How to Edit Videos for YouTube
by Sam Campbell
Who likes free videos? Everyone, according to how quickly YouTube is growing. And with good reason, there’s something for everyone on YouTube… and a whole lot of it!
As of 2019, there were more than 3 billion videos uploaded to YouTube. Be it entertainment, news, sports, hobbies, comedy, or education, YouTube has content on virtually anything you can imagine and everything in between.
But where are all of these videos coming from? They’re made by people just like you. One of the reasons it’s so popular is because it’s not only a great place to watch videos but to share your own as well.
YouTube is almost entirely made possible by the hard work of independent content creators who range from the average Joe looking to share a video clip with a friend to dedicated creators publishing content daily to audiences of millions. Some of these creators are even earning millions of dollars for their work on YouTube.
Whether you’re just getting familiar with YouTube or looking to become a serious YouTube creator yourself, one of the first steps on your journey is to learn how to edit a video for YouTube.
Editing is simply the process of trimming video clips and re-ordering them in a sequence to tell a story, but there’s much more to the process. From the technical know-how to the tools used, or how editing is used creatively, there’s a lot to learn. But worry not!
If you’re new to editing videos, you’ve found the perfect place to start. In this article, we’re going to get you going with some basic concepts, tools, and techniques that will get you on your way to editing polished YouTube videos like a pro.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- Video Editing Basics
- How to Edit Videos on the YouTube Video Editor
- Best Ways to Go Beyond Basic Editing
- The Best YouTube Video Editors
Let’s dig in.
Before we get started, it’s important to understand the fundamental tools, processes, and elements of editing. You’ll need to know the basic layout of editing software, the editing workflow, the elements of an edit, and the basic editing tools you’ll use.
Overview of a Video Editor
The modern digital video editor, regardless of what software you use, will almost always be composed of these essential parts:
- Preview Window - The preview window shows the playback of your current video edit. Using the timeline, you can jump to any part of your video and play it back in real-time to see what your edit will look like here.
- Library - All of the media elements of your project will be here. When you import your files, you can browse and select which media files you want to place into your edit. This includes video, images, and audio files.
- Tools - All of your basic editing tools to modify your clips, audio, titles, or effects. We’ll cover these more next.
- Timeline - This is where you arrange your media files over time. From the library, media files are placed, trimmed, and sequenced here for your edit. There are also multiple “tracks” to allow you to place multiple layers of video, effects, and audio.
Video Editing Workflow
No matter what kind of video you’re editing, it's important to have a reliable process to follow each time you edit. An editing workflow or the steps you take to make an edit and the best order to complete them is essential to make sure your edit goes smoothly.
While there are a lot of ways to approach this, here is a very common workflow to help you get a bird's eye view of the editing process:
- Import your footage: Simply put, this is the process of moving your video footage from the camera to where you’ll be completing your edit. Typically this means plugging your camera into your computer and downloading the clips to the hard drive but since shooting and editing on smartphones is now a popular option, we’ve outlined two different ways to do this:
- If you shoot on a digital camera or your phone and want to edit on a computer, you will need to connect your device to the computer to download your footage. Once it’s on the computer, you can then import the files into your editing software.
- If you shoot on a phone and want to edit on your phone, you will want to use your mobile editing app to select the clips from your phone’s memory and import them into your editing project.
To get your hands dirty and start editing some video, one place to start is right on YouTube. It has a very simple and free online editor designed by YouTube Studio for its creators. If you're a beginner, it's a good way to see how basic video editing works.
First step: Sign in
First, you'll have to sign-in to YouTube Studio with your Google account. Once you sign in, go to the left sidebar.
Second Step: Find the "Videos" option.
Here you'll find the "Video" option; click on it. Click on the thumbnail of your uploaded video. If you haven't done this yet, first go to the "Upload" option and pick a video from your computer or any other device you're using to edit.
Wait for a few minutes as the video is uploading to YouTube. Once it’s successful, click on the "Video" option.
Third Step: Find the "Editor" option.
In the left sidebar, you'll see the "Editor" option, click on it. Now it will automatically switch to the YouTube Studio video editing suite. Here, you can start customizing your videos.
Fourth step: “Trim” and "Split" Video
First, begin with video trimming. You can choose this option if you want to eliminate unnecessary scenes from your video or you want to make it clear and concise.
