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What’s it like to be video editor in the South Africa

In today’s blog post, I  am going to be sharing tons of awesome tips and helpful advice, pros , cons and things you need to know if one day you want to run your own post production company or work as a video editor in the South African Post production industry. 

Different types of Video editors

Okay, so the are a variety of video editors in the TV industry, some of them work full time as in permanent staff at a company, some freelance full time and some are solo entrepreneurs, I guess this is the same as a being a freelancer. I’ve had the opportunity to work both full time at various advertising companies and I have worked as freelancer/solo entrepreneur for a year or more so far, so here here goes.


Freelance or full timeline?

 If you are wondering if you should work full-time for an agency or production company, well I cant tell you that, but I can tell you the pros and cons of both options. For instance Do you have 6 months worth of living expenses(money)? If you do, you can try go full time freelance, Just know that you are gonna have to market your services like crazy, build an online presence, learn to market your business, learn to deal with clients, chase production companies
who fail to pay you on time and always be looking for new clients. As a fulltime freelancer you will also have the chance to make way more money than working full time at a production company, but just know there are highs and lows to this, that soft cushy comfy salary you would be used to when working full time, will be gone.

Or you could choose to go work full time for production company and you will have  a safety net, a great company to work for, you can sort of be able to be more relaxed, you will always be paid at the end of each month, you dont have to deal clients, but you will have to work  hard as hell when the work flow increases, but your salary will stay the same, you will work weekends and over night and probably wont get any overtime, you wont have the need to build an online presence. You probably wont need to buy your own video editing computer as you will use the PC or laptop supplied by the production company. This option is great if you are starting out, looking to gain experiences and sharpen your skills or even if you just need a steady income for the next few years so you can get your shit together, take care of your family and all of that. Working full time as a video editor can also be great, as you can work for the biggest and best production companies and you can learn a lot from these companies.


When does your job start?

On a normal day,your job starts when a producer or client, comes to you after the production of a video project and gives you a hard drive filled with footage. This is how normally it works, but in an ideal situation it is best to get involved in the post production prep process before your client or producer shoots the video project. When you come in, on this stage, you can help your producer come up with a post production work flow plan.

Different types of work video editing projects

Some video editors work on TV series trailers, movie trailers, feature films, TV promos, commercials, corporate videos, event videos or documentaries, some stick to editing the same thing and some tend to generalize and  get to work on all types of productions.

You can either choose or be a jack of all trades or you could choose to specialize, If you choose to specialize you stand the chance to make a lot more money, because you will be doing the same projects over and over. Let me explain, if you a video editor who specializes in music videos, you can market your skills as music video editor and this can help you stand out in front of a room full of generalists. You can also build a strong SEO Strategy, you could even host a podcast or make Youtube videos about music video editing and become the leading expert, and when you are an expert you can be able to charge a premium for your services which will be above the normal rate that generalists charge.

So what should you focus on? Well that’s up to you, what do you enjoy?, what pays the most? And what are you good at? Only you can answer these questions and that will help you decide. Also just because you choose to be a music video editor, doesn’t mean you wont take a job if someone comes to you with a documentary project, you can still take it, specializing will help you stand out, market yourself better and differentiate yourself from the millions of generalists.

What software should you use for video editing?

There are a lot of debates on the internet about which software is the best, I wont get into it too much, but I think the best software to use is the one you can afford and the one you are better at, they are all just tools, whether you decide to edit in DaVinci resolve, Avid, Adobe Premiere or Sony Vegas, its all up to you.

All these programs have their pros and cons, it’s all about what do you need and what is best for you? For instance, I prefer Adobe Premiere Pro for editing because I am really fast at it, and I’ve been using it for years, I also dont like final cut, because you can only use it on a MAC, and Macs are too expensive for my liking, the money you could  use to buy a MAC book with, its too much. If you took that money and bought a PC or Laptop you would have a video editing beast, I really dont care  that much about brands ,I care more about performance, but that’s just my opinion.


What’s a normal day like.

So you get a call from a producer and they ask if you are available(if you work freelance) and you tell them that you are.Then they schedule time to  drive to your office and drop of a drive with 5-15×2 hour video files, which you need to go through and cut into a 3 minute video. You need to tell a story, it could be a trailer, a corporate video or sizzle reel and the turn around time(deadline) could be 2 days or 1 day or even three. So as soon as you get the footage, you start going through all of it, you go through all the footage and get the best shots, this is called doing all the selects. So you get all the best looking shots.

Once you are done with this you open a new timeline sequence. Usually for each project you will get a video script, and a rough voice over or sometimes you just get a video script then you have to read a rough guide voice over so that you can be able to cut the project to the Voice over.

here is an example of a video script


 You also need to get music that will work with the project, the tone of the project could inspiring,emotional,  have hard core rock feel or  energetic this will be briefed in by the client/ producer or even determined by the target audience for the video project.

So you cut the video project for hours, sometimes working into the night, until you have the best version of the edit ,the video is fire, its a cohesive story and its the best version of this story

Once you are done you go through a QC checklist.

You watch the edit over and over and check for flash frames

  • Did you cut it the video to the beat of the music?

  • Did you pick the right shots that will have graphics titles on them

  • Did you create place holders for full screen graphics titles?

  • is the voice over clear?

  • is the music clear?

If it all seems good, you send an offline of the project to your client for viewing, they might come back with changes and tweaks and you will have jump on the changes quickly and update the project.

What about storage and Hard drives?

Usually you work from a hard drive, this could be an external drive or you could copy all the footage you get onto your computer and work on it from there.


Bigger companies and production companies usually work of servers. A server is basically just big box hard drives that are connected, that everyone at a company can access all the same time.

All the footage is stored on a raid on the server, usually everyone has access to the server, this is usually 10 -15 hard drives, which are makes up around 1000- 3000 terabytes of space. Companies do this because they deal with tons of footage and they want to be able to go back to a project that they did 5 years ago ,if client all of sudden wants it from them

The Advantages of working on a server is that, all the data is central, if one drive dies, you  can just replace that drive and you will not loose the data on that drive as data is spread across all the drives and duplicated.

Small NAS Server

For instance if you work as a solo freelancer and the one drive you work on dies, you will be in serious trouble and sometimes you might not be able to recover that data, That’s why some professional resort to using raids and backing up their data.

If you a re small video editor, with a small company, you might not be able to afford a large serve for your business so you can resort to smaller and cheaper alternatives, you can buy a small Synology 4 bay drive and buy 4 drives, they could  be 1 Tb,2tb or 4tb each, this all depends on your budget. And you can have your own personal raid server to work off.

How can you be a great video editor

Well this is not easy, but you can be a great video editor, all you have to keep practising your craft, practice cutting passion projects every day, keep learning new ways of editing, plug ins, software,
learn your short cuts because video editing is a very long process and it requires you to be a very fast editor with tons of technical knowledge. 


How can you be a fast editor? 

You can do this by learning and using the program short cuts.


 You can also edit video projects on SSD drives, whether they are on your computer or are SSD external, you can optimize your computer, buy more ram ,buy a decent Graphics cards like a GTX 1080 graphics cards.

You can get a video gaming mouse and reprogram it so it gives you more functions on your mouse, which will you save time on repetitive tasks


You need to read books, watch videos about codecs, file formats, grading and everything about post production and post production work flows

I hope this post has been helpful

Peace out.

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