide is exporting. Once you have finished editing your video with the animation you will then have to export it to a video file in a particular format. In most editing software you will find an export video option. This will generally ask you where you want the created video file to be saved. It will also ask you the level of quality and what format you would like it in.

The level of quality should depend on the source video you used from the camera and what you would like the video to be used for. For example HD camera footage should not be exported at 4k as this is too high a quality for HD. Expect a pixelated, blurry and generally very low quality result. However, a 4k video file to going straight to Youtube in HD is perfectly fine. There is plenty of quality in the original video.

Video Compression

Once you feel you’ve finished with video editing, export it and make it video file. That video file differs from the one created by the camera. The software compresses it down into a smaller video format suitable for a specific task. For example, an MPEG-2 file is ideal for a DVD as it is small enough to fit onto the disc.

Video Files

MPEG-4 / (mp4): Highly compressed for web video such as Youtube.

MOV: Slightly compressed, ideal for re-editing.

The Conclusion

We understand why you might want to produce your own video rather than pay for a company like us to do it. Still,  look at how you want your business to be portrayed to your target audience. I would like to believe that your business and customers deserve more than what an amateur can produce. Why would you spend 5 or 6 days producing a video that may not work when it isn’t what your company does?  That’s time you could be working with your customers, chasing new leads or refining your own processes. You wouldn’t have a go at building your own house would you? No, you would bring in an expert and a team of people who know what they’re doing.

However, if you are going to give it a go yourself, please ask us for some advice, we are always happy to help.


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