11 video editing mistakes that are embarrassing you right now. March 18 2014

We've compiled 11 of the most common editing mistakes that you should avoid.

Mistakes are a fundamental part of human nature, we all make them, and in many circumstances they need to be made in order to grow and develop. However, mistakes can also be costly, both in business revenue and time.

There's a saying…"the best kind of mistake is the one someone else makes". This is because you get to learn from the mistake without actually having to commit it. That's why we have taken the time to collate the following hit list of mistakes that are commonly made in video editing. Hopefully it will save you from committing these editing faux-pas yourself!

Some of the following mistakes will be subtle, on par with walking around with your shirt tag hanging out (tag-dag!), others however will be much more embarrassing, like splitting the bum of your pants the one day you decide to wear that fluro orange underwear your grandmother gave you for christmas. Either way, the following mistakes could be making you and your business look less than professional and a lot more silly than slick.



1. AUDIO AUDIO AUDIO - the importance of a great audio mix

Following the 80/20 rule, I honestly believe that audio is 80% of the equation in making a top notch video production.

Think about this - an audience will watch a film with terrible vision if the sound is good (think Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch Project, maybe your own low quality DVD rips) but if the audio is bad, it doesn't matter how well the production is shot - viewers will turn away in droves.

There are two main ingredients to a great audio mix: voice and music. Voice is used to deliver information to drive the story, whereas music is used to define the mood, tell the audience how to feel and (most importantly) set the pace of the edit.

Make sure that the balance between the two is right. If the music is too hot (loud) you will find it overpowers the vocal, meaning viewers may miss the dialogue and any story plots and information being shared. It will also make viewing hard for the audience as they will have to really listen hard to capture the message.

For safety, many editors will set their music a little lower than they think it should be, this is because as the editor you will watch a single piece of vision/audio multiple times to the point where you will know the dialogue off by heart (just like your favourite song!) meaning you will automatically hear the dialogue a lot clearer and easier than an audience with virgin ears. By setting the music a little lower you are guaranteeing the audience will get the message.



2. MUSIC IS THE PACE-MASTER - start with music to set the pace

When beginning a new video production, it's a good habit to start from the ground up, meaning you start with the audio layers of a sequence, and then when you have a foundation, move onto vision. 

This forces you to make the music set the pace. A slow paced song, such as a love ballad will be much more suited to a slower style of cutting, utilising more dips and cross fades. An up-tempo punk track however, will be best melded to fast cuts, whips and pans. Sometimes it can be purposeful to break the rules here, but only if there is a strong reason for doing so and that reason is obvious to the audience, otherwise it will come off feeling unnatural. Let the music set the pace and then match your visual style to the music, not vice versa.




A jump cut is simply an edit within the same shot. A portion of the footage is cut out and the edit is squashed together causing the subject in frame to "jump" to a different position, suddenly moving around the screen in a very unnatural way. 

A jump cut has a pretty simple remedy - cut away to another shot. This other shot is aptly named a "cutaway". It allows you to then return to the previous shot without the audience noticing the jump.


Jump cuts can sometimes be really effective, especially for music videos and really uptempo productions. But once again they must be purposely used (ie. matched to the beat of a song) otherwise your edit will just come off looking lazy.




These little suckers are sometimes very hard spot and are rarely obvious to casual observation, but they do have a hand in creating unease in your viewer as something will not feel right. A flash frame can be introduced to your production when you are working too quickly (a nice excuse to slow down!) and cutting fast and free. They are a frame of vision you may have accidentally sliced off of a shot you were deleting, leaving it there to embarrass you later.



5. GET IT TOGETHER - Sync your audio and vision

Now that you already know how important audio is to a production (see points 1 & 2) this one is a true deal breaker. It is a major distraction, if not the king of audio faux-pas.

It can easily happen when clips are being slid, copied, nudged and bumped around your timeline and can also come as a result of mixing audio and video frame rates. 

To fix any sync issues, you will simply need to bump the vision a few frames (typically, unless you've really made a mess of things!) to get the words back into sync. A good way to tell is to look at the sharp points of a persons pronunciation, the P's, B's and T's and make sure the mouthing matches the audio.



6. TRANSITION TACKYNESS - leave the star wipe for your holiday reel please!

Ahh transitions. Most of the time a simple cut will do, maybe a dip to black or a cross fade if you're feeling creative. That's about as far as your transition toolset should extend. 

To put it bluntly - leave the star wipes, love hearts, lightning bolts and matrix curtain wipes at home. They may impress your kid, but they won't impress your client. 



7. GET YOUR GRAPHICS TO GROW UP - keep it simple and your audience will thank you

Many editors get a little hap-hazard when it comes to titles and graphics. It may be because they don't feel it is their forte, so they over compensate by adding layers on layers on layers and think that everything that can move…should move. And that's before they've even reached the color tool! 

In every decision we make as editors, we have to keep the viewer at the forefront of our minds, we need to make their viewing as easy as it can be without compromising on their entertainment. Trust me, a hard to read, headache inducing title is not entertaining. Keep it simple and the audience will have a much better time. Don't believe me? Look at these opening titles for a great example of this point.



8. WHO YOU GONNA CALL? - Rid your edit of ghost frames

A ghost frame are the frames in a dissolve that occur when the outbound shot leading into the transition goes into another shot before the transition completes. The "ghost" part comes because the unintended shot is only seen at partial opacity (as it occurs at the end of a dissolve). This will always look like a lazy mistake. To rectify simply slide the outbound shot to where the ghost frames are pushed out of the edit, or shorten the transition to where it doesn't impede on the new shot.

Ghost frame example

9. TRANSITION TIMING - Align your transitions over multiple layers

This mistake is caused when different elements on different layers do not transition in or out at the same time. It's an easy mistake to make. You might have a compilex timeline of 3 layers of type plus your footage, and therefore it is easy to inadverntantly stagger the individual layer transitions which will cause one or more layers to finish earlier/later than the rest. This isn't a problem if it is purposeful and there's a good allotment of time between the shots, if it's under 12 frames however, it will probably just look like a mistake. 

To fix, just make sure all transitions line up across all of your vision layers, this includes starting points and transition durations.

Example of bad transitional timing

 10. SOUND DESIGN CRIME - there's more than one sound effect out there

Another audio point (see how important they are!) is to pay careful attention to your sound effect decisions. Don't treat sound effects as a last thought.

This is a really common mistake seen in corporate videos, For example, imagine a video where a whole heap of people are being interviewed after each other, and for each person a lower third super slides in from right of screen. This super is accompanied by a sound effect which is mixed in so loudly that it sounds like an airplane landing at an airport, though only louder. If that's not bad enough, the same effect is used for EVERY lower third in the spot. After the 3rd super, it's just plain annoying.

So remember - 

- Sound effects should compliment the music, not overpower it. Subtlety is paramount.

- Use different sound effects. Sure they should sound very similar (especially if over the same action such as a lower third reveal) but not exactly the same every time.

- Use only good quality sound effects that match the feel and vibe of the video.


11. GOING BLUNT - the importance of staying sharp

This point is more philosophical than the others but in many ways more important. Simply put, you must continually invest in yourself and your craft. Don't stop learning. Stay in the know on the latest technology, products and plugins as well as editing techniques.

This can be hard when you have a full time business on your plate, but pencilling in an hour or two a week to stay sharp is a very, very solid investment.


Video editing is a lot of fun, and the best editors know that investing time in good craftsmanship can do wonders for your video and reputation. If you've noticed you are making some of the mistakes listed above, now's the time to hone your skills and nip those bad habits in the bud!