video editing

From Rough Cut to Director’s Cut to Final Cut: How a Film Transforms Over Time


There’s a reason why filmmakers don’t just toss together the footage they took and call it a day. This unprepared footage is called rough for a reason — it’s far from what you’d expect to see as the finalized product on the big screen.

While both pre-production and production come with their own challenges, it’s during post-production that all that work is assembled into something high-quality and presentable. Thus, it’s vital that digital editors do their best to turn that rough cut into what will be shown to audiences worldwide.

The following are the four main tasks that an assistant editor and/or digital editor working on a film is responsible for:

1. Logging

Logging is in the domain of the assistant editor. In filmmaking and television production, it’s common for the amount of footage shot to be several times longer than what will actually be used on the final cut. To avoid wasting time searching for specific source shots, the very first stage of post-production involves the assistant editor sorting all the dailies (raw, unedited footage) so that they’re properly labeled, organizing all the footage so that the editor can work more efficiently to make a cut. To help the editor, especially since this is likely the first time they’re looking at the film, directors and cinematographers also will leave notes onto takes to help give context. Remember: films are rarely shot in the order that the movie will actually go.

2. The Editor’s Cut

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The editor’s first major task is to start assembling the footage in an order that flows smoothly story-wise. This involves selecting all the best audio and visual material from the dailies and using them to put together each scene. Today’s’ big films usually have an editor doing this even when filming is still taking place. This way, directors and producers can check out the editor’s rough scenes and decide if additional footage needs to be shot. This is also the editor’s opportunity to start trimming off some of the extra footage that’s currently making the film longer than intended.

3. The Director’s Cut

During filming, the director will try finding time to join the editor and offer his suggestions. But once shooting has ended, the director can then focus entirely on working with the editor to refine the cut of the film. This stage, which can last anywhere from 10 weeks to several months, is when the director and editor will reorder, remove, and change every scene and shot with extreme attention to detail. It’s also their chance to discover plot holes and missing shots that require new scenes to be scheduled for filming.

4. The Final Cut


Once the editor, producer, and designer are satisfied with the current cut, the sound, music, and title designers will add to the edit. After music and sound effects are added to the cut and everyone is satisfied, it is sent in for an exact copy to be created. This final cut is what people across the globe will see on their theater and television screens.

Excited about digital editing? Learn more in NYFA’s digital editing programs.

The Latest Video Editing Trends to Watch

Video editing has come a long long way. From the beginning of the 20th century, when film as a medium began to develop, editing meant simultaneously two things at once: the joining of shots as well as the manipulation of images. Many of the first films made were realist, documentary films, such as the Lumiere Brothers’ “Arrival of the Train,” which fascinated audiences and allowed them to recognize themselves and the places and events around them. Montage style developed as a counterpoint, where Soviet film makers such as Eisenstein juxtaposed contrasting or even unrelated shots to create new meaning. Rathern than tell a linear story, montage sought to evoke emotion. Montage gave rise to the formalist tendency, which began to see any form of video footage as fodder for creating illusions, magic tricks and fantastic worlds, a style begun by George Melies and continued by the Hollywood superhero 3D blockbuster of today.  


Before the digital revolution, linear video editing was done with expensive video tape recorders (VTR) that did not promise quality and was were cumbersome. Later inventions such as the “flying erase-head” and vision mixers made the process easier. But the switch from celluloid to digital incited a fundamental change in the process. Gone were the days of handling magnetic tapes, and with the arrival of premier software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects, digital video editing was here to stay.


This is the age of digital. Consequently, the norms of video editing are undergoing a tremendous change. Here, we give you a lowdown on the latest digital editing trends to watch out for.

1. Video Chapterisation Will Gain Popularity

In other words, we’re entering an age where instead of watching videos, we’ll be reading them — and instead of trial-and-error fast-forwarding to find a particular scene, we’ll only have to check the contents and find the right chapter or bookmark. Although most DVDs come with rudimentary chapter divisions, this will become more sophisticated, with careful allocation of sequences semantically, rather than on duration.

2. Your Smartphone May Become A Video Editing Station

Professional video and photo editing software with a multitude of features may become available on smartphones soon, meaning users can shoot a film, edit it, add special effects and title cards, and release it to YouTube, all from a smartphone. Before you worry that your Avid Media Composer skills are wasted, don’t despair: the entertainment industry, while flexible and able to adapt and absorb new trends like these, will still have need of professional editors able to apply advanced skill and precision. Phones will not replace post-production. Instead, digital editors can see this trend as an interesting opportunity to plug into popular culture and play with emerging new media.

Apps such as Adobe Premiere Clip and WeVideo can be used to make home videos or presentations. For professionals there are paid options, such as the powerful Pinnacle Studio Pro developed by Corel, with more sophisticated features.

3. Live Video Editing

Live videos are already a thing — whether you’re streaming a rock show live on Facebook timeline or showcasing a 30 sec clip on Instagram. And live video editing is going to be the next big thing. While it’s still at a nascent stage, with live editors rushing to apply filters or emoji to recorded content or camera switching in TV, you’ll soon see innovative developments in this space. The app Lumify, for instance (only available on ios), let’s you edit video from the moment you start recording, for example changing the white balance or focus exposure.

We’re entering an age where one records and edits simultaneously. Soon, more complex features will become easily available, particularly designed for seamless video transitions so as to make sure the audience does not notice the cuts between shots.

You can expect the video editing industry to boom, and as a digital editor you’ll be expected to know the fundamentals of editing as well as the new trends. Even beyond editing digital content with film or advertising companies, your skills can apply in many new fields — from marketing strategies to social media promotion.

Ready to get up to speed with digital editing and dive into this exciting field? Check out NYFA’s digital editing programs for special video editing courses, year round classes and even workshops to help you to remain on top.