Learning How the Sausage Is Made: Video Editing


Videos have become an ever-increasing necessity in instruction. When I was working on my graduate degree in Instructional Technology at Purdue, I snagged a Graduate Assistant position as a Digital Media Producer. In the interview, I told the hiring manager that I’d never edited video in my life. He assured me that the current technology enabled anybody to produce videos. I was game for learning, so I jumped right in. He was right. I learned pretty quickly under the tutelage of the outgoing Digital Media Producer who, not surprisingly, now produces movies in California. We overlapped for about two weeks, and, in that two weeks, she taught me enough to make some promotional videos for our website. I got a taste for it, and I’ve always wanted to get some formal training.

I’ve been given the opportunity to attend some training this week in Dallas for video editing. All week, I’ve been learning ‘how they make the sausage’ when it comes to making videos. Like anything else, when I’m given the opportunity to learn to do it right, I realize how badly I did it before. I’m also learning how to make my life easier the next time I need to produce a training video or a marketing video for our online courses here in Louisiana. I’m here for five days, and the past four days have been crammed full of video editing, special effects creation, color correction and now animation. It’s really cool … and I have a lot more to learn.


I became certified to teach yoga in 2000 via an 8 month long yoga teacher training class in Long Beach, Indiana. It was intense, and I learned a lot about how to teach yoga. Yoga is complex, and it takes a lifetime to fully understand and embody the practice. You can learn enough to be dangerous in a teacher certification class, but you learn by teaching others and your own practice over years and years of putting your feet on the mat. Yoga is the melding of the body, anatomy, breathing and the mind. Only experience can really teach you enough to lead others. Luckily with yoga, the magic is in the poses. You don’t have to have a good yoga teacher – although it’s an advantage – to learn about your body by practicing the poses. The poses teach you what you need to know.

I felt like an awful teacher most of the time I taught because I couldn’t get it. Student’s bodies are unique, and theirs didn’t react like mine.  I’d have a class with a complete beginner as well as an advanced practitioner, and it was an impossible balancing act. Yoga in the West is different than yoga in the East. Yoga was designed to be taught to individuals for a few years, and then they would practice on their own. Historically, it wasn’t taught at studios where people go forever and ever. It’s a personal practice. For me, being a teacher ruined my relationship with yoga in a very subtle way. While I was practicing at home, I was always thinking about how I would teach what I was experiencing. How would I set this up for students? What should I say? What would be the best way to describe it? The chatter – and the pressure of learning to teach – changed my practice. I eventually quit teaching because I really needed yoga for myself. I will teach individuals, but I don’t do it for money, and I don’t do large groups. I don’t want to make the yoga “sausage.”

I’m having a similar experience with this class. I now know exactly how they lay the music, the footage, the B-roll, the filters and special effects into the software. Most movies are now made on the software I’m learning or one that is similar. Ahhhhh….. I said today, “You can’t believe what you see in a video. It may have been entirely manufactured.” I was surprised Wednesday to find out that I really needed to have the music first so that I can lay the clips in tandem with the swell and fall of the music beat. If you get it just right, it makes an emotional connection that makes a huge difference. At Purdue, I chose the music last. Now, I realize how bad I must have been. My poor co-worker Kevin came in and tried to help, but he must have been horribly frustrated with me. He was an experienced filmmaker. He told me story after story about how they actually make movies in California. I didn’t get how they made the sausage.

Our teacher, Tony, has been editing film and movies all of his life, so he is very knowledgeable. The entire first day was spent learning how to organize our clips and music so that we could find things when we need them. It’s amazing how much footage is needed for a short movie. He said that today’s movies take about 10 hours of footage for every minute of a movie. We’ve been working for 3 days on a 2-3 minute video on aerial photography. You have to edit, choose music, fix cuts, choose transitions, create titles, correct color, repair audio and add special effects like filters. Then, you have to choose the right settings to play on all of the different devices that exist today. I had absolutely no idea how much work went into this. He said we’ll never watch a movie the same way again because we’ll notice how badly they cut that scene or that the audio is really screwed up. His family warns him that he can’t ‘say anything’ when they go to movies.

In our class, there is a man who makes music videos for his musician children and training videos for an inventory control company, an Okie from Oklahoma  who makes films for the sports industry and a woman who makes fashion videos for Neiman Marcus. Its so interesting to see how much video is becoming a part of everything. The industry is changing so much. Tony showed us the below clip in class about how movies are made. We are doing green screen tomorrow. There is nothing real in movies anymore. I was stunned to see how much of it was manufactured with technology. It also made me appreciate the skills of actors who can act with no one standing there and no visual cues to put them in place. It is rumored that Ian McKellan cried when making The Hobbit because acting had become such a solitary, difficult job. He got into acting to act with others not do it in a room by himself and a green screen. He doesn’t like how they are making the sausage these days, either.

Stargate Studio Backlot Reel  – Sorry, I can’t get the ’embed’ link to work…. arghhhhh…..

My friend Erin from Austin contacted me last week because she wanted to come to Baton Rouge to be an extra in a scene for Pitch Perfect 2. We got emails and information about being in a large group scene that was supposed to be a summer concert in Europe, but it was to be filmed in Baton Rouge overnight Friday. We were told what to wear and how to do our hair and makeup. At the last minute, she couldn’t come, so I didn’t go, but I did run through the set Saturday morning when they were taking it down in downtown Baton Rouge. I’d love to know how they are making the sausage on that one. Tony told us that Louisiana has become a big movie-making area because it is very photogenic. The movie industry is moving out of California for a variety of reasons, and some states are more desirable than others. I know I’ve seen a few sets in Memphis when I was there, especially downtown.

My brain is tired. I’m trying to remember which shortcut key to press to play the video forward and which one plays it backwards. I’m starting to grasp the flow of the software and the process so that it feels more intuitive. Today, I actually found a key without being told just because I knew what would make sense. I feel like a beginner yoga teacher again. I have to think about every move I make. Nothing is coming naturally. I love learning something new especially when it’s as complex as this. It stretches me. I’m already thinking about videos I want to make – both at work and in my personal life. I imagine the next time I sit in a movie theatre, the movie will be very interesting to me but for an entirely different reason. I’ll know how they made the sausage.


2 Comments on “Learning How the Sausage Is Made: Video Editing

  1. It’s great that you are taking a class. I have Adobe Premiere at home for video editing. I just know the basics and have done a few videos. Editing to the music is definatley the way to go.
    Much of the technology is very inexpensive now. You can even use your cell phone for video and to record voice-overs. Now I just need time for projects!
    You will have to post some of your videos for us.

    • I hope to. I’ve posted a few of my home-grown ones over time, but hopefully I can be more technical now. Our teacher said iPhones take very good footage. I may make a little video of my summer vacation… Can’t wait to get going!

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