To get the formalities out the way, if you haven’t read the previous two blogs in this series, go and check them out. Also everything I have told you/will tell you is just how I do things. There are no right or wrongs when it comes to being creative. Unless you kill someone… thats wrong!
So I’m going to try and keep this blog shorter than the previous two simply because although editing can be a HUGE part of your production, it is by far the part most open to personal opinions and decisions. What I mean is that with things like filming, there are techniques and methods I can tell you about that are industry standard things that have been around for decades. With editing, once you know how to use your chosen editing software, you can pretty much do whatever you want!
“What I am going to try and cover in this blog are the tips and tricks that I have picked up over the years that will hopefully help you improve your videos, but i’m not going to be teaching you about anything too specific as really, the whole point of editing is for you to develop your own style.
So lets start with one of the questions I get asked all the time…
What editing software do I need?
Luckily the list of reputable editing programmes isn’t that big. I’m sure there are a tonne out there that I have never heard of but I’m just going to cover the few I would potentially recommend to someone. All of these cover your basic editing needs but some offer far far more than others and usually come with a hefty price tag. If you just want something simple to roughly cut up your videos and lay them over music there is no point spending thousands on a huge software package. It’s all about choosing what you actually need.
Much like in the first blog in this series I have created a list of programmes that I would recommend and will briefly touch on each one.
“Windows Movie Maker” – A very basic but completely free programme that only runs on Windows.
I started out using this years ago to edit my first training videos but I haven’t touched it or even seen the interface in years. From what I can gather it doesn’t look like it has advanced very much so it’s only going to offer you the very basics in terms of editing abilities.
iMovie – Essentially Apple’s answer to Windows Movie Maker. Free but exclusive to Apple devices.
From the small amount of experience I have had with it I would say iMovie is more advanced than Windows Movie Maker and can offer you slightly more when it comes to transitions and titles.
Sony Vegas – Unfortunately exclusive to Windows but is completely free!
Honestly I have never used this so I really can’t say a huge deal but I know a lot of very talented editors who do amazing things with Vegas so i’m going to assume its pretty comprehensive in terms of what it can offer. If you want to do anything more than make very basic videos I would recommend this over Windows Movie Maker.
Final Cut Pro X – Considered a piece of software aimed at professionals. Can be picked up for just over £200. Intuitive and easy to use.
I used to use Final Cut a few years ago and really rated it but then it was upgraded to Final Cut X and I feel like they probably lost most of their users to Adobe Premiere Pro. That being said it has now been vastly improved and I often hear good things from people who use it. I haven’t touched it in a few years but from past experience I feel Final Cut’s downside compared to Adobe Premiere Pro (essentially its competitor) is it is lacking in the ability to really go crazy with effects and titles. There are definitely methods and third party plugins but it just doesn’t lean to the effects side of things quite as much.
Adobe Premiere Pro – Comes on its own or packaged alongside programmes such as After Effects. Purchased by monthly payments through Adobe’s Creative Cloud service. Very intuitive, limitless possibilities.
This is by far my editing software of choice! I use this thing everyday and love it so apologies if this comes across as bias. The system works so well and once you have your head around the basics, it just feels like it is so easy to progress and end up going mental. Especially when you can link all your work dynamically to Adobe After Effects which is by far one of the most powerful pieces of software I have ever used.
If you are looking to really advance your editing skills and want to get creating some crazy shit, Premiere is what I would recommend.
Avid – An incredibly comprehensive and advanced editing system. Pretty much an industry standard and used to edit TV shows and Movies.
Honestly I would never recommend this to anyone wanting to improve their freerunning videos. It’s simply not needed.
So that concludes my pretty poor knowledge of other editing systems aside from Premiere. I just want to reiterate the point I have been trying to make a lot throughout this series of blogs and that is that you have to find what works for you and you have to work at it. Buying Premiere will not make you an editing genius overnight and I am almost certain that there are people more talented with Windows Movie Maker than I will ever be at making videos, no matter what software I use. Its about putting in serious hours learning and crafting your style with the tools that are available to you.
Don’t be afraid to copy others (too an extent!!)
Genuine creativity, as we know it, doesn’t exist. In fact the man himself, Albert Einstein once said this:
‘The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.’
Now for many this statement can be a hard one to get your head around but I’m going to try and break it down for you.
We are not wizards, we can’t magic stuff out of thin air, we take things and repurpose them into other things, It happens all over the universe at an immeasurable rate. Think about states of energy, creating babies or turning natural resources into the device you are reading this on right now.
When we look at this at a level of ‘thinking creatively,’ all we are doing is taking inspiration from other things we have seen or heard, changing it slightly and putting it out as our own thoughts and ideas. If you think about the most ‘creative’ people you know, they are probably also the people with the widest interests who invest their time and energy into many things including the fields that they are creative in. The most important part of being creative is being curious.
Now before I go any further I want to state that i’m not telling you to directly copy people. Copying people is wrong and insulting to the people you are copying, especially if you pass their methods and techniques off as your own. What I am saying is you need to take in huge amounts of inspiration, sample from different bits, create your own work and then output it. As long as you’ve chucked enough stuff into the metaphorical cauldron that is your brain, what comes out shouldn’t be a copy of anything, it should be your own work with subtle nods to the things that have inspired you.
Something I see far too much in our relatively small community of freerunners is where people haven’t taken in enough inspiring content. For example, you watch a huge video like Chaps On Tour, love the music and content and instantly want to make something similar. Rather than chucking more inspiration into your cauldron you set to work straight away. You find music by exactly the same artists that were used in Chaps On Tour and go about trying to replicate exactly the same scenarios and shooting styles.
Great! In a way you have been inspired and in turn been creative, but by failing to embrace more inspiration you have created this weird twisted half cousin of a video that everyone has seen and loves. When they see your video they don’t feel inspired, they can just see that you have tried to copy someone else and not done a very good job.
I will straight up admit that I have done this a number of times in the past and try incredibly hard now days to avoid doing so. You may think of it as flattery to the original creator, and in a way it is, but the point your missing is that you’re not being as creative as you potentially could.
Realistically its not even hard work, just take more interest in the things that you enjoy and the creativity will come. I’m essentially saying, if you want to be a better filmmaker, watch more videos, listen to a wider range of music and start trying to blend what inspires you together in your head. This is the type of stuff that keeps you from sleeping and you find yourself writing notes on your phone at 4am… Obviously there are more levels to it than that but by increasing what goes in, you also increase what comes out. *Insert toilet humour joke here.*
A little tip I want to offer that I sometimes find quite helpful when it comes to learning editing techniques is this:
I download the video and go through the parts that confuse me frame by frame until I understand whats going on. I then try to learn how to replicate those techniques and incorporate them into my own style of editing.
Now before you accuse me of being sad I’m obviously not talking about any old video and I don’t go through the whole thing frame by frame. But when you encounter an edit that blows you away and totally baffles you, trying to watch that thing back over and over in youtube’s player is a pain in the arse. I like to learn stuff and I guess thats just a method I have found to be useful.
So yeah, if you want to be more creative, actively hunt out inspiration and start experimenting.
Keep your intros short.
It’s as simple as that. Nowadays we live in a world where most people can’t sit through a film on the TV without browsing the internet on our phones. Our attention spans are horrendously short and therefore no one wants to sit through your 1 minute long intro to watch 2 minutes of footage. Granted, sometimes the intro may tie into the main video perfectly, but if you are just planning to fill out the slow build of your song with loads of timelapses and slow mo walking, please don’t.
If I could go back, the first thing I would change to Storm Freerun – Barcelona, would be the intro. Every time I re-watch it, I question why we chose to have such a long intro.
In my opinion the best way to work out how long your intro should be is based on the overall length of the video. If you’re video is 3-5 minutes, keep that shit short. On the other hand if your making an hour long documentary, you could probably make that thing work for 3-5 minutes.
While we are on the topic of video length…
>Make it captivating. (Short is almost always sweet.)
If you look up captivating in the dictionary this exact paragraph is written below it. Don’t go check it, just trust me!
‘If you have two minutes of sick footage, don’t stretch it out to three minutes just because of your music choice, find a way to cut the song down or get more footage on the same level as the other stuff. You want to keep your audiences attention from start to finish so they never get second to think anything other than ‘holy shit this video is awesome.’’
My personal advice, show your friends drafts, ask for criticism, take the criticism without getting upset and improve on it. Unless your friend is an idiot, then you can ignore them.
Cut to the beat. (For action, music is your guide!)
This definitely isn’t a must, but I do it 99% of the time. To the extent that when I see other peoples videos and it almost seems like they are purposely cutting off beat, I start crying. To me, the beat of a song is just the obvious place to cut, like why would you not cut on the beat?! By doing it you will find your footage just fits alongside the song so much better.
Your choice of music literally dictates the flow of your footage, you need to listen to that song over and over and it will pretty much tell you how to edit. Generally the norm is that if you have music that is fast paced, you want to be using footage that reflects that. Vice versa for slow music etc.
Obviously there are always exceptions to this and personally I love to see when someone uses fast, crazy footage over really relaxed music and somehow makes it work. Like I keep saying, experiment and find what works for you.
