Are you a cinephile? Do you love the cinema? Do you sort of eat, pray, love, and sleep cinema? Are you fascinated by a good movie’s narrative or the way the story is told? Do you love watching commercial advertisement films on television, Youtube, Facebook, and other mediums? Are you someone who is already making videos using video editing or movie-making software? Do you love the tasks – adding scenes in a sequence, adding soundtracks, adding special effects, etc.? Do you think you can give all the effort to turn your passion into a profession that involves a lot of struggle in the beginning, but if you can make it, you can earn a very good living, if not becoming a multi-millionaire. In fact many in filmmaking become multi-millionaires. Ok, maybe not for that reason, but because you love cinema, explore more about a career as a Film Editor.
Film editors cut and edit raw videos or footage for films, TV shows, commercials, etc. They are involved in both the creative and technical parts of filmmaking. They play a significant role in the post-production process as they make the final motion picture into a structured sequence using several film editing techniques. As a Film Editor, you will be involved in the post-production process of filmmaking; you would join, trim, and split video clips, refine shots and frames, create soundtracks, edit and mix soundtracks, etc.
Why become a film editor?
Film Editors watch, select, cut, trim, and piece together film and video footage shot during the principal photography as well as add or mix visual/special effects (VFX/SFX), CGI (computer-generated imagery), 2D animation, 3D animation, motion graphics, 2D graphics, soundtracks (containing dialogues and other recorded sound, sound effects including Foley sound, background music, playback music, etc.), etc. to make a complete film or video that we watch.
Understanding Film Editing further
The principal photography of a film or video contains the raw image footage, which is shot to capture actors’ performance, scenery, ambiance, background, etc. either inside a studio or at a location. The principal photography may have footage that is not in a proper sequence to tell a meaningful story and part of which may not be relevant as far as the script of a movie or video is concerned or part of which does not fit the vision of the Director, or in some cases, the vision of the Producer and other crew.
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This raw footage requires editing, that is cutting, trimming, splicing (joining or connecting), etc. to make a complete movie or video in which the shots are arranged in a proper sequence as per the script of the movie or video – so that the viewer can experience a meaningful narrative, that is, watch a good story.
So, here comes the Editor to start working after the production or shooting of the movie or video is completed. She does all these cutting, trimming, splicing (joining or connecting), etc. to create a meaningful narrative that is in line with the script of the movie or video and also in line with what the Director or often the Producer and the other leading crew members of the team wants.
Well, these days, there’s much more than cutting, trimming, and splicing in film editing
As you may be knowing, filmmaking today is not just about the principal photography led by the Cinematographer and the sound recordist’s work in recording live sound.
You know it, right? After all films like Baahubali, Ra.One, Krrish, Bajirao Mastani, Dawn of the Planet of Apes, Avenger: Age of Ultron, The Matrix and its sequels, Interstellar, Gravity, Ready Player One, Blade Runner 2049, etc. are not just photography right?
Right. So what goes into making a film today is a whole lot of stuff – visual effects (VFX/SFX), CGI (computer-generated imagery, which is part of visual effects), 2D and 3D animation, 2D graphics, motion graphics, stock ambiance images (the actors may perform in front of a green screen at a studio, but when you see that scene on a movie, you see they are performing on the London Bridge or on the street of Zurich! So here, the actors’ motion images are superimposed on a stock ambiance image of London Bridge or a street in Zurich), and so on.
Then comes the entire soundtrack. Oh well, you may be knowing that in almost all cases, dialogues are not recorded while the actors perform. They do talk but then they also have to record again in dubbing studios. This is because, at studios or locations, if dialogues are recorded, ambiance sound could also come.
Then there are digital sound effects (sound designers create those), Foley sound effects, background score (or music), playback music (songs), etc. Foley sounds are various everyday sound effects reproduced at a sound studio by Foley Artists – for example, the breaking of glass, doors closing, the sound of people running, the sound of rain, and so on).
So, a Film Editor pieces together all these to create a montage, which is meaningful and tells a story
So the Editor selects, cuts, trims, and splices the raw footage of a film or a video (obtained from principal photography) and put all the visual effects and sound effects to tell the story of a film or a video – as per the script and as per the vision of the Director or in some cases, the Producer or even other leading crew members.
Film Editors are storytellers with a difference. They are involved in both the creative and technical parts of filmmaking. They play a significant role in the post-production process as they make the final motion picture into a structured sequence using several film editing techniques.
As a Film Editor, your main work begins when the production (or the principal photography) is completed although in many cases you are involved during pre-production and production stages as well
As a Film Editor, you will be involved in the post-production process of filmmaking; you would join, trim, and split video clips, refine shots and frames, create soundtracks, edit and mix soundtracks, etc. These days most editing is done digitally using specialized software which has made the work of film editors more innovative and challenging.
