The Different Types of Video Editing: Music Videos

In today's post, we discuss "The Different Types of Video Editing: Music Videos" with our Chief Editor at Kiaro Pictures, Stephanie Zinnes.

When many people watch a film or see a commercial on TV, they don’t often consider what it takes to make these pieces what they are. Every piece of media that we come across on a daily basis was, at some point, directed, shot, and edited before it reached the viewer and each type of project is created in a unique way that is particular to that specific genre of video. One area where the different feelings of these projects become very evident is in the editing room.

There are many different types of projects out there such as music videos, commercials, films, documentaries, corporate, promotional, television shows, and many more, but how do they all differ from one other? In this series of articles I will explain some of the differences in the editing process, and some tips, for some of these different types of editing styles.

Music Videos:

Unlike films, music videos do not necessarily need to have a clear cut story or even need to match what the song is about if the director chooses, but there are still some key defining elements that makes this genre different from the others. 

Typically, music video concepts are created by listening to the song that will be used and a story is created that either follows the lyrics or flows with the overall feel of the song. The feeling of the song is similar to the reaction you would have from watching a horror film vs a romantic comedy. In a horror film you feel on edge and that at any second a deranged clown could pop up out of the shadows and chainsaw you; but in a romantic comedy you feel calm, sometimes even emotional, and see conflict throughout the film but always expect the end of the movie to result in the main characters settling their differences and living happily ever after. These different reactions are created by many different elements in the filmmaking process, but the most important part of the process for mood creation and immersion is in editing.

Just like those different types of films that evoke different reactions, different genres of music do the same thing. A country song will almost certainly have a music video that would differ from a rap song not only because of the lyrics, but the flow and pacing of the music.

One of the first things that I consider in making a music video edit is to determine the beat and cut points. Songs tend to be repetitive and usually have an underlying beat that is consistent throughout most of the song. Before I even begin to start putting footage on my timeline I listen through the song a few times to get the feel of it, then do a pass where I place markers (premiere keyboard shortcut “M”) at every beat point. To aid me in this, I oftentimes look at the waveform, where it’s easier to see each individual beat. This trick doesn't work with all songs, as music with a lot of different instruments tend to have more chaotic waveforms, but for music that only uses a few instruments or is beat focused it is usually great to try this method, as shown below:

There are a few different special effects and cuts that are often used in music video edits. One effect in particular, the strobe or flicker effect, is almost exclusively used in music videos. These effects are either used for transitions or emphasis and quickly alternate between two images, an image and black, or an image and white. You see this often in rap and dance music videos that have very pronounced beats. 

Another cut that is often used in music videos are jump cuts, which are sudden transitions from one scene or clip to another one. In the context of a music video, they are often used to speed up movement or to cut to the beat with the same clip. These are often used in music videos because the final videos are usually the same length as the song (around 1-3 minutes). Therefore, showing every small detail of a person walking over to a cup, picking up the cup, putting the cup to their mouth, then pulling the cup away from their mouth, as you would typically do in a film, can be a big waste of time in a high-energy edit. Instead, you can go from a person picking up the cup, jump cutting to the instant they put the cup to their mouth, to them already pulling the cup away. By doing this you save time, keep the pace fast, and still allow the viewer to understand that the person just took a drink out of a cup. 

A transition that is often used in slower songs is the cross fade and it's used in the same way as you would use it in films, to show the passage of time or to eliminate harsh cuts and allow for the piece to feel more flowy. Folk and country songs that have a slower drawn out pace with beats far apart from each other can make it more difficult to make consistent cuts. By using a cross fade, you blur the transition so they take up some of that time and eliminate any jump cuts that could break immersion. This effect should be used sparingly as, like all transitions, they can break the overall feeling of the edit and lower the production value by emphasizing that it is edited. The viewer should not be watching the edit or even realize that they are watching a video, they should be so immersed that they feel as if what was on screen was happening right in front of them.


Overall, you can think of music video editing as a blend of cutting a short film and a trailer. The short film aspect is creating a story that the viewer can follow while the trailer aspect is taking all of the important aspects of that story and condensing it to give an overview of that story. Add in the music and you have a hybrid that tells a complete story with only the key moments included. 

So, if you're ever approached to edit a music video and you've never done one before, don't fret! All you have to do is keep these tips in mind and apply what you already know about editing and storytelling and you'll be creating music videos for your favorite musicians in no time!

WRITTEN BY: Stephanie Zinnes