"Simple Steps using Free Software to Edit
your Video Footage."
Original Article by Will Hutchinson
HD DSLRs have a direct HDMI out. It is therefore possible to shoot some
footage, plug your camera into your HD TV and show your friends your
masterpiece straight away! Great, right?
No! Step away from the HDMI
Consider your workflow as a stills photographer. You probably
wouldn’t consider shooting a job, and then simply handing over your
rolls of film or memory card to your client or other third party,
without first editing and then almost certainly post producing your
With moving images, editing is arguably even more important. Star Wars
Paul Hirsch said, “The shooting of the movie is the
truth part, and the editing of the movie is the lying part.” I also
like to think of it as the part when you can add a bit of magic.
Software video editing
There are many options available for editing film, from high
end professional programs like Avid, Premiere and Final Cut Pro, to
some fantastic free options like Apple's iMovie and Windows Movie
Maker. If you are new to the world of film, I suggest using a free
application to begin with - both the Apple and Windows offerings are
extremely capable and simple, and both allow you to import, edit and
export high definition movies.
For the purposes of this article, I used
Apple's iMovie '09 (version 8.0.6), and footage shot on a Canon
EOS 550D at 1920x1080, 25fps. Despite what you may read, iMovie is
capable of editing H.264 native footage (the .MOV files that come
straight out of your 550D) without the need to convert.
WORKFLOW video editing
Copying Files video editing
When working with movies, you will need a different
workflow than with stills. While you can import a lot of movie file
formats directly into image browser programs like iPhoto, or the
browser utilities that come with the camera, if you want to use them
for editing rather than just clip viewing, you’ll need something more
Most HD DSLRs use 'self contained' file formats - where each
clip is saved as a single AVI or MOV file - which can be easily located
and copied. You should copy all of the files from the relevant
directory on the memory card (including the .THM files, which are used
by some editing programs as clip thumbnails) to a hard drive, before
importing them into your editing software. This avoids the need for
your camera to be plugged into your computer throughout the import
process, and is very fast.
(AVCHD files are more like DVD movie files - using reference files,
which cannot be previewed directly by double clicking - these will need
to be imported directly from the camera into your editing software.)
iMovie Project Setup video editing
In iMovie, you need to
create a new project (FILE > NEW PROJECT). Give your project a name.
Choose the relevant aspect ratio (16:9 for HD footage from a 550D) and
select to have no Theme and no automatic transitions. Also, to take
full advantage of iMovie's editing tools, go to IMOVIE > PREFERENCES
and turn on Show Advanced Tools'
Import Your Files video editing
Go to FILE >
IMPORT > MOVIES and locate your movie files. The directory will look
something like this:
You can select multiple files by clicking the
first required file and then shift+clicking the final file.
Import Options video editing
Choose a location to save the
files to Choose an external drive if you have one dedicated to your
movie work, or leave as is to save in iMovie's default location.
an Event to import the footage into. iMovie organises raw footage into
'events', so choose a relevant existing event, or create a new one for
a new project. You can use events to organise footage into scenes or
shots if making a longer movie.
You can select to Optimise Video. This
converts your video into Apple Intermediate Codec. I only suggest doing
this if your machine struggles when previewing your footage.
Move files. Again, as long as space is not an issue, copy the files so
that your originals are safe. iMovie is non-destructive, so even if you
choose to move your files, it is reasonably safe.
The Editing Window video editing
iMovie splits your workspace into three main windows, which are
contextual, and change depending on what you have selected. When
editing, you will usually see a main timeline window, a preview window
and the event browser:
Clips are automatically imported as standalone
shots. If you click on a clip in the browser, you can press Space Bar
to view the clip in the preview window, or rightclick on the clip to
view it full screen. There are lots of other options from this main
screen, but for now you just want to get used to having a pool of raw
clips in your event browser, a timeline window where you will build
your movie, and a preview window where you can watch your clips and
Basic Edit video editing
The first stage of your edit should be to
build a rough sequence of shots. Simply click on a clip in the event
browser, and drag it to the empty timeline. Click on the next clip you
want to appear, and drag it onto the timeline after the first clip. If
you want to insert a clip in between two clips, just drag a new clip
and drop it in the gap between the two. You can also reorder the clips
in the timeline, by dragging them and moving their positions. Just by
dragging and dropping, you can quickly build a basic sequence of shots.
YOUR SHOTS video editing
Splitting and Trimming video editing
Once you have a short
sequence of shots on the timeline, you can begin editing and refining
the shots. Like any good application, iMovie has more than one way to
skin your cat. You can make basic edits right in the timeline, or you
can use more precise tools to do the same job.
Editing on the Timeline video editing
You can edit clips in the timeline by clicking on a
clip to select it,
bringing up a yellow box around the selection. You can change the
length of the selection by dragging the ends of the yellow box. Then,
either right clicking or using the edit menu, you can Trim to Selection
Clip. Trimming leaves just the area selected by the yellow box, and
splitting will chop the clip into smaller clips using your selected end
Unless you used a tripod and remote, you will want to trim the
beginning and end of every clip to remove the inevitable movement
(however small) created by starting and stoppin movie capture. Once you
get into the rhythm, you will find this process very quick, and it will
make a huge improvement to the look of your edit.
Editing using the Clip
Trimmer and Precision Editor
Clicking the small Cog dropdown menu
on a selected clip reveals the precision editing tools.
Trimmer allows you to trim a clip, and choose which part is selected in
a more precise way. It also reveals the non-destructive nature of the
timeline - you will see the selected section which appears on your
timeline, and also the unused section, which is still there.
