Video Editing For eCommerce (and Trolling)
Now that The BowTied Jungle is buzzing with new projects I’ve worked on pieces for BowTiedBull, Ox, Plakat and released a NFT for fun.
A few people have asked what the best & quickest resources are to learn this skill so I put together this guide to help you get up and running.
Even if you plan to outsource this to someone like me or get an “in house” person to handle your media content, you need to be able to communicate with them effectively
Knowing the basics will save you a lot of headaches.
Also, it’s really better if you don’t have to send 2-3 emails/DMs and pay $80-$100 to move a graphic to the right by 5 pixels. You’re paying mostly for setup time in this scenario.
If you’re at the beginning stages of a venture and need to do most things on your own, this is mandatory learning.
Or maybe you have no goals other than trolling big banks to zero. I fully support this, just don’t do anything illegal.
Learning The Technical Stuff
People ask this a lot and I’m happy to give you the longer answer to how I did it in the comments. But the short answer is little by little. Many nights of needing to know how to do something and diving deep into the internet to find an answer.
Most people can learn to do basic stuff after a week or two, but you’re going to need a lot of projects under your belt to really get comfortable. There’s just no way around it. If you have a second computer monitor, just open up a YouTube tab and expect to have to search for “How To ______ in [software]” every 45 seconds.
If you’ve never used any kind of media software, it will be pretty slow progress as everything is new. If you’ve used something like iMovie or any music editing software you will see some familiar things like the rows of tracks and the output window.
The more times you do this the easier it is to learn new software because you’re often looking for some function you’ve used before, but just how it’s implemented in a given product. Once you know where the button or keyboard shortcut is, you’re good.
Learning The Subjective Stuff
E-Commerce video (and any good troll video) will have a message you want to get across. You’re telling a story and need to make sure the message is clear to someone who many not know much about who you are or what you do.
Since in the beginning you will be bogged down by just learning what buttons to push to do things, I recommend writing out what you want on paper first. A loose script or storyboard is a great place to start.
Knowing how to do this will also help once you start farming this work out because the people you hire will not know as much about your offering as you do.
If I reject a video gig, it’s often because the offer and/or copywriting isn’t clear. For example, if you can’t clearly explain the problem your product solves, who your ideal customers are, and what pain points they experience, I can’t do an effective video sales letter.
When BowTiedBull talks about sales being a transferrable skill, this is a good example. If you have solid copywriting skills and can articulate all this clearly, you will get a better end result be it through using an editor or doing it yourself.
If you have to edit it yourself, you won’t get stuck in the weeds and lose the message because you needed to blow an hour Googling how to program keyframes to rotate a GIF.
Tools You Will Need
Possibly screen capture software and/or phone screen capture
Assets. Stock footage, music, transitions, textures, etc
For editing software, you have two options, free and paid. On the free side you have products like VSDC, iMovie, Davinci Resolve, and Filmora.
On the paid side, you have things like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer.
All have pros and cons. iMovie is fine for a lot of things and if you have a Mac, it’s already on your computer. Easier to use upfront, but you’ll hit a ceiling with it pretty quickly.
My favorite free offering is Davinci Resolve. Steeper learning curve upfront, but its extremely powerful and frankly kind of wild that it’s free. They also have a paid version for $300 but for most of you the free version is plenty.
On the paid only side of things, Adobe Premiere (video editing) and After Effects (graphic effects) are great if you have the budget. Tons of support in the community and great aftermarket templates/assets are around. Adobe only offers their products on subscription.
If you are a student or want to pay one to buy it for you, there’s a considerable discount. Once upon a time when I had a day job, I was able to convince the boss to buy it, then I’d just bring a hard drive to work and edit to that. Do what you have to do.
Screen Capture Software
If you’re filming tutorials or training videos for employee, you probably will need screen capture software. Quicktime can get the job done or a software like Screenflow (around $100).
For social media clips or mobile software clips, I just use the screen capture app built into the iPhone. There are numerous Android options that do the same thing. Doesn’t really matter what you use if it can record a clip and save it to your camera roll.
If you want to post a video on your website, you generally need to host it somewhere. Lots of people just use YouTube, but I don’t like this because YouTube videos will always display a bunch of extra junk you likely don’t want on your site like ads and recommended videos. Use a service like Wistia or Vimeo (I prefer the latter, free and paid options) and you’ll get a much cleaner results. If you have a lot of video the paid offerings are much more customizable.
This is really the secret sauce. Starting projects from a blank slate takes way longer because you need to gather up everything you’ll be editing with so over the years I’ve been collecting cool transitions, stock footage, textures/backgrounds, sound effects, and other odds and ends that I can weave together to make something engaging. Again, both free and paid options. a site like pexels.com is a good place to start grabbing free stock stuff. If you need music, a service like soundstripe.com works.
But there are many many eCommerce sites that sell or license assets like this (guess what my new site sells!) that all have a different vibe and customer they cater too. You can get by with the basic free sites for a little bit, but if you’re doing a ton of content you’ll eventually need to subscribe to or start buying assets for your library.
