Trimming Video Clips:
How to Create Your Video Masterpiece!

Trimming video clips using a video editing software program is similar to the old analog film editing process of "cutting and pasting" and is devised as such to appeal to video editors schooled in the "old ways"...!

Here are some tips on how to trim your video clips to create a rhythm and flow in your video…!


The basic idea is that... Just like cutting film back in the old days...

You select "in points " and "out points " to denote the start and end of each new cut in the footage...Then you make the cuts and... Viola!... You have a video clip!!

Simple as that…! But…

There are some things to know if you're going to trim your clips properly in your digital video editor.


Video Editing Is an Exact Art...

Choosing how to trim a clip depends on a number of factors and is influenced as much by the previous trim and clip as by the look of all the clips as a whole on the video timeline.

The tools provided in your video editing program for trimming clips are precise (and provided you can access the original clip again and again) you can tryout several versions of the clip if you are unsure of how to construct a sequence.

An Exact Art!

"Film editing is now something almost everyone can do at a simple level and enjoy it, but to take it to a higher level requires the same dedication and persistence that any art form does."

Walter Murch 

(Academy Award Winning Editor)

The obvious questions here are...

  • Why don't you trim them earlier when capturing them...?
  • Wouldn’t that  be faster?
  • Why import a larger file only to cut it down now?

The answer is that you want to try to focus all your editing decisions into one stage of post-production. 

Editing is a creative process that really requires you to see and treat the film as a whole. All editing decisions...such as..

  • The nature of the cuts
  • The length
  • The order they appear, etc...

Are creative  decisions and should be undertaken, if possible, in one  process.


Making Your Creative Decisions...

You Have To Edit the Material!

"You have to edit the material...That assumes that some kind of a mind is operating in relation to the material. Not all minds are the same. Every aspect of filmmaking requires choice. The selection of the subject,the shooting, editing and length are all aspects of choice." 

Frederick Wiseman 

(American Documentary Filmmaker)

The trimming of your video clips is the part of the video editing process where you start making a lot of creative decisions.

The clips you captured to start with are usually "rough around the edges" and need refining before they can be used in the video.

In trimming video clips...  

You are mostly deciding which parts of each clip... 

  • You want to use,
  • In which order and
  • Whether you need to split them up further into smaller clips.

In addition to this, you're also looking at each clip to see if you need to process it further..

As far as things such as..

  • Color correction,
  • Brightness,
  • Adjusting the timing of the clip,
  • Adding an effect etc.

A Basic Tenet of Video Editing...

"Movies Become Art after Editing"

"Movies become art after editing. Instead of just reproducing reality, they juxtapose images of it. That implies expression; that's art. "

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

(Academy Award Winning Director)

Another one of the basic tenets of trimming video clips is...

It is all about how one clip looks next to another... 

Not how each looks in isolation.

We can easily see that the... look, feel and meaning of clips change dramatically when placed next to others.

When trimming video clips look at the effect of each clip on what has gone before by replaying sections completed so far..

But, allow these sections to be altered by the effect of later clips that you will add as you tell your complete "story".


Editing Your Video... Creating Rhythm and Energy...

Just like the Pros… You need to evolve a rhythm and energy to the video as a whole, when editing...

Rhythm and Energy!

I love being in the editing room and playing with tempo and the rhythm of shots.

Damien Chazelle 

(Academy Award Winning Director)

 Do this early in the process of trimming video clips... 

Focus on the look and feel of the story you are creating on video as you are doing the editing.

In trimming video clips you want the audience to “want” to see the next frame or sequence.

You want their interest and involvement with the story you are telling with your video. 

If you have that...

you will have an audience that has been entertained, informed or both.


When You're Editing... Have Your Material Ready!

Also... do yourself a favor... When you sit down at your video editor to do work on your video have your material ready!

When you are trimming video clips...  It really can upset your editing momentum if you find you have too few clips and have to go looking for them in the middle of an editing session.


Make Sure That Your Video Editing Software Doesn't Alter the Master Footage!

In trimming clips... Most video editing software programs will allow you to use the newly revised clip length in the timeline...

The Word to the Wise!

* Have your video material where it's very easily accessible on your computer so that you don't have to hunt all over the place for it!

And will leave the original clip (master copy) in your project bin untouched

It is worth checking into whether your own video editing program alters the original clip as does for example Windows Movie Maker, or leaves it untouched.

This is more common in the free video editing software programs including those bundled with video capture cards or video graphics cards.

Altering the original clip is not a popular feature as it takes away one of the great advantages of non-linear editing... The ability to EXPERIMENT...!! This gives you the ability to "see" the edit and the clip first... and then... make up your mind later with the option to return to the original clip if you don't like what you see.


When trimming your video clips and then putting them together... important decisions about each part of the video must be made with reference to the whole.

Trimming video clips then becomes a process during which a story gradually emerges as you trim, craft and connect your video clips... and as you work through this process... your video masterpiece is created!

Have fun with it...!


Have fun...!  Dan (Editor)

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