Simple Video Editing Tips for Lawyers

Video editing graphicIn the age of COVID-19, video has become a dominant and ubiquitous form of communication (see TikTok). Videos are entertaining, engaging, and more expressive than photos.

According to Statista, when it comes to YouTube, people upload 500 hours of video every minute and watch around 1 billion hours of content each day.

At the Commission, we’ve seen our viewership on YouTube grow immensely over the past year. In fact, from September 2020 to September 2021, our channel received 43% more views than the year before. (If you haven’t checked out our YouTube content yet, you’re missing out.)

Organizations are increasingly turning to video to communicate about their services, build trust, and demonstrate their thought leadership.

So, how can lawyers take advantage of video? According to Clio, when it comes to marketing, lawyers should look to video to convey complex legal concepts, engage with prospective clients, and communicate their subject-matter expertise.

Video can also be used to market yourself when delivering a CLE. Lawyers can use videos to enhance engagement with a course and create a “narrative immersion,” or drawing viewers into the course’s narrative and allowing them to connect more deeply with the content.

Developing and editing video can seem daunting, but you can handle it. In this post, I share some simple tips for lawyers looking to develop and edit video.

First, record the video

As an aside, in this blog I’m going to focus on Windows 10/Office tools, specifically Video Editor, Voice Recorder, and PowerPoint.

Although Mac users have the powerful iMovie software and Chromebook users have many downloadable tools on the Chrome Web Store, the majority of people (about 73%, in fact) use Windows laptops.

Before editing a video, you have to record it. There are (ironically) a million videos on YouTube explaining how to record video. I’m not going to reinvent the wheel, but here are some best practices:

    • Invest in a quality microphone, if possible (see the video below for a comparison).

     

  • Avoid wearing patterned clothing.
  • Use a simple recording software (such as Voice Recorder) when narrating, then insert the files into your presentation.
  • Place the light in front of you, not behind, and even consider two lighting sources. The primary light source will highlight you, while the secondary source will offset shadows. (If you’re feeling adventurous, try three-point lighting.)
  • Look into the camera, not your screen.
  • Avoid habits such as touching your face, large gestures, etc.
  • Think about composition, such as the Rule of Thirds.

Next, edit your video

Once you’ve recorded your video, chances are there will be things you don’t like. Don’t feel bad; everything you’ve seen on TV has had the audio edited, frames cut, color improved, etc.

If you have access to a video editing suite, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Camtasia (and you know how to use it), I’d recommend you stop here. This blog isn’t for you.

But if your expertise ends at pressing record on your phone or tablet, then keep reading. I have some tips that can help take your video to the next level.

Producing professional-level video takes professional-grade tools and expertise. However, it’s possible to use some free and easily accessible tools to make basic improvements without too much effort or a steep learning curve.

Built-in video editing tools

You can do a surprising amount with built-in editing tools. For example, editing out sections of your video, changing the color and contrast (the difference between how light and dark the colors are), and adding transitions to help move smoothly between different clips or sections. It’s even possible to add screen text and animations.

Let’s start with a simple video I recorded on my laptop. It’s a bit dark, I cough in it, and there’s a list that I would like to add as text. I’d also like to add a question for the audience.


 

I can use PowerPoint and/or Windows Video Editor to accomplish these things.

PowerPoint

When using PowerPoint, remember that video can be presented in two ways: you can insert video into the slides of a regular presentation or export the whole presentation as a video file, with the slides, text animations, etc.

The best option depends on what you’re trying to deliver: a presentation or a prerecorded video.

Both methods start by inserting the video into PowerPoint. Let’s assume you have it saved on your laptop. You can insert the video by clicking Insert > Video > This Device. Then browse for your video file, select it, and it will be inserted into the slide.

Once the video is in your PowerPoint, you’ll notice that two additional tabs appear at the top. This is where you’ll be doing your video editing.

 

PowerPoint editing ribbon

 

Let’s start with the Format tab.

 

PowerPoint format tab

 

I want to add text to the slide, so I need to crop the video frame. I’d also like to improve the look, so I select “Corrections” to change the contrast and brightness. Finally, I’d like to highlight me (because, of course…), so I select a “Moderate Frame” as the video style.

Next, I’d like to add some text to the slide (if you want to animate your text to time with the narration, here are the steps). I simply move the video to the side, add the text, and voila!

 

PowerPoint slide with video and text

 

Next, I want to get rid of the cough at the beginning. To do this, I trim the video until after the cough by clicking the video, selecting the “Playback” tab, then “Trim,” and moving the green and red markers to where I want the new video to start and stop.

 

Trimming a video in PowerPoint


Windows Video Editor

If I want to keep the beginning of the video and just remove the cough, Windows Video Editor (which comes free with Windows 10) can help me.

It’s a simple tool that allows you to split videos into sections, combine videos, and add audio, effects, and transitions.

To start, open Video Editor and select “New Video Project.” A pop-up will appear asking you to name your project. Give it the name you’d like the final video to be called and click “OK.”

You’ll then see the screen below. It may seem a bit overwhelming, but the interface makes sense when you think of your video as a story you’re putting together.

First, gather all of the clips you want to add in the project library. Then place the clips into the storyboard in the order you want viewers to see them. Finally, add any text, effects, etc., and export the file as a new, completed video.

 

Windows Video Editor preview


Removing coughs, pauses, and mistakes

If I want to cut out the cough and add some text to portions of the video, I’m going to cut the video up into bits on the storyboard. This allows me to work with each bit separately.

First, the cough. I added the video and used the “Split” function to split the file just before and after the cough. (The middle clip of 1.53 seconds is the cough.)

 

Windows Video Editor preview

Now, I delete the middle clip and join the two ends. It’s not perfect, but see the result here:

 


Adding text to the video

On to the text. At around 9 seconds I list three things – mics, transitions, and clipping – that I want to add as text to the screen.

I don’t want the text to come in early, so I split the 11.77 clip just before my narrated list and use the text tool to add text to the new clip (6.63 seconds).

That way it appears just as I talk about it and not elsewhere, which would be distracting. (You can also add text to the entire original clip and select the period the text will appear, but I find it easier to think in scenes).

(FYI: It’s possible to add text to video in PowerPoint using Bookmarks and Animation Triggers, but that’s for another day.)

And that’s that. Take a look here at the final 15-second video.

 

 
It’s not exactly Alfonso Cuarón, but even little tweaks can elevate the quality of your video.

Good luck, and feel free to comment or add a link to your final video below!

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