If you don’t give a fuck and just want to troll, there are many YouTube Downloader that will let you rip a video as an mp4 or mp3 file. Just be careful doing this for business purposes because copyright strikes can lead to videos being taken down or rejected from certain ad networks.
Formats, Video Codecs
There are a ton of codecs and resolutions out there. For the majority of internet stuff, 1920x1080p at 30 or 24 frames per second (fps) is totally fine. Export it as an mp4 at H.264 codec. Thats compatible with more platforms these days. I usually don’t export to .mov or other codecs like Apple ProRes 422 unless there is an explicit reason to do so. For vertical content, flip the resolution around and make it 1080 x 1920.
Lots of people ask about 4K because it’s very hyped. 4K is four times bigger than HD (1920X1080). Most people are not watching things in 4K so you don’t need to shoot or edit at this resolution if you’re crunching it down to be consumed on much smaller screens. 1080 HD looks great most places.
The only exception to this is you can zoom in tigher on 4K footage without it looking pixelated as quickly because there is more data to worth with. So if you’re crunching down to 1080p, the higher resolution gives you more options when editing.
Learning Tips and Common Beginner Mistakes
Learn every keyboard shortcut and if there’s a function you use a lot, go into the operating system setting and create a custom one. You lose tons and tons of time fishing around in menus with the mouse.
For your video assets, pick a folder on your computer or better yet, buy a hard drive where you will store everything. Never move anything around or you will break your projects. The editor will be looking for the file in some location and if you moved it, you have to manually reconnect the footage by searching for it. Huge pain and big time suck to fix. Also double check that any cache files are set to a logical place. Often this will default to system Movies folder or Desktop. Some programs just dump files all over the hard drive unless you tell them otherwise. Try to prevent this from happening in the first place.
Going along with the last point, learn how and where the software stores the individual project files vs the assets the projects use (your raw videos, photos, and audio).
Adobe Premiere and Davinci Resolve handle this pretty differently, but they both have a project file that just contains data that tell the computer what to do with your actual assets. Lower end software sometimes just bundles everything into a packaged file so you don’t lose stuff, usually at the expense of hard drive space.
As for your actual editing, the basic rules of photo composition apply, like the Rule of Thirds (LINK).
As for placing graphical elements, the biggest mistakes I see are using garbage fonts or not having them stand out enough from the background which makes them hard to read.
This is why the typical meme text has white text with a black stroke outlining it. Ugly but it stands out against basically anything so it’s readable.
As for fonts, you need to search for how to install fonts on your operating system, which is simple and well covered. You may also be surprised to know that certain fonts can be expensive.
Look on sites like Dafont.com and 1001fonts.com to download some free fonts and get a feel for what you like. Personally, I’m into bold, clear sans-serif kind of designs but go with what makes sense for your brand.
Good First Projects
Your first project should be simple stuff like learning how to add music to a video, how to cut together a few different clips from different sources, how to add titles to things and what fonts look good.
Once you’re comfortable with that, you want to start editing in both horizontal and vertical formats for mobile users. Once you have a horizontal version of something, you usually have to manually shift elements around for it to look good vertically.
If you’re really stuck for what to do in vertical or tight on time, just use the horizontal video as the middle third. Now you have two black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. Make a copy of the video and resize it until it fills the gaps. Then add some blur to the resized video.
Next up, try keyframing something things and layering transitions with different blending modes to spice things up. Basic software usually can’t do this, but the more technical stuff like Resolve or Premiere can which is why I recommend just starting there. More challenging upfront, but more room to expand upward as your skill set improves.
From here, things get more individualized so you need to start studying video you like or that works in your niche, then start digging for the techniques or footage to replicate it.
For example I tend to use this technique made famous in Requiem for a Dream where a bunch of clips are cut together quickly for dramatic effect:
To learn how it was done, I went through the clip literally one frame at a time (use the arrow keys in DaVinci Resolve or Quicktime) to pick it apart.
Sometimes this involves digging through tutorials to figure out what a particular thing is called, then researching that.
You might start by searching for something vague like “how to make text move Adobe Premiere”, learn some of the lingo and start searching for specific techniques like “text motion tracking” or “text transition animations”. Replacing a background is usually covered under topics like “keying” or “chroma keying”. Zoomers will know this as the “green screen” effect in TikTok.
A whole other world that will take you down the rabbit hole is color correction. Nothing screams amateur hour more than someone’s face being super red or green looking because the iPhone you shot it on couldn’t adjust correctly to the lighting. This is usually a fixable problem, just pull some of the offending colors out of the image.
Questions & Comments
This should be enough to give you a basic overview of what you’re getting into. Please feel from to leave questions or comments, but please don’t ask anything that you can just search for on Google or YouTube.
For now I don’t plan to do a regular newsletter, only articles on answer common questions I get over and over agin. The best use of my skillset in The Jungle (and all of the Metaverse) is to help people market their projects, collaborate on NFTs, and stay busy making things.