“The film is made in the editing room.” This famous quote from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman holds true to this day, even in today’s era of modern video production of crazy camera rigs, superstar talents, and massive film sets.
It’s not hard to understand why video editors hide behind the curtain. According to veteran editor Billy Fox, the hallmark of a good edit is actually when the audience “never notices your work at all” and is “totally in the moment and totally in the story”.
This week, we’re continuing our interview series with Jovin Chiang (Video Editor @ Big 3 Media), who takes us through the entire video editing and post-production process, while sharing his personal experiences as a video editor and giving some useful tips and career advice along the way.
Ming: Thanks for taking the time to chat! Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jovin: I’ve been working as a video editor for 12 years now. Before joining Big 3 Media, I was working on a contract basis with the Ministry Of Education (MOE) as a “Video Officer” - where I was a one-man show taking on the roles of director, producer, camera operator, gaffer, grip all at once!
I found out about Big 3 Media through a job listing on Jobstreet - in fact, I was the first employee to join Big 3 Media full-time! Back then, we were a smaller operation, and I also had to take on multiple roles for each project. Thankfully, we’ve grown quite a bit since then - nowadays I focus most of my time on video editing and post-production.
Ming: What video software do you use?
I started editing on Final Cut Pro (FCP), but after the release of FCP X, I switched to Adobe Premiere Pro (PP) and After Effects (AE) because I didn’t like how FCP felt more like iMovie (and less like a professional video editing suite).
I enjoyed using PP and AE, but William (our post-production supervisor at Big 3 Media) decided to get everyone to switch to DaVinci Resolve (DVR), which we’ve been using ever since.
Ming: Can you describe to us the overall workflow for a video editor?
Jovin: This varies from project to project, but generally our work as video editors starts with the raw footage. In the past, we used to work off old SATA disks and G-Drives later on - which aren’t the most reliable as the data is prone to be corrupted. Most production houses nowadays run off a central server where all the footage can be safely stored and accessed by everyone working on the project.
Naming conventions are pretty important to the post-production process, so we make sure all assets have been properly named before importing them into appropriate subfolders in a new DVR project. By keeping everything organized, we make sure that we can work efficiently and also streamline the process of onboarding any new personnel to the project.
Once things are looking good on the media management side, we can create the timeline (also known as “sequence” in PP), where all the video clips being used in the project are loaded onto your video editing software in chronological order. From there, we can proceed with the actual video editing work - like where and when to cut, what transitions to use, etc etc.
Once we have the first cut, we’ll send it over to the client for review. Once the client has approved the edit, we’ll no longer make any further edits (picture lock) so that team can proceed with audio post-production and colour grading.
Ming: Can you share with us some tips you’ve learned over the years to help facilitate a smooth video editing process?
Jovin: I guess one of the biggest challenges that video editors face is managing the expectations of their clients. Most of the time, people don’t understand how videos are produced, so the duty falls on us to educate clients on the whole post-production process.
Make sure you tell clients that the first few cuts are not colour graded. For clients that are more sensitive to colour, I will usually do a rough colour of the video footage and send a screenshot of the coloured footage to the client to give them a rough idea of what the final video will look like.
One thing that video editors (and post-production teams in general) tend to overlook is that they need to be involved right from the get-go during the pre-production phase. Get video references from your clients - that way you can get a better idea of what they’re going for and how the team can go about achieving this.
While editing, make sure you keep a saved copy of each version of the video edit - in case clients change their mind and decide to revert back to a previous edit.
Remember that you’re just one part of the puzzle - you’ll be working closely with the director during the video edit. Each director has their own style, so make sure you also understand their direction and manage their expectations as well. Your audio/colour guys and gals are also waiting for you, so make sure you pass them the assets as early as possible so they can start on work ASAP.
Ming: Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring video editors?
Give DVR a shot! Lots of video editors are scared to make the switch because of the steep learning curve, but in the long run, I think that DVR’s user interface and overall workflow is far superior. Don’t be scared to switch - while the shortcuts/hotkeys for DVR are quite different from the others, they feel much more intuitive once you’re familiar with it.
Regarding video editing as a career, I’d advise aspiring video editors (particularly those based in Singapore) to pace themselves and tackle things one at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re just starting out (Google is your friend) and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
When facing clients, be confident! You’re representing the whole post-production team, so make sure the client feels that they’re in good hands. In the face of criticism, stand up for your cut, but don’t come across as standoffish - keep your ego in check and be open to changes.
Lastly, don’t shy away from opportunities to add value to the video - just go for it, and you might just find a client that likes what you’ve done!
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