How to Edit Video Using Short Shots

A great tip to edit video from raw "in-the-camera footage" to a polished project is to think in "short shots" or clips when using your video editing software.

Here's an experiment for you: The next time you watch TV pay attention to the commercials. Yeah, I know it's a lot to ask, but they are only 30 seconds to a minute each and you can actually learn the basics of video editing from this little exercise.

Count how many shots there are in each commercial you watch. A shot is defined as a separate segment of uninterrupted video before the video cuts to another segment. Shots are considered the basic building blocks of film.

You might be surprised how many separate shots you count in the average commercial. Some shots might be as short as a second or two. 

Why so many shots? Short, interesting snippets of film keep us engaged as we try to figure out the connection between each shot and make sense of the story being told. The longer we're engaged, the more likely we'll watch the entire video.

This cotton-top tamarin was one of the stars of my recent "short clips" video. To see him in action, go here.

Using Your Video Editing Software to Create Your Short Shot Video

To create an example of how to edit video using short clips, I spent a morning at my local zoo recently capturing video. I created the video, "Sequoia Park Zoo: A Gem in the Redwoods," using my video editing software, Cyberlink Power Director 10. 

In my 7-minute zoo video, there are 64 short shots ranging from 2 seconds to 22 seconds each. I use the shortest shots for the zoo signs (see 29:08 seconds in for an example of this). My longest shot is at 6:24 where I devote 22 seconds of footage to an adorable red panda. My goal in using short clips was to make the video fast paced, entertaining and keep the audience eager to continue watching. 

Most video editing software will allow you to select a clip and edit video down to the desired length. Load your video clips onto your timeline, arrange them in the order you want them to appear and then select each one individually to edit. Select the beginning and end points for each shot and remove the rest. 

During your first pass through your clips, be brutal in editing down your video to the bare essentials. Edit with your busy audience in mind -- an audience that has a whole lot of options for their viewing time and can easily stop watching if you fail to deliver. Focus on keeping your video moving at a good pace and entertaining.

Another trick to editing video actually occurs before you even load your footage into your software editing program. Simply put, film in smaller segments. Before you roll your video, have a clear idea in mind of what you want your shot to demonstrate. 

Don't press your video camera's "Start" button until you know exactly what it is you want to film and you've got your shot framed on the screen. Once you've captured your shot, press "Stop" and move on to your next shot. You'll have less video to review during the editing process, which will save you lots of time.

There are cases where you may feel you can't edit video using the short shots technique because of your video's format or topic. For example, if you're doing a one-camera interview video you may not want to interrupt the interview to change camera angles or edit down a long response in post production. 

In this case, consider overlaying a related video or still images on a separate track while continuing with the audio. This way you get away from long, static shots by adding visual interest to your video. If your video consists of primarily longer shots, try to find creative ways of interspersing shorter shots whenever possible.

OK, Now I Know How to Edit Video with Short Shots -- What's Next?

Now that you've finished reading about how to edit video, why not check out more video editing articles?

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