The act of editing a video can often seem a bit overwhelming.  This is because it is a very specialized process and one that differs greatly from many photographic or design tasks.  Understanding the standard workflow can help you complete an edit in less time and with less stress.  Let’s explore the essential steps at a high level (we’ll dig much deeper in later posts).



The first step to editing video is to transfer the footage from your camera or memory cards.  Video files are much larger than photographs, so you’ll often spend a lot more time at this stage.  Additionally, the hardware choices you make (such as card reader and hard drive) can have a huge impact on your success and frustration levels.



The act of editing a video is really the process of getting organized. Essentially you need to be able to find the best parts and separate them from the parts that aren’t so good (or can’t be fixed).  Spending a little more time up front on making the best selects as well as using metadata and rankings can dramatically improve the editing process.



The editing process is really three parts.  First you edit away the portions of a clip that aren’t useful to your narrative goals.  Once the clip is trimmed, you’ll then sequence it in a timeline.  This process involves changing the order of clips in order to tell the most engaging story or to create a logical flow.  Finally, the timing of clips is often refined by either trimming or adding transitions.  This final stage improves the overall rhythm and flow of your story.

Mix Audio


Because the volume of your clips will come in at different levels, you’ll need to mix your tracks to achieve a pleasing sound.  Perhaps you need to bring your narration track louder or pull the background sound down on a clip so its not overpowering the music track.

Color Grade


For many photographers, one of the first tasks they tackle is that of fixing color and exposure issues.  When editing video, you’ll want to put this task near the end.  There are several reasons for this reordering.  First, because video is a sequential medium, you’ll often make adjustments based on the shots that come before and after a clip.  Additionally you may change the look of a clip based on the mood you’re trying to convey. There is also a technical reason for this approach.  Using color and exposure adjustments in Photoshop increases the demand on your computer.  As such performance can slow down which can impact the ability to view clips in real-time (an important part of the edit stage).  Typically you can quickly adjust a clip to see if its “usable,” but then discard the adjustment layers until you’ve finished the actually editing stage.



Once you’re project is all done, you’ll find several publishing options available.  From Photoshop you can create master quality QuickTime video files for archiving as well as DPX image sequences so you can exchange with other professional tools.  You’ll also find the ability to export H.264 video files for use on the web or several portable media players.


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Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. […] We continue our look at editing video from a photographer’s point of view. Be sure to check out these earlier articles (Why edit in Photoshop and The editing process). […]


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About Richard Harrington

Richard Harrington is the founder of RHED Pixel, a visual communications company based in Washington, D.C. He is the Publisher of Photofocus and Creative Cloud User as well as an author on Rich has authored several books including From Still to Motion, Understanding Photoshop, Professional Web Video, and Creating DSLR Video.


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