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In Tex Avery’s hilarious 1938 short, “Daffy Duck, Film Editor,” that darn-fool duck goes from a hollow-wooded pond to a big Hollywood Studio, called Wonder Pictures, where their tag line is, “If it’s a good picture, it’s a Wonder!” After wreaking havoc on a sound stage in full production, this scene finds our hero splicing together “a REAL feature” which ultimately lands him a job directing for the studio.
Everyone knows the actors, some know the director and producers and if you’re lucky you may know a writer or two, but no one knows the editors. A film editor is a mechanic who removes the unneeded and fits pieces of film together to make a finished movie. Being a film editor requires hours of looking through footage and then assembling a film a half-second at a time, while working quickly to meet the filmmakers' deadlines. While a skilled movie editor's contribution can mean the difference between a hit and a so-so film, film editing done well is completely invisible to the audience. A­While movies traditionally have had a single lead film editor, the trend with big-budget features is to split work between two editors.
The two editors split up the scenes, edited them, and then swapped and re-edited each other's. From science to culture to tech and beyond, get essential stories and videos straight to your inbox.
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The art of film editing is one that requires of the practitioner both a technical proficiency in working with computers and the eye (and certainly the ear) of an artist.
For most of Hollywood’s existence, film editing has been the job of physically cutting film apart and then literally taping it back together. Now the process has shifted to digital editing technology where computers and digital systems are utilized. Take a look at the infographic below to get a glimpse of what the industry of film editing looks like. When I graduated, I moved to Phoenix to be with my soon-to-be wife as she finished college. When I tried to get work as a videographer, I kept getting asked for my reel (a sample of my work).
Then I moved on to Production Coordinator at a company that did History Channel shows, FOX Family Channel shows, A CBS special or two, and three HBO Behind the Scenes, This involved scheduling, and some assistant editing…and on more than one occasion, completely tearing down an Avid system and rebuilding it. After that show ended we did another Disney Channel Pilot, and then another series, That’s So Raven. Then the company I assisted for on Even Stevens and That’s So Raven started a narrative kids’ show for Nickelodeon, and I rallied for an editor spot. Well, the one thing that was very often asked for after I left college was a ‘demo reel,’ a sample of your work. Network, and by that I mean just meet and talk to other editors, other people in your field.
Know that you will most likely start at the bottom, as a production assistant, or runner, or working in reception. I attended the University of Connecticut with a major in Communications and a specialized major in Video Production. What I enjoy most is the creative process, taking video footage and editing it together to tell a story. One thing I wish I had known was the importance of meeting successful production people in different areas of the business. Unfortunately, all of that work can go unnoticed and unappreciated, as not many people have an understanding of what film editing is. I wish I had a higher appreciation for story and how editing can highlight different aspects of a story. If you can’t take a course, get yourself a film editing program, like Final Cut Pro 7 or Avid Media Composer, and just play around with it until you feel comfortable. Obtaining a degree or certificate in film editing can be very valuable to the aspiring editor. Editors need to get a grasp on not only the art and craft of editing, but the business and the technology of film-making as well. As our interviewee’s all tend to agree, an education in film editing is a good way to go for your development in this profession, but ultimately what you can do and what you can show will trump all else. California Institute of Arts (more popularly known as CalArts) is especially unique in that it promotes the studies of major kinds of film-making from dramatic narrative, documentary, experimental live-action to character-based animation, experimental animation, multimedia, and installation. Florida State offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts and a Master’s of Fine Arts in Film Production. The Dodge College of Film and Media Arts at Chapman University in Orange, California is a premier film school located close to all the major production studios in California. One of the best with a reputation for educating many young Canadians who soon become quite successful in the industry, VFS offers a one year Film Production degree. Arch rival to the above entry, the University of California-Los Angeles was established long ago in 1919. The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University is where one finds the Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television. Hands-on classes in sound image, frame and sequence, production, animation and documentary are supplemented by the school’s core curriculum in writing and art history. Webster University in Saint Louis, Missouri, offers a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production degree program that informs students with a comprehensive overview of many aspects of film production and film editing.