Precision Editor allows you to accurately edit the point at which a cut
or transition is made between two clips on your timeline. Dragging the
blue dot moves the position at which the edit occurs.
TRANSITIONS video editing
few editing tools, you should now be able to put together a refined
edit of your shot sequence.
iMovie contains a library of
basic transitions - effects that join two clips together.
You can go
crazy with Star Wars
Wipes, Ripples and Spins, but most movies
and TV shows get by using just Fades, Cross Dissolves and straight
cuts, so I'd suggest leaving that Mosaic transition in its box. To
apply a transition, drag it from the Transition window to the timeline
between two clips (or to the beginning or end of your film for fade
AND GRADING video
|You can then edit
the length of the transition, and
change the style by double clicking on its icon in the timeline, which
brings up an Inspector window. You can choose to have the same length
of transition applied each time, or change it according to your needs.
You should now have a basic edit, with trimmed
shots and a few selected transitions. Now it is time to refine the look
of the footage, making sure all the shots are balanced, and adding any
effects that might be needed.
Select a representative clip and click
the Cog dropdown (or just double click the clip) to open the Clip
On the Clip tab, you can add an effect to your clip if
required, change its speed and add stabilisation. Effects should be
used sparingly - they are not adjustable, simply on or off, and are
best avoided if possible.
Audio tab allows you to change the volume
of the clip's audio, how long it takes to fade in or out, as well as
Ducking any other audio - for instance if you have a soundtrack playing
throughout the film that needs to get quieter in order to hear the
dialogue on a clip.
Video tab has extremely powerful grading tools,
offered up in an albeit non-precise way - sliders only. iMovie allows
the levels of a clip to be altered, as well as offering separate
controls over exposure, brightness, contrast, saturation, individual
RGB sliders and an overall white point selector.
Play around with these
controls subtly, and you should be able to achieve anything from
contrasty black and white through a yellowing Super 8 film stock, to a
desaturated art cinema look - the possibilities are huge. You can
always revert to the original footage at any time, so you may as well
give it a go.
EFFECTS, AUDIO SETTINGS AND GRADING video editing
What if you
have 40 clips that all want the same basic treatment? To avoid the time
consuming tedium of having to adjust every similar clip, you can copy
and paste styles and effects. Simply select the graded clip and copy
it. Select the clip you want to alter in the same way and choose EDIT
> PASTE ADJUSTMENTS. You can choose to paste all of the settings or
just one aspect. After you have completed one clip to your liking,
basic grading on the whole project takes just minutes. Minor
adjustments can then be made to individual clips as required.
Audio video editing
11, which is being
released at time of writing, will introduce enhanced audio controls,
which should allow for noise reduction and better general volume
controls, but even in the current version you can add multiple layers
of audio simply by dragging them from the Music and Sound Effects
window, as well as controlling the volume of individual clips. Balance
your audio, before adding music and sound effects.
Stills video editing
basic soundtracks and effects, and it's not too hard to find royalty
free audio on the web. If all you can hear is wind from the built in
microphone - all is not lost. Just mute the audio and add a musical
score - it can sometimes transform what you have shot into something
surprising. If you intend to do a film with a musical soundtrack, you
may want to add the audio track early on, so you can edit to the music.
You can add stills from your iPhoto library by dragging them
from the dedicated tab. The Ken Burns Effect, which animates stills by
having a start and end point, is added automatically by default, but
you can edit the settings by selecting the clip and clicking the Crop
icon, or turn it off completely by selecting Fit.
Titles video editing
When you have
your final edit, you can add some credits or titles using the very
simple tools built in to iMovie. Again, err on the side of subtlety to
add professionalism to your film - avoid My Great Day Out at Camber
Sands written in Chalkboard.
You can choose the font, size, colour,
style and duration, as well as the basic look - just drag your choice
from the Titles window, and click the text in the Edit window to edit
it. Move your text around on the timeline by dragging it, and change
the length of time it appears and time it takes to fade by double
clicking it on the timeline to open an Inspector window.
EXPORTING video editing
Finally, you have completed your first film - it looks like a Hollywood
blockbuster, and you've given yourself credit for being writer,
director, editor, soundman and best boy - time to share your talents
with the world!
iMovie is a powerful application for exporting high
quality video. Under the Share menu, you will be given basic presets
which work brilliantly for the given environments - YouTube, iPhone,
HD, etc - and you may never require more, so simply choose how big you
want it or where you want to show it and click go!
But what if your
little blockbuster gets chosen to be shown at a festival that requires
a ProRes file? No need to panic. If you export Using Quicktime, you
will find dozens of professional industry standard codecs, and myriad
options for exporting your project in broadcast quality and above at
almost any size.
CONCLUSION video editing
With the rapidly expanding market of
affordable DSLRs capable of capturing high definition video, it's a
good idea to be able to turn that footage into something watchable that
you can share with a wider audience. Applications such as iMovie and
Windows Movie Maker allow you the opportunity to produce professional
results, with minimum outlay and a very shallow learning curve. Try
making a three minute movie and practice your editing skills. You maybe
be surprised with the results that are possible using free software and
a little patience.
|WORKFLOW IN BRIEF
- Copy files
- Create a project
- Import files
- Drag clips to timeline & organise
- Trim and refine your shots
- Add transitions
- Add effects/grading
- Balance audio. Add music/sound effects
- Add titles
- Win Oscar!
all done in iMovie -
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