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Film/video editor: Job description

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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.


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.

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.
Written by AGCAS editors
July 2014

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