How I Developed As a Video Editor

This is a very long story and probably overly detailed, but it’s my story and I hope you like it. I am a video editor. Kind of. I suppose it’s something I do. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get paid to do it someday. Either way, I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I got started on it entirely on my own and until I went to CCM, I never really had an idea of how to turn it into a career. You’d think it’d be as simple as getting paid to do what you’re good at, but in my case that is far from the truth. This story should help you understand why.

I will start with the exact moment I became a video editor. Some of you may have heard the term “AMV.” It stands for Anime Music Video. People make them because they like anime and music, and also enjoy putting them together. Most of these people are terrible at it. Regardless, something magical happened to me in my bed at college in late 2006. I had the song Bat Country stuck in my head and had been watching the anime Eureka Seven. Out of nowhere, a clip from the show and a particular section of the song collided together in perfect harmony in my mind.

My brain exploded into action. The hype was almost too much. Somehow, these two things put together was the coolest idea anyone had ever had. This inspiration possessed me to find more clips that went with the rest of the song. It had never occurred to me to make an AMV before, but now I knew that the only thing in the entire world that I wanted was to make this video no matter what. NO. MATTER. WHAT. I emphasize that because of what I did next. I had no knowledge of any video editing programs or how they worked. Learning all that would take time. Time I didn’t have. This video needed to exist NOW. I then proceeded to edit an AMV entirely in my head. How? With an iPod and a video player, of course.

I can absolutely guarantee this is by far the least efficient way to edit a video in the entire history of the medium. iPod in hand, I would play the show on my laptop until I got to a clip I thought matched the song. Then I pressed play on my iPod and let them play together until I felt the video no longer synced to the audio. I paused both and I moved on until I found another clip that matched the music where the previous clip had ended. These steps repeated until I had essentially made an entire music video using no editing software whatsoever. After I had done that, I memorized the episodes and time codes of the clips and spent weeks playing them in sync, pausing the music when the clip ended and moving on to the next clip, enjoying what I had created (sort of) in solitude. Related: My freshman year of college was a complete flop.

I say 2006 was when I started editing, but it was actually the beginning of 2007 when I first opened the software to make a video for real. Windows Movie Maker is an infamously bad program, but it used to be worse. Much, much worse. Glitching and crashing at every opportunity, it took me hours to make my first AMV even though I had the piece completely finished in my head. The end result: a terrible terrible AMV. I truly don’t expect or want you to watch that whole thing. That link only exists because I forgot the password to that account years ago and can’t delete it. But if you would take a look at one part in particular, the 3 second clip at 2:50 was that idea collision I spoke of earlier that started it all. Aww look, it got a comment.

“Awesome! The best Eureka AMV I have seen yet. 5/5” – Tyler Hatfield 7 years ago

Thanks Tyler, whoever you are.

It is now 2015. I have been editing for nearly 9 years. Editing AMVs, that is. I’m almost too humble to say I’ve gotten pretty good at it.


The Development of my Style

The way I proceeded to teach myself to edit was very different from the advice I hear from people about learning art. The general idea is to find an artist or two you look up to, emulate their style and techniques, and practice until you’re confident enough to develop your own methods. That’s certainly a fantastic way to do it, and that’s probably the way I would have done if I had bothered to ask anyone for advice. But, because of the unique way I started out, my style of video editing evolved completely separate from any other editor. In fact, that first video, terrible as it is, forms the very core of my editing style. The way I assembled it allowed for very little actual editing. The frenetic cuts and rhythmic transitions I saw in other videos were just not possible for me, but I still wanted to match the video to the music. So, I very carefully selected long clips that stayed with the music as long as possible. Some even for as long as a minute.

Why is that important? Flow. My ultimate goal was to find one, long, unbroken clip that matched an entire song from beginning to end. Yes, the holy grail of my editing was to make no edits. It made sense to me at the time. That was impossible, of course. But it gave me a sense of clip selection very different from most editors, especially ones as inexperienced as I was. In every video I made, I did my best to choose long, flowing action scenes that stayed with the music, and switched to another clip when they separated.