Look at some tools and technologies for Film Editors
So as Film Editor, you would use this specialized editings software such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Elements, Corel VideoStudio Ultimate, and other special effects editing software like Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, Nuke, Mocha Pro, Adobe Creative Suite 4, Maxon Cinema 4D, and V-Ray, etc to control special effects such as animated transitions, picture-in-picture (PiP), Chroma-key and use filters to enhance colors or apply creative effects and distortions.
As a Film Editor, you would also be involved in creating or integrating digital visual effects to create or recreate settings, inanimate objects, animals, or creatures that look realistic but would be expensive, time-consuming, or impossible to capture on film during the principal photography. There are several ways in which these Visual effects are usually integrated. Some of these are explained in brief as follows:
Special effects: These are the added illusions or visual tricks used in the shooting of a scene. Earlier, special effects were divided into two categories: mechanical effects in which the effects were created by the use of mechanical props, animatronics, scenery, or atmospheric effects; and optical effects in which images or film frames were created using a camera or optical printer. After the introduction of Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), these two broad categories have been coupled together to make CGI one of the latest special effects technologies.
CGI or Computer Generated Imagery is the use of computer graphics to create three-dimensional images and special effects in live-action and animated movies. After the basic graphics are created, the next step is to bring them to life. To make the graphics look real, a team of editors along with visual effects supervisors pay special attention to details such as texture, lighting, and color.
Motion Capture: Motion capture is the recording of the actions of actors and then animating digital character models in 2D or 3D computer animation. This animation data is mapped to a 3D model so that the computer-created model performs the same actions as the actor. These special effects feature ultimately result in the computer model which imitates the live-action movements of the actor. When this process includes face and fingers or captures subtle facial expressions of the actors then it is called Performance Capture. This has been extensively used in the film Avatar in which the characters’ facial expressions and movements were captured with utmost clarity by the computer-generated models.
3DModelling: 3D modeling is the algorithmic representation of any surface of an object (living or non-living) in 3Dimensions via specialized software and the end product is therefore called a 3D model and is used extensively by the editors in the pre-production process.
Compositing: Compositing is used to combine the visual elements from different sources into a single image so as to create the impression that all those elements are part of the same scene. These days compositing is achieved through digital image manipulation for instance Chroma key compositing is a visual effects/post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or videos together. The subject is placed in front of a blue/green screen as a background and is then edited using computer software to achieve the fictional setting or location.
As a Film editor, you would integrate all the above special effects during the pre-production, production, and post-production process with the help of VFX (visual effects) and SFX (special effects) experts. The addition of all these effects usually begins at the initial stages of pre-production and culminates in post-production.
Formats: A Film Editor not only focuses on the creative components of film editing but is also required to know how to use various devices which are capable of high-resolution video recordings such as Go Pro cameras, DSLRs, and Super Chip cameras in various formats like MP4, MOV, WMV, and AVI, etc.
Video editing features: A Film Editor should also have a good deal of knowledge about the latest video editing features such as Multicam Editing (which lets you switch among camera angles of the same scene shot with multiple video cameras), Motion Tracking (which lets you attach an object or effect to something moving in your video), and Advanced Color Grading, etc.
Computers: Film and video editing involve most computing-intensive activities for which the devices you are going to use should be able to handle and process 4k, 6k, or 8k videos. Multimedia computers generally have better processors like Multi-core Intel i5/i7/i9 models (i9 is best), RAM ranging from 8GB to 32 GB RAM, and higher-end graphics cards which majorly depends on video editing software such as Adobe Premiere Pro CC, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Elements, Corel VideoStudio Ultimate, and Lightworks, etc.
Process of Film Editing – Editor’s Cut, Director’s cut, and the Final cut
As a Film Editor, you also would be performing a key role in the three most important phases in the editing domain: Editor’s Cut, Director’s cut, and the Final cut. These three distinct phases are explained in brief below:
- The Editor’s Cut- Editor’s cut is the first approval of what the final film will be i.e. it is the first draft of the final film. The director along with the cinematographer reviews the dailies (which are the raw and uncut footage shot each day) and the film editor cuts and edits the first draft to get a general idea of the story according to the director.
- A Director’s Cut comes into action when the edited version of the film is approved by the director. It is part of the edited film which is according to the director’s creative objective or purpose and usually involves a list of changes and improvements suggested by the distributors and other investors.
- The Final Cut is the final most approved version of the film which would be released for public viewing and is usually a much shorter version of the film. Therefore the Filmmaker would make sure that the director’s objectives are achieved in the final cut.