The job of an Assistant Editor (AE) is not to be the editor’s assistant, but to be his right hand man. What time and again holds up as a common theme in our research and interviews with not just editors but artist professionals in general is the following: Great schooling and networking, consistent and constant practice, mental perseverance, a great demo reel and a positive attitude with singular persistence and devotion to the work will enable an editor to become successful. Film and video editors usually acquire their skills through formal postsecondary training at vocational schools, colleges, universities, or photographic institutes.
Many universities, community and junior colleges, vocational-technical institutes, and private trade and technical schools offer courses in film and video editing. As shown in this video the task of a film and video editor is to use footage from a camera operator to tell a story, scene by scene. Film and video editors edit soundtracks, film, and video for the motion picture, cable, and broadcast television industries. Making commercial-quality movies and video programs requires technical expertise and creativity. Cut shot sequences to different angles at specific points in scenes, making each individual cut as fluid and seamless as possible. Do you have a specific question about a career as a Film and Video Editor that isn't answered on this page?
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If you’re digging ReelGood, sign up to our mailing list for exclusive content, early reviews and chances to win big! He is a collaborator who works with cinematographers and sound editors to bring sight and sound together. By the time shooting was complete, they had plenty to work with -- 1.5 million feet of film.
The recent proliferation of inexpensive digital editing programs, (some simplified versions now even available as applications for a phone, tablet or a phone’s camera), along with the ubiquitous ways in which one can now show his or her work has made this once exotic, and even arcane, craft all the more accessible to all kinds of creative people in all walks of life.
When the director yells “cut,” few understand the connection to this older editing technology.
It is easy to imagine how much more convenient, to say the least, it is to move, interchange and add sections of footage electronically, not to mention having to change or add any animation or special effects to individual frames. I was interviewing with the producer and he said ‘Well, you have many skills that the others who came in had, but not the experience. Because not only was the office full of Apple computers, but the edit systems were on Apple computers as well. While there, I landed a job at a company that did Fox specials (When Animals Attack!) as the vault manager. They needed someone to take their aging database and make it all shiny and new, which I did. I assisted on a TV pilot for FOX that didn’t get picked up, onlining shows for MTV, Discovery Channel, History, Showtime and then assisted on Judge Judy for 6 months, until I was fired (Well deserved, I slacked off too much, but also hated the job. I got that job because when I was taking a class to learn the Avid better (when I was working at America’s Funniest Home Videos), I was partnered with an editor and we really got along. I cut a couple shows from my home and have since bounced from company to company, working on various documentaries and reality shows, both onlining (color correcting) and creative cutting. While we do have scripts, we don’t need to stick to them as much as one does with scripted narrative shows. That’s not something they told us to make when we were at school, when we had the resources to do so. Don’t work for free on projects that someone will use to earn a buck, but short films and docs that are passion projects.
Not only in skill level and creative and technical knowledge, but also personally –how well you get along with others. And watching bad movies and TV shows are just as good as watching good shows, if not better. Being nice and friendly gets you remembered, and if someone needs a PA or post assistant, they will think of you. Upon graduation, I worked as a sales engineer for a company (Burns Integrated Systems) that designed TV studios for networks, corporations, and educational facilities.


There’s nothing more satisfying than spending days or weeks working on a concept, adding the footage, creating effects, inserting voice and music, and seeing the final result. Writing proposals and creative treatments, getting the client to agree with your plan, taking care of the paper work associated with a project and the managing of our website. That means moving equipment, taking production notes, logging shots, taping down cables, sweeping the floor, etc. I soon realized that film school did not offer the connections or tools that I was hoping to get in order to start a career in film editing, so I attended a 6-week course at The Edit Center in New York, where I honed my craft and built connections to work on feature films. I get to work closely with the director of films and go to private screening events, but at the end of the day the most rewarding aspect of the job is creating something with my personal stamp embedded in it. It’s easy to observe the choices that were made by the editor, but nearly impossible to judge those choices without having seen all of the other footage that the editor had to work with.
An example of this is deciding which character to show during a line in a conversation, informing the audience who is most important in that moment.
The program itself (I use Final Cut Pro 7.) takes years to master, and letting this get to you can make the more important things, like story, fall by the wayside. Look at some films that you enjoy and pay attention to the edit points, meaning whenever the shot changes. Coursework will generally include basic editing and commercial editing, history of film, storytelling and screenwriting.
