Editing like a pro

NBCU Academy 101

CNBC and NBCU Academy editor Evan Tyler offers tips about what to keep in mind when editing for broadcast news. If you’re considering a career in editing, this is a must-see look at the job from one of our top content creators. Watch the video above or read a summary below. (Some comments have been lightly edited for brevity.)

Video editors are crucial in visual storytelling, since they make a final product from elements provided by news reporters and producers: narration track, soundbites, video, graphics, b-roll and more.

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“A puzzle is a good analogy for what we do,” says editor Evan Tyler. “Maybe it has puzzle pieces, but not a final picture. You’re the one that makes that picture out of those puzzle pieces.”

First, the editor reads the producer’s script to get an idea of the piece’s length and general look. The script can have varying levels of specificity. It helps the editor start to visualize what the video will look like.

Then the editor lays down the narration track and soundbites to make the “skeleton” of the video.

“When you’re cutting soundbites, it’s a good practice to listen through to make sure that you’re not changing the context,” Tyler says.

Next, the editor adds sound-ups — little moments of natural sound heard during brief breaks in the narration.

“Sound-ups are one of the most important things you can get into any piece,” Tyler says. “It could be a car driving by, a door closing, a register beep. It can be less than a second, but it has a way of punctuating something.”

Finally, the editor adds the rest of the video, making sure the images accurately reflect the report, and prepares the piece for air.

Editors have to be flexible because their workday often changes with the news cycle.

CNBC and NBCU Academy editor Evan Tyler at his editing desk.

“I might come in one morning and my schedule says I’m working on this show. I sit down, I leisurely go about it,” Tyler says. “And then the phone rings. Bam — you’re on breaking news. It needs to be out in five minutes. Get on it.”

Students who are thinking about getting into editing should pay closer attention to what they’re watching on television. Whether it’s a sitcom or the news, Tyler says students should look for things like when shots change, when music comes up and goes out and when sound-ups appear.

“If you’re watching things as a viewer, this is all supposed to be more or less invisible to you,” Tyler says. “You have to take yourself out of being a viewer, a consumer of TV and start to really pay attention to how it’s all put together.”

Tyler says he sometimes feels “quite a bit of pressure” while editing, since journalists spend a lot of time, money and effort to collect the media he works with. Editors can literally have the last hand in the collaborative effort that goes into news pieces.

“When you can really contribute and put together a good story, that’s rewarding,” Tyler says.