Making Music Videos For YouTube | Part 2

Train Wreck

Photo by Thundercheese

Most great videos are a combination of a little bit of inspiration and a lot of great editing. I once was on a video shoot with a very well-known guitar player (names will be omitted to protect the innocent) and for a short minute of soloing he continued to do take after take for about an hour. Don't get me wrong, this guy was no slouch. Every take was incredible and leaps and bounds above anything I could pull off, but he continued to push himself and try different ideas. What at first seemed like an exercise in futility to me quickly evolved into a masterclass on creative inspiration.

Creative geniuses are not only exceptional at their craft, they're also often exceptional editors of their own material. That's what we'll focus on today in your quest for the ultimate video.

Right Train, Right Track

I often like to think about the beginning of the editing process like assembling a train. First, I pull all my video footage off of the cameras and onto an external hard drive via USB, Firewire or in the case of a DSLR camera by inserting the memory card into the computer or card reader, and copy the files over to the drive. This data is immediately backed up to a duplicate external drive in case one of the hard drives malfunctions later.

Then I open up Final Cut and import each of the video files into a bin labeled "Video" and each of the well-recorded audio files into a bin labeled "Audio". I usually separate all my media into 5 basic bins (folders): Video, Audio, Sequences, Motion and Images. You can organize your media however it makes the most sense to you, but the important thing is to have some way of finding files quickly throughout the editing process.

Now it's time to sync the high-quality audio with the video clips and camera-recorded audio. In the old days (months ago), I would bring the video clips and high-quality audio into a Final Cut sequence and pan the audio from one hard left and the other hard right. I would then move one of the sources around until they were reasonably close and then nudge it back and forth until there was no delay between the audio coming out of both speakers. Now, I simply use Plural Eyes to automate this process. I bring the video and corresponding high-quality audio into a sequence and label it "pluraleyes". Then, I open Plural Eyes and hit sync and it matches the waveforms and outputs a new Final Cut sequence with everything in sync. It's up to you. You can choose the cheaper, more time consuming method of "panning and nudging" or the $150 automated method of using the Plural Eyes plugin.

At this point, I usually rename the sequence with the synced audio with something ending in "Sync". I'll use this sequence to pull from when I'm editing the video together.

Assemble The Train

Now, it's time to begin assembling a structure for the video. I usually begin by going through the sequences with synced audio and marking the moments that I think I'll want to use by double-tapping the "m" key and labeling the event. Then, I begin pulling these marked clips into a "rough cut" sequence and start building a basic outline of how the video will progress. Don't worry about perfect transitions or anything yet. This is just a chance to reorder and place clips until your video order makes sense and goes through a complete sequence of everything that you want to show.

Remove Excess Cars

Once I have a complete sequence of all the video moments I plan on using, then it's time to cut and chop with extreme prejudice. This is no time to get sentimental about your footage. You have mere minutes to make an impact on a viewer, so make it count! Eliminate any clips that aren't absolutely essential to your video and trim the ones that are down to their best moments. Use transition effects sparingly, as they can often be very distracting and make your video look less professional.

There Can Be Only One...Conductor

Photo by TCtroi

Once your video is together it's time to mix the audio, and editing is extremely important here as well. When you mix audio, you are the conductor and in charge of helping your audience know what to pay attention to. If you pulled up to a traffic light and all three lights were on, what would you do? Would you go, stop or slow down? Everything can't be the most important. Good mixes make excellent use of space and priority. So whatever you want the listener to pay attention to at any given moment should be easy to pick out if you were to close your eyes and listen. This doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be the loudest. Volume is only one way to bring something out in a mix and often not the best. You can use EQ to bring out certain parts (see the EQ Tip from the first post here). You can also use reverb, delay and panning to move things forward, backward and side to side in the mix.

If you're mixing in a talking track, make sure that you give it priority whenever it comes in. I usually fade the background music to a fairly low volume when someone is talking because trying to discern speech over music that's at an equal volume makes your ears very tired. Ever tried talking at a loud concert or club?

Another helpful tip here is that you perceive sound as being compressed the louder it is. So your ears can fool you if you always mix at high volumes. Sometimes it helps to turn your speakers down to where everything is barely audible and check levels. At a low volume like this, you can get a better idea of how loud things are in relation to one another.

What tips have you all found helpful as you edit your videos?

Jordan Colley is the resident video production guy at Line 6 HQ. His power animal is a googly-eyed moose.