Basic Video Editing

Concepts and Tools


Video editing is both an Artistic and Technical process in which a collection of video material (footage) is compiled and altered from its original form to create a new version.

The artistic process of video editing consists of deciding what elements to retain, delete, or combine from various sources so that they come together in an organized, logical, and visually pleasing manner.

The technical process of video editing consists of copying the various elements onto a single videotape (or CD-ROM, or other media) for final viewing or distribution.


Linear Editing - This process is basically mechanical in nature, in that it employs the use of Camcorders, VCR's, Edit Controllers, Titlers, and Mixers to perform the edit functions. This editing technique is performed in linear steps, one cut at a time (or a series of programmed cuts) to its conclusion.

Non-Linear Editing - Gaining in popularity quickly due to advances in technology, pricing, and product availability, this method of video editing utilizes the computer environment to aid in the editing process. This process is almost entirely digital and employs no mechanical functions except for the input of the video sources and its final output to Tape or CD. Editing in this environment is essentially is a visual Cut-and-Paste method.

NOTE: Linear and Non-Linear video editing techniques be combined, and often are, within the same video production and will be discussed later.


Linear Editing consists of three main categories:

1. In-Camera Editing: Video shots are structured in such a way that they are shot in order and of correct length. This process does not require any additional equipment other than the Camcorder itself, but requires good shooting and organizational skills at the time of the shoot.

2. Assemble Editing: Video shots are not structured in a specific order during shooting but are rearranged and unneeded shots deleted at the time of transferring (copying). This process requires at the least, a Camcorder and VCR. the original footage remains intact, but the rearranged footage is transferred to a new tape. Each scene or cut is "assembled" on a blank tape either one-at-a-time or in a sequence.

There are two types of Assemble Editing:

A Roll--Editing from a single source, with the option of adding an effect, such as titles or transitioning from a frozen image the start of the next cut or scene.

A/B Roll--Editing from a minimum of two source VCR's or Camcorders and recording to a third VCR. This technique requires a Video Mixer and/ or Edit Controller to provide smooth transitions between the sources. Also, the sources must be electronically "Sync'd" together so that the record signals are stable. The use of a Time Base Corrector or Digital Frame Synchronizer is necessary for the success of this technique.

3. Insert Editing: New material is recorded over existing footage. This technique can be used during the original shooting process or during a later editing process. Since the inserted footage is placed over the unwanted footage some of the original footage is erased.

Character Generation (Titles):

Titles on Glass--Painting titles on glass and shooting the scene through the glass, enabling the titles to appear on the video.

Titles on Cardboard, Paper, or other Opaque Media --Painting titles on opaque media and recording the pages on videotape and inserting or assembling the title between scenes, previously shot, during the editing process.

Electronic or Computer Titling --Creating titles on a Character Generator or Computer and either superimposing them over the video (electronically) as in the glass processor inserting the titles between scenes. Examples of electronic titles include products from Videonics - Focus Enhancements.

NOTE: Some Camcorders have a limited ability to generate and superimpose titles over video during the shooting process.

Video Mixers:

The primary function of a Video Mixer is to enable one to perform transitions in the A/B Roll editing process. Transitions such as cuts, wipes, dissolves, chromakey, and other effects can only be performed using such a device. Video Mixers are available from Videonics and Datavideo.

Edit Controllers:

Edit Controllers are devices that control all the mechanical processes in a Linear Editing configuration. Edit controllers perform their function by communicating with Camcorders and VCRs via an Edit Protocol and to the Titlers, Mixers, and other devices via a GPI Trigger (a simple on/off command switch that can be programmed in specific sequences).

Some Edit controllers edit only one event (scene) at a time. Other Edit controllers can be programmed to perform a series of edit functions, with some able to edit an entire production from beginning-to-end including executing all Titles and Transitions by triggering the appropriate equipment. However, the user must still program each command individually at the beginning, before executing the process itself. Once again, Videonics and Datavideo carry a variety of Edit Controllers.

Types of Edit Protocols (Consumer Level) --

Control L (LANC) -- Two-way communication protocol in which the Camcorder(s) are used as the playback deck and a Sony HI8, SVHS, or MiniDV VCR is used as the Record Deck. Sony, Canon, Yashica, Nikon, and Ricoh camcorders use this Protocol. Also, several edit controllers also use this protocol.

Control-M (Panasonic 5-Pin) -- Two-way communication protocol in which either Camcorders or VCR's can be used as either the playback or record decks. This Protocol is exclusive to the Panasonic AG product line.

IR Control -- One-way communication protocol in which the controller communicates with either a VCR or Camcorder via IR remote control. Most controllers of this type can only perform one edit at a time is not normally usable in an A/B Roll edit setup.

JVC RA Edit--Two-way communication protocol in which a controller communicates with either a playback VCR or Camcorder connected to a record VCR. The controller may be built-in to the camcorder or VCR, eliminating the need for an external controller. This protocol is exclusive only to certain models of JVC Camcorders and VCRS and is not compatible with other brands.

JLIP (Joint Level Interface Protocol) -- A communication protocol developed by JVC. A sort of updated version of RA Edit, this protocol enables JVC-equipped camcorders and VCR's to be controlled using a PC (through the Serial Port) as the Edit controller.

GPI Trigger -- One-way communication protocol in which the controller tells or "triggers" a Video Mixer or Title Generator to perform a previously programmed function such as a transition, effect, or title.


There are two types of Sound Editing:

Sound Mixing -- This can be done in either the original shooting processor in editing. Two or more sound sources can be connected to a sound mixer and then inputted into a camcorder's external mike jack (note: not all camcorders have an external mike jack).
Two or more sound sources can be connected to a sound mixer, then inputted into the record VCR's audio input jack(s). This enables the sound to be altered or added to during the editing process.