To reach that goal of one long unbroken flow, I started finding ways to transition between clips that hid my edits. That eventually became my whole style. I would look at the end of one clip, find the beginning of another clip that matched it, and put them together, stringing them along like that until I finished the video. I became mindful of the space on the screen, the positions of various objects, the direction of movement, color, things professionals name with technical terms and teach classes about that I developed instincts for without really knowing their significance. My clips became shorter and my transitions more varied and frequent. Like in a fighting game where you chain together as many attacks as possible for a long combo, I chained video.

Eventually, I made this video. This is two completely different movies with animation styles that couldn’t be more dissimilar, but edited together as one. It’s best example I have of the style I’ve developed. Pure transition. I’m quite proud of it.

I will also never profit from it. I will never get a job doing it. I will never be paid to edit like that. If AMVs are like painting a picture, Editing as a career is like painting a house. They tell you what color they want and you do it. I learned that when I worked for a brief time at a video production studio specializing in making wedding videos. I was supposedly getting paid to do what I loved. It was so boring I could barely stand it. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t depress me. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had spent years becoming an expert in something there is absolutely no market for. In fact, it would be illegal to be paid to make AMVs since I own the rights to neither the music or the video sources. In a perfect world, AMVs would be like any other creative medium. Maybe not profitable, but at least acknowledged as legitimate art. Instead, in the wide world of film, AMVs are treated more like this.

Few consider that AMVs take any talent at all. And why would they? No one needs them. They are pure hubris. The purpose of a video editor is to be invisible. No one watches a movie and considers that someone had to string all that footage together in the correct order. And even if they did, the editor is just serving the purposes of the real artists: the producer, the director, the screenwriter, anyone but him. AMVs are nothing but the pure creative outpouring of the editor, the exact opposite of what he should be if he wants a job.

At least, that was what I thought. Now, every time I look back at that attitude, I thank God that he brought me to the Center for Creative Media. Not everything I had taught myself was pointless. There was one thing I loved to do that was helpful, and that was to edit under a deadline.

At least, that was what I thought. Now, every time I look back at that attitude, I thank God that he brought me to the Center for Creative Media.

Within the AMV community, there are Iron Editor competitions in which two editors are given a song, a video source, and a very limited amount of time to make a video, usually only two hours. I often had casual matches with friends and even entered tournaments. That editing environment I craved is exactly what I was able to put into practice at CCM. Editing the highlights for Acquire The Fire events was very similar to what I had been practicing for years. I had a great time assembling clips to music with a tight deadline, and it was a joy to realize I hadn’t been wasting my time. It’s given me some semblance of direction in my life and career, and finally makes me feel like I have a skill I can brag about that I can get paid to do.

I may never stop editing AMVs, but thanks to God leading me here, at least I can now feel like they are worth something.

<img class=”alignleft size-thumbnail wp-image-2312″ src=”http://dev.centerforcreativemedia.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/NSJ_0621-Kennedy-150×150.jpg” alt=”Stephen Kennedy” />

Stephen Kennedy is a 27 year old video editor from Connecticut. He has been editing as a hobby since 2006 and holds a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Western Connecticut State University. Interested in creativity in all its forms, Stephen loves both hearing and telling good stories in any form, be it writing, movies, or music, and is constantly seeking God within all of them.

1 comment

  1. Kristina 1 September, 2015 at 19:41 Reply

    Hi! I wanted to tell you I feel as if I just read an autobiography. I have been plagued for years with uncertainty about entering the editing field, and you helped me realize I am definitely not alone. Thank you. 🙂 I would love to chat programs if you ever feel like it! I have been on an AMV hiatus, and would like a current editors opinions on some things.
    I hope you are having a great week and I look forward to possibly hearing from you!

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