Not signed up?

 
 

Film/video editor: Job description

So you think you want to be a

Film/video editor?

See how well you suit this job in Career Planner.

Try Career Planner

Freelance work and using digital technology and computer software are key aspects of a career in film and video editing

As a film or video editor, you'll be responsible for assembling recorded raw material into a finished product that's suitable for broadcasting. The material may include camera footage, dialogue, sound effects, graphics and special effects. This is a key role in the post-production process and your skills can determine the quality and delivery of the final product. You'll usually work closely with the director to achieve the desired end result.

It's highly likely that you'll be employed on a freelance basis, working on short-term contracts for post-production studios, television companies and corporate employers.

Digital technology, specialist computer software and high-quality digitisation of sound and pictures have effectively replaced the traditional manual method of cutting film. In some instances you may be given creative freedom, while in others you'll be required to just operate the necessary machines.

Types of film/video editing

You may work on a variety of productions including:

  • feature films;
  • television programmes;
  • music videos;
  • corporate training videos;
  • commercials.

Responsibilities

Your work as an editor will involve:

  • receiving a brief, and maybe an outline of footage and/or a shot list, script, or screenplay;
  • assembling all raw footage, with camera shots either recorded or transferred onto video tape in preparation for inputting into the computer;
  • inputting uncut rushes and sound, and synchronising and storing them into files on the computer;
  • digitally cutting the files to put together the sequence of the film and deciding what is usable;
  • creating a 'rough cut' (or assembly edit) of the programme/film and determining the exact cutting for the next and final stages;
  • reordering and tweaking the content to ensure the logical sequencing and smooth running of the film/video.

Additional tasks may include:

  • overseeing the quality and progress of audio and video engineering and editing;
  • experimenting with styles and techniques including the design of graphic elements;
  • writing voiceover/commentary;
  • suggesting or selecting music.

You may also carry out online editing duties which involve finalising technical aspects such as correcting faulty footage, grading and colouring, and adding special effects.

Salary

A film/video editor position isn't typically an entry-level job. You'd usually start at a lower-paid level, possibly as a runner where salaries could be around the national minimum wage. You may then progress to assistant editor where you'd get paid a bit more, before reaching the full editor post.

  • Starting salaries for those employed by a television or post-production studio are in the region of £18,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience as a film or video editor, you could earn £20,000 to £35,000.
  • At a senior level, you could reach potential earnings of £37,000 to £70,000 but the higher end of this scale is only available to senior editors working on high-status projects.

The majority of editors work as freelancers and are paid on a contract basis. Rates vary, so it's best to check for current freelance rates with individual companies or the Broadcasting Entertainment Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU) .

If you get work through an agency, they will negotiate rates and then take a percentage or flat fee.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

It's likely you'll be able to do standard office hours but it will vary depending on the production. You may have to do some shift work if editing studios are booked at night. When there are deadlines to meet, long hours and overtime may be required.

What to expect

  • Freelancing involves periods of intensive work, but there may be times of inactivity between projects which you can use to follow up on potential work. You'll often have to compete for work with other freelance editors and you may be involved with several productions of different sizes at any given time.
  • Work is usually conducted alone or with a director. On a large project you may work with a sound effects editor, music editor and assistant editors. The role may be pressured, for example, when working intensively to strict deadlines on limited studio time.
  • You'll spend most of your time in editing suites, which are typically small but comfortable environments. A lot of time is spent working on computers. As a freelancer, it's possible to work from home if you have your own equipment.
  • While the majority of television and film editing work in the UK is London-based, post-production and facilities houses and independent production companies can be found in most cities.
  • You may have to travel to different editing suites, but it's unlikely this will involve working away from home. There may be opportunities abroad once you're an experienced and established editor.

Qualifications

You don't need a foundation degree, HND or degree to be a film or video editor, but it is important that you show commitment and determination to get into the industry.

You need to be able to demonstrate that you have the necessary skills, and so in this instance a degree or HND that offers film or media production experience may be helpful. The following subjects are relevant:

  • communication and media studies;
  • photography/film/television;
  • fine art/visual art;
  • information technology/multimedia;
  • graphic design.

