Unit 4 - Editing



1. Participants will create an edited audio or video production according to the created plan.


Editing sets the tone, pace, and makes your project shine by carefully assembling your raw data to best tell your story. It is often seen as one of the most difficult parts in the process. But, with a few tips and some basic information you will be editing a project in no time at all.


Mini-course Reading

What Is Editing?

‘Editing’ is the process of taking all the components of your video (or audio) and putting them together into a cohesive, flowing whole. It’s something like taking a pile of Lego bricks and using them to put together a toy house, since there are really two tasks.

First, you need to make sure the pieces fit together mechanically. For Legos, that means making sure that the bricks actually snap together. For editing, that means that the pieces (video shots, usually) fit together in a mechanical sense - without blank spots on the video, with sound levels that match, etc.

Second, but actually more important, you need to fit the pieces together in ways that build your project. For the Lego analogy, that means choosing bricks that make a house, such as sloped pieces for the roof and windows pieces for the exterior walls. For editing, it means thinking about each shot as an element in the overall piece you’re trying to build.

What Makes for a Well-Edited Piece?

General Principles:

  • See Through The Audience's Eyes: When you are editing, it’s critically important to be a proxy for your audience. You need to see through their eyes, which means forgetting what you already know about your subject matter. For example, if you’re doing something about your school for an audience of parents, don’t assume that they know the layout of your school building. It’s your job to guide the audience, shot by shot, through your message.
  • Provide Orientation: You need to keep your audience oriented as to the story you’re telling, too. This means making transitions which explain where your narrative is going, and why. For example, if your theme is the Civil War, and you want to talk about the effect of Northern Industry, don't just jump from the battlefield to the factory; provide a link to help your audience keep up with you.
  • Use the Medium: One of the benefits of video is the ability to use moving images to tell the story. Audio lets the listener hear more than just the text; they can hear emotions, intonations, backgrounds, and accents. The common thread is the rich experience that media can provide - make sure that your editing choices provide that richness.
  • Tell a Story: This is probably the most important of all. Good work, even documentary work, still tells a story. Think in terms of the three act structure: start by establishing the characters and issues, go to rising action/tension, and then provide a resolution. Nova (the PBS show) is great at this, often using either a scientist’s personal quest or a particular scientific issue as the basis for a dramatic narrative. They start with a question or issue: “Are these bones the remnants of an ancient civilization?” Nova then takes the viewer on the journey of discovery, creating rising action through the excavation of the bones, the carbon dating in the lab, etc. Finally, they provide a resolution, ending the tension: Dr. Jones is convinced that these bones show an ancient civilization, and even her doubters are becoming convinced.

Tricks of the Trade:

In addition to the general principles above, there are some tricks of the trade which will make your editing, especially video, better:

  • When editing speech, keep the pauses between the shots. The spoken word has a rhythm, and you need to keep that rhythm intact to avoid unnatural sounding edits.
  • Use establishing shots to show the scene of the action. For example, if your video is about working with horses, start with a shot that tells the viewer we’re at a farm.
  • Use ‘B-roll’ to cover visual edits of the same subject. When you have two, back-to-back shots of the same subject, such as an interviewee, it’s called a ‘jump cut.’ B-roll is video used to cover that edit, such as a shot of the interviewer listening to the answer.
  • Don’t cross the line of action. Imagine you’ve shot two people talking, Louis on the left and Rich on the right of the screen. If you draw an imaginary line from Louis to Rich, that’s called the ‘line of action,’ and you shouldn’t cross it. Otherwise, suddenly Rich is on the left, Louis is on the right, and the viewer is disoriented.
  • Don’t use wipes or other special edits; they are the junk food of video. They draw attention to the edit, and therefore away from the subject matter of your piece.

What Are the Mechanics of Editing?