This video editing option is very helpful. If accidentally or unknowingly, few things go out of the box in your video, it may spoil the user's experience. So by using this step, you eliminate all those unwanted stuff out of your video.
Select the "Trim" option, it is right above the timeline panel, and next to the "video's timer." Here, a blue and white line is provided to chop off the parts you don't want to see in your videos.
Drag the beginning or end part if you don't want to include the beginning or end portion. However, if you're going to eliminate the specific clips disturbing the middle portion of the video, then use the "Split" option.
Once you've successfully cut the unwanted portion of your video, check out the final version by taking a "Preview" of the video. If you find everything right in your Edited Video, click on “Save” and go for the next step.
Fifth step: Add an End Screen
To encourage viewers to stay on your YouTube Channel use “End Screen” in your video.
Through this option, you can add related videos, playlist, and ask viewers to subscribe to your YouTube channel after the end of your video.
Click on the "ADD AN END SCREEN" and you'll find it in the timeline panel. A few template options will pop-up on your screen; choose accordingly.
Save the edit, and you're ready to go!
This is how you can do some basic video editing on YouTube. In the Timeline panel, you can also add sound/music directly from the YouTube library, or if you want to use downloaded music, you have this alternative.
The most popular YouTube videos are more than just video clips put together. Since there is so much you can do to videos beyond basic editing we thought it might be helpful to break down the top 5 things we recommend doing after you create a basic cut.
- Adding Text or Titles
Adding text to your videos should be one of the first things you start doing after cutting your clips. From including a title for your video to adding a person's name or descriptive text to help clarify a clip, text is a simple way to start making your videos look more professional. Text is typically used to help inform viewers of specific information but it can also be used to add humor, keep things moving, or create a structure to help viewers follow along.
- Adding Music
If you pay attention you’ll notice most of what we watch has music in the background. It is something most of us take for granted but it makes a really big difference. Imagine watching Jaws, Jurassic Park or a Star Wars movie without music. They just wouldn’t be the same. YouTube videos are the same. Adding music to videos can be tricky because of things like copyrights. Check out our article Music for YouTube Videos for an in-depth look at how best to add music to your videos.
- Using Transitions
Just like the music in Star Wars, transitions are an important part of the movies. Everyone is familiar with the wipes in the Star Wars movies. Many movies, TV shows, and YouTube videos incorporate transitions to add a bit of style or mood. This is a fairly simple way of raising the quality of your video, especially if you use an editing software that includes drag and drop transitions. The best editing software will allow you to pick from a library of stylized transitions that you can easily drop onto the beginning or end of a clip or in between clips to create a professional-style video transition.
- Sound Effects
I’m sure at some point you’ve seen someone clapping together coconuts to create the sound of horse hooves. It’s a really great visualization of sound effects. Now, you probably won’t be riding a horse in your video but that doesn’t mean you can’t enhance your videos with a few, well thought out sound effects. Try watching through your video to see if any moments could be more dramatic or heightened by adding a sound effect or two. A lot of video editors come with built-in sound effect libraries. Check to see if yours provides one. If not check out the one available in PowerDirector or try a popular sound effects library website.
- Video Effects
Using and creating video effects is definitely the most complicated thing to do on this list but having good video effects is one of the quickest ways to make your video stand out. From using chroma key to replace a green screen to using a blending effect to add a lens flare, putting time into adding a few video effects can really make a big difference in the enjoyability of your video.
If you’re ready to take your editing to the next level, you’ll want to consider some more fully-featured editing tools. These video editing tools have many more tools and effects that will give you substantially more control over your YouTube videos. Many of them are quite simple to use as well!
Starting off our list of best YouTube video editors is CyberLink PowerDirector. If you are new to video editing this is the best choice for you. PowerDirector’s interface is highly intuitive and designed to make it incredibly easy for editors of any skill level to make pro-level cuts fast.
Don’t think for a second that it’s ease-of-use means it’s lacking in capabilities. It’s jam-packed with powerful tools and effects. It has whole libraries of drag and drop transitions, sound and video effects, particles, and titles. The built-in Action Camera Center makes it a breeze to fix footage including a video stabilizer and a whole area dedicated to video speed effects.