By attending a college that offers programs focused on all aspects of film-making, one can get a good start in learning the ropes, networking and acquiring some practical experience and general knowledge.
School is often a place where you can begin to build your portfolio of work and to network and meet industry professionals. The school offers four programs, each with its own specialized curriculum focusing on specific areas in film-making. The program’s core of classes includes film sound, production management, film aesthetics, technical support and a variety of film editing classes. Students in the program master creating, writing, directing and editing to enable success in their chosen focus.
At VFS, students hone their skills on student projects using the same equipment found in the industry, such as Avid, and learn the many processes that go into delivering a polished film experience: sound mix, titles, and more. It has a very strong reputation for providing a top education, especially in film and television production.
The University of California School of Theater, Film and Television is considered one of the top professional schools in the country.
Students in the Department of Film and Television take classes in film techniques while acquiring professional training that leads to a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts Degree. Classes are taught by a faculty who have experience in the film industry and who can help prepare students to become successful editors. The completion of several film projects is required in order to successfully meet the responsibilities for a degree. It is the AE’s job to take care of all of the technical stuff, like syncing sound to picture, organizing the footage, backing up the media and making exports of the film for screenings.
It might feel like back tracking, but this usually happens when you need to gain the trust of an editor you haven’t worked with yet.
A great love and enthusiasm to pursue this career is a given- Editing and film in general must be that which drives and inspires you. A bachelor's degree may be required for some positions, particularly those for film and video editors. Television series, studio programs, news and sporting events, motion pictures, and music videos are all materials that are constructed from many different shots by film and video editors. Producing successful images requires choosing and presenting interesting material, selecting appropriate equipment, and applying a good eye and a steady hand to ensure smooth, natural movement of the camera.
Those employed by television and cable networks and advertising agencies usually work a 5-day, 40-hour week; however, they may work longer hours to meet production schedules.
The first cut may take up to three months to assemble.Make revisions, as requested by the director and producers, and prepare the final cut for release to the film house for production. Because the movie combined live action with animation sequences, he also brought in Sabrina Plisco, an editor experienced with visual effects. But more than simply selecting and assembling footage in the desired sequence, they had the challenge of combining footage of the human actors with that of animals who seemed to be talking, like Wilbur the pig, or were simply animations, like Charlotte the spider [sources: Editors Guild and IMDB]. The assembly of the snipped or cut pieces of film was then subsequently threaded into the Moviola. Originally, special effects were physically painted on the film frame by frame- Imagine that kind of commitment and unending patience! I borrowed a video camera, gathered my stuffed animals and shot an animated sci-fi movie, and a couple sequels. I did this for a year and, while you might think ‘how on earth does this pertain to your career,’ well… it does. What can you do that the others can’t?’ As if on cue, the director’s assistant came into the room, interrupting the interview process, and dropped her laptop onto his desk.
While there, I did a little assistant editing on a couple pilots, as they had a couple Avid editing systems.
I’m currently at a production company editing various History Channel shows, including the popular Curse of Oak Island, which is a hybrid doc and reality series.
For example, did you know that the United States invaded Mexico during the Mexican American War? And sometimes I’m required to work late, so my days can get to be 12-14 hours long, because editing takes time and shows I work on have lots of footage to sort through.
An editor and I got along together very well in an editing class, and that lead to him hiring me to be his assistant.
Sure, you made a film or two, but that doesn’t mean you know how things are actually done on the set or in the edit room. So, my favorite part of the job comes bundled with knowing that, often, an audience will not see the hard work that was put into piecing together the film. It can be from one subject to another, or from one angle of a subject to another angle of the same subject. Eventually, you will learn how to become proficient in the use of photo and film editing software programs like Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro, and Avid. Schools also offer opportunities to work on student projects as well as job and internship placement assistance. Recent graduates of schools must have strong demo reels in order to be considered seriously for their first jobs.
At the graduate level, students must complete an expansive examination, complete a workshop in a film editing specialization and then produce a final film project.
Classes in film techniques and technology help students learn the necessary skills for becoming a film-maker, while drawing, creative writing, and screenplay writing assist in developing the artistic mind. By the end of the year program, the student will have learned how to harness all of the editor’s tools to transform raw footage into a film. The program offers a myriad of classes that develop technical skills, while also nurturing creativity and storytelling.