Audio Dubbing -- This is the technique of adding audio to footage that is already edited together or previously shot. The audio is added to the videotape without altering the previously recorded video and, in some cases, without altering the previously recorded audio.
In order to do either of these processes, the VCR must have an Audio Dub function already built-in. In addition, in order to audio dub without affecting the previously recorded audio, the recording VCR must be a HiFi Stereo VCR with a built-in Audio Dub function.
Audio Dubbing is usually activated by placing the VCR in the Play/Pause mode, then pressing the Audio Dub function, then letting the VCR play the video while it records the audio.
Note: Audio Dubbing on HIFI consumer VCR's only allows for a monaural Audio Dub - useful for narration or effects.


The Home Computer as Editor:

The home computer as an aid to video editing has pushed the envelope even more in the area of video creativity. Some of these computer editing tools give results that were attainable only in production houses a few years ago.

The basic concepts and rules of the video editing process are the same, but working in a digital environment allows the editor more creative freedom at each step in the process, such as being able to preview and correct each edit decision without having to go to tape or disk first. The video editing process, then becomes similar to putting together a document or graphics presentation where the user cuts and pastes the segments together adding effects and titles. Even audio editing is available. Once the video is finished it can be "dumped" back onto video tape and then viewed or duplicated.

Computer Non-Linear Editing is not foolproof, however. You must have the right combination of Ram, Hard Drive Space, and Operating System. Often times there are hardware and software conflicts with other elements within the computer, which can result in crashes. Outputting the finished video back to tape can have mixed results, such as jumpy or skipped frames.

In addition, the home PC also has the ability to perform any one of the functions of the individual components in a traditional Linear Editing setup. In other words, if you have a PC and don't have all the requirements to perform the entire editing process, you can still use you computer simply as an edit controller, title, or sound mixer with the proper software. In fact, using a computer in a hybrid Linear Editing configuration is fairly standard in many professional and amateur editing suites.

The three basic ways to connect a video source, such as a Camcorder or VCR to a computer are:

Video Capture Board --

Probably the most common way to integrate video with a computer. Video capture boards are bundled with software for editing and other functions and are usually inserted into a computer PCI slot. These boards are usually equipped with S-video or Composite video inputs. Many boards also have video outputs, to allow you to copy your finished video back out to tape, but not all of them have outputs. If you need this capacity, read the specifications and connections statement on the box carefully before you buy. Also, make sure you check the system requirements for the board. Make sure your computer has the recommended requirements, not just the minimum. By adhering to this, you computer will be less likely to crash during the editing process.

External "Black Box" --

Functioning very much like a Video Capture Board, products such as Dazzle Digital Video Creator, and Pinnacle Systems Studio MP10 enable the user to take the video editing process away from external devices and controllers and place the entire creative process within the computer environment. These are basically external "black boxes" that plug into a computer's Parallel or USB port (eliminating the need for an internal video capture board) and allows a camcorder or VCR to be more easily connected the computer.

IEEE-1394 (Firewire) --

With the advent of Digital Camcorders, a new breed of internal video capture/editing board has arrived on the scene that allow a home PC to be upgraded to accommodate the Digital Video editing process by adding a new port on the computer referred to as an IEEE-1394 (Firewire/i-link) connection. This port allows extremely fast download and upload speeds that are required to do quality video editing within the PC environment. Once again, as with previous computer video products, your PC must have the suggested requirements for the card to function smoothly. Companies such as Pinnacle SystemsDatavideoDigital Origin, and many others have introduced "Firewire Cards" for both PC and MAC computers.

In order to integrate the camcorder and computer more efficiently, Sony has introduced a line of home computers that are optimized for the Non-Linear editing process. Designed to work their line of MiniDV and Digital8 camcorders, these desktops can take the digital video signal straight in (using IEEE-1394 connection) for editing and dump the completed video digitally back out to the Camcorder, which then can copy the completed video onto a standard VCR. Other computer manufacturers are also address this need, such as Compaq and Apple (G4 and I-Mac).

The Video Editing Appliance:

Taking computer-based Non-Linear editing a step further, Casablanca by DracoScreenplay by Applied Magic and Datavideo, are new Non-Linear Editing products that look like a typical VCR at first glance, but are sophisticated computers that are solely dedicated to the video editing process (no Windows or other program conflicts!). All components (including inputs and outputs) needed to edit your video are built in; just open the box, plug in a TV monitor, go through the setup, plug in your VCR or Camcorder with your footage, and away you go.


This has been a brief outline of the basic principles of video editing. There are many points to consider when setting up you editing environment. Equipment compatibility is paramount. In the professional environment there are many options, many of which are interchangeable. In the consumer realm there are less choices of equipment as well as compatibility between equipment. If you want smooth, easy edit control (if not using a computer) use all the same brand equipment (Sony with Sony, JVC with JVC, etc...) Some companies, such as Videonics and Datavideo, do make cross brand editing equipment, but check first before you buy.

When editing in the computer environment, make sure your PC or MAC always meets the recommended (not the minimum) requirements for the hardware and software to be used. Indeed the Non-Linear Computer environment is the future of Video Editing, but there are still plenty of applications for good-old-fashioned tape-to-tape editing, especially if you are editing a long-form video project and want to keep your expenses down. Although larger computer hard drives are getting cheaper and more plentiful, they still might not be the best way to edit YOUR video.

The real key to being a successful video editor is time, patience, equipment that is easy for you understand and work with, resourcefulness, and a good imagination. You will be surprised how much a little imagination and resourcefulness can do -- remember, Video Editing is both a Technical Process and an Art.

Now go out and make your own Video!

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