Editing with Excellence An Essay by

For part 1 of this two-part article, which speaks about video taping, see here.

As Muslims, we always have to try to do our best in anything we do. For, as stated by the Messenger of Allah (Salallahu ‘Alayhi Wasallam), “Verily, Allah has prescribed proficiency in all things.” (Hadith #17, An-Nawawi 40 Hadith). Therefore, whatever we produce, we must produce it with Ihsaan (translated as excellence or proficiency). Therefore, we can’t have those videos with boring titles, horrible audio and video quality, and a straight, one-angle shot of a speaker from forty-feet away (There’s actually a Masjid that used a security camera to tape a lecture). We have to be the best of the best, as we are conveying a message that is the best from the best Messenger who received the best book from the lord of all the worlds. We have a standard to uphold. In this post, I will go over some basic editing techniques that will hopefully improve your videos.

Editing Software (and why your budget doesn’t matter).

Many people feel that they need the best technology to produce the best content. They feel in order to get to that ultimate goal of excellence, they need the $$$ to pay for it. However, this is definitely not the case. An editing software does not make a great video: it’s the creative, motivated, and focused person behind the camera and computer that makes a great video.

So, let’s begin with some real tips, now, shall we?

First, you need to see what editor you’ll be working on. I’d recommend to start simple, with Windows Movie Maker or iMovie (what usually comes with Windows or Mac computers). For most of the article, I’m writing with Windows Movie Maker in mind, just so you know. Almost all editing software has some basic elements:

  • A timeline, usually at the bottom of the screen.
  • A footage bin, usually on the left side of the screen, above the timeline, which has all the footage and audio you have available.
  • A preview window, where you can see a preview of the final video, from wherever you are in the timeline. (Usually on the right side, above the timeline).

Basically, to edit, you’d drag your video clips from the footage bin to the timeline. You put them in the right order, then add titles, audio, and whatever else you’d like. You’ll see the final preview of your current position in the video on the preview window. This article isn’t really about specific editing softwares and how to use them, so this is just a basic breakdown. If ever you don’t know how to do something, I’m sure that the program’s help feature can definitely help you out. I don’t know why, but people often overlook or under-use the help menu. I don’t know if it’s a pride thing or whatever, but you should definitely use it if you need, and at last resort, search online for the function.

Basic Editing with Video Clips

Most of the time, you want to edit your elements (whether they be video clips or photos) together. What most people think when they see a program filled with fancy effects and transitions (moving from one clip to another), their instinct is to use all of them to look “professional”, when they come off looking tacky (those checkerboards and swirly reveals don’t cut it). However, most videos and films are made with a few very basic and timeless transitions. You should use only these for basic videos.

  • The Cut – Straight from one clip to another. When one ends, the other starts. This is the most common transition. However, be wise in using it. Cut the end of one clip at a reasonable point (i.e. after someone’s done talking, after an action is completed, not in the middle of something, except when using multiple camera angles).
  • The Fade – When a clip comes in from a black (or white) screen, or it goes out to a black (or white) screen. This is generally used at the beginning and end of videos. You can use it between clips (and don’t get it confused with the dissolve, see next point) when transitioning between two scenes or ideas.
  • The Dissolve – When one clip fades into another clip. This transition is sometimes mistakenly called the fade, but it really is called the dissolve. You can use this between clips to show the passing of time or show a new scene or idea (i.e. “then, we went to the Masjid”). Transitions are definitely something that many people misuse but when used properly, they can really enhance one’s video.

Another thing that can be used is called a master shot where it’s the main footage you’re using (perhaps your main angle of a lecture, or an interview). Then you cut away from that throughout at certain points with clips called cutaway shots. These cutaway shots can be taken from your b-roll footage (random footage).

