Tips + Techniques

How to Edit Your Wedding Films Like a Pro

June 13, 2019

By Greg Scoblete

Photo © Brandon Rice

Really getting to know a couple is the key to crafting a compelling narrative around your wedding film. Brandon Rice (far right) uses questionnaires and conversations to elicit details.

While some filmmakers prefer to outsource the edit, others believe that filmmaking and editing have a self-reinforcing synergy.

“I think it’s absolutely crucial to both edit and shoot,” Rob Adams says. “You’ll realize really quick in your editing where you’ve failed as a shooter.” If you don’t want to bite off the whole film, you should at least edit your teaser, he says. “If you want to be the best you can be, you need to shoot and edit.”

As with filmmaking itself, there are plenty of different ways to approach the edit.

Educate Yourself

“The first thing you should do is take a training course” on your video editing program of choice, Adams advises. “Don’t worry about every little feature, like masking or integration with third-party plugins—just focus on the cuts, dissolves and transitions. Learn to get fluid with the program.”

It’s not simply technical knowledge you should acquire, but aesthetic knowledge as well. To learn about effective editing approaches, Nashville filmmaker Brandon Rice suggests snagging a copy of In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch. “It’s something I’m always referring back to,” he says. 

Adams suggests finding inspiration in established filmmakers, too: “Study movies that tell a story and watch how they do it.”

Start in Your Head

“Sometimes I’m doing the edit before I get to the edit,” Rice says. In other words, as he’s shooting, he’s thinking in terms of clips he can use in his editing timeline. Like any muscle, training your brain to “shoot for the edit” just takes practice.

Get Organized

For Adams, ensuring his clips are well-organized is the foundation of a solid film. He’ll use keyworded collections in Final Cut Pro 10 so that he knows where to find specific groups of video clips when the edit starts. Organizing clips can take a full day. Adams says he will often take notes during the process to guide the final film. “If I do my organization correctly, you can start making a rough cut in your mind.”

Josh Thompson creates eight folders—wow shots, bridal hair and makeup, groom getting ready, bride getting ready, ceremony, group creatives, couple creatives and reception—to hold his clips. He then culls through and favorites those to be used in the final edit.

For Manny Pabla, who often works with a large crew, he’ll organize footage first by parts of the day and then in sub-folders by team members. All of the files are renamed in order to make them searchable. Then, he synchronizes all of his audio and video files. 

Go Light on Effects

Just as Amber Baird doesn’t load up her films with the same gimbal or drone footage, she says that same advice applies to transitions, pans and other motion-editing effects: Use them sparingly.

Rice says to avoid jump cuts altogether. “That really pulls people out of the moment,” he says. “It doesn’t really work for wedding films at all.”

Make Your Fixes Last

Save all of your color corrections, color grading and visual effects for the end, when all of the other pieces of the edit are in place, Pabla advises. His color corrections are typically subtle. Working in Adobe Premiere, he’ll add an adjustment layer with a LUT that adds a bit of orange and teal to the footage, since his crew will capture video on the warmer side.

If you’re recording video directly to a memory card, as most wedding filmmakers do, your ability to make extensive adjustments to your video will be more constrained (think RAW vs. JPEG in still photography). The more you try to fix your image, the more it’s likely to fall apart. 

One issue that Baird sees in the wedding films she has judged at WPPI is an overuse of certain corrections, like image stabilization. “Footage can actually get a wobbly look if you’re stabilizing too much in post,” she says. Another is inconsistent color balancing between shots. Getting the color and white balance correct in camera is the obvious ideal fix, but a global color balance in Final Cut Pro or Premiere can also work, she notes. When all else fails, it’s better to, as she says, “kill the puppies” (delete the scene) than use it in the film even if you love the shot.

Editing can be a difficult, time-consuming process. Adams warns not to get hung up on “reinventing the wheel” every time you sit down to edit a film. “When I started,” he says, “I was always trying to up the ante and do something I hadn’t done before.” That approach wasn’t making him any more income, so he has settled on slowly evolving editing techniques rather than rapid revolutions in style. 

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