Non-Linear Editing Tutorial

Post-Production | By: indie

In this free video editing tutorial, I’m going to explain how to use a non-linear video editing system in a way that should encompass the basic functionalities in general terms, so you’ll have an understanding of everything you need to know no matter which software you choose. This is the kind of stuff I paid the big bucks to learn during my studies at university.

When you create a new project in your video editing software program, you’re probably going to have several options as to the size, quality and frame rate of your project. For now, just choose whatever is the default or standard setting. In North America, DVD quality video is 720×480 pixels of resolution (meaning it’s 720 pixels wide by 480 pixels high) at 29.97 frames per second. These settings are what is called the NTSC video standard.

The interface of your NLE may have several panels or component windows, but I’ll describe the three main panels you should look for. The first is the timeline, storyboard viewer, or clip sequencer, which is where you place video clips to be played back in your final product.

Some editing programs like Windows Movie Maker and Pinnacle Studio offer storyboard/clip sequencer interfaces because they are aimed at making it easier for novices to perform non-linear video editing tasks. Your editing software may have only a storyboard view, only a timeline view, or both, but timeline editing gives you a great deal more control over the editing process.

The second element to look for is a preview window that lets you see your edited video and any effects applied to it. Certain effects may need to be rendered before you can see what they will look like in the final exported video. Some software performs rendering on the fly, meaning it processes the effect when you place it onto your video, but for especially processor-intensive effects you will need to set the program to do a preview render.

Preview windows usually appear as a large black box at first, before you have added any video to your timeline or sequencer, and should be pretty easy to recognize.

The third and final item to look for is the library or collection window. This is where media files are stored after they are imported into your project. From here you can drag the various video clips, images, and backgrounds to your sequencer or timeline.

Once you have these three areas located and identified, it isn’t very hard to perform basic editing. Use your software’s import function (it might be File > Import or a similar command, otherwise look to your library panel for a file explorer view) to get video from your hard drive and bring it into your project. After it’s been imported, drag a video clip to the sequencer or timeline.

Now here’s where timeline editing starts to distance itself from the sequencer/storyboard view. When you drag a video clip to the timeline, it appears on a video track in its entirety, with any sound below it on an audio track. You can use the editor’s razor or slice tool to split the video clip into multiple segments at any point.

This is how non-linear video editing gets its name; once your clips have been split, you can click and drag them around and place them in any order you choose.

A storyboard or sequencer, on the other hand, basically takes the clips you have and plays them one after the other. You fill up the storyboard boxes with one video clip each and that’s about it.

Playback of your timeline or sequencer should display the video in your preview window. Most editing software programs have scrubbers that let you drag them along the timeline so you can play a video back frame by frame in your preview window.

Get Familiar

With this basic overview of how a digital NLE works you should at least be able to bring in a video, cut it up, and move your clips around to organize your shots into a basic video. But this only scratches the surface of what’s possible in most editing programs.

You can make video clips semi-transparent and add multiple video and audio layers, add transitions and fades between clips, and place effects that alter the look of your video entirely; how you do this depends on your video editing software.

Play around with your NLE‘s basic functionality as described above just to get a feel for how things work, and then start experimenting with its more advanced capabilities. Your software’s help section should get you past any snags, and there are lots of other free editing tutorials available on the web that deal with specific editing programs.

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