Editing video is more accessible to amateurs thanks to the availability of free software. It can be daunting to learn how to edit videos without professional-level training. It is possible to edit everything – from a family vacation montage to a pilot episode of a web series. We created a guide on how to approach editing, even if you’ve never use the software before.
Before you jump into the video editing process, you’ll need to do some research. Here are some questions to consider when getting started:
What kind of videos are you editing?
Are you working on “vlogs” for YouTube, short films, feature-length films, documentaries or home movies? All of these different genres of video require different approaches to video editing. Creating artistic films may require more complicated trimming and cutting tools. Creating “vlogs” or tutorial videos may be doable with more simple software.
What capabilities do you want the software to have?
Do you want to stick to the basic drag-and-drop editing model? Do you want to get more complex and create visual effects? This goes hand-in-hand with the first question. The complexity of the software will differ depending on what type of videos you’re editing.
Can my computer handle video editing?
If not, research the upgrades you’ll need. This can be a loaded question, as computer specifications can get complicated. Below is some information to help you answer this question before you get started with video editing.
There are multiple specifications you’ll want to look out for when reviewing computers for video editing. This includes the memory, processor, a graphics card, and storage. Having over 8GB of RAM, also known as memory, on your computer is vital.
Most computers max out at 32GB RAM, so it’s always best to have as much memory as possible. You’ll also want a powerful processor. The best on the market is the Intel Core series (i5 or higher) and the AMD FX series, but you can get by using any processor with a speed of 2.6 gigahertz (gHz). Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of storage available to hold the software and video footage with which you’ll be working. Your best bet is to get a computer that has more than 1TB of storage but, failing that, anything with at least 500GB is suitable.
If you’re a PC person, note that a lot of these specs are similar to those of a gaming PC. A resource like the PC Part Picker, which includes information on any possible spec you can think of, could be insightful during your search. If you’re a Mac person, you’ll be pleased to hear that most of the Mac computers on the market are excellent options for video editing. The 2017 Mac Pro, while expensive, is one of the top choices for a video editing computer.
Choosing a Video Editing Software
The internet is teeming with options for video editing software. Once you’ve got your computer prepared for video editing, you’ll want to make a decision on which software is best for your purposes.
For both Mac and PC, here are a few options:
|Window s Movie Maker (PC)||Movie Maker is the easiest software to use for video editing. It’s designed specifically to give a taste of video editing to beginners. Some older Windows machines come with this software pre-loaded, but you can also download it for free on its website.|
|iMovie (Mac)||iMovie is a solid option for Mac users searching for free software. It’s a little more complex than Movie Maker as it allows users to add more text and animation effects, but it’s still designed to be incredibly easy to use, making it ideal for beginners.|
|Final Cut Pro X (Mac)||Final Cut Pro X is professional-level software, but the free trial for Mac users is a good way to get a feel for professional editing without overwhelming yourself with a complex interface or too many features.|
|AVID Media Composer (Mac or PC)||Like Final Cut Pro X, AVID Media Composer is professional software which offers a free trial. This trial is a little more complicated than Final Cut X’s trial, mostly because AVID itself is a complex program, but as free trials go, it’s highly capable and worth looking into if you’re serious about video editing.|
|Adobe Premiere Pro (Mac or PC)||Adobe Premiere Pro is also professional software offering a free trial. This software offers a happy medium between the complexity of AVID and the simplicity of Final Cut Pro X and is relatively simple to use once you get the hang of the interface. If you choose to purchase Premiere once your trial is over, it’s also relatively affordable.|
|Lightworks Free (Mac or PC)||Lightworks Free is our top editing option for Mac and PC. It’s the most similar to professional-level video editing software while maintaining the simplicity and ease of use of most other free editing software. It has all the features of its competitors and then some. This is the software we’ll be using as an example in our step by step guide for how to edit a video.|
Things To Remember Before You Edit
Before you jump in, here are some things to bear in mind throughout your editing process:
- Watch your footage multiple times to make sure you’ve chosen the correct clips.
- Make sure you organize your footage in the editor. Keeping everything in separate folders and finding ways to identify the best takes before you start editing makes the process a lot smoother.
- When you’re shooting, it doesn’t hurt to shoot a scene multiple times so that you have more footage than you think you’ll need. Getting coverage while on set gives you more flexibility when you’re looking at takes, and makes it easier for you to mix and match clips to get the best possible results.
- Don’t overdo it with effects—sometimes less is more.
- Take a break every now and then—fresh eyes give you a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.
- If you’re using music, select instrumental as a backing track. Lyrics can often be distracting unless used with finesse.
Step By Step Guide To Editing
Now it’s time to start editing! If you’re feeling overwhelmed, our guide will walk you through the process. Using Lightworks Free, we’ll give you an inside look at the entire process.
Bear in mind that your process will differ depending on what you’re editing. For example, editing a wedding video or homemade music video will be more labor-intensive than, say, family vacation footage.
