Video editing 101, Part Two: Editing Footage

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As I wrote in the January issue of OU, video editing is becoming as vital a skill to outdoor communicators as photo editing. I laid out how to capture footage into your computer. Here’s what to do from there:
Once your footage is into Final Cut, find the clip you want to open your video with and drag it down onto the timeline on the lower half of your screen.
You now have a few of options to edit a clip down further. Within the timeline, you can grab a clip by its ends (your cursor arrow will change into two vertical lines with opposing arrows) and shorten it until it is just what you want to keep. You can also use the Razor Blade tool in the Tool Palette (or by pressing “B” on your keyboard) to slice it into chucks (press “A” to get back to the Selection cursor). This is especially useful if you want to carve multiple segments out of one clip.
Once you’ve pared that clip down, pull down your next clip and place it just after the first, leaving yourself a bit of space. Edit the new clip as described above, then move it so it touches your first clip (unless you want a black screen between scenes). It should snap right into place. If not, you can choose “snapping” under the View menu at the top of your screen.
To fade between two scenes rather than cut, hold your cursor between the two clips and right-click (or hold Control-click if you’re on a Mac without a right mouse button) on Cross Dissolve. There are also additional transitions available under the “Effects” menu. I usually cut between shots taken in one location, then cross-dissolve when clips change location or any other major shift in perspective.
You can add music or secondary audio by importing an mp3, AIF, WAV or similar audio file, then dragging it into your timeline below your other clips. Hint: when laying an audio or video clip atop another clip, be careful to drop it on the lower two-thirds of the timeline row. Otherwise it will cut the clips below it in two and shove the halves up and down the timeline rather than mixing them together.
If you have audio bound to a video clip and you’d like to delete and replace one or the other, you can select it independently by clicking on it while holding the Option key, then hitting Backspace. Another hint: if you delete a clip using the Delete button rather than Backspace on your keyboard, it will automatically pull together the resulting gap in the timeline rather than leaving an empty space.
No matter what, after each step, keep previewing your changes, which often requires rendering (available under the Sequence menu at the top of your screen). For a large string of clips, this can be very time consuming. Having a fast computer helps; but it’s one of the burliest tasks you can demand of a microprocessor, so be patient.
At some point you’ll probably want to create a title screen for your video. Hit “control” and “A” to select all your tracks and clips in the timeline (or hit “T” four times until your cursor turns into the “Select All Tracks Forward” tool), and scoot everything downstream to give yourself enough room.
Put your timeline slider where you want to place the text. Then, in the top-left Viewer window, click the filmstrip button with the “A” on it. From its menu, choose “Text,” then “Text” again. You’ll get the words “SAMPLE TEXT” on the Viewer, which you can edit the content of using the Controls tab at the top of the window. This can be one of the more frustrating menus. It controls location (origin) and size (“Scale”) of objects like text, images and video clips as they appear on the screen, along with font size and style, motion and other aspects. Once you’ve made a change, click on the Video tab to preview. If text flows off the screen, you’ll have to add hard-returns to create line-breaks. Not exactly user-friendly, unlike iMovie that makes text and titles considerably easier. Once you’ve got a title how you want it, drag it down onto your timeline.
Alternatively, you can create a title graphic in Photoshop, Illustrator, Apple’s LiveType (included with Final Cut), or in a similar application. Import the resulting image file or PDF into Final Cut as you did your video clips, then double-click on it in the file browser to preview it. You may then have to resize the image using the same Controls tab in the Viewer window as described above. From there you need only drag it to the timeline.
Once you’ve sliced, diced and cross-dissolved your video to completion, select all the items in your timeline and go to Export under the File menu. Choose QuickTime movie or QuickTime conversion, depending on the size you’re looking to output.
I’m hoping a future version of Final Cut Express will have an option to upload directly to YouTube and other video sharing sites as Final Cut Pro does now, but for the time being you need to export it to your hard drive, then upload that file to a sharing site via your Internet browser. Check your chosen site for their preferred upload format. Final Cut also has an option to send it directly to iDVD, though you will lose quite a bit of resolution if your master footage is HD.
Like Photoshop, there are multiple ways to get the same task done in Final Cut. Don’t hesitate to ask Google if you run into trouble. I’ve had great luck in this regard, as there are usually support forums filled with people having the same problem. No matter what, be patient and persistent and you’ll likely be thrilled with your final product. Good editing!♦
–Paul Queneau grew up in Colorado hunting, fishing and backpacking. He started with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation’s Bugle magazine as an intern and is currently the conservation editor. Contact him at

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