How to Edit YouTube Videos: The Ultimate Guide

YouTube is the original video sharing platform. Going strong for nearly two decades, it has had to step up its game to stay relevant when faced with competition from other video websites like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Facebook. But today, audiences go to YouTube for a very different reason than why they go to TikTok. Creators making regular YouTube videos for their dedicated audiences are completely different filmmakers. TikTok and Instagram are all about speed: fast-paced, mobile-friendly videos are designed for users to swipe through them quickly while on the move. An addictive format lends itself well to quick cuts and short videos that get to the point straight away. YouTube is a very different place.

YouTube videos tend to be much longer. Most clock in somewhere between eight and 15 minutes. Extensive deep dives can go up to half an hour, the duration of some TV shows. YouTube creators are attracting audiences that want deep dives into specialist topics, long breakdowns of gear and theories, and very specific genres. While TikTok might be about continuously evolving content and discovering new people, YouTube is about returning on a weekly basis to your favorite creators, much like the way people would return to a regular television show.

So if you’re a filmmaker and it sounds like YouTube is for you, you’ll want to perfect the way you edit your YouTube videos. Editing YouTube videos is more of an art than a craft, but there are plenty of technical fundamentals it would be useful for you to familiarize yourself with. So if you want to learn how to edit YouTube videos, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s dive in.

Why you need to edit your videos

Although some creators might be able to get away with simply hitting “Record” on their camera, filming for an arbitrary amount of time, then uploading that file directly to YouTube, most don’t. And they wouldn’t, either. There’s no audience for content that hasn’t been planned and designed to be informative, entertaining or educational. Much like you wouldn’t expect your favorite Hollywood filmmakers to turn up one day without a script and just start shooting, you shouldn’t do that with your YouTube videos.

Editing is a technical skill, but it’s also extremely creative. The video editing process is the moment when a video becomes a video. It’s more than just removing mistakes: it’s about establishing tone and pace, creating a specific style that audiences will come to recognize as your own. Editing videos well is what sets good content apart from any other channel.

How to edit YouTube videos

It’s possible to break down the editing process into several key stages. Like any good piece of work, it all starts with a plan. Before you’ve even shot anything, make sure you have a clear understanding of what you are trying to make. Are you creating a long-form documentary about how cities will adapt to climate change in the future? Or are you creating a step by step guide to changing the memory card in your PC? Whatever your niche, whatever kind of content your audiences are coming to you for, make sure the point of your video is clear in your head.

Keep the edit in mind while you’re out filming your YouTube video. Editing is careful construction, and if you turn up to the edit suite without any thought as to how the footage will come together, you won’t thank yourself. Consider how you might cut from one shot to the next. Consider how you might incorporate transitions into your edit. Consider how you might frame a shot that leaves space for motion graphics around it.

Once you’re happy with all the footage you have, it’s time to edit. Begin the process by importing all of the footage into your chosen editing software, like Pinnacle Studio. Take some time to review every shot, especially if you have taken multiple versions of a single shot. Only then, once you’re happy that you have everything you need, is it time to edit.

Create a new project and begin assembling the footage on the timeline. Don’t worry about being clever or even too neat, as there will be plenty of time to go back and fix mistakes afterwards. This stage is all about assembling the construction of the edit, like the foundation of a building. You’ll want to make sure you have all the best takes, assembled in the correct order, with mistakes removed. By the end of this stage you should have the minimum of what a video looks like: clips in order.

Then it’s time to go back and start the craft editing. This is when you can pay close attention to how the clips are cutting from one to another. Do you need to shorten some clips to make a section faster? Or maybe some sections could benefit from the footage staying on screen for longer? Consider incorporating transitions to smooth out some of the edits or make them more interesting, like whip pans.

Next, add some music. Download your favorite track from a royalty-free music library and import it into the same project. Lay it on the timeline below and spend some time refining the in and out points of the track so that it starts and ends neatly. The choice of music will have a big effect on how your audience feels while watching your video, so choose it carefully. Something fast-paced and energetic might work well with an extreme sports video but feel out of place in a nature documentary. Likewise you probably won’t want to use an epic orchestral track in your instructional YouTube video of how to replace the chain on a bike.

Once you have finalized your music option and edited the track so it fits with the edit, try adding a color filter to the footage. This is much like the kind of filters you can add to images when posting on social media websites, but applied to footage. Also known as color grading, adding filters to footage creates a very specific look and feel. If you’re making a video about new tech reviews, you might want to try something like a cool, modern blue hue. If you are making a travel video about your week in southern Italy, then a warmer, orange hue will enhance the feeling of a warmer climate.

Color filters can also be used to subvert audience expectations if you want to add something completely unexpected to a video for creative effect: ultimately it’s your video, so spend some time exploring your options and finding something you like the best.

Once you’re finished with the color grade, it’s time to add some graphics.

Motion graphics can be as complex as animated characters and maps, or they can be as simple as a title fading on screen over your footage. The kind of graphics that you decide to add, if you want to add any at all, depends entirely on the kind of video you are making. Your list of top ten Stephen King novels could benefit from a simple animated title under each one that reminds audiences of the title and year it was published. It doesn’t need to be anything particularly complex or flashy, as its purpose is conveying information.

But if you want to amp up your audience to enjoy your extreme mountain biking video, you might want to explore animating logos and glitch effects in a fast-paced, vibrant way that reflects the tone and speed of the video content.

It’s also an opportunity to make all of your videos consistent. Adding an animated logo at the beginning of each video, or using the same font and color palette in each video helps reinforce the idea that all of your content is part of a series, and a viewer will be able to immediately spot whether something is yours or not. It’s the same principle as a company establishing a brand for itself. It's a visual design that makes the company feel unique and consistent.

Once you have added graphics, you’re done. You can spend as long or as little time as you like editing your YouTube videos, but generally the more time you work on something the better it will be. If you want to build a great YouTube channel with a dedicated audience, it’s worth putting in the effort.

Use Pinnacle Studio to edit your videos

Finding the right video editing software for you is vital when it comes to creating good quality YouTube videos. There are plenty of options, ranging from top of the range professional software to free video editing apps. When starting on your YouTube video, you’ll generally want something that incorporates all the features mentioned above: editing, mixing music, color filters, and motion graphics.

Pinnacle Studio is an all-in–one video editing software from Corel that wraps everything a YouTube filmmaker needs into one neat package. The fundamentals of video editing come at the beginning; the ability to edit, trim, and rearrange clips. Everything else is a bonus, but important if you want to make high-quality YouTube videos: audio, grading, and animation.

With Pinnacle Studio you can edit and mix music tracks as well as record voiceovers for your videos. As well as color filters, a library of effects is available for you to make your footage leap off the screen. The creative possibilities don’t stop there: stabilize shaky footage, composite footage onto green screens, make stop motion animations with models, and tap into hundreds of animated overlays, fonts, and titles to make your YouTube videos truly unique.

Editing is an art

After you’ve planned and shot your YouTube videos, the editing process is where the fun really begins. Editing YouTube videos is an opportunity to make your creation bespoke and genuine, by building something that reflects your tone of voice and personality. Using a software package like Pinnacle Studio unlocks an almost endless array of filters, effects, and tools, but it won’t make your YouTube videos good on their own. Editing is an art as much as a technical skill, and practice will improve your skill. So put in the time to learn new techniques, watch what your favorite creators are doing and see if you can learn from their editing styles, and above all have fun.

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