Storytelling is a powerful way to communicate messages, convey emotion and inspire others. Many careers involve storytelling, including that of a film and video editor. What does a video editor do, and what is the process for becoming a video editor? Explore this career guide to learn more and find out if it could be the right career choice for you.
What Does a Video Editor Do?
Humans have told stories since the first cave dwellers painted animal figures on walls. Stories are how we connect with others, share our hopes and dreams, explore the world around us and try to make sense of daily life. As an aspiring video editor, you may be tasked with editing footage, sounds and special effects graphics in an aesthetically pleasing way that conveys the story’s heart.
It’s an exciting and meaningful career. Any given day will be shaped by what the project currently requires, but in general, a video editor might expect to do the following tasks:
- Consult with the director, producers and others to develop a clear and cohesive vision for the video
- Assist with the development of storyboards
- Receive and organize all raw footage from the shoot
- Synchronize the raw visual and sound footage – known as “uncut rushes” – and digitally cut the files to create a “rough cut”
- Edit the footage, experimenting with different orders to determine which cut tells the story in the most compelling way possible
- Choose or make recommendations for the soundtrack
- Oversee the audio engineering and editing
- Collaborate with the director to identify the filming and editing techniques that can make a scene more engaging and aesthetically pleasing
- Place special effects into scenes
Film and video editors use sophisticated video editing software to turn uncut footage into a polished film. Many different types of video editing software are available, so video editors must be well-versed with multiple programs.
How To Become a Video Editor: An Overview
Now that you know what a video editor does, it is time to take a closer look at how to become a video editor. High school students should talk with their guidance counselor about career ambitions. You may be able to take more classes in computer skills and software applications.
Your high school might not have a film studies class or another class specifically for aspiring film professionals, but it might offer a film club. If not, consider starting a film club. Joining the drama club is another brilliant idea that can help develop your sense of the storytelling aesthetic.
After high school, you will need to earn a bachelor’s degree pertaining to the film industry. Look for a college that offers a film and video production degree. These programs will allow you to develop competencies across all video production and post-production aspects.
Once you earn your film and video production degree, you will be ready to pursue an entry-level job in the field. You may need to be open to taking one or more internship positions, which may or may not be paid, to gain real-world experience and develop professional contacts. Another option is to look for other types of entry-level positions on film sets, such as serving as the producer’s or director’s assistant.
As you pursue your career in video editing, you can enhance your qualifications by earning one or more professional certifications. Look for certifications offered by the manufacturers of widely used video editing software, such as those available from Adobe.
Earn a Film and Video Production Degree
Film and video editors are expected to hold a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. Not all schools offer film degrees, but it is well worth the effort to seek out a university that does. Look for a film and production degree that provides a curriculum that blends the business side of filmmaking with technical competencies.
The exact curriculum will vary from one program to the next. You can generally expect to study the following topics while working toward your film and video production degree:
- The history and significant aesthetic movements of cinema, exploring the field from the birth of the age of film to the present
- Principles of motion picture production and the application of technical and aesthetic proficiencies to create compelling stories
- Fundamental competencies in video editing, including capture and logging, special effects and various editing theories, such as fast cut, long take, jump cut and montage
- The mastery of advanced digital editing tools and techniques while preserving the art of cinematic storytelling
- Audio production, including audio capture and post-production audio manipulation
A well-rounded curriculum will also likely include screenwriting, directing and acting courses. Film students may be required to complete a practicum course during their senior year. A typical film practicum course involves the start-to-finish creation of a short digital film intended to demonstrate everything you learned during your time as a film student. You can use your creation as part of your professional portfolio when it is time to begin looking for work.
Consider Earning One or More Voluntary Certifications
It is not strictly for video editors to earn an industry-related certification. However, doing so can help give you an edge in the job marketplace. A certificate can demonstrate your technical proficiencies and make your resume stand out against other candidates.
In the video editing field, some of the most relevant certifications are offered directly by the manufacturers of video editing software. For example, you might choose to become an Adobe Certified Professional in Digital Video Using Adobe Premiere Pro or an Adobe Certified Professional in Visual Effects and Motion Graphics Using Adobe After Effects.
Essential Skills and Characteristics of a Video Editor
A video editor’s job requires a blend of technical proficiencies and a sense of artistry. Arguably, the most critical skill an aspiring video editor can have is the ability to understand and convey stories. Storytelling is essential because everything a video editor decides regarding the footage will affect how the story is told.
Beyond storytelling, a video editor can benefit from having the following skills and characteristics:
- Communication skills: Video editors must be able to work collaboratively with other professionals, including other members of the production team.
- Artistry and creativity: A video editor brings their creativity to the table when telling the story.
- Technical skills: Video editors must be computer-savvy professionals who can use various video editing software programs competently.
- Attention to detail: A video editor must scrutinize every detail on every frame of footage.
Are Video Editors in Demand?
As of September 2021, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook estimates job growth for film and video editors and camera operators to increase by about 29% from 2020 to 2030. This rate is faster than average, accounting for an estimated increase of 18,300 jobs in the field through the end of the decade, making this a great time to pursue a career as a video editor.1
Pursue a Career in Digital Film at GCU
Grand Canyon University is pleased to support the artistic ambitions of our creative students. Housed within GCU, our modern and fully equipped recording studio offers everything students need to practice their audio and video editing skills and to work on academic and personal projects. Students who aspire to become professional video editors are encouraged to apply for enrollment in the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Film with an Emphasis in Production degree program. Click on Request Info above to learn more.
1COVID-19 has adversely affected the global economy and data from 2020 may be atypical compared to prior years. The pandemic may impact the predicted future workforce outcomes indicated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well. Accordingly, data shown is based on 2020, which can be found here: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators.
Approved by the Chair of Digital Film of the College of Arts and Media on Aug. 26, 2022.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.