How to edit home videos

I find video editing intimidating. There’s so many choices, so many things to consider, my expectations are high, and I want to get it right. What matters?

This is my beginners guide to editing your home videos.

Level 1: Cut out the boring bits
This is the most basic part of editing, but it will improve your videos the most. You simply get all the videos you’ve taken and go through them in chronological order only including the good bits. You can include nice still photos too. You might put a title at the front, and maybe you do the odd fancy transition (don’t go overboard!) and you’re done.

This is actually quite a good way to edit. If you put things in chronological order and have enough good bits then it will tell a story. It will remind you of what happened. It will be entertaining.

Be careful not to make them too long (if it’s more than a few minutes long then consider breaking it up into shorter ones). Be careful not to use too many fancy edits, they’re distracting from the content, straight cuts are the normal edit even in huge budget films.

Level 2: The better version
This is where you get a bit fancier. You might decide to change the order of things from chronological to something else, like themes perhaps. You could have a section for different people, places, activities. You can start to do things like using the audio from one clip but showing something different at the same time — documentaries do this all the time with someone talking and they show pictures of what they’re talking about. You can put music into the video and cut the sound from your clips, or keep it and have both. Add sound effects (but don’t go overboard!).

The important thing with this is to try stuff, but don’t be afraid to take it out again if it doesn’t work. Trust your instincts. We all watch enough TV / Movies to spot bad editing — good editing is invisible most of the time.

Level 3: Epic film-making
This is learning everything you can about film and applying it. Imagine the home videos that you’d have if you hired a professional film crew to do it for you. It would be like having a Hollywood film of your everyday life, holidays, and special moments (except they’d be able to film you instead of you being stuck behind the camera).

Don’t worry too much — we have the ‘home’ advantage
You won’t be able to make home videos even in the same universe as professional film crews making movies or TV, but that’s ok. We have the advantage — our viewers care about the content and not much else. Our families will be trying their best to look past blurry, shaky shots, they will forgive us for clumsy editing, bad lighting, strange music choices. They are more forgiving than any audience would be watching films full of people they don’t know.

It’s a home video, what do you expect?