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Common Video Editing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: Part One

By David Winter
Jan 4, 2024
4 minute read

Introduction

When I started my video editing journey, I had my fair share of challenges, slip-ups and filmmaking mistakes. One question that kept popping up in my head was, "Is video editing hard? Or am I just not good at it?" 

Unfortunately, it was the latter! There are a lot of incredibly common mistakes when it comes to video editing, and I managed to hit all of them. 

The good news is that with guidance, persistence, and some video editing tips, anyone can become a skilled video editor. So, if you're a beginner who's hungry to learn and willing to put in some work, this article is for you. I'll share the most common video editing mistakes and how to avoid them. Let’s dive into some guidelines for editing.

This is a two-part, comprehensive guide. In this first part, I'll cover the basics of video editing. We'll dive into audio editing, music selection, timing, transitions, and the pitfalls of overusing effects. By understanding and mastering these foundational elements, you'll be well on your way to creating compelling video content.

Once you've finished Part 1, don't forget to check out Common Video Editing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: Part Two. We'll explore more advanced editing techniques and how to put the finishing touches on your project.

Audio Editing: The Sound of Success

Poor Audio / Inconsistent Audio

The Mistake:

Video is an audio-visual medium, but it’s easy to forget the audio half of that when starting out. Trust me, even the most visually stunning video can be ruined by poor audio quality and inconsistency.

The Solution:

The first way to avoid this is to make sure you have good sound coming in, in the first place. Use the best mics you can access, try to create a silent environment to film in, and look into cheap soundproofing.

Sometimes bad audio is unavoidable though, so don't forget to remove any distracting background noise during post-production. Most video editing software has some form of toolset to handle this for you. Also, trust your audio levels and monitors inside your editor more than your ears, as they provide an unbiased account of your project's loudness or quietness. 

Finally, royalty-free music and sound effects are your friends! There are many great providers out there, such as Epidemic Sound or Envato Elements, who can provide a level of audio quality you might not be able to access otherwise. 

Out-of-sync Audio

The Mistake

Imagine watching an action-packed scene, but the sound effects are delayed—it just feels off, right? It's hard to take a punch seriously when the smack sound comes a second late. It’s even harder to buy into dramatic dialogue when the sound doesn’t match their lip movements. Out-of-sync audio can throw your entire video off balance.

The Solution:

To fix this issue, make sure you align audio clips with the corresponding video footage during the editing process. Most editing software offers tools to help you sync audio and video seamlessly. Use something that will create a short, sudden spike in your audio waveform to make it easy to spot where your audio from your camera and mics should line up. Even if you don’t have a clapper board, just a loud clap using your hands can serve the same purpose. 

Music Selection: Setting the Right Tone

The Mistake:

Music can dictate the tone. You’ve likely seen those YouTube videos where someone takes a family-friendly film like Merry Poppins and recuts it to look like a trailer for a horror film. The music and sound effect choices do 80% of the heavy lifting. While those videos do so intentionally, for you, choosing the wrong music can detract from the overall experience of your video.

The Solution:

Take the time to select music that complements the tone and style of your content. A well-chosen soundtrack can make all the difference in creating an immersive experience for your audience. Look up classic examples of the tropes and genre you’re trying to follow to see what works best. 

Timing and Transitions: Keeping Your Audience Engaged

Overly Long Shots: The Art of Pacing

The Mistake:

It’s a sad but true fact that many beginning edits fail simply because they’re afraid to edit! Keeping your shots too long can cause your viewers to lose interest. It’s a technique that should be used sparingly with specific intent, not for every shot. 

The Solution:

To maintain their attention, strike a balance between short and long shots. Consider the pacing of your video and how each shot contributes to the overall story. As yourself — what is important in this shot, and does leaving breathing room on either side actually add anything?

Jump Cuts: When Less Is More

The Mistake:

In one of my early projects, I overused jump cuts to the point where the video felt jarring and disjointed. I fell into the trap of thinking every single cut needed some punch to it. Jump cuts can be effective when used sparingly, but overdoing it can lead to a confusing viewing experience.

The Solution:

Instead, explore other editing techniques like crossfades, match cuts, or dissolves to create smoother transitions. There’s a whole world of transitions out there. Why limit yourself?

Clean Transitions: Guiding Your Viewer's Eye

The Mistake:

Transitions can be a great way to move a project forward and shepherd your audience from one scene to the next. They can also be a hot mess that detracts and distracts. Use them sparingly, and make sure they complement your project. Wipe transition, for example, can be quite cheesy and should be reserved for comedies or light-hearted projects. Yes, Star Wars used them, but we’re not Star Wars. 

The Solution:

Instead of using an inappropriate or flashy transition, opt for a more subtle and contextually relevant option. For instance, a simple crossfade or a cut-on action will be more suitable for connecting two scenes than any other transition most of the time. When selecting transitions, always consider their impact on the storytelling and how they can help guide the viewer's eye from one scene to the next. A well-chosen transition can keep your audience engaged and help your video flow smoothly.

Overusing Effects

The Mistake:

I get it; it’s super exciting when you realise your editing software has many baked-in effects to play with. That’s why beginners, myself included back in the day, often overuse effects and transitions to make their videos more dynamic. This can lead to a distracting and unprofessional final product, especially if the effects aren’t well executed!

The Solution:

Use effects sparingly and only when they serve a specific purpose or enhance the storytelling. Before using any effects, ask yourself if there’s a way to achieve the outcome in camera or through clever editing. Focus on creating a clean and polished edit that keeps your audience engaged without overwhelming them with unnecessary visual elements.

Conclusion

That concludes Part 1 of my two-part comprehensive guide to video editing! By now, you should have a solid understanding of the basic principles of audio editing, music selection, pacing, and transitions, as well as the importance of avoiding overused effects. These foundational skills will help you create engaging, professional videos that captivate your audience.

Ready to take your video editing skills to the next level? Don't miss Common Video Editing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them: Part Two, where we'll delve into project management, visual polish, colour correcting and colour grading, and the final touches that make your videos stand out.