An Intimate Look at our Video Editor's Tool Belt
OK, maybe “intimate” isn’t the right word. Anyway, in today’s article, TRG Reality's video editors reveal their favorite video editing tools, tricks and software. It might not be as cool as Batman’s tool belt, but it’s pretty close...
Take it away!
Video Editing Tools
When it comes to creating and editing videos for TRG Reality clients, we rely heavily on Adobe Premiere Pro. Even Hollywood is adopting Premiere more and more, with films such as Avatar, Deadpool, Gone Girl, and Hail Caesar including it in their creative process. With Adobe Premiere, we can edit video, mix audio, color grade with Lumetri color and scopes, and even add simple, sleek titles all in one program. Premiere has some tremendous out-of-the-box tools that we use on nearly all projects, and it fits great into our workflow, which is explained a few paragraphs down.
We spend a lot of time in Adobe After Effects as well. This software has a steeper learning curve than Premiere, but that’s mostly because of its extensive functionality. Our most common usage of After Effects is to create motion graphics—such as lower thirds, kinetic typography, transitions, and intro screens. We also use After Effects to composite things like 3D objects rendered by our CGI department, keying green screens, changing the color of an object, removing logos, and more! We do take advantage of some third-party plugins to extend Premiere’s functionality, and those are addressed later in this post.
Even though the name of the game is video editing, we often break open Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop for image editing. Sometimes it's for simple tasks such as switching a graphic that came from a client from CMYK to RGB. Other times, it involves thoughtfully reorganizing layers in an Illustrator document so it can be imported as a layered composition into After Effects for animating. It may even involve retouching in Photoshop. Have you noticed a trend yet? If you’re interested in a career in video editing, we suggest getting your hands on Adobe products as they have a lot to offer for professional video editing.
Using programs that come from the same author allows for a more unified workflow. This is where Adobe excels. It's no problem to move back-and-forth between Premiere, After Effects, Media Encoder, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Not to mention, we really dig Adobe's TypeKit fonts that come with the Creative Cloud membership. Sometimes our clients use TypeKit fonts in their branding, which means all we have to do is download the fonts from Adobe, and poof! They're synced to all Adobe products in our Creative Cloud account. The Adobe Creative Cloud allows us to be more productive while maintaining the quality of work.
The industry standard for color grading is DaVinci Resolve for a reason – the software is extremely powerful and allows for high precision. Whether you need to shift the color to an extreme or dial into a very specific hue, saturation and/or luminance, DaVinci is masterful. It offers a wonderful keyer and motion tracker as well. DaVinci works very well round-tripping with Premiere. We clean up our Premiere timeline and export it as an XML, bring it into DaVinci, and after color grading, render out color graded clips to throw back into Premiere. There's a bit of a learning curve since DaVinci is a node-based software, but learning node-based software is a must if you want to be a great colorist or compositor because the next piece of (node-based) software is essential as well.
Nuke is one heck of a compositing weapon. Just a quick look at their website shows you the biggest movies in Hollywood basically all use Nuke. The reason is simple - the software is extremely powerful and able to accomplish pretty amazing things. We may not be compositing the Millenium Falcon into a flight scene but Nuke is also extremely useful if you need to have a car engine lift out of a car while running.
Adobe Media Encoder is, hands down, one of the best encoding tools around. It works with many video formats and sizes, and—while the presets work great—it is also entirely customizable to fit any specific needs. Even more impressive, you can add multiple file compressions to a target, and they will encode simultaneously! Since we work on some pimped out iMac Pros, we use Wondershare’s Video Converter on the rare occasion we need to render or encode a PC filetype like a .WMV or the filetype every video editor dreads being asked to make: an AVI.
Magical Little Helpers
We do the bulk of our work with the software listed above. Those are definitely the “heavy hitters,” but we also use a few plugins to make life easier and add extra wow-factor.
The Trapcode Suite by Red Giant sets the industry bar with 11 tools for 3D motion graphics and VFX. Its flagship product is Particular, a 3D particle system that is highly modifiable and much richer than the particle system plugins After Effects comes with.
You really need to check out the video to see how amazing this plugin is. It can honestly save you hours and hours of editing time. Plural Eyes syncs audio and multi-camera video automatically, preparing your sync in a matter of seconds (rather than days). This standalone application works directly with Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Vegas Pro, and Edius. Monitor the sync with an interactive timeline and visual feedback, and use built-in fine-tuning controls afterward. When we don't have a lot to sync, Premiere has a built-in sync tool, but the downside is you can only do one clip at a time.
Mister Horse Animation Composer
Animation Composer is a free plugin, and with it you get a respectable amount of free motion presets to start you off. (You can purchase additional presets, precomps, and sounds from their website). We love this plugin because it's a big timesaver, and we must say, the animations are well-made. They have easing and life to them. Animation Composer shows up in a nicely organized panel within After Effects. You can actually preview each preset within this panel. Adding an animation to a layer is done in a click or two, and you can change the length of the animation by merely moving markers generated onto the layer.
Video Copilot Optical Flares
Andrew Kramer is well-known for his tutorials and his creation of the Optical Flares plugin for AE. It's a crowd favorite in the motion graphic and compositing world. This plugin has its own interface and allows you to fully customize all the pieces and parts of a lens flare or opt for one of the super cool 60 built-in presets.
Never Stop Learning
It’s incredibly important for us to stay up-to-date with the latest video editing trends, technology and software. If you’re interested in video editing, carve time out of your schedule and dedicate it to learning. There are tons of free online resources, forums and tutorials online to help you out, and here are some of our favorites.
We do recommend attending a college and getting a degree in the video field versus trying to figure it all out on your own. So, despite the clever name, No Film School is not a substitute for a college degree. Sorry! It is, however, a great place to learn from other people in the video/film industry via articles and forums.
Video Copilot offers their own video editing and video effects software, and their website is a terrific resource. Lots of videos, free presets and both basic and advanced training.
Creative Cow has tons of online resources, like forums, tutorials, videos, reviews, interviews, podcasts, and more. This site has been around forever, too (since 2001) and is a highly trusted resource in the creative community.
Like mentioned above, Red Giant dominates the video editing industry with software and tools. They’re also totally on-the-ball with providing their customer-base with free tutorials and resources. Check out their video database.
Greyscale Gorilla is an excellent place to go for tools and training for 3D work. They also have a highly active community, so if you have questions, there’s bound to be someone around to help you out. Even if it’s 3 AM.
fxphd is a subscription-based online VFX, post-production, and motion graphics training program led by professionals. We offer both application and craft-based courses, online discussion forums, and VPN software.
Well, that was an awful lot of information, wasn’t it? That’s our entire tool belt! It’s not as complicated as it sounds, but if you have any questions at all, feel free to ask in the comments below. We would love to help you out.
Note: This post was originally published in October 2013 and has been updated June 18, 2018.