What does a film editor do?
As a Film Editor, you would be involved in the following key roles and responsibilities:
- You would read the shooting script and meet with the director to understand his/her vision for the film, and edit raw footage content for producing film and video.
- You would perform video and audio editing based on story sequence and continuity.
- You would be involved in using the latest video editing software such as Avid Media Composer, Lightworks, Adobe Premiere, After Effects, Final CutPro, Sony Vegas Pro, Da Vinci Resolve, iMovie, Filmora, Nero Standard, KineMaster, Coral VideoStudio Ultimate, CyberLink PowerDirector 17 Ultra, and Pinnacle Studio 22, etc.
- You would also be coordinating with the sound and visual effects editor (VFX expert) and would use the latest digital tools and software such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects, Nuke, Mocha Pro, Adobe Creative Suite 4, Maxon Cinema 4D, and V-Ray, etc.
- You would work closely with producers and directors during production.
- You would cut video sequences effectively to ensure the scenes are seamless and flow logically.
- You would review the script to better understand the video production requirements.
- You would be involved in inserting music, and several sound effects using software such as Adobe Audition, Logic Pro X, Audacity, FL Studio, etc.
- You would prepare a logical storyboard with a combination of the most effective scenes using the latest software such as Storyboard Pro, Canva, PowerProduction, Storyboarder, Prolost Boardo (for After effects)
- You would review all edited tapes to identify any issues and recommend changes as necessary.
- You would discuss with directors and producers video layouts and editing styles.
- You would collaborate closely with others in audio and visual teams to create a continuous and complete story.
- You would organize and assemble video segments to deliver continuous and sequential stories of a specified length.
- You would develop post-production models for films.
- You would also organize video screenings for directors and producers to get their feedback.
How to become a film editor – eligibility criteria
After completing Class 11-12 with any subject as per the scheme of studies, you can go for graduation in any subject. After graduation, you can then pursue a Post-Graduate Diploma in Cinema/ Filmmaking/ Film Studies/ Film & Television or in a similar field with a specialization in Editing.
After completing Class 11-12 with any subject as per the scheme of studies, you can go for a bachelor’s degree in Film Making/ Film & Television/ Film Studies (with a specialization in Editing/ Digital Editing).
After completing Class 11-12 with any subject as per the scheme of studies, you can go for a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/ Mass Media/ Film Studies or in a similar field.
After completing Class 11-12 with any subject as per the scheme of studies, you can go for a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication/ Mass Media/ Film Studies or a similar field. In case you wish to go for further studies you can do a Master’s degree or a Post-Graduate diploma in Mass communication or in a related field.
The cost of becoming a film editor in India can vary depending on a number of factors such as the type of training program you choose, the duration of the program, the institute or school you attend, and the city or region where you are located.
In general, film editing courses in India can cost anywhere from a few thousand rupees to several lakhs of rupees. Short-term certificate courses may cost around Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 50,000, while diploma or degree courses can cost between Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 5 lakhs or more.
After completing the required education in this particular field, you can start working as an Intern/ Trainee for at least one or two years. In a film production house, you will start as a second assistant editor/ member, editing team/ etc. where you will work as a member of the editing team for at least 3-5 years or even more. After working as Second Assistant Editor you will work as an Assistant Editor for about 4-5 years or may even extend to working for 8-10 years in this role.
It takes years of work experience and reputation in order to finally become an Editor or work independently as an Editor. You would have to gain ample experience prior to becoming an editor in any film production house.
Whereas, in TV production houses as well as commercial film making you can expect faster progress. You can look for job opportunities in:
Film Production Houses such as Reliance Big Entertainment, Yash Raj Films Pvt Ltd, Balaji Telefilms Ltd, Red Chillies Entertainment Pvt Ltd, Wizcraft International Entertainment, Dharma Productions, Muka Arts, and Illuminati Films among many others.
Television series and Web series production companies such as Balaji Telefilms, Bennett, Coleman & Co. (The Times of India Group), UTV Television, Zee Telefilms, Television Eighteen India, Sony Entertainment Television, Dice Media, Buzzfeed, The Viral Fever, AIB, East India Comedy, Green Gold Animation, Hats Off Production, Big Synergy, Star India, and Endemol among many others. etc.
Television Commercial Production companies such as: Flying Saucer, Little Red Car Films, Nirvana Films, Corcoise Films, Equinox Films, MAD films, etc.
On the other hand, if you want to start working independently you would need a lot of experience in this field. Therefore you can take up working on short-term contracts for post-production studios, television companies, web series, and documentaries. You must make a Portfolio that may help you in attracting exciting feature or short film editing projects or contracts. You might also get opportunities by working in other big or small-budget films which include web series, and documentaries, and gain experience.
