Occupation Overview – Video Editor
A video editor lets creativity run wild; he or she tells stories with moving pictures. You may be interested in entering this field if you think it would be rewarding to make basketball highlight reels, TV commercials, or movie trailers. In fact, experienced editors can sometimes break in to editing full-length feature films.
A video editor is an employee of a TV station, a film production company, etc. He or she takes film or video and edits in for viewing, often using state-of-the-art computer software.
The occupation can be broken into main divisions:
- television editing
- multi-purpose editing
- feature film editing
Editing for the television industry can entail working for a particular TV station, a production company that makes shows broadcast on networks, or the networks themselves.
A television video editor might edit news broadcasts, sports highlights, or actual TV shows. This is a position that is very important, since the editor is putting information out there for the public. For example, the way footage is put together can be controversial and can be the subject of criticism or controversy. Keep in mind, however, that major decisions about which details of raw footage to use, particularly for news broadcasts, are usually made by reporters, anchors, or producers.
This brings up an important concept about video editing, particularly in the television industry. An editor has to be able to work as part of a team, often under close supervision. In many cases, a producer or other team member may be literally standing over the editor directing the edits. The editor must be able to let his creativity shine through while also being able to let others call many of the shots.
This sort of editing may involve the editor working for a company that produces videos for companies or organizations. Say a local research lab would like to produce a video promoting some of its latest findings. It must hire a company to shoot footage, and this of course must be edited into the final package.
A subset of this editing may involve filming videos of events such as weddings and similar celebrations. In this case, you would be a videographer in addition to being an editor, and this begins to get into a slightly different specialty.
Whether you are working on a freelance basis or for a company that creates videos for many different clients, this niche within editing may be a very good way to break into the industry. At present, jobs at television and film studios are not only more competitive, but may require a few years’ experience.
Feature Film Editing
Many with an interest in video editing may find a lot of glamor in feature film editing. This is a very rewarding and creative position, one requiring experience. Many editors work their way up to such a prestigious post.
Being hired to edit a film is much different from working in television. A movie editor is usually hired on a project-by-project basis. He or she may be hired by the producer or possibly the director. This causes the editor to be a pretty big-time film professional in the same vein as a director of photography or a casting director.
As one might guess, a lot of directors will hire the same editor over and over again. For example, Spike Lee has had Barry Alexander Brown on roughly seventy-five films, shorts, and commercials. Brown told The Director’s Guild of America that he and Lee “both wanted to do unusual movies,” continuing that they “both worked together for so many years, at a time when we were both learning so much about movies, it was like growing up together.”
A film editor must be trusted by the director, since he or she often makes very important decisions. While the director has guided the actors and actresses, and while the director of photography sets the shots up beautifully, the editor decides how to tell the story. He or she chooses between various shots of different angles, or various takes of an actor speaking a line. While the director of course has the final say on a cut of the film, he or she often doesn’t supervise the editor.
Education and Required Skills
Most editing positions now require a Bachelor’s Degree. A well-rounded thinker is now desired in this–as in most–fields. Many editors major in Mass Communications (which is, at some institutions, referred to as Media Studies, or Communications Studies). This major teaches students about major ethical and artistic issues involving the media and its place in society.
A person who is leaning toward a career in film editing may choose to major in Film and Video Studies—a double major may be beneficial.
It is important to try to gain as much experience as possible in hands-on editing. You may wish to choose a college that has a student-run TV station, though if you are more interested in working in film, any Film and Video Studies program should give you opportunities for hands-on work, and should have the proper equipment.
Editors who want to work in animation must also have a degree with an animation focus.
Throughout the film and television industry, editors use high-end pieces of editing software. These take digital files and allow for cuts, titles, transitions, and even effects. Some of the most popular software right now are:
Final Cut Pro
Avid Media Composer
Adobe After Effects
Potential editors should, during their college careers, become as familiar with these as possible. Using some less expensive or free software may be a good way to start developing your skills.
The salary outlook for video editors is quite good. Entry-level positions come with a more than adequate salary, and opportunities for advancement are great.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median annual wage for a video editor is $57,210. The mean, or average, annual wage is $75,090. Those in the top 10% earn $145,620.
The career advisor Riley Guide reports a 2.3% annual growth rate in the industry as of 2012. The BLS reports in 2014, 24,460 total jobs in the field. The presence of readily-available editing software should have no negative impact on editors for film and television.
Because many companies and entities are striving to provide video content for their websites, skills in video editing will be increasingly valuable in the future. One may be able to find a variety of employment opportunities in a freelance capacity, producing videos for people and companies who need them.
The video editing field is promising for people who like using software, who have an active visual sense, and who are interested in the visual and pacing elements of television and movies. In the foreseeable future, there’s a guarantee that movie, television, and Internet-only programming will be produced.
There is also an increasing push for online news, sports, and cultural commentary websites to produce original videos to complement their written articles. This is all promising to would-be video editors. One must be ready to learn the editing technology, to keep up with the technology once in the profession, and to be able to adapt to changes in the production and distribution of video programming of all kinds.