The school works to provide students with a comprehensive, professional education that pushes them to become successful in their chosen area of focus. As students learn and complete film projects, they can choose to focus their studies on film editing or other aspects of film-making. So if you feel like you’re backtracking, don’t worry and just be the best you can be at the job you have!
It takes film and video editors and cutting-edge computer technology to make an exciting movie that people want to see. Employers usually seek applicants with a good eye, imagination, and creativity, as well as a good technical understanding of how the camera operates. With the increase in digital technology, much of the editing work is now done on a computer.
Edit films and videotapes to insert music, dialogue, and sound effects, to arrange films into sequences, and to correct errors, using editing equipment. This machine had a viewer through which the operator could see what he was editing along with the ability to hold multiple reels of film at a time. OK, that really isn’t where I started, but that’s where I got the filmmaking bug.I landed my first production job when I went to college.
They needed someone to create a database for all their stock footage as the current system existed only in the head of the producer. This also means that I’m constantly learning and constantly developing new and creative editing techniques. Another time I had a great conversation with an editor at a union get together, and he recommended me to someone else as a possible assistant. Go to events like user group meetings (LACPUG has a monthly meeting, and Alpha Dogs post does as well. Try turning the sound off and just take note of how one shot is cut and joined to the next shot. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but always understand that most people will be under pressure to meet difficult deadlines, so keep questions to a minimum during the production.
An editor often works with hours of footage for each scene, and the average scene is no more than two minutes in length. You can focus on the formatting of the paper and the grammar, but in the end, it’s what you write that matters. Pay attention to why the editor may have made the decisions he made, and always relate those decisions back to the film’s story.
Any school worth attending will surely have the latest in editing systems, like the aforementioned Avid and Final Cut Pro, in order to get some actual editing experience.


Generally, the last year of university is where the student focuses on creating and collecting some of his or her best editing examples and makes a demo that highlights the best quality and variety of work. Industry professionals are often available to aid and abet students in starting their film editing careers.
Students have access to various internships and film opportunities in New York City that provide terrific opportunities for real world editing experience. The key disciplines of screenwriting, producing and production management, directing, cinematography, editing and sound, are offered to students so they may learn the skills necessary to become well-prepared specialists as editors.
Classes in film history, cinematography, editing, directing, digital media and animation give students the professional training to become successful in the film industry. It’s a completely different job from actually editing a film, but it teaches you the entire behind the scenes work that goes into editing. From the many thousands of minutes of film and video, the editor has to choose the best shots to tell a cohesive and compelling story. Bachelor's degree programs, especially those including business courses, provide a well-rounded education.
Select and combine the most effective shots of each scene to form a logical and smoothly running story. I was attending Montana State University when I got a job at a production company run by one of the professors. Well, I noticed that the company I worked for as a PA had a computer editing system called Avid Media Composer. I took the database skills I learned on U-Turn, and created a tape database using Filemaker Pro. While at this company, I was taught how to use their tape to tape online system (ancient as hell, but still used), and taught to “online” shows.
Well, one would leave early because he considered himself a lazy editor (which is wrong, he was a very GOOD and FAST editor- got scenes cut quickly).
But working weekends and nights on projects while you are young and don’t have a family that demands your spare time is a good thing. An editor I worked with was doing a very low budget feature for free and needed some graphics work done. I was an apprentice editor, vault manager, and post coordinator before I became an assistant editor. We also shot and edited motivational videos that were used at annual conventions for the company.After Phoenix Mutual, I worked for Burger King Corporation as a manager of Global Video Communications. Observe the use of wide establishing shots, and how they are combined with close-ups, medium shots, and moving shots. It’s the editor’s job to pick the best two minutes from all of the footage that was filmed.
A close up will make the audience relate with the character’s emotion, while a wider shot suggests distance. Emphasis is placed on hands-on movie making through which students learn creative collaboration and to begin to develop a personal creative style. Along with exceptional class offerings, majors have access to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, which is the largest university moving image collection in the world.
It’s mostly a learning experience and a way to present yourself as capable of doing AE work in the future. In addition to having an artistic bent, the film and video editor must relish working with complicated computer equipment.
But this arduous process of reviewing, cutting and reassembling what could often be miles of footage was tiring, tiresome and time consuming –(At least in comparison to what we are using these days in a typical editing bay).
What that entailed was taking all the low resolution “offline quality” footage, recapturing it at full resolution, and then color correcting it. I think that the reality shows that I cut really benefit from the fact that I have cut lots of documentaries, and some of the reality scene work benefits from the fact that I cut scripted narrative, and I know that seeing people’s reactions to what is being said is very impactful.
It was all just so President Polk could force Mexico to sell us the southwest states for half what he originally asked.
I had just figured out how to use After Effects when making a gag reel for a TV show we were on, so he asked if I would do it.
There are groups on Twitter and Facebook that have Pub Nights on occasion; stuff like that.
We produced and edited restaurant training programs, corporate communications videos, convention videos, and marketing videos. I suggest that you try to edit the scenes of a movie together using a different story line, and see if you can tell a story using just the footage. The final film reflects your decisions and compels the audience to see situations the way that you see them. I took a 6-week course at The Edit Center in New York and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
If you would like to combine your artistic talents and your computer skills into a great career, then read on to learn more about film and video editors.
The office manager asked, ‘Oh, you know how to use that?’ Then said that a Hollywood feature was being shot locally, and production was looking for a local hire as the apprentice editor…and that person needed to have Avid experience. I know an editor who did lots of free stuff that lead to a body of work that landed him a web series, then a cable series, and now he’s cutting network TV shows. Make all your mistakes when it’s a small free project, not when it’s an expensive movie, or TV show, in front of professionals who’ll judge you. Heck, when you are a production assistant driving across town all day long making deliveries, you learn the town, find the shortcuts, the bad spots.
It is also a good idea to find a production company or editor and ask if you can just sit in and watch them edit.
I got to practice editing on real big-budget films while learning from some of the best in the industry. Then, when screening the cuts to the director, would state, ‘My assistant cut three scenes. Now, the producer on that movie ended up working on a larger budget Hollywood feature, with a name director, although one with a lower than normal budget. I recall when I was first in the union and added to the roster, I asked how they helped me look for work. Organize and string together raw footage into a continuous whole according to scripts or the instructions of directors and producers. While at this company, I did all sorts of jobs, from grant writing to videography, to field audio recording, to directing. And I like that I can jump from creative cutting to the more technical color correction and online editing. We are always asked by employers for recommendations for people to work on shows, and we always recommend people we like working with, who are also skilled at what they do. Perhaps you can log footage for them, research stock footage, find them appropriate music, etc. Review assembled films or edited videotapes on screens or monitors to determine if corrections are necessary.
If someone has a reputation for behaving badly or lying about their skill level, they won’t get recommended nor hired. Now he was a producer and needed help on two shows he was producing for the SciFi Network (before it was SyFy) called Rage Against the Machine (about how machines were taking over our lives).
Review footage sequence by sequence to become familiar with it before assembling it into a final product.
Also while attending MSU, I worked for another professor on a series of documentaries for the Discovery Channel. I stayed at that production company for 2 years, cutting various Discovery Channel shows and History Channel shows, and I also worked at a company down the street doing more substantial History Channel shows.
I also solved a few problems on the set, and that helped my reputation and lead to future work in that area. In getting experience, develop your own style, and create a demo reel with your best editing.
Set up and operate computer editing systems, electronic titling systems, video switching equipment, and digital video effects units to produce a final product. He would also give me notes, but would be in such a hurry after missing a week that he’d just fix the scenes himself.
Confer with producers and directors concerning layout or editing approaches needed to increase dramatic or entertainment value of productions. Manipulate plot, score, sound, and graphics to make the parts into a continuous whole, working closely with people in audio, visual, music, optical or special effects departments.
Supervise and coordinate activities of workers engaged in film editing, assembling, and recording activities. Trim film segments to specified lengths, and reassemble segments in sequences that present stories with maximum effect. Collaborate with music editors to select appropriate passages of music and develop production scores. Estimate how long audiences watching comedies will laugh at each gag line or situation, to space scenes appropriately.



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