How to Edit a Video Clip

Two Methods:Editing Any ClipEditing Like a Professional

Editing video clips can be an enjoyable afternoon activity or a full-fledged career. Today, there are tons of options for software, as well as hundreds of places to share your clip with the world. But that doesn't mean that your clip couldn't use a little clean up first.

Note: This article is about editing a singular video clip, not editing films or longer videos. To read about film editing, click here.

Method 1
Editing Any Clip

  1. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 1
    Open the clip in your favorite video editor. You can choose any system you want, from free programs like Windows Media Maker and iMovie to paid programs like Avid or Final Cut. You can even edit many simple clips on smartphones and tablets now using apps like Vee for Video or Magisto. Your choice really depends on what you want to do with your video clip:
    • If you want to add or splice clips, add basic titles and/or music, apply a basic effect, or trim the intro and outro, free software will be fine. You can even use a collection of free, online editors, like YouTube's editor, for short clips.
    • If you want to add special effects or transitions, fine-tune the color or lighting, or want tight control over your edits, you should use professional software.
    • Mobile software often uploads easily to Youtube or Vimeo, and allows you to quickly shoot, edit, and post a clip that only requires light touch up.[1]
  2. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 2
    Click "File" and then "Save As" to back up a copy of your original video. Always keep a copy of your original video, untouched, in case something happens while editing. Most editors even save new copies every time they edit the clip, allowing them to keep old versions if something happens.
  3. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 3
    Drag all of the clips you want in the video to your "Timeline." All video editing software has a timeline where you order the clips for your final video. If you've only got one clip to edit, you still must pull it into your timeline to edit it.
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    Click and drag the ends of the clip to shorten or lengthen the beginning and end. Basic video editing is rather intuitive. You physically move, stretch, and cut the clip together in the timeline, which then plays the clips exactly as shown. If there are more two clips stacked, the top clip will always play. While each program is a little different, you can search for a quick tutorial video online to teach you the basics of your software if you get lost.
  5. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 5
    Add any music and effects over the clip once it is edited to your liking. When the clip is done, you can hit "File" → "Import" to bring in music, or click on "Effects" or "Filters" to play with some fun special effects. Save these changes for when the movie itself is done -- you want to make the major changes before the cosmetic ones.
    • Remember that you cannot use copywritten music, like a pop song, without permission if you plan on selling your video or using it for profit.[2]
  6. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 6
    Add any titles using the "Title" or "Text" box. Again, these will change based on the software you're using. Place the titles on the very top of the video, effects, and music in the timeline -- this keeps them from being affected by the rest of the changes you've made.
    • Place your titles in the upper or lower third of the screen for a professional look.
  7. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 7
    Export the final clip to use it however you want. Usually, you click "File" → "Export" to send your video out into the world. While you have a wide variety of options available, the most common video file extensions are .mov, .mp4, and .avi. These three formats can play on YouTube, Vimeo, and most other streaming sites and computers.
    • Some programs only have a "Save As" button, which brings up a menu that allows you select your video type.[3]

Method 2
Editing Like a Professional

  1. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 8
    Use a quality, professional non-linear editing system. Non-Linear Editing (NLE) is just a fancy way to say you're no longer editing rolls of film by hand. That said, the term has come to mean mostly high-end, quality video editing software with robust features and controls. You should use what is comfortable to you. Options include:
    • DaVinci Resolve: A new, free, and open-source video editing program. It may keep changing, but the price is enough to make it worth trying.
    • Adobe Premier: One of the classics, Premier works well on Mac and PC. If you use other Adobe products, like Photoshop, you may find Premier easy and intuitive to get used to.
    • Final Cut X Pro: This specific version of Final Cut was considered the industry standard for a long time, though it has gotten weaker with updates. Very popular for Mac computers.
    • Avid: The standard of many professional film editors, Avid has all the functionality of its competitors and an interface made to work on the project with a large team.[4]
  2. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 9
    Think about the "story" you want your video to tell. What is it your clip is trying to say? Does it tell an actual story or plot? Is it just a funny event you saw the other day? Is it a powerful speech you captured? Figure out what the purpose of your video is -- how do you want to change the viewer's mood when they finish watching? Good editors highlight this idea and use it to guide all of their editing decisions.
    • What is the main point, image, or idea of the video? How can you bring it front and center?
    • This doesn't mean all videos need a story -- they just need a central idea or image to anchor everything.
  3. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 10
    Trim the video to be as short as possible without losing quality. If the shot, moment, or image isn't adding anything to the story, ditch it. For good video clips, every single frame needs to seem intentional -- this isn't a movie, this is a short scene that needs to hold a viewer's complete attention the entire run-time.
    • If you're only using one continuous camera feed, you can still mask over mistakes or slow moments with well-placed text or music.[5]
  4. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 11
    Make all transitions as smooth and barely noticeable as possible. Flashy, obnoxious transitions are the hallmark of many poor editors. Ditch the snazzy flashbulb and stick to simple fades, dissolves, and hard cuts (no transition at all) when switching between clips. If you want to use a fancy effect, use it to transition in and out of the clip at the very beginning and end.[6]
    • Never use the novelty cuts and transitions, like "Star Wipe." They just distract from your actual video.
  5. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 12
    Remember the rule of thirds, especially when titling. The rule of thirds comes from photography, and is used to compose great frames for film or photos. Mentally divide the frame with two horizontal lines and two vertical lines, so you have nine even boxes on your image. The rule of thirds states, simply, that the best images place items on these lines. When titling or adjusting the image, try to line up your text, the horizon, and special effects with these imaginary guidelines.[7]
  6. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 13
    Balance color, sound, and music to ensure that your video's content shines. The purpose of a good editor is to disappear, and this is doubly true for a short video clip. Use a basic color correcter, like your program's "color balance" effect (they all have one) to make the footage smooth and attractive. Then lower the volume on the music so that you can still hear the camera audio. Make sure that, when played together, the sound is not too loud. Remember -- you want people focused on content, not why the music is too loud or the video looks "too blue."
    • Audio needs to be faded in and out, just like video, to sound natural.[8]
  7. Image titled Edit a Video Clip Step 14
    Keep editing in mind next time you go shoot a clip. If you're only recording simple, one-take clips, then this doesn't need to apply. But, for all other shoots, knowing that you'll be editing a video later should make you a much more diligent camera person. Some things to consider include:
    • Always shoot run-in and run-out footage, or 5 seconds of nothing before and after shot. This gives you crucial editing footage to splice with other shots.
    • Take a few shots of "coverage," or the setting around you, that you can cut to hide any mistakes in the footage.
    • Never skimp on audio. If you can, use a dedicated microphone instead of a camera mic, or simply record a few minutes of background noise in your location to edit over mistakes later.[9]


  • Editing is easy to learn and difficult to master. Move on from these simple clips to longer projects and movies to get better.
  • There are millions of free tutorials and videos online to teach you any video editing software program you could want. Get online and get studying.

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Categories: Software | Media