Titling

I despise the cookie-cutter title. Maybe it’s because I’m a graphic designer, and hate the lack of creativity, but it’s just so boring. I’m talking about the title with white text, a dark blue background (following the template) and written in Times New Roman. Spice it up! Try different fonts and colors, and perhaps different animations. But, from a personal point of view, I’d recommend staying away from animations that have become known and used so many times (some that come to mind is the ‘mirror text’, ‘exploding outline’, and ‘moving tiles, layered’). Also the rule of thirds can be applied here as well. If you’ve ever noticed with news shows, they show the name of someone or the story in a place called the “lower third”. (If you divide your screen, with your mind, into a tic-tac-toe board, you’ll four lines, put your text below the lower horizontal line). You can use this area also, on top of footage, to introduce someone. Be creative with your titles, and use them to explain what the video can’t.

Make Your Video a Story

Any video you make is a story you’re trying to tell. Create some conflict that ends up getting solved.

  • There’s usually a structure where you have three acts. It’s similar to play-writing of scriptwriting, but you don’t really have to make a precise script. I personally haven’t dabbled too far into this, but the main thing is that you introduce a conflict and solve it. People like drama. Give them what they like and they’ll appreciate your video. Use the three acts to first introduce your conflict, perhaps bring some other elements that complicate it, and something that solves it. An idea would be, if you’re trying to promote an event like a brother’s live-in camp at the Masjid, then show a brother that acts bad (first act). Show him having some sort of experience that makes him want to be good (second act). And finally bring him to the camp where he finds his solution (third act). Of course, that’s a very cheesy example, but you should try to get the point.

Plan out your video, don’t just go straight into it. I believe there is more to the three-act structure than mentioned here, but the main point I’m trying to get across is that you should tell some sort of story to connect with your audience.

To conclude, there are many sites that I’ve researched to find out what I know. Two good ones are Leechon.com (a Muslim brother’s reflections on his business, in the field of video and marketing), you can check his archive to see some of his older stuff that deals more with video and film; and also TakeZer0.com (go to their episodes and look at some of their older stuff that includes tips on film and video). And finally, there’s brother Belal Khan’s (of Leechon) project called MessageMastery, which is a community of people to learn about video techniques and marketing. Here’s the first session of his series where I picked up a few things. It’s a long video, but if you have the time, go ahead as it’ll really benefit you. If not, you can skip through to find some central points he speaks of (it’s broken up as it’s a powerpoint).

May Allah help you all with your endeavors and may He bless all of your projects. Ameen.


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  • http://www.muslimyouthmusings.com/ Arif Kabir

    Very Interesting Masha’Allah…

    I had never really thought of protraying our films as movies – that’s a pretty cool idea.

    Actually, one of the main reasons, now that I think of it, of why I wanted to begin video editing and such is because when I design, there’s only so much you can protray. It’s rather hard to evoke all the emotions that go into a project in designing. Hey, perhaps it can be done by some top-notch graphic designer but even then, it’ll never really be at the same level as even a video by a video amateur.

    On this note, what do you think would be the best way to implement this storyline method in the various recordings of the Khutbahs? Perhaps the most interesting points or a teaser should quickly be shown first? The people recording this don’t really have the power to ‘direct’ it; they just record it and try to get as much people as possible to see it. So for these people, what should they do?

  • http://jawaadahmadkhan.wordpress.com/ Jawaad Ahmad Khan

    When you asked the question, immediately it reminded me of “The Strangers” – a DVD produced by brother Belal before he had Leechon. With this, it was a lecture, but he had a unique introduction. See his blog post on it here – http://www.leechonfilms.com/?p=26

    However, we all don’t have the resources to make a mini-film as an intro to our khutbahs. So, in light of your question, I’ll try to answer InshaAllah.

    In terms of getting people to see it, I think a teaser would work best for it, a straight 30-sec to 1 min spot with the most interesting and captivating points made in the lecture along with the general theme. However, that’s in marketing video production which is like another study.

