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How to Make Your First Movie - Phase 8: Editing

How do you edit a low-budget flick to look like an Academy Award-worthy film? The same way you get to Carnegie Hall: practice, practice, practice.


  • Step 1: Select an editing system Select an editing system. Not everyone has the budget for an Avid setup, or even Final Cut Pro, but there are still plenty of great options for all types of filmmakers. Final Cut Express is very affordable.
  • Step 2: Load your raw footage Load your raw footage onto your computer’s hard drive.
  • Step 3: Practice basic editing Arrange some sample clips on a test timeline to get used to your editing system.
  • TIP: As you’re learning, watch your favorite films over and over, and see what about the editing makes them so great.
  • Step 4: Explore transitions Explore the different types of transitions available for editing.
  • Step 5: Learn other basics Learn all the other basics of your specific editing program. You’ll want to be able to do whatever you want when editing your film, so study and practice as much as you can now.
  • TIP: Read books on editing theory, or try to work with an established editor to learn some skills firsthand.
  • Step 6: Start editing When you feel confident, start editing your film.
  • TIP: An old editing tip is 'cut on action,' meaning make the cut while someone is in the middle of doing something. Carefully matching the action in each shot will make the cut less noticeable.
  • Step 7: Make a rough cut Make a rough cut of the film by finding the best takes of every scene and assembling them.
  • TIP: Editing can change the pacing, flow, and even mood of a film. Quick cuts can add tension and smooth transitions connect different pieces of the story.
  • Step 8: Lay in audio After you’re happy with your rough cut, lay in music, sound effects, and so on.
  • Step 9: Practice Keep working. Editing your movie may take months, but you’ll gain skill and insight with each passing day.
  • FACT: Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg reportedly do not allow any actors in the cutting room.

You Will Need

  • Footage
  • An editing system

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