Film and video editors are essential to any film production. As a film and video editor, you will edit and assemble moving images on media as well as edit or synchronize soundtracks with these images into a finished product.
Types of Film and Video Editors
Film and video editors work on many different kinds of productions. This includes:
- Feature films
- Television programs
- Music videos
- Corporate training videos
Responsibilities and Job Description: What Does a Film And Video Editor Do?
Work as an editor varies. At different times of the process, a film and video editor might:
- Receive a brief, an outline of footage, a script, a screenplay, or a shot list
- Assemble all raw footage
- Input and synchronize uncut rushes and sound
- Digitally cut files
- Create a “rough cut” or assembly edit
- Reorder and fine-tune content
Additionally, editors may:
- Oversee audio engineering and editing quality and progress
- Experiment with styles and techniques
- Write commentary/voiceover
- Select or suggest music
Online editing duties may also be required, such as:
- Finalizing technical aspects like footage or coloring
- Adding special effects
What to Expect as Film and Video Editor
You’ll conduct most of your work alone. You may work with a director and, on larger products, assistant editors, sound effects editors, and music editors. A significant amount of your work will take place in editing suites. You’ll also spend a lot of your time on computers. Once you’re more experienced, you may find opportunities to travel for work. If you’re freelancing, you may have times of intensive work mixed in with periods without work between projects. You may work on a few different productions simultaneously.
Working Conditions: Hours and Environment
Most film and video editors work in studios or offices, though some work may also be done in film libraries and archives. Your hours will depend on the production. You may be required to do shift work as well as work long hours, irregular hours, and/or overtime, especially when deadlines are coming up.
The median salary for film and video editors is just under $60,000 per year. A film and video editor position is not an entry-level job, but you’ll typically start at a low-paid level. This may be as a runner. Most editors work as freelancers and are paid on a contract basis. If you work via an agency, the agency will negotiate rates and take either a flat fee or a percentage.
How to Become a Film and Video Editor
To become a film and video editor, you will need to gain certain skills, abilities, and experience.
Education and Qualifications
There is not a specific degree required of film and video editors. However, most film and video editors have a bachelor’s degree or some college experience. Your commitment and determination will also serve as an important qualification. While not required, a degree that demonstrates you have skills necessary for success as a film and video editor is helpful. Relevant subjects include:
- Fine art/visual art
- Graphic design
- Information technology or multimedia
- Media studies
Skills, Knowledge, Abilities, and Personality
Your skills, interests, work style, and values will set you up for success as an editor. You’ll want to demonstrate aptitude in the following areas:
- Communications and media
- Computers and electronics
- Customer and personal service
- English language
- Production and processing
You will also want to possess:
- Adaptability and flexibility
- An ability to listen to others
- An ability to tolerate stress
- An ability to work well on a team and cooperate with others
- An ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines
- An eye for detail
- Concentration and patience
- Critical thinking skills
- Passion and interest for film and video editing
- Self-motivation and initiative
- Time management and organizational skills
- Written and oral communication skills
If you enjoy activities that include designing and creating, and you like to make your own rules, film and video editing may be right for you!
Having experience with the latest technology will set you apart from the competition when applying for jobs. You will also need to have general computer literacy and be able to work with digital equipment. You may need to know how to use certain software, including:
- Adobe products like AfterEffects, Illustrator, and Photoshop
- Apple Final Cut Pro
- Hypertext markup language HTML
As an editor, you will need to have normal color vision. This is because you need to color correct raw footage.
Determination is essential to success in editing. You will need to show a willingness to get involved and do even basic tasks. Work experience in other areas of media production allows you to demonstrate this dedication, and it helps you decide if the intensity and precision an editing job requires is right for you. When you’re applying for jobs, employers will expect you to have pre-entry experience and evidence of working on film or video production or post-production. They’ll prefer to see an up-to-date, well-prepared showreel.
Employers and Job Outlook
Overall, job growth is occurring in this field. The growth of internet-only platforms like streaming services may increase work opportunities for editors. Companies employ film and video editors in the following fields:
- Computer and video games
You may also find employment opportunities with independent production companies. Larger independent companies as well certain post-production companies employ a few editors in-house, offering long-term contracts. Film and broadcast companies also employ their own editors. However, most companies use freelance editors regularly, and some companies exclusively work with freelance editors. Freelance opportunities can help you build a portfolio. You’ll often come across tough competition for all jobs in this field, even entry-level positions like a runner. You should send applications to as many places as you can. Industry resources include:
- Occupational Outlook Handbook
- American Advertising Federation
- Writers Guild of America East
- Motion Picture Editors Guild
- Motion Picture Sound Editors
- The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
- National Association of Broadcasters
- National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians – Communications Workers of America
- Wedding and Event Videographers Association International
Networking and getting to know people in the industry, then developing good working relationships, is key to finding ongoing work. Once you have some experience as a freelancer, you can also advertise.
Learning on the job while you’re working will help you develop relevant skills for editing. You’ll want to experiment with your own work while observing experienced professionals. This combination will help you hone both your creative and technical skills. You can develop your knowledge of relevant topics to position yourself for success. Topics include:
- Finance for freelancers
- How to use software editing packages
- Post-production audio
- Visual effects
You will also want to make sure you keep your knowledge of new equipment and technology up to date. To open more employment opportunities, you can learn more about camera or sound work as well. Doing so will also help you cultivate a network of contacts.
Career Prospects and Progression
Some essentials to success in the field of film and video editing include building a portfolio and networking. You will generally start your career as a trainee or runner. From there, you can work your way to an assistant editor position. Editors typically work as an assistant editor for about three or four years before progressing to become a qualified editor. No matter your future goals, you will need to be willing to start at the bottom and take a proactive approach. This field is constantly changing, so this willingness is key to developing your career. You may also increase your chances of landing a job in the early stages of your career if you’re willing to relocate.
Job Progression in Broadcasting or Post-Production Companies
If you’re working at a larger company, you may progress from a role as a runner to digitizer or assistant editor and then to senior editor. Larger companies offer a structure in terms of a career path. An experienced in-house film and video editor in a big company may eventually move into a management position.
Job Progression for Freelancers
Freelancers typically progress from working on smaller productions into larger and/or more prestigious projects. As a freelancer, it’s essential that you build your reputation while you develop networking skills. Having strong working relationships with everyone from production managers to producers to freelance directors is so important. These people can often take their preferred editors onto new projects with them. If you’re interested in becoming a film and video editor, you can learn more about film and how you can improve your skills by applying to the Nashville Film Institute.