Don’t overdo effects!
So much of what I am saying totally depends on what style of video you are aiming to produce but really, unless you are Michael Bay, JJ Abrams or aspiring to be either of those two, you really don’t need to fill your new video titled ‘lazy day training in London’ with explosions and lens flares.
OK, so that was a slightly extreme example but even when it comes to things like transitions, use them, to a degree, when they actually work. No one likes a lens flare transition between two shots when the skies are overcast or one of those ones where everything glitches out for 5 seconds between every clip. It simply detracts from your final video. Once again I am guilty of doing both of those things in the past!
As I said in the previous section, let the music dictate things like this. With some crazy glitchy song you will be able to pull off a glitch transition far more easily than if you’re using a piece of classical music.
This video I made contains probably some of the worst effects and grading I have ever done. Each time I watch it a cry a little inside!
Speaking of grading… onto the next topic!
On almost exactly the same tangent as the effects section. Chill on the grading! I see so many simple training videos that, much like the above video, look like they have been shot on the surface of Mars because whoever created the video got a bit too carried away with Magic Bullet.
In my opinion I feel grading has two uses.
The first is to level clips and keep everything consistent. It’s always distracting to see the warmth and colours in clips jumping around when you are trying to enjoy a video. With a video that has been accurately but simply graded, you shouldn’t even really be able to tell. Everything should just look natural. Personally this is what you should be looking to achieve with the majority of freerun videos.
The other use of grading is to convey to the audience that the video has a certain style or is taking place under circumstances that are not you’re day to day normal life. This can range from just adding a cinematic looking grade so that the audience is like ‘oh shit these guys are rockstars’ to crazy grades where you make it look like everything took place at night or in extreme weather conditions.
I feel the grade most people strive to achieve is one that looks cinematic, which is great, but its not going to help your video if the footage doesn’t suit the grade. A cinematic grade only looks good on shots that have been captured with that in mind. This goes back to my previous blog where I talk about things such as composition. If you go sticking an epic grade on average training clips its just going to look odd.
With grading, less is almost always more.
Letterboxing/black bars. (When to use them)
If you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say letterboxing, I am referring to the black bars at the top and bottom of the screen when you watch films, as seen in the image below.
These first came about when wide screen film was needed to be shown on non widescreen monitors without effecting the aspect ratio. Amazingly, because of our subconscious association with letterboxing and films, but sticking two black bars on your video footage, we suddenly think it looks more aesthetic.
Unfortunately, because of this, it’s very common for people to make non cinematic videos and chuck the black bars over it anyway hoping its suddenly going to improve everything. Its not like when they are used randomly they detract from the video but its more that there is just a time and a place to use them.
What really does detract from the video is when people make their own black bars that aren’t the correct size or are uneven and use them anyway. Basically, if you are going to use them, use them right. There are numerous places you can download matte overlays to save you the hassle of making your own ones. Or you can ignore what I just said and get super creative with different styles of them which can also be incredibly effective!
Keep it consistent.
This applies to almost all of the above. Don’t start a video with some epic, heavily graded intro, full of transitions and then turn it into your basic run of the mill training video. Like I said regarding keeping your audience captivated, you never want them thinking ‘well that was weird, why did the editor choose to do that?’
If you suddenly get inspired to try a new style of transitions halfway through making a video, either go back to the start and use that style throughout or save it for the next project. Consistency is so key to creating a good video.
Give it your own touch.
At the end of the day, you want people to like your videos, but you also want people to know that they are your creations. As you progress at filming and editing this will naturally happen anyway but its always good to work on things that you feel you can call your own that you can add into everything you do. Even if its just using certain genres of music, notable title styles or transition effects.
Also, you want to make sure you put some form of credit to yourself at the end of the video. It may feel stupid giving yourself a credit at the end of something you have created just sitting in your room in your pants but if someone sees the video and wants to pay you to make something for them, they need an easy way of finding out who you are.
So yeah! I failed at keeping this short! However I hope you have found it beneficial! I just want to finish off by saying that every part of filmmaking takes a lot of time to fine tune and even then, its not like you can ever complete filmmaking. You can always learn more, improve and change the way you do things.
When it comes to editing, you don’t have to release everything you do. Before I got super busy I used to just hear songs I wanted to edit to or see techniques that I wanted to try and spend hours editing old footage just to improve my range of skills. I just wish I still had as much free time to do that nowadays!
The next and final blog will be a short one I promise! It’s going to cover what little I know when it comes to how to best distribute your video and get it seen by the community and maybe even the world.
Giles Campbell Longley
The Motus Projects