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What are the 9 different types of video editing

A guide to help you decide which type to specialise in

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If you’re in the early stages of your video editing career, you may be surprised to know that there are quite a few different types of video editing that you can specialise in. After you’ve landed your first video editing job, you’ll want to begin thinking about your next steps. As you progress through your career, you’ll find yourself excelling in a certain specialism that you get booked for repeatedly. Each type of career has its own pros and cons. This guide will help you learn what the 9 different types of video editing careers are and the differences between them. This should help you decide what you’d like to work on in the future.

 

 

The 9 main types of video editors careers you’ll find are:

  • Commercials
  • Documentary
  • Features
  • Reality TV
  • Trailers
  • Music Video
  • Corporate
  • Wedding
  • Social content

 

 

COMMERCIALS

A commercial editor cuts commercials for TV as well as digital. These kinds of edits demand fast turnarounds but reward you with good money. It takes a lot of talent to be able to tell a story in 30 seconds, so it will take many years before you’re working on high profile ads. This is where you’ll find some of the unsung heroes of the editing world.

You’ll often hear features editors saying they’d like to try their hand at one or two commercials, and commercials editors saying they’d like to work on a feature or two. This is because the turnaround and creative freedom are completely opposite. Commercials demand a fast turnaround and a lot of creativity. Features are lengthy projects where creativity is nuanced.

A commercial project won’t last longer than 3 months at the very high end, but more typically two weeks, all the way down to a day or two turnaround at the low end.

You’ll be working in a fast-paced environment which is creatively demanding, but you get to see your work on TV which is cool.

 

DOCUMENTARY

This takes the longest to master, but, I believe it is the most rewarding because you have to craft the story yourself from a huge blank canvas. Storytelling is more important than how creative you are with your shots/effects. Your storytelling really has to be on point, and this takes many years of practice.

A project will typically last 4 weeks (for digital) to 1 year (for broadcast), depending on the budget and duration of the film. Documentaries can vary from 5 mins to feature length, and each comes with its own challenges – mainly the volume of footage.

It can be laborious to make the leap from short form to feature length, but it’s the best route if you want to spend your career editing feature length docs. It’s also nice to know you’re working on something that isn’t exploiting people for likes or money. Pay isn’t as great as commercials, but after 10 years you can command a very good rate.

 

SCRIPTED NARRATIVE

This is the glossy side of editing for those who love the idea of working ‘in the movies’. The reality is anything but glossy. It’s hard work and you have to deal with many creative egos.

It’s worth considering that features and scripted TV editing accounts for the least amount of work that’s available out there. That means there’s strong competition. However, there is high demand for great editors at the moment because of the increase in on-demand.

The journey to a decent wage is long. I’m very much against working for less than a liveable wage, but when so many people are lured by the sexiness of Hollywood, someone will always offer to work for less than you when you are just starting out. Once you reach a certain point after about 10 years, you can command the price.

Projects typically last between 3 months to two years. This career path would suit someone who’s super crazy passionate about cinema, or else you may be dissappointed by the time it takes to get to work on anything you enjoy.

 

REALITY TV

Reality TV editors are highly sought after, especially in the US. The challenge with cutting reality TV is that you have a huge amount of footage to sift through, which is why AEs are invaluable in this line of editing. This means that there are a lot of opportunities to get a foot in the door as an AE on reality shows. Once you’re in it can be a quick path to full time editor. Reality shows can run for a long time and are often created by television studios, so AEs and Editors are often employed, with a monthly paycheck. This is enough to lure in editors who enjoy stability.

 

TRAILERS

This is an art unto itself. There are schools as well as studios specifically for trailer editing. These are fun to cut and you can see results pretty quickly. You get to see footage from the film you’re working on before it’s released. Unfortunately, they can get rather formulaic after many years of working on them.

Typical turnaround for editing a trailer is 1 day to 3 months. Most trailer studios hire their editors on a full-time basis. It is possible to break out into freelance after a few years employment.

One of the great bonuses of this type of work is of course being able to see and share your work online and in theatres.

 

MUSIC VIDEOS

This is the ultimate blank creative canvas. If all you want to do is experiment and push the artistic limits of video editing, then this is the medium to do it with.

It’s easy to get into and can be a lot of fun, but the pay can be pretty poor. Definitely something to enjoy early in your career.

Projects last anywhere between 4 days to 3 months. Many video editors start their career with music videos before moving onto other things.

 

CORPORATE

Everybody knocks it because they’ve had to do it at some point and got bored. You’ll mostly be cutting interviews and reels.

It’s fairly easy (if mind-numbing) work, but the pay is very handsome, even when you’re just starting out. You also get very comfortable 9-5 working hours. Most people get in, get the money, and get out of this line of work. Turnaround for each project is typically 2-5 days.

 

WEDDINGS

This can actually be pretty fun. Working on footage of real people having a great time can have a positive impact on your mood. Turnaround times can be tight but money is fairly good. It can feel like you’re not being challenged after several years though.

There’s not a huge amount of interest in this line of work, probably because it doesn’t seem glamorous, but money can be good and if you find a great videographer you vibe with, working together can be fun.

 

SOCIAL CONTENT

This is the tightest turnaround of all, we’re talking a few days, hours or even minutes. But it’s great for people like me who get bored of working on one project for too long. This is also where the most available work is.

Online video is essential for any functioning business now, so you can be sure to find work. Bonus points if you can use After Effects. The main issue with this line of work is the increasing variety of formats for each platform that everything has to be reversioned to.

Entry into this field is fairly easy. Pay is moderate, even when starting out, but plateaus after a few years. It’s a young editors game that is a great way to start a career cutting commercials. In my opinion, it’s a great way to practice your craft and get paid.

 

 

Every type of video editing has its pros and cons. You can wind your way through different types as you progress through your career, but it can be difficult to transition between some once you are established in one type of editing e.g., features won’t be interested if you’ve only ever cut social content, but commercials would take you on.

So, which type of editing appeals to you the most? If you’re still not sure, try these 4 steps to figure out what you want from your video editing career.

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