You used the expensive cameras, the bright lights, and the worked and reworked script, but something is still missing from your video. No matter how perfect you think your video is during production, most clips need quite a few effects to become excellent final products.
Fortunately, thanks to the web and the overabundance of video-making resources, editing is easier than ever. You don’t need an experienced designer or expert editor to improve your film; all you need is one of the following five tricks to make those last finishing touches on a great video.
1. Vary Shots
With any luck, during the recording process, you had the good sense to move the camera around and capture different angles. Different views of a scene will provide different moods and fill different viewer expectations. Varying your shots allows you to manipulate your audience to produce the feelings you need.
As a general rule, you should include more close-ups and medium shots than wide shots, but what is most important is that you create the right variety to tell the video’s story properly. Then, your audience will remain interested and engaged until the very end.
2. Clarify Dialogue
Few humans are flawless communicators, so most dialogue in non-scripted videos is going to be a jumbled mess. Filled “umms,” slurred words, and awkward pauses, natural interviews and discussions can be difficult to listen to, so it is your job as the editor to clean it up for your audience.
Short audio fades allow you to seamlessly blend snippets of dialogue to hide your cuts and shave seconds off your final time, which will keep your clip short and palatable for most viewers.
Additionally, if your video is destined for social media, you might consider adding subtitles to the spoken language. Facebook, Instagram, and other sites have autoplay features that conveniently silence videos for viewing in public spaces, but without subtitles explaining your video, few social media users will bother to watch what you created, invalidating all your hard work.
3. Add Animation
Anyone with a smartphone can capture live video, but animation requires special editing experience. Therefore, films with an animation element always stand out. Fortunately, you don’t have to devote years to learning complex animation software or practicing your illustration skills.
Instead, you can use a free online animation creator to quickly and easily create a short cartoon that suits your video’s theme. You might even try making an entirely animated video, as long as the format is fitting for the message.
4. Use Transitions
Smash-cuts may be popular on some YouTube channels, but most videos should have smooth transitions between different scenes. Transitions can easily look hokey or cheap, so you should be careful not to make yours too blatant. George Lucas used wipes, but most editors prefer subtler transitions, like fades or, even better, camera panning, which feels more natural to a modern audience.
Sometimes, you might not even have to use a manufactured transition for a change to feel natural. One of the oldest editing tricks is to cut scenes using movement or specific sounds. For example, if the subject of your film is gesturing, you can knit two shots together by switching angles in the middle of the gesture. You can also cut on hard consonants or important words in dialogue, which tend to distract the viewer from the change of viewpoint.
5. Try J-Cutting
J-cuts are named for their shape, which resembles the letter J. In a J-cut, the lower part of the cut, the audio, extends farther left, so the sound of a clip plays before the actual clip shows on screen.
J-clips tend to mimic real life: Often, we hear goings-on around us before we look up to see it. Therefore, J-clips feel natural in videos, and it provides a sense of suspense as the viewer waits to see what he or she hears.
You should try to limit your J-cuts to two seconds or less of preceding audio, or else the effect becomes overdramatic.
6. Mark Music
Adding background music is perhaps the easiest way to establish an atmosphere and engage your audience. Most editors will try to match clips to certain segments of music using the waveform of the audio, but there is an easier way.
You can add markers to the music using your video viewer that align with certain cuts of your film, so you can essentially drag and drop the perfect score into your film.