You'll need to be proficient in using specific editing software packages, such as Avid or Final Cut Pro. Courses that cover these applications are available at varying levels but they can be expensive, so make sure you research them fully to get a course that matches your career and training aims.

If you have experience of the very latest technology, it may reduce the competition you face. General computer literacy and an aptitude for working with digital equipment to achieve results are also important.

You don't need a postgraduate qualification but there are relevant courses available that will provide you with extra skills and may give you more of an advantage over other applicants. Search for postgraduate media production courses.

Skills

You will need to show:

  • a keen eye for detail and a critical mind;
  • creativity and a passionate interest in film and video editing;
  • patience and concentration;
  • the ability to listen to others and to work well as part of a team;
  • a high level of self-motivation, commitment and dedication;
  • organisational and time management skills;
  • the ability to work under pressure and to deadlines;
  • communication skills, both written and oral.

Work experience

You need to be extremely determined to succeed in editing, so you'll have to show a willingness to get involved and be prepared to do the most basic of tasks. Carrying out work experience will help to demonstrate this and will help you to decide if the precision and intensity of the work is for you.

You'll be expected to have pre-entry experience and will need to show evidence of having worked on film or video production or post-production, preferably via an up-to-date and well prepared showreel.

Film and video editing isn't a starting role in the industry and it's common for students or graduates to gain some experience in a role such as a runner. You may also build up experience in other areas of media production before moving into editing. Learn more about the usefulness of work experience and internships.

Film/video editor employers

Film and video editors are employed by:

  • post-production companies/facilities;
  • independent production companies;
  • broadcast companies;
  • video/computer games companies;
  • animation companies;
  • film companies.

Some post-production companies and larger independent companies offer long-term contracts and employ a few editors in-house. Broadcast and film companies employ their own editors but they all use freelancers on a regular basis, with some companies only using freelance editors.

The television industry is increasingly project-based, and as a result, there has been a rise in the amount of freelance staff employed at all levels. You may put yourself forward for freelance opportunities to build a portfolio of work and accompanying reputation. Find out more about self-employment.

Job vacancies

Job vacancies for film and video editors are rarely advertised and competition is fierce, even for entry-level jobs, such as a runner. Send speculative applications, which detail your specific skills, to as many production companies and post-production houses as possible. To help identify relevant contacts use key industry resources such as:

Get to know people in the industry and make and maintain good working relationships. Once you have experience of working on a freelance basis you can advertise your services through dedicated websites such as Freelance Directory .

Get some tips on how to find job vacancies.

Professional training

Learning while you're working in the industry is the key way to develop relevant skills. A combination of observing experienced professionals and experimenting with your own work is the common way to develop the necessary technical and creative skills.

A variety of short courses are available that cover relevant topics such as:

  • the use of software editing packages;
  • post-production audio;
  • visual effects;
  • finance for freelancers.

You can search for these courses in the Creative Skillset Courses Directory .

It's also important to keep up to date with technology and new equipment. You may choose to extend your skills into camera or sound work in order to open up more employment opportunities and to maintain a network of contacts. A range of courses are available through the BECTU.

Career prospects

You'll typically start as a runner or trainee before working your way up to a position as an assistant editor and then editor. You therefore need a proactive approach and willingness to start at the bottom in order to forge a career in this fast-changing industry. If you're able to relocate for a job it will help, especially in the early stages of your career.

In post-production or broadcasting companies, progression may be from runner, digitiser or assistant editor to senior editor. Larger employers provide well-structured career paths. Experienced in-house editors may ultimately move to management roles.

For freelancers, career development takes the form of progressing from small productions to larger or more prestigious projects. It's essential to establish a good reputation and develop networking skills to succeed. Building strong working relationships with freelance directors, production managers and producers is valuable as they're often able to take preferred editors with them onto new projects.

While relevant qualifications may be of benefit, career development is based more on evidence, experience and practical involvement within the industry, and on developing a strong network of contacts.

 
AGCAS
Written by AGCAS editors
Date: 
July 2014

Search graduate jobs

 

Sponsored links

 
 
 

This website is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with CSS enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets if you are able to do so.