It even has a wide variety of advanced editing tools like chroma key, motion tracking, and a mask designer. To top it all off it has a huge built-in stock library of commercial-free use music, photos, and videos you can use in your YouTube videos.
It’s a free video editing software for Mac devices that allows you to create excellent content in a few simple steps. Though the features are very limited you can create 4k high-resolution videos very easily and quickly with almost no knowledge of video editing. It allows you to create great-looking clips with filters and transition options. You can also create mobile-friendly videos and choose to add animated titles.
This is a great free choice for the professionals out there. It’s a high-end video editing software that provides plenty of useful and powerful options. It has features like color correction, video effects, audio production, and motion graphics. If this is your first time editing be prepared to invest some time into learning DaVinci. DaVinci Resolve is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The software also offers 2D and 3D workspace to the user for creating compelling video content.
Another good choice for editing is Lightworks 4. It allows creators to quickly create 4k high-quality video content and publish it to any social media platform. This tool is suitable for MAC OS X, Linux, and Windows.
On a simple user interface, you can smoothly perform editing and trimming in your video. The software also provides user access to publish content right to their YouTube channel. The one downside to Lightworks is it isn't as feature-rich as some of the other options on this list.
Final Cut Pro X
Final Cut Pro is another popular software for YouTube video editing. Not a surprise as it is a popular professional choice. It has been used for years to cut movies and TV shows. This tool can satisfy any video editing need but is made only for pro video editors. You will need to be skilled in editing if you want to fully enjoy the functions of this tool.
Final Cut Pro X is rich with advanced features and functionality, the software helps you create any kind of video the way you want.
However, this software is only available for Mac devices, and it also isn't free.
Adobe Premiere Pro
Rounding out the list is probably the most popular choice for professional editors on this list. I mean who hasn’t heard of Adobe. These guys know what they’re doing when it comes to creating software for the creative professional. If you are dead set on becoming a professional YouTuber and are committed to putting in the hours of work this is your editor. The reason why is this editor has all the bells and whistles. From basic and advanced editing tools to color correction and effects. Anything it doesn’t have Adobe has put into After Effects which is a great companion software to Premiere.
Here's the bad news. It’s going to take time and patience to learn on top of having a pretty big price tag and only being available through a subscription. But if you got the determination this software is for you.
Getting Better at Editing
Creating a simple edit can be as easy as re-ordering some clips but editing a video that works well for an audience is a completely different undertaking. It takes time and a sense of your audience to grab and keep that viewers' attention.
Nowadays, YouTube can be just as much about building a brand as it is publishing content. As you continue to develop as an editor, it’s important to consider who you’re editing for and how other people in your field are working to give you some perspective and set your expectations.
If you want to continue honing your editing skills and edit your YouTube videos to be unskippable, here are a few things you’ll want to consider in six simple steps.
As Picasso famously said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Now Picasso isn’t saying to steal content, he’s suggesting that what you are hoping to accomplish in a lot of ways has already been created. If you don't know how to edit videos, analyze your competitor's channel. You don’t need to “reinvent the wheel, you can take these ideas and use them for your creation.
What visual elements are they using? What audio elements are they using? How are they structuring their story? However they’re creating content, you can discover elements they’re using to make their video content appealing and apply them to your own work.
Keep it Readable
Whether you're creating a funny or informative content, try to keep everything in order. The 'intent of your content' must be easy to understand. Otherwise, the audience will not stay even for 10 seconds on your YouTube video. When editing, it's a great idea to have a plan before you start cutting so consider creating an outline of your video to make sure your video will make sense when you edit!
Keep it Meaningful
Each video should be edited to have a message or goal. Whether you’re telling a story, teaching a lesson, or telling a joke, ensure that your content is descriptive and satisfying the content's main objective. Everything else you should cut out! That’s one of the best parts of editing, it allows you to sequence the most important information and cut out the rest! So, create content that is meaningful to your channel – it's what your audience will thank you for it!
So these were some of the best suggestions for you to start editing video like a pro. If you’re looking for minimal editing, then you can go with the YouTube video editor. On the other hand, if you want more advanced features with an easy to approach editor, consider choosing Cyberlink PowerDirector software. It is a great option for both beginner and advanced video editors and you can use it for free.
Whatever you choose, consider this article to guide you to fulfill your creative vision and check out more of our articles to keep learning the best of video creation tools and techniques.