Salary of Film Editor
By all probabilities, you will have to begin your career as a 2nd Assistant Editor or if you have notable experience before joining the profession, as a 1st Assistant Editor.
Earning as a 2nd Assistant Editor
As a 2nd Assistant, you may have to start with a low salary, which will just be enough to cover your basic expenses. However, there are associations for the crew that sets a minimum pay. Here are some examples of how much you can make:
As a 2nd Assistant in a low-budget regional movie, you could be paid about a lakh – so assuming that you get one movie a year, you will make 8/8.5K a month. A big-budget Bollywood / Tollywood movie will fetch you about 2 lakhs for the project. So in that case, you will earn an average of about Rs. 18,000 a month.
As a 2nd Assistant in a commercial film or other similar productions, you might be paid on an hourly basis. Assuming that you are getting work on at least 15 days in a month, you may make about Rs. 12-20,000 a month.
So, overall, assuming you take up several projects in a year, your average earning per month could be between Rs. 8,000 – 20,000 or even more a month.
Earning as a 1st Assistant Editor
A 1st Assistant in a big-budget Bollywood / Tollywood movie might be paid 5-6 lakh for the project. So, assuming that you are doing only 1 movie a year, you will be earning anything between Rs. 40,000-50,000 a month. But then you can do other projects too.
However, a 1st Assistant in a low-budget regional movie might be paid 2-3 lakh for the project. So, assuming that you are doing only 1 movie a year, you will be earning anything between Rs. 18,000-25,000 a month. But then you can do other projects too.
So, overall, assuming you take up several projects in a year, your average earning per month could be between Rs. 20,000 – 50,000 or even more a month.
Earning as a senior member of an editing team
Experienced members of an editing team could be paid 12-30 lakh for a movie which is a big budget. Working in low-budget movies, commercial films, and other projects may fetch you anything between 2 lakh – 5 lakhs. Assuming that you are taking up several projects in a year, you may in all make about Rs. 50,000 – 2,50,000 a month.
Earning as an Editor (if in a team, then as the Head of the team)
An Editor of a low-budget regional film can make a few 4-5 lakhs. So on average 35/42,000 a month assuming she makes only one movie in a year. But it is obvious that she would make more from commercials films, web series, television shows, etc. In general, if you become known for good work among the film fraternity, you will be making not less than a lakh a month and about Rs. 20-25 lakh in a year on the higher side.
At the top end, famous Editors working for a big-budget Bollywood / Tollywood film may take 5-10 crore for a movie (they may also work on a basic pay plus profit sharing). Assuming they do only one movie in a year, they make an average monthly earning of about 42-84 lakhs. But as a matter of fact, famous Editors work in a team on quite a few commercial projects, web series, etc. So, in all, they may make even a few crores a month on average.
So, overall, you will be making Rs. 1,00,000 – 42,00,000 or even more a month on average (excluding the astronomical figure of one crore or more – which is obviously rarest of rare for a famous Editor).
Career Progression in Film Editing Profession
You will start as a Trainee or runner before working your way up to a position as an assistant editor and then finally as Editor. You can expect to work as an Assistant Editor for around 3-4 years before moving on to become a qualified editor. Since career progression in this industry varies accordingly therefore after years of experience you may want to become a Director and then a Producer.
Trainee/ Runner – Second Assistant Editor – First Assistant Editor – Post Production Supervisor – Film Editor/ Senior Film Editor
Trainee/ Runner – Second Assistant Editor – First Assistant Editor – Post Production Supervisor – Film Editor/ Senior Film Editor – Director – Producer
What do industry trends say – Future Prospects
The Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) sector reached Rs1.67 trillion ($23.9 billion) in 2018, a growth of 13.4 percent, according to EY-FICCI report A billion screens of opportunity. As per the report, the M&E sector in India is expected to cross Rs2.35 trillion ($33.6 billion) by 2021, at a CAGR (Compounded Annual Growth Rate) of 11.6%. The sector will continue to grow at a rate faster than the GDP, reflecting the increasing economic growth. India has the second-highest number of internet users after China with 570 million internet subscribers growing at 13% annually. The report estimates that approximately 2.5 million consumers in India today are digital-only and is expected that this customer base will to grow to 5 million by 2021.
According to a report submitted by KPMG, the film industry in India is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.3% driven by theatrical revenue from India and overseas. The Indian Box office has been performing remarkably well and is expecting two-fold success in the coming future. A career in the Film and media industry is expected to grow tremendously in the coming future.
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