If you’d like some more information on how to edit in Lightworks, we recommend the following tutorials:
- EditShare on Youtube has tutorials for all the ins and outs of editing in Lightworks
- Lightworks: The Basics
- Lightworks Tutorial for Beginners
Let’s get started!
1. Create a Project and Import Footage
When you open Lightworks, you’ll be given the option to create a new project. Next, you’ll be prompted to name your project and select a frame rate. The easiest frame rate to select is Auto since it automatically adjusts to the frame rate of the footage you’re editing.
To begin editing, you’ll need to import your footage into the editor. All of the editing software we mention in this article can support a wide variety of video file types, whether it’s shot on a mobile device or a top-of-the-line camera.
To import, go to the top left tab titled “Local Files” and navigate to the folder with all your footage. Then, select the clips from the list provided, and click “Import.”
2. Organize Footage
Once you’ve imported all of your footage, especially if you’re editing something with a lot of shots like a short film or a wedding, you need to organize the footage. The way to do this is similar to organizing files on a computer’s hard drive–creating and labeling folders and placing files into the corresponding folders.
For example, if you’re editing a short film and you have a bunch of shots from one scene, you’d create a folder labeled “Scene X” and put all of the corresponding shots into that folder. In a video editing software, these folders are called bins.
To make a bin, go to the left column in the editor, and click the “+” next to the word “Bins.” Create an empty bin, and label it accordingly. Then go to “All” and drag the footage you want into its corresponding bin. This is probably the most tedious part of editing. Once you’ve organized your bins, the rest of the editing process is a breeze.
3. Watch and Mark Footage
Go through all of your footage and select the parts you plan to use. The easiest way to do this is to “mark” the proper clips by placing in and out points on the part of the clip you want to use. Use the keyboard shortcuts “I” and “O”–this also works in almost any program you’re using.
Make sure you mark every clip you want to use. Even if you don’t end up keeping every shot in your final cut, it will be helpful in the next step to have every clip marked with an in and out point from the start to the end of what you want to use.
4. Cut and Place Footage
Now comes the part you’ve been waiting for: assembling your movie! To do this, you’ll go to the clips you marked earlier with in and out points, and drag them into the timeline. Your timeline is exactly what it sounds like–a long line of all of your clips lined up from start to finish.
You can rearrange clips in the timeline, so if you drop one in too early or too late compared to where you want it in the final cut, it’s not a big deal. Just drag the clip to the place you want it.
5. “Clean Up” Your Timeline
Once you’ve assembled your timeline with all the clips you’re using in the correct order, it’s time to “clean up” your timeline. If something looks jarring or has a long pause, trim the clips appropriately for a smooth final playback. A lot of this has to do with having an innate sense of timing. For example, if you play something back and it feels “off,” you can trim it to be shorter or longer before jumping to the next clip.
In order to trim clips, you can drag them back and forth from end to end to get to the desired length. Even though you already marked them earlier with an in and out point, once they’re on the timeline, you can trim them past those points.
There is a lot of nuance to trimming clips, and many different ways you can do it using different tools or strategies. If you’re using Lightworks Free, EditShare has a lot of detailed video tutorials on YouTube. For other programs, you can search “x program trimming” on YouTube and you’ll find hundreds of tutorials.
6. Add Effects
With a fully assembled and cleaned-up timeline, you can move on to the fun part: adding effects! You can add text, transitions, and even simple tracking animation using the free software listed in this guide. You can also add “filters,” to enhance your video.
To add effects in Lightworks Free, switch to the “VFX” tab, select the clip you want to add to and use the “+” in the top left corner to select which effects to add to the clip.
For a complete list of the effects available on your program, head to the website where you downloaded it—there’s usually a full guide with features available.
7. Export And Share
When you have the final product, the last step is to export the video and share it on the platform you’ll be using. A lot of video editing software will have a “Share” option so that you can export immediately to YouTube, Facebook, or other social sites. If you’re sharing on a website, the software will automatically configure the settings for the website you choose. There is an exception if you’re sharing your video to various websites. You’ll need to do a traditional export.
To export on Lightworks Free, select the sequence you want to export in the bin you’ve placed it in, then right-click it and select Export. Here, you can choose your settings, destination, file name, and everything you’ll need to be able to output your video.
The best settings to use when exporting a video that you’ll be sharing via the web are to make sure the video is wrapped in an H.264 codec, which you can select from a drop-down menu in the Export window. This will give your video a .mp4 file extension and will make it small enough to properly share across the web, without sacrificing quality. You may use other codecs if you’re editing for television output, or to show your video on a larger screen that can handle a lot of pixels.
Editing video is not as difficult as it may seem when you have the right tools in your arsenal. If you come across questions or problems while you’re in the process of editing, check out forums like Creative COW, Videomaker, or Spiceworks. These websites are where professionals and amateurs come together to ask questions or share insights about video editing and the problems you can run into along the way. Armed with the knowledge to get your questions answered and the steps in this guide, you can edit anything.
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