Video Editing Basics

You do not need to be a trained videographer to understand how to create videos well. Simple editing can keep your viewers engaged longer, and add a professional feel, even if you are not a professional video editor.

Basically, video editing is taking footage, cutting it up, removing the pieces you do not want, and keeping the bits you do. Back in the old days, editing was slicing reels of film and piecing it together. Thankfully software makes the whole process much more manageable.

There are three main jobs of video editing:

  1. Remove mistakes or unwanted sections

  2. Keep the video moving at an engaging pace

  3. Insert supporting footage, audio, or titles

Use these three points as a checklist as you edit.


Video editing does not require an expensive machine, especially if you are a beginner. However, it would be best if you had a more recent monitor and graphics card. If you have an older computer, check your system specifications against OpenShot’s System Requirements to make sure it works for video editing. Unfortunately, many older computers are not fast enough for video editing, and you should upgrade your whole system, if possible.


Before beginning a video project, ensure there is enough storage space on your computer to save all the necessary clips. For example, one hour of 1080i video, such as from a mini-DV camcorder, takes up nearly 11 GB of storage. If your computer’s internal storage device cannot store all the clips, the solution is to buy an external drive.

It would help if you had several cables, usually Firewire or USB, to connect your computer, external hard drive, and a camera. Different computers and cameras accept other connectors, so check your manuals before buying anything.

Practical Tips

Becoming a great video editor isn’t effortless, but with practice and patience, you’ll be editing like a professional in no time. Here are a few of the essential tips and techniques you need to know to become a skilled video editor.

Pick the Right Computer

While having a great computer won’t necessarily make you a great video editor, a faster computer will allow you to focus more of your time on the story you’re trying to tell rather than your computer rendering. Everyone has their own opinions about what computer is best for editing, but it all depends on your own preferences.

Keep Shooting

Record more video and audio than you think you will need for your project. Include video that enhances the scene, sets a mood, or tells a story. You can use the extra video for smooth transitions in your project. If your project requires voice overs or narration, we suggest using an external application to record your microphone (since OpenShot does not include any recording capabilities yet).

Organize Your Project Files

Composition is the key to success, whether you are running Linux, on a Mac, or a Windows machine. Be sure to label video files, audio files, and even still images clearly and keep all your clips on the same device and in the same folder for easy access. OpenShot tries to keep up with your clips, but if you move them after your project is saved, you could lose your entire project. Organizing before you begin editing can be very advantageous.

Watch Everything

Watching everything is the first step in the editing process. Writer and filmmaker David Andrew Stoler says there is gold in the most unlikely of places: “Some of the most beautiful expressions you’re going to get from the actors are after the cut.”

Edit for a Story

Remember that as you edit, you are telling a story. Editing is so much more than merely cutting footage and adding effects. It is an opportunity to take your audience on a journey. Whether you are editing a complex narrative film or only putting together a personal video, you tell a more in-depth story.

Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between and professional video editor and a novice is to simply look at how much they use the keyboard. Editors that have been in the business for some time know that a few seconds saved add up over the length of the project.

Learn the Lingo

Video editing is not just a hobby or a profession; it is an industry. And just like any industry, there is a ton of jargon to learn. Practically speaking, you do not need to know all the terms on the Glossary to become a better video editor, but a fundamental knowledge of the terms may help you communicate better with other video editors or clients.

Assemble, Then Make a Rough Cut

Drag and drop all your video footage into a timeline and make sure your frame size and frame rates are consistent. Begin a new timeline and drag-and-drop the best clips into what becomes your assembly cut. Remember to save your work frequently, and notate the date and time of each version.

Refine Your Video

In this phase, your rough cut begins to resemble a cohesive project. Adjust the sound and color, make sure the dialog is audible, and add music, titles, or graphics in this phase. Color correction is the process of setting your footage to a color baseline. No matter how great your subject looks on set, you will almost always need to do some basic post-processing for a consistent video.

Refine Some More

A slow scene can set the mood and add tension or it can bore an audience. A fast scene can add adrenaline to your audience’s systems or it can give them headaches. Some editors cut their projects several different ways before they find the right pace. Do not let cutting your project several times discourage you.


People view most of their projects on phones, tablets, or computers, so it is essential to know how to export for the web. The goal when exporting a video for the web is to create the highest quality possible with the smallest file size. Four main factors determine the file size of your finished video:


A codec determines the type of file format (MP4, AVI, MOV). The more compression performed by the codec, the smaller your video’s size. Videos that are smaller in file size tend to be lower in visual quality.


Resolution refers to the number of horizontal and vertical pixels (dots on display) your video contains. For example, a 4K UHD (2160P) video has four times the resolution of FHD (1080P) video. A higher resolution means more information to store so that you will have larger file sizes.

Bit Rate

The Bit Rate is the measure of the speed of data processing of your video. A higher bit rate means higher-quality video and larger files. OpenShot allows you to manually set the Bit Rate / Quality in the Advanced tab of the Export Video window.

Frame Rate

The frequency (in Hz) at which consecutive images, called frames, appear on the display is the Frame Rate. Typically, you export your video in the film standard (24fps) or the TV broadcast standard of 30fps (or 25fps in PAL). While there is not much wiggle room here, you should note that if you decide to export your video in 48fps, 50fps, or 60fps, your file size doubles.


In conclusion, video editing is an accessible skill that can elevate your video content even if you’re not a professional videographer. With the ability to trim, arrange, and enhance footage, you can create engaging videos that captivate your audience. Whether you’re a beginner or on your way to becoming a skilled video editor, remember to focus on storytelling, efficient organization, and refining your project’s details. From selecting the right computer to mastering keyboard shortcuts and understanding technical aspects like codecs and resolutions, your journey in video editing can lead to polished and impactful results. As you venture into the world of video editing, keep in mind that practice, patience, and a commitment to learning are key to achieving excellence in this creative endeavor.