There are a lot of things that can go wrong when a film or video is being made, but many of them can be amended in editing — as long as you know what you’re doing. The worst thing would be to have problems during production and then not fix them well with creative editing and other storytelling techniques. You may not even realize you’re making mistakes, but the more you work on recognizing your editing flaws, the better your projects will turn out. Here are 12 video editing mistakes you may be making.
1. Not Editing On The Beat
If your piece has music, the most basic thing you can do is make your edit points on the beat of the song. This moves along the visuals with more energy, and viewers can actually learn to predict an edit point, allowing them to be more immersed in the video. However, you don’t have to make every cut on a beat. It can actually leave a more lasting impression if you save more important or impactful visuals or actions for on-beat cuts. Watch the fantastic opening scene from Baby Driver to see plenty of both on and off-beat cuts.
2. Not Watching Without Sound or Without Music
One of the easiest ways to spot any visual errors and get a feeling about your pacing is to mute your project and watch it without any sound. I can’t tell you how many times after doing this I’ve realized clips were way too long or out of order.
You should then turn off the music and leave any spoken word and/or sound effects on to get a sense of how everything else flows together. You may realize that your music is making up for a lot of uninteresting dialogue or visuals. You know your project is something special if your story is still solid without any music, dialogue, or other sound. It may even work better tonally this way, just like this scene in Netflix’s Master of None:
3. Keeping Your Favorite Parts Even if They Don’t Make Sense
You may love that shot of an eagle soaring high in the air at sunrise, but if your video is a documentary about a three-legged rescue dog named Madmartigan, why is it there? Is the eagle his friend? Is Madmartigan an American hero? What’s the link between the shot and your piece? You need to be able to step back and watch the project as an objective viewer and see what makes the most interesting video.
4. Hanging On a Moment Too Long/Not Long Enough
Getting your pacing right can be a bigger challenge than you think. For the most impact, whether it’s a comedy, drama, sports, or documentary edit, you need to cut at the right time for the scene, mostly by feeling it. Cut down dialogue scenes so they sound how a conversation would actually sound; in a montage or higher-energy piece, cut at a quicker pace while keeping it coherent; in an interview, edit out any pauses (as long as it’s natural) or hold on emotional moments.
You should be always be working to make the visuals flow seamlessly from cut to cut and scene to scene without it being too jarring, or too boring. It’s your job as an editor to mostly go unnoticed in the end.
5. Cutting Mid-Word, Mid-Sentence, or Mid-Thought
There’s hardly anything as jarring or disorienting to a viewer as having someone’s words, a song, or another aural component get interrupted with a cut. Unless you’re cutting specifically for a joke or for emphasis, you should always let the subject finish a thought before moving on to the next scene, clip, or angle. You can, of course, trim down a line if it’s too long, but make sure that your cuts take place in the spaces between the words.
6. Leaving In Flash Frames
If you see a 1-2 frame flash of black or a random a-roll or b-roll clip, you’ve got a flash frame. These are some of the easiest mistakes to avoid, but sometimes they’re the toughest to spot if you’re not paying attention to detail during editing. Be sure to monitor your timeline in its entirety at various points throughout your edit to make sure everything appears to be in the right place. Also watch the sequence in full on the timeline before exporting and, finally, watch the video after exporting. This makes it much more likely you’ll spot any flashes.
7. Not Using Shortcuts
This can actually be controversial, because you don’t technically need to use shortcuts to avoid mistakes (or to be a great editor). However, complete facility over your editing software can open up the possibilities of what you’re able to do within your edit, and can help you think outside the box for more creative edits and storytelling.
8.Not Isolating the Music Track for Mixing
Your music also absolutely needs to be edited properly, because it’s just as important as the visuals. To do this, edit the music independently by isolating it from the rest of the audio in your piece. You’ll likely have to loop it or cut it down to make it fit with your video as well, so being able to hear it on its own will ensure that you’re not letting sound effects or voiceover tracks influence the mix.
9. Dissolving Unnecessarily
Here’s the thing about dissolves: they really shouldn’t be used for standard cuts. Moreover, there’s a reason blogs and video essays about the best dissolves in film history are all examples from 1980 or earlier — because they’re just not used that much anymore. Dissolves should only be employed when they’re motivated, such as to show a passage of time, a creative transition between similarly framed shots, or an overlap of related scenes or characters. Dissolves may actually stick out to today’s viewers, too, so if your job as an editor is to be unnoticed, then think twice before you dissolve without there being a reason for it.
10. Using Improper Music for the Video’s Tone
You may love a song and want to use it in a video, but if the tone of your video is vastly different than your song, it won’t be nearly as well received. Think about your video’s subject, then think about the beat, melody, and genre of the song you’re using. Ask yourself why you’re using the song, and make sure it compliments the visuals, rather than takes away from them. Watch the video without the song and see what emotion you feel, and then see if that matches your music. There’s a reason that iconic scenes always seem to have perfect songs.
11. Editing Too Long Without Taking a Break
Staring at a screen for hours on end is not great for your eyes, or your brain, so you can actually be doing your project a disservice by staying up too long during an editing session. If you have a deadline, it’s a different story, but with bigger projects that take can take days, weeks, or even months, you should really take breaks to get fresh eyes on a project whenever you can.
12. Not Realizing the Rules Are Made to Be Broken
One more thing to remember about editing is that almost every major rule has been broken. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, the movie Spring Breakers, or many Scorcese films, you’ve seen that many of the “rules” don’t always apply. If your editing style gets the point across and it’s not incoherent, then you can create your own look and feel and add a personal touch on every project.
What other common editing mistakes have you seen or been guilty of yourself, and how do you try to avoid them? Tell us below!