Page last updated at 17:31 GMT, Wednesday, 30 August 2006 18:31 UK

Editing tips for TV news

Jonathan Nex leads a team of BBC video editors
Jonathan Nex leads a team of video editors, also called picture editors
Jonathan Nex leads a team of video editors, sometimes known as picture editors, although they edit sound as well as pictures.

Their job is to assemble material gathered by reporters into TV reports.

Jonathan's love of film when he was at school led him to became a picture editor. A frequent visitor to the cinema, he would watch films up to five times. He said: "If a film's really good, you naturally concentrate on the story line, but if you find yourself watching a film you don't particularly enjoy, look again with a critical eye. Try and work out how it's been edited together."

The aspect of his job he most enjoys is turning an ordinary piece of film into something extraordinary. He said: "You can film something really boring and still make it look exciting through good editing."

Here are his tips on editing a news story for TV.

Log your shots

The first thing to do is view your tape and the time code. Make a list, or log, of the different shots you see, the times they start and finish (called in and out points) and what people say (script). Have a look at this example:

Log your shots
Time in Time out Shots Script
00:00 00.11 Mini motos racing around a track Reporter: Introduction
00.11 00.14 Mini motos going past a bicycle on a road Reporter: But this is what is happening on Britain's streets?
00.14 00:25 Mini motos in a car park Reporter: Police say mini motos are ridden on pavements and car parks

If someone can log, while you are filming, even better! It will save you valuable editing time, particularly if you are on a deadline.

Assembly edit

Timeline of a TV news report on a computer screen
Now you are ready to do an assembly edit. That is where you look at your storyboard and cut out the film to match the shots you planned.

The paper edit will help you find these sections easily. Lay them down in order. In most computer editing packages, this means laying them on a line from left to right, called a timeline.

Sound edit

Now do a sound edit. Listen to the script and cut the film so that it all makes sense when you listen to it.

Your edited report on the timeline should now look almost finished.

Final edit

Jonathan Nex leads a team of BBC video editors, sometimes known as picture editors
This is where you put the finishing touches to your report.

For example, you can add different bits of video, to make your report visually interesting, and graphics.

The final edit usually involves shortening the report or making it more concise. Make sure your overall editor is happy you haven't cut out any vital bits such as the other side of the argument!

Adding visual interest

Children playing football in a park
If you want to, you can put different video over the sound. For example, if the reporter is speaking to the camera and you want to keep his voice, but show the location, you can cut and paste pictures from the original film and overlay them onto the timeline.

As a general rule, these pictures should be two seconds or longer - otherwise, it is too quick for the audience.

Make sure you reduce any background noise attached to the location shots, so you can hear the reporter's words clearly. Don't remove the background noise though, at a low level, it makes the report sound natural.

Editing interviews

Example of an over the shoulder shot
You can cut out the reporter's questions, as long as the interviewee answers in full sentences. This will make your report more concise.

You only need to include one or two good answers in your report. Listen to all the answers first and select the best ones. It will save you valuable editing time, particularly if you are on a deadline.

Interviews often involve filming the interviewee's head and shoulders. If you want a bit of variety, try these different shots:

  • The reporter's shoulder and the interviewee - called an over the shoulder shot
  • The reporter and the interviewee - called a two shot
  • The reporter listening, NOT speaking - called a listening shot

Keep the sound track you laid down in the sound edit and overlay the pictures.


There's no need to go overboard with these. If you've filmed your report well, you won't need to add any! Here are a couple you might like to try:

  • Blurring the edges between one shot and the next, called a dissolve. This is often used to show that time has passed.
  • Fading from or to black at the beginning and end of your report, to mark the beginning and end.

Adding graphics

To make your report look really professional, add name and job titles. Have a look for the "title tool" or something that does the same job.

Using titles means that the reporter and interviewees don't need to spend time introducing themselves, for example: "I'm Professor Massam and I'm a Sports expert from the University of Nowhere." This helps to keep your report short and snappy.

When adding titles, keep the font plain and make the words big enough to read on screen. Make sure you spell names correctly!

Remember that if the person is under 18, only use their FIRST name.


Take two film DVDs with bonus material of the director or an actor commenting on the film.

Watch one film with the commentary.

Now watch the second film WITHOUT the commentary. Have a go yourself, either recording your voice on tape or writing it down.

Now play the actor or director's commentary and compare it with yours.

Soon, you'll be looking at every film or news report with the eyes of a picture editor.

Good luck and happy editing!



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