Make a Career out of your Video Editing Skills

video editing jobs in television

Professional video editing used to require huge, expensive equipment but now you can produce broadcast quality work on affordable systems

In television production there are three pillar skills which if mastered a world of opportunity awaits – writing, shooting and video editing.

In the last decade, video editing has become an even more powerful tool as more and more consumers are doing the work that had previously been reserved for special people locked in dark rooms with $30,000 suites of fancy equipment.

Many amateur video editors wonder if the skills they have learned creating their own pet projects or home movies can actually be developed and refined into a career. The simple answer is yes.

There are many careers in television where video editing is the primary skill put to use each day.

“I spend a huge majority of my time video editing,” says James Rafferty, statewide promotions manager for the Montana Television Network, a group of seven CBS affiliates.  “Quality is my number one priority, but with seven stations to service I also need to be quick and efficient.  A news/sports editing background really helps with that, as opposed to a standard production editing background where you have a lot of time to spend on things.”

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As statewide promotions manager it is Rafferty’s job to produce and edit on-air marketing and promotions for all the CBS stations from Kalispell to Billings, while also building the branding elements and graphics used within the various newscasts.

“I always tell our news staff we have opposite jobs,” says Rafferty.  “Their job is to tell people the who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Mine is to not tell them any of that, but give them a reason to join us at 10:00 to get those details.”

Working in promotions, or sometimes referred to as creative services, isn’t as easy as editing a video for YouTube, but it’s a goal worth pursuing if you’ve found video editing is something you truly enjoy doing.

For more on what it takes to work in television promotions, here’s more with James Rafferty:

As a former Director, you’ve made quite the shift to working in promotions, what are the skills you’ve had to develop in this role?

Rafferty: In previous jobs I usually had a graphic artist to handle most of the PhotoShop elements.  Here I don’t have that, so I had to teach myself PhotoShop.  Along with that, I had to learn After Effects (editors note: After Effects is a digital motions graphics and visual effects software package).

Without those two programs, I wouldn’t be able to do my job.

I’ve also had to really study up on the interactive side of things, with an extra emphasis on social media.  We don’t have a huge online department, so the promotions department handles a lot of our online work along with my usually television duties.

If someone wanted to work in promotions, what should their training/background require? What are your most essential tools?

Rafferty: The basics come first…writing, shooting, video editing.  Although everything in our business is constantly changing, those three elements are always involved.  If you have a strong grasp on those, you can work yourself into almost any role.

Beyond that, you need a willingness to try new things and leave your comfort zone.  I see a lot of people that have done things the same way for 20 years.  It may have worked for them over two decades, but they really aren’t adapting to today’s methods and will eventually be left behind.

What would you say are the essential elements of a good promotional spot?

Rafferty: Most of our spots are quick and upbeat.  We have the occasional slower spots that we let breath a bit.  However, most of the time I rarely let a host go more than 2 seconds.  A regular 15 second topical spot for us will usually involve a 2 second open animation, 10-11 seconds in the middle consisting of probably 15-20 shots and then another 3 seconds of a graphic end tag.

video editing software jobs in television

Video editing software, like Adobe Premiere Pro, requires training and a lot of trial and error, but is affordable and can help lead you to a career

My time in sports really plays into that.  There are times in sports when you need to let a shot play out and hang on it longer than you might usually do so.  But, there are also a lot of times, especially with some of the material I produced (bump-ins, roll-outs, etc) where pace is everything and you need to fit a lot of shots in.

I’m also a big fan of simplicity.  A well edited sequence of cuts can be just as effective as slapping a huge amount of wipes, DVE effects, and page turns all over everything.  They are called “special” effects for a reason…there is no need to use them on every shot.

Fear is a powerful motivator – you see it used often in TV news – what emotions do you try to tap into to get viewers to stick around or come back later?

Rafferty: There’s the exaggerated promo line of “there’s something in your house that could kill you…we’ll tell you what it is at 10”.

I try not to go down that route. I think our viewers are smarter than that.

Instead of flat out fear, I always try the “arming you with information” approach.  The world’s not coming to an end, but there’s some stuff you should really know to make sure it doesn’t.

But…there are times when a story just lends itself to that.  Like it or not, this is a business and getting people to watch our news at 10:00 is my job.  I constantly try to balance my journalism background in news, my role as a viewer, and marketing.

Let’s talk about ‘breaking news’ – do you think the term gets overused? Are there other cliché promotional tactics that are a pet peeve of yours?

Rafferty: We are very conscious about using the term “breaking news”.  I’ve seen some stations roll it out at 5:00 pm when the story happened at 8:00 am.  It has to be going on at that moment to really be “breaking news”

The 24 Hour cable / internet news cycle really contributes to this at times.  Because they want to make themselves relevant 24 hours a day, everything they do has to be “breaking”.

“Team Coverage’ bugs me.  Isn’t everything we put on the air a result of a team?  The anchors don’t get to air without studio camera operators and control room people.  They are a team.  Just because you throw a bunch of reporters on the air now it’s a “team”.

When there is a tragedy and one of your stations is doing continuous coverage, you jump into action to “brand” what the station is focused on – how hectic is it trying to be creative against a deadline?

Rafferty: Your first priority is to be sensitive to the situation.  Remember that there is typically some sort of human tragedy involved and people that are hurting from it.  As a CBS affiliate and as a small market station we tend to go pretty conservative on these things.

video editing career protions manager montana television network

James Rafferty, statewide promotions manager for the Montana Television network uses the skills he’s developed over years in television to produce and edit marketing elements for seven CBS affiliates in Montana

We don’t come up with sensational Dateline-like “Murder in the Heartland” titles for things.

As far as the creativity on a deadline, it can be tough but we also prepare for these sorts of things.  We have a very strong graphics package and style guide, so we’re not starting from scratch on everything.

The first step is to come up with the title of our coverage and a font layout for it.

After that, it’s just a matter of incorporating it into our existing package.  I can typically have a full package of graphics ready for all of our stations to put on the air within 2 hours after a story initially breaks.

With your technical background is it hard to watch a fictionalized show like “The Newsroom” that is entertaining, but does some technically impossible things?

Rafferty: It is flat out painful.

Remember the early 90’s movie with Robert Redford and Michele Pfeiffer “Up Close and Personal”?  How in the hell did they do a live shot from inside a prison without any cables running to the camera or microphone?  I can understand the possibility of an RF camera or a wireless mic…but through prison walls and steel bars back to a simple microwave van?

I don’t think so.  I saw that movie in the theater with my sister and absolutely ruined it for her.

I’m willing to toss aside reality for the sake of a good story, but it can be like nails on a chalkboard.  The second season premiere of The Newsroom when they cut an audio track live over the phone really angered me. In fact, it made me so mad I haven’t watched the rest of season 2, it’s still sitting in my DVR waiting for me.

Key Takeaways from “Make a Career out of your Video Editing Skills”:

  • There are powerful video editing programs out there like Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro and Sony Vegas that are wonderful training grounds for a career that entails video editing. Start working on these programs to learn more than just the basics.
  • To jump to the next level, consider learning photo and video manipulation software packages like PhotoShop and After Effects.
  • Powerful content still wins out over whiz-bang effects. When video editing don’t become overly reliant on effects, stick with story development and save the effects for special purposes.
  • Try to avoid played out cliche’s like ‘Breaking News’ and ‘Team Coverage’
  • When you work in TV, you can’t watch TV he same anymore – you’ll always see the flaws!


About Brian Clapp

Brian Clapp has worked in the broadcast media for over 14 years as a writer, editor, producer & news director. After beginning his career in Atlanta at CNN/Sports Illustrated, he switched coasts to Seattle to work at Fox Sports Northwest. In 2010, Brian began pursuing a new found passion on the digital media side, launching a successful website and then taking on the role of Director of Content for &

Recently Brian has become addicted to Google+ and LinkedIn so add him to your circles and make him a contact. No seriously, you should.


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