3.1. The editing suite


In theory, editing can be done anywhere that you can sit and work on a laptop but the ideal environment should have the following attributes:

  1. Lighting which allows you to view the screen clearly with no glare

  2. Minimal noise disturbance so that you can clearly hear the audio content

  3. Large, secure desk space to hold hard drives, computer and monitor/s

  4. Privacy. Editing is concentrated work. Distractions make it very difficult.

Software packages


There are many film editing software packages on the market. At present, the most common professional packages are Final Cut Pro for the Apple platform and Adobe Premiere or Avid for PCs. Each has its own pros and cons but all perform the same task – taking your raw footage in one end and exporting your finished film at the other. Both the Apple and Windows platform, however, have their own free and video editing packages which are adequate for editing most digital film projects.  The free Apple software package is ‘iMovies’ while the free Windows package is ‘Windows Movie Maker’.

In this module we will be looking at the principles of editing. While editing software packages generally operate in similar ways, each one has its own specific methods of achieving the results. You will need, therefore, to consult the software manuals, online user forums and ‘help’ options relevant to the software you are using for step-by-step instructions.


While most modern computers have the basic capabilities to edit digital video, high definition cameras require increasingly large storage capabilities and processor speeds while some computer monitors are more suited to video editing than others.


It is generally accepted that Apple Macintosh® computers are the best for anyone working with audio or visual material. However, most modern PCs operating in a Windows® environment are perfectly capable of running editing software. High definition video involves large files and makes your computer work hard so ideally you should have a computer with as much internal hard drive space, processor speed and RAM (Random Access Memory) as possible. 

Hard drives

While modern digital cameras shooting directly to memory cards have largely made digital tapes a thing of the past, there are disadvantages. With digital tapes, the video footage was copied from the tape onto a hard drive to be edited by the computer software. This meant that the original tapes could be filed away and provided a back-up should anything happen to the hard drive. Nowadays we copy the files from the camera’s memory card onto hard drive and then erase the memory card so that it can be used again. This means that if anything happens to the hard drive – and hard drives are notoriously fragile – you may loose all your footage. It is good policy, therefore to make back-ups of all your footage to a separate hard drive. This, along with the fact that high definition video eats up hard drive space at an alarming rate means that you’ll need two large drives to work with. When you are dealing with footage shot in high resolution you’ll get an average of 40-45 minutes onto a 16gb memory card. However, this is in a highly compressed format. When you transfer the footage to your editing software the files will be significantly larger – somewhere around 1 minute per gb.

Another point to remember when choosing hard drives is data rate – the time it takes for your computer to read the information from the drive. Because we are usually dealing with high definition audio/visual files fast hard drives are preferable. Typically, hard drives for digital video run at 7200 rpm (revolutions per minute) though it is possible to work with slower drives. The suitability of the hard drive is also affected by the way it is connected to the computer. Internal drives usually work quite quickly because they are plugged in using fast SATA connections. External drives often use USB cables which can be quite slow (USB 2) or quite fast (USB 3). Similarly drives can use fast Firewire cables (800) or slower (400). The best thing to do, if you are unfamiliar with these variables, is to choose a drive and then ask the salesperson or search on the web to see if it is suitable for high definition video.

Monitor (Screen)

Digital video editing software typically has a number of panels or windows on view at any one time. In addition, when you are editing it is important to view the video footage large enough and clear enough to see quite a bit of detail. After all, your finished film may be shown on a large television, projector or even cinema screen. So, while I have sometimes edited on a 13” Apple Macbook Pro, ideally you should have a large computer monitor or, even better still, two monitors – one to view your video footage and one to contain your windows and palettes. I usually plug a 30” high resolution monitor into my 13” Macbook for this purpose. If you don’t have a large or second monitor you may find that it is possible to plug a flat screen television into your computer and this can provide a workable solution.


Ideally you’ll be editing in a quiet space where you can monitor sound easily. For this purpose, on a basic project with stereo sound, two good audio monitoring speakers, left and right of the screen and set at ear level are recommended. If the space you are working in is noisy, a good set of headphones will work perfectly well.


Editing software is quite complex and requires a lot of computing power. If you run into difficulties where the software is crashing it is usually due to one of the following:

  1. Slow processor speed

  2. Insufficient RAM

  3. Slow hard drive (usually if you are working on an external drive)

Written and Practical Assignment

Assemble the necessary equipment for the project.

List the equipment you have obtained and make a note of why you have chosen each piece.