1. Who is your audience?

    Pretty straight forward, right? Knowing your audience will help you determine the tone of your piece. If you’re cutting an instructional safety video aimed at young kids, the tone of your video will probably be pretty light, with an emphasis on instruction. On the other hand, if you’re cutting a documentary about a cancer survivor, the tone will undoubtedly be more serious and with a heavy emphasis on the story. Every project is different, and determining your audience will give you a good foundation to begin cutting.

  2. What do you want the video to do?

    Now you know you’re audience. What do you want them to do? The answer to this question will usually be determined by the client. This is why it’s important that the editor be present when discussing the goals of the project with the client. Perhaps your video is designed to promote awareness for an organization or maybe it’s a call-to-action. In this case, you want to leave your audience with a desire to help the cause, either by volunteering or making a financial contribution. The choices you make in your edit will dictate the direction of the video and push it towards it’s underlying objective.

  3. Who will tell the story?

    Every story needs a storyteller. In a documentary, the story is told primarily via interviews. It’s the responsibility of an editor to decide who best tells the story. This is the most time-intensive part of the process. The editor has to review all the footage, break it down and categorize it (this is part of an editor’s workflow, a concept we’ll touch on in a moment). Once this step is complete, the editor can begin piecing the story together.

  4. What’s your workflow?

    This question tends to deal more with the technical side of editing. How do you manage your files? What programs will you be using? If you’re a professional editor, you’re likely using one of three major NLE’s: Avid, Premiere, or Final Cut Pro. However, within each program, an editor will, overtime, create their own best practices and techniques to help them edit more efficiently. The one constant in this universe is organization. Even smaller projects can become a hassle if you don’t stay organized. For example: name your clips so you’re not working with files names like MVI_1138. Keep your interview footage separate from your b-roll. If multiple editors are working on one project, organization will help others pick up where you left off.

  5. What’s your timetable?

    This is the ultimate question and the first on every editor’s mind. No one likes a tight deadline and this is for a good reason; a good video takes time to execute in ALL of it’s phases. Just like a cinematographer wants time to set up a shot, an editor wants time to think through their edits, mix and match b-roll, tweak their audio levels, etc… These are just a few variables that make editing a time-intensive process. Managing the expectations of the client’s and developing a schedule will go a long way towards helping you finish the project on time, while maintaining your sanity.

Check out what our editors have to say about their workflow and insights into how they cut video: