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Video editing

Getting started with making videos

Thanks to video sharing platforms, it is easier than ever to share videos over the internet. But how do you actually create a video?

If you're making a viral 10 second video of your cat, then you can just pick up your phone, hit record, and then upload the video to the site of your choosing. However, you might want to cut together a few videos of your cat, and maybe put some explanations about how your cat is technically able to make those impressive leaps in between the recorded footage.

You'll want to plan out your video, create or find different media, and then edit them together in a video editing tool. Below are slides for two sessions, Introduction to filmmaking and Video editing skills, which will take you through the key considerations and tips for choosing and using the right tools to create videos.

Introduction to filmmaking

This session looks at how we tell stories, fictional and non-fictional, using video, how different styles of video content are used, and how to get started planning and creating videos.

Viewing the full Introduction to filmmaking slides on Google Slides allows you to view the speaker notes which have added commentary.

Video editing skills

Following on from Introduction to filmmaking, this session covers practical elements such as getting media files, choosing a video editing tool, and how the basic functions such as trimming and splitting clips and exporting your final video work.

Viewing the full Introduction to filmmaking slides on Google Slides allows you to view the speaker notes which have added commentary. There is also a Video editing skills PDF guide that covers key points and details.

Video editing skills

This guide has a quick overview of the key areas of getting started with making videos.

It doesn't focus on any one video editing tool. We recommend looking online for help guidance on using specific applications as though most tools work in very similar ways, they all have slightly different layouts and ways of doing things.



PowerPoint and Google Slides can both provide live subtitles. A simple way to record subtitles for a screencast is to piggyback on a PowerPoint presentation:

  • Start a blank presentation going (and turn on subtitling)
  • Alt-tab (or Cmd-tab) to the window you want to screencast and resize it so that the PowerPoint subtitles are still visible below it on the screen.
  • Record the whole screen so that the window and the subtitles are both in shot.

Be aware that, since this relies on having PowerPoint running beneath your other windows, you won't be able to show your desktop.

Here's an example of the PowerPoint method.

This approach is ok for quick, dirty subtitles, but they'll contain errors, there's a delay in them appearing (by which time the video has moved on), and they're 'burnt-in' into the video. So really you should look to making some proper stand-alone subtitles...

Stand-alone subtitling

Perhaps the easiest way to auto-generate subtitles for a video is to upload your video to YouTube. YouTube will generate automatic captions which you can then edit.

Here's the same video as above, after we cropped off the PowerPoint captions, uploaded to YouTube and tidied up the captioning. You can use the subtitle options in the cog menu to switch between the automatic captions and our tidied-up version.

You can download your subtitle files from YouTube in the YouTube Studio Video Manager: open the video, go to the "Subtitles" section, hover over the subtitles you want to download and use the vertical dots menu ():

The 'Subtitles' section is accessed from a menu to the left of the video page; the menus with the download links are to the right.

Zoom can create caption files for cloud recordings. The process is slow (days rather than minutes), and accuracy is variable but the generated file is in a good format and is relatively easy to work with. There's guidance on their help pages:

There are other free subtitling tools online (usual caveats about free online tools notwithstanding), or you could even play the sound through your microphone and into a Google Doc to use the transcription service in Google Docs. It's an inelegant method but it just about works.

If you've got a transcript you can then make your own subtitles file. There's a load of different file formats but they're often pretty easy to write if you know what you're doing. They're all basically text files and tend to follow a similar sort of format.

Read more about subtitle formats...

If you've got a video stored in Google Drive, it's very easy to add a subtitle file to it. You can even upload a transcript (as a text file) and let it auto-caption. You can then download the resulting subtitle file for use elsewhere.

If you're using VLC Media Player, it can display captions it finds in the same file location with the same filename (save for the file extension).

Digital video: the technical stuff

Video may generally be thought of as a series of still images arranged together, one after the other, to give the illusion of movement. This is literally true of something like film where a string of photographic images are displayed in quick succession.

Digital video follows a similar model, but with raster images rather than celluloid. As such, most of the content on our Image editing Skills Guide will be very relevant, albeit with the added dimension of time.

Since video is usually accompanied by audio too, and since a lot of the principles of digital audio extend to digital video, we'd also suggest taking a look at the Audio editing Skills Guide.

Frame rate

Frame rate is the speed at which one still image replaces another on the screen. The higher the frame rate, the smoother the illusory movement will appear.

Galloping horse, animated using photos by Eadweard Muybridge

The above gif is made up of 15 still images (numbered 2-16) animating at 10 frames per second (10 fps or 10 Hz). Most cinema film animates at 24 fps (24 Hz): that's sufficient to trick the eye for most humans, but you'll often see higher frame rates than that.

Most digital video, like film, uses 'progressive scan': a posh way of saying that one still image appears after another.

The most common framerate in digital recording is 30fps: 30p (where the 'p' stands for 'progressive scan'). That's because it's aligned to what American television does (but more of that below). If you're wanting to keep file sizes down, you should be able to get away with 25p, or even as low as 10p if you're just recording a desktop application on a computer screen.

The lower your framerate, the smaller your video file, but too low and your video will look jerky.



As with digital images, size matters. But video has a very different history to that of the still image: a history wrapped up with that of television broadcasting. While a still image can be pretty much any size you like (within reason), there are certain standards to be aware of in video, and a whole new set of terminology for describing them.

Then there's the fact that video resolution is usually expressed solely in terms of its height...

YouTube supports a range of standard sizes of video: 144p, 240p, 360p, 480p (equivalent to American standard definition TV), 720p, and 1080p (equivalent to UK high definition TV) — the 'p' refers to the 'progressive scan' method we mentioned above. In each case the value is the height of the picture in pixels. If you're uploading a file to YouTube, there's currently no point recording it at a higher resolution than 1080px tall.

So what about width?


Containers and codecs

Video files contain both video and audio data, so a lot of video filetypes are quite relaxed about how that data is encoded so long as they're wrapped up in a way that's recognisable: they're basically 'containers' for different types of encoded video and audio which are then decoded by a coder-decoder ('codec') program.

Encoding digital videos can therefore be a bit confusing: there are a lot of options, and a lot of codecs to choose from (not all of which are widely installed on people's computers). So what video format should you choose?


By far the most common video format, H.264 (also known as Advanced Video Coding (AVC)) uses lossy compression that works in a similar sort of way to that of JPEGs and MP3s. It's used in Blu-Ray discs, on most streaming platforms, and in an increasing amount of digital television broadcasting. It's mostly used with the .mp4 container.

Other formats

There are a range of other formats and codecs to choose from, some of which have more adoption than others. Most formats can be played using VLC Media Player.

Video editing software

Corel VideoStudio is available from the University's "Software Centre", and Adobe Premiere Pro is installed on a handful of University computers.

PowerPoint can be used to create videos (animations, screencasting, narrations, etc.), and basic video editing is possible on Windows using Photos, and on a Mac using iMovie.

There's also a range of free tools available online (as ever, with free online tools, you should think critically before using them):

Finally, for playback and simple format conversion there's:

Screencasting software

If you're wanting to record the content of your screen (and maybe a voice-over), you'll want a tool that can do screen recording. We take a deeper look at that on our...

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