Whether using video or audio, you usually want to work through the editing process in a systematic way, typically involving the following steps:

  • Catalog your source material. In the case of a shot, simple shoot with twenty minutes of raw video, this can be as simple as watching the video and writing simple notes about the content of each element (‘long shot of lab building’) and its quality (‘camera shaky’). In the case of a more complex project, you may want to have a written list, spreadsheet, or even database to keep track of the shots.
  • Outline your piece. Think about the sequence of the story, keeping in mind the principles above (under “General Principles”). As you outline, think in general terms about which shots/elements will fit the outline.
  • Edit the audio. In most cases, the best way to edit is by putting together the audio first, even for video. Don’t worry if you have rough parts in your video, since the audio will be the framework for the final piece.
  • Fix the video. Once the audio is done, now is the chance to add covering video (see ‘B-roll’ above) to clean up visual issues.
  • Look at the rough cut. Take a critical look at your piece. Ideally, have somebody you trust who is unfamiliar look at it with you, and make notes on where things are too slow, too fast, missing elements, etc.
  • Do a final cut. Use the notes, etc., to create a final version. You’re done!

Linked Readings


Video 1:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Video 101: Editing Basics' by Vimeo Video School

Video 2:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Video Editing (for non editors)' by James Wedmore

Video 3:

Click the link to watch the video.

Please click this link to watch: 'Top 5 Tips for Great Video Editing' by Flip Eleven Creative

Video 4:

Click the link to watch the video.

Video tricks section begins at 2:40, the link should take that point in the video. Please click this link to watch: '10 Tricks to Make Amateur Video Look Professional : Indy News' by Indy Mogul

Learning Exercise

The learning exercise for this unit is to work on editing your final project. If your final project is audio the basic are the same, but your process will be much shorter. You might want to try editing a video file for practice too.

To make this sometimes overwhelming task more approachable I have broken the process into smaller steps below. To access a pdf of this information please download the following file: File:ALBEditingGuide.pdf


  1. Figure out what editing software you have available. Most computers come with a basic program like iMovie or Windows MovieMaker installed for free. There are also more professional products like Camtasia, Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas, or Adobe Premier.
  2. Upload your files from your recording device to your computer. You will need the appropriate cable, or chip reader for this.
  3. Save your files. Ideally you want to save the files in two different places, especially if you are going to delete them from the camera or chip.
  4. Open your files in your video editing software
  5. Create and save a new project or folder (this varies depending on the software) for your project.


  1. Drag and drop the clips you want into the timeline editor
  2. Practice making a cut.
  3. Practice inserting a transition (nothing 'fancy' or unprofessional, please. A simple fade will work)
  4. Practice inserting text. This can be an opening 'slide' or text over the video. Don't forget you'll want to put a transition into, and out of, your text if it is a slide.
  5. Practice inserting music (double check that you have the rights to use it). There will be a separate audio track in your timeline editor that you can drag and drop you music or audio file into.
  6. Try fading in and/or out the music (each editing software will be different so consult a tutorial for your software if you need help figuring out how to do this)


Using the skills you just practiced create your project.

Am I doing this right..? Ask yourself:

  1. Why should I watch/listen?
  2. What is going on?
  3. Who is that?
  4. Do I have a beginning, a middle, and an end? Does it tell a story?
  5. Is it compelling?
  6. Does my editing add or detract from the quality? You know what the right answer here is, but if you don't have it right yet that's ok. Keep practicing. Work on your transitions, go back to your storyboard or script for clarification, and cut out extraneous information.


  1. Save your project frequently.
  2. When you are done editing 'render' or export your file. This process takes all of the edits you have made, and files you added and compresses them into one large video file. This process can take a while and the resulting file will be large.
  3. Note where you are exporting to (file name) so you can easily find your completed video file.


  1. Go to your video website of choice (YouTube, Vimeo, etc). Log in (if you don't already have an account you will need to create one). Some editing software will have a feature that allows you to upload directly to YouTube or other video sharing websites.
  2. Find the upload a video section and follow the prompts.

Congratulations, you have now created and shared a completed project!

Execute Your Plan

Keep working on the Learning Activity above to complete the final project.

Additional Resources


Use the discussion tab at the top of this page to answer the following questions:

Select the 'Discussion' tab located next to 'Page' on the top left corner of this screen.
Select 'Edit' from the tabs on the right.
Type or Copy & Paste your reflection into the space provided
  1. What was the most rewarding part of the editing process?
  2. Did you have all of the raw video or audio you needed? Or, did you have to re-shoot pieces?
  3. What is you advice to others who are just learning how to edit?

Next Steps

Continue to Unit 5 - Incorporating Video and Audio Production in Your Teaching


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