The Basics Of Video Editing Part II: Creating A Project, From Start To Finish

Yesterday we learned the basics of professional editing environments and how everything works. Today we’re going to look at creating a project from start to finish. We’ll make a new one, get everything set up, get footage, edit a little, and then export the final file using both Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.

The lesson here is in video format, so be sure to watch the video above. Think of all the stuff below as a cheat sheet you can reference as you watch or refer back to when you’re trying out the new things you’ve learned.

Setting Up Your Project

Project setup involves all the same kinds of tasks in most editing software titles, but how you perform that setup tends to vary quite a bit. In Final Cut, you have to setup your system in three different places and it assumes you’re always using the same equipment. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 actually handles this much better, in my opinion, because you set up everything on a project-by-project basis and can choose where you save the files with each new project. When setting up a project there are a few things you want to know and remember:

  • Know the format of your footage.
  • Know the codec you’re editing . What’s a codec? The word is a combination of the words (en)code and decode and it determines how your footage is compressed (so it takes up less space on your hard drive). Some codecs are better for editing than others (e.g. DVCPRO HD is better for editing than H.264, but H.264 is better for delivering video online). Often times your editing codec will be determined by the codec used for your footage. For example, if you’re importing footage from a DV tape you’ll probably just edit your footage using the DV codec. On the other hand, you may prefer to use a lossless codec, such as BitJazz’ SheerVideo, so no quality is lost while you’re editing.
  • The resolution of the video you’re editing (e.g. standard definition is generally 640×480 or 640×460, and high definition is generally 1280×720 or 1920×1080), if the video is interlaced or progressive (you’ll need to check your camera’s manual if you’re not sure, but here’s an explanation of the difference), and the frame rate (generally this will be 29.97 for American NTSC cameras and 25 for countries using PAL, but many cameras shoot at different frame rates so be sure to check what you’re using).

You want to make sure you set all of these things when setting up your project. To see a demonstration, watch the video including with this lesson.

Capturing/Importing Your Footage

There are generally 2.5 ways to import footage into a video editing project. If your camera uses tapes, you’ll need to use the Log and Capture method. Log and Capture involves hooking up your camera to your computer, playing the tape, and logging the in and out points for each clip you want to create. Once you’ve logged all your clips, you tell the video editing software to import them and you can watch your camera automatically import everything.

If you’re using a card-based camera, you’ll want to import footage using a Log and Transfer method. In Final Cut Pro you do this by bringing up a panel similar to the Log and Capture panel, but you’ll see clips showing up on your card. You can name them and add any relevant metadata, add them to a queue, and then import them. The 0.5th way is just transferring your footage without logging it. Some cameras will require that you use Log and Transfer because the footage needs to be transcoded to another format before you can edit it. If you’re grabbing footage from a camera that just creates video files, such as a Canon DSLR, you don’t necessarily need to transcode it (although it’ll be easier to edit if you do). If this is the case, you can just import your footage into your File Browser (or just drag it onto the File Browser window) and you can start editing right away.

For those of you shooting video with DSLRs, be sure to check out how to shoot great video with your HD DSLR. If you’re shooting with a Canon DSLR and also using Final Cut Pro as your editing software, Canon’s Final Cut Pro Log and Transfer Plug-in is a tool you’re going to want to download. (Note: it doesn’t support all cameras, but you might be able to modify an installation file to fix that issue.)

Editing and Adding Transitions

Once you’ve imported your footage, editing is pretty simply. Just drag video and audio onto the timeline in the order you want it. If you want to add effects, you need to shorten your footage a little bit where the transition is going to happen so it has a little excess footage to use for that transition. This is kind of difficult to explain and much easier to see, so check out the video for a look at how to apply different transitions in both Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro CS5.

Exporting Your Edit

Exporting your edit is pretty simple. In Final Cut Pro and Premiere Pro CS5 you go to File -> Export to see your options. In Final Cut Pro you choose either “Quicktime Movie” or “Using Quicktime Conversion”. The Quicktime Movie option will let you export a source file that’s basically the same as your edit. This is great if you want to use another application to compress your video into various formats. If you want to make a compressed version directly from Final Cut Pro, the Using Quicktime Conversion is probably what you’ll want (or you’ll want to send the video to Compressor). This will let you encode the file into any format supported by Quicktime.

In Premiere Pro CS5, you only have one main option: Media. Choose that and you’ll get an excellent export window that’ll even let you preview all your exporting options. Premiere’s media export is like Final Cut Pro’s options combined into one window that gives you even more options. You choose the format you want and export your file. If you want to export your file to multiple formats, you can queue them up as well. It’s pretty great.

That is a basic overview of your exporting options. We’re dedicating an entire lesson to exporting your edit later on, so we’ll take a deep dive then. For now, we’re just sticking with the basics.

BONUS: How Are These Screencasts Made?

One of the big questions from the first lesson was “what are you using to create/edit these screencasts?” The answer is Screenflow. I often use it to edit video when I need to throw something together quickly because it’s so fast and efficient. If you’re looking for a dead simple video application and are not looking for a professional editing environment, Screenflow might actually be a really good choice for you.

What’s happening in tomorrow’s lesson? We’ll be tackling effects and colour correct, and then we’ll wrap up with how you export your edits to deliver them on physical formats (like DVDs) as well as online. We’ll also provide you with additional resources for learning more as well as a PDF of all the text-based notes you’re getting with each lesson, so look forward to that as well.

See you tomorrow! As always, if you ever need to keep track of current lessons you can find any Lifehacker Night School stuff here.

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