8 Creative Video Editing Techniques You Should Master

As a videographer, you should be well aware that recording footage from one angle will only make your video look like CCTV surveillance footage. Yeah, nobody wants to see unless you upload fight footage onto a certain subreddit, but that’s not our goal here.

There is an abundance of ways you can create more compelling videos, and you can do it all from your desktop or laptop computer.

In this guide, we’re going to describe the X video-editing techniques you need to master, namely:

  1. Video cuts
  2. Montages
  3. Focusing on continuity
  4. Transitions
  5. Cutting to music
  6. Cutting away
  7. Invisible editing
  8. Smash cuts

So, if you’ve just learned the fundamentals of videography, you can significantly boost the quality of your video by studying and mastering these techniques.


1. Video cuts

There are all sorts of cutting techniques you can use to tell your story. The standard cut is a process where you simply stitch two videos together. The two videos are mostly of the same object but from different angles, so you won’t have to add transition animation.

However, it’s important that you use cuts wisely. We don’t mean to be crude, but if you’ve seen Bollywood movies before, you’re probably well aware of how too many cuts (and transitions) can cause vertigo. This is especially true if you’re making short 30-second videos for social media.

We will talk more about cuts as we progress since it’s a pretty wide topic, even beginner videographers.


2. Montages

You don’t have to be a videographer to know what a montage is. You’ve probably seen montages on TV shows like Community and Futurama. Essentially, a montage is a series of clips put together to accelerate time from the past to the present.

Montages can be super corny or extremely powerful in the right context, making it a highly versatile tool to convey nearly any message you want. The recording process can be a pain, but it can ultimately be worth the trouble if you use it to correctly fast-forward the passage of time.


3. Focusing on continuity

Continuity is a videography principle that consists of using cuts to maintain a singular narrative. To preserve continuity, there are three essential rules you must follow:

Consistent viewing height: When recording long videos, it’s important that you maintain a consistent height or angle when shooting. Viewers may perceive a sudden slowing-down of a scene when it’s shot from multiple heights. A good rule to follow is to record from a single character’s eye line.

Shot-reverse-shot: This technique involves shooting a close-up of one character, who is looking and speaking an off-screen character. The footage then cuts to the second character, looking and speaking to the first.

180° Rule and 30° Rule: The 180° Rule dictates that a filmmaker shoots footage in a straight line between two objects. The 30° Rule deviates from the 180° rule by positioning the camera 30° apart when recording two different shots in a single scene.


4. Transitioning

Transitioning is a series of techniques where one scene is connected to another via different animations or cuts. There are infrequently used transitions that you might want to avoid, such as cross-dissolves and clock-wipes.


5. Cutting to music

Please note that as an amateur videographer, you might not have the funds to hire a crew of audiophiles. You will have to do a lot, if not everything, on your own. It’s not impossible, nor is it easy, but at least it’s feasible with the correct software.

Anyway, one way to incorporate audio into your video is by cutting to music or adding sound effects. You may have seen examples on Instagram where music plays in the background of wholesome or motivational videos. Basically, you should find audio that coincides with the footage and sets the correct tone.

So, no Benny Hill for serious videos, please.


6. Cutting away

Cutting away is related to the first point on this list, but it deserves its own section. Cutting away simply means interrupting a previous scene by playing another scene. You can cut away to entirely different scenes or to different characters in a single scene.

There are two popular cutting-away techniques you should definitely pay attention to. They are called J-cuts and L-cuts, where a J-cut is when the camera is focused on one character in a scene that is listening to another character speak. An L-cut switches the camera’s focus from the speaking character to the listening character mid-speech.

One way you can add another layer to your video is to J- or L-cut to a character outside of the scene—e.g., in Shanghai Noon when Chon Wang hears Roy talking about him behind closed doors. It’s important when doing so that you also edit, decrease and increase volume settings where appropriate.


7. Invisible editing

Invisible editing, or the invisible cut, is a cut mid-action where it can be impossible to film one seamless scene. This is a common technique used in action movies, such as Kill Bill, where Uma Thurman would have a difficult time wielding and swinging the weight of her Katana for the entire 3:40 minutes.

This is one of the more “advanced” basic video-editing techniques you should learn about. It may require shooting footage from multiple angles to create one complex, continuous scene. However, if done correctly, you can turn montages into beautiful works of moving art.


8. Smash Cuts

A smash cut is a technique where a video cuts from a soft, quiet scene to a deafeningly loud (not literally) scene. There are tons of examples of this that, when done perfectly, can induce laughter, excitement, surprise, or even fear. One common example of smash cuts is when an actor wakes up from a dream. However, this isn’t a technique you should overuse, as it can take the viewer out of an immersed state.

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About the author

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Houke de Kwant is a frontend developer from the Netherlands and the creator of TheArtHunters (former Daily Inspiration, which was started as part of his study).

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