We’re all becoming amateur editors to an extent. The old adage about editing is that, if it’s done well, you’re not supposed to notice it. But we consume so much content and make so much content nowadays that everyone is picking up on editing tricks. That’s not a bad thing. It’s the first few steps to media literacy, and why it’s useful.

If you want to move on from social media Reels, however, take a look at our guide. We can show you where to start on your editing journey so that you can make better content.

Start with the software that’s available

If you’re beginning, there’s no better place to learn than with the software that’s already installed on your computer. Windows items have Movie Maker, and Apple items give you Final Cut Pro, which is considered superior between the two.

When you’re ready to move on, you can look into various respected software programs that will offer plenty of features, but the industry standard is Adobe Premiere Pro or After Effects.

However, the point is to take your time. Don’t assume that paying for expensive software will automatically make you a better editor. Get the basics down first and then move on to Premiere Pro so you’re not overwhelmed.

Worry about audio later

There are two items of content rife on the internet put there by people stretching their editing wings: fan edits and music videos. You might notice they have something in common: a distinct lack of audio.

Or rather, they tend to either use the audio that’s there or add their own music. This means that while you’re getting to grips with splicing clips together, understanding the software, and gaining a bit of a rhythm with your content, you don’t need to worry about the audio lining up with the mouths moving too much.

If you do want what’s happening on stage to line up with the music, you can use animated, or low-budget anime footage where mouth movements tend to stick to open and close to get you started.

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Edit to the rhythm

The other reason why it’s good to start with music as your primary source of audio is that you’ll learn to edit to a rhythm. Editing does have a rhythm even if there is no music in the scene. There is a rhythm to how people talk, and the editing can enhance that by keeping up with or even disrupting that rhythm. It can also change the mood of the situation.

If the conversation is tense, the editing can speed up and slow down as appropriate. Such as a bombshell admittance being lingered on by the camera but a shouting match quickly cutting between everyone involved.

Understand your timing

Once you’ve got that down, you might want to read up on some film editing theory, such as the timing of shots. Critics will often talk about the camera “lingering” on a shot, usually to point out that the camera can figuratively “drool” over a woman. Think of Harley Quinn in The Suicide Squad. But “lingering” on a character is also a legitimate storytelling technique.

The next time you’re watching a movie, go ahead and ask yourself why you’re following that person even though they should otherwise blend in with everyone else. For instance, the recently released Theatre Camp is obviously about a lot of kids going to camp, and yet you know one of them is important because the camera stays on them just a little too long even though they’re just one of many kids on a school bus.

That’s just one example. There are lots of ways the timing and length of your shots matter, such as foreshadowing an important object with a shot that is too short, so it’s not too obvious.

Understand your shots

This one tends to overlap with filming, but it’s important to editing because you’ll need to know the theory behind these choices. There are different levels of “zoom” to these shots that express something different. For example, a general rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the subject, the more intimate and close, physically and emotionally, you are to them. So a figure in the distance is almost a stranger because they are so far away and tearful scenes get closer and closer, like Demi Moore, who spends most of her time in Ghost crying.

Plus, there is an element of timing to zooming in too. If you’re on YouTube or TikTok no doubt you’ve seen the sudden zoom-in used for emphasis on a punchline or point. Whether it was well made or not, you’ll know when you were supposed to laugh.

Read up on the purpose of different shots so that you can better put them into place in your editing.