    I guess, from my initial thoughts on this, perhaps like I’d said with a three-act type thing, we can present a problem in the beginning, one overall question that the Khutbah would answer. And maybe at the end, a solution title that clears it up.

    Perhaps throughout a Khutbah, you can make it sort of like a presentation, where you can edit in the points he says on the sidebar or something.

    Or, my wacky thought that I’m now thinking of doing (I believe my dad was just told he has to give Khutbah this Friday again ), making the entire khutbah into a film. It’d be difficult, and would change the original presentation, but it should be possible to make the khutbah (re-arranging and editing it in a certain order) to have a story line.

    Or, and this is my final thought, a somewhat supplementary film, (it probably could pass as just text of a made up story) in which the Khutbah is injected into (kind of like as cutaways) that would bring wisdom into the certain situation of the what’s going on in the storyline. Two videos in one.

    As you can see from above, video has great potential, and so many many options. This is just me rambling on, but InshaAllah with the next Khutbah I edit, I’ll try to string together something more storylike. (Like I’d said above, I only just started trying to implement the three-act structure).

    Jazakallahu Khair for your interest in this.
    Wasalaamu ‘Alaikum

  • http://jawaadahmadkhan.wordpress.com Jawaad Ahmad Khan

    When you asked the question, immediately it reminded me of “The Strangers” – a DVD produced by brother Belal before he had Leechon. With this, it was a lecture, but he had a unique introduction. See his blog post on it here – http://www.leechonfilms.com/?p=26

    However, we all don’t have the resources to make a mini-film as an intro to our khutbahs. So, in light of your question, I’ll try to answer InshaAllah.

    In terms of getting people to see it, I think a teaser would work best for it, a straight 30-sec to 1 min spot with the most interesting and captivating points made in the lecture along with the general theme. However, that’s in marketing video production which is like another study.

    I guess, from my initial thoughts on this, perhaps like I’d said with a three-act type thing, we can present a problem in the beginning, one overall question that the Khutbah would answer. And maybe at the end, a solution title that clears it up.

    Perhaps throughout a Khutbah, you can make it sort of like a presentation, where you can edit in the points he says on the sidebar or something.

    Or, my wacky thought that I’m now thinking of doing (I believe my dad was just told he has to give Khutbah this Friday again ), making the entire khutbah into a film. It’d be difficult, and would change the original presentation, but it should be possible to make the khutbah (re-arranging and editing it in a certain order) to have a story line.

    Or, and this is my final thought, a somewhat supplementary film, (it probably could pass as just text of a made up story) in which the Khutbah is injected into (kind of like as cutaways) that would bring wisdom into the certain situation of the what’s going on in the storyline. Two videos in one.

    As you can see from above, video has great potential, and so many many options. This is just me rambling on, but InshaAllah with the next Khutbah I edit, I’ll try to string together something more storylike. (Like I’d said above, I only just started trying to implement the three-act structure).

    Jazakallahu Khair for your interest in this.
    Wasalaamu ‘Alaikum

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  • runningmuslimah

    good article. in my opinion, cut and fade is all anyone should ever use. the content should speak for itself, not the medium through which it is being transmitted. NOT noticing the cut should be the goal of the editor.

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  • http://youthmusings.wordpress.com/ Arif Kabir

    Very Interesting Masha’Allah…

    I had never really thought of protraying our films as movies – that’s a pretty cool idea.

    Actually, one of the main reasons, now that I think of it, of why I wanted to begin video editing and such is because when I design, there’s only so much you can protray. It’s rather hard to evoke all the emotions that go into a project in designing. Hey, perhaps it can be done by some top-notch graphic designer but even then, it’ll never really be at the same level as even a video by a video amateur.

    On this note, what do you think would be the best way to implement this storyline method in the various recordings of the Khutbahs? Perhaps the most interesting points or a teaser should quickly be shown first? The people recording this don’t really have the power to ‘direct’ it; they just record it and try to get as much people as possible to see it. So for these people, what should they do?