Video Best Practices: Editing to Hold Attention

Every video competes for the same finite resource: Audience attention.

So what are video best practices for editing to hold audience attention?

Here are a few tried and true best practices — to help guide your approach as you edit videos.

how to edit video to hold attention


1) Respect the Audience
As a video editor, you control 100% of the audience’s viewing perspective.  So show the story as you would like to see and hear it.  If it isn’t interesting to you, it most likely won’t be interesting to them.

2) Keep It Moving
People have incredibly short attention spans — about eight seconds, on average.  Don’t bore them.

3) Action, Not Words
Show – don’t tell.  Video can convey far more information, faster and more effectively, than any verbal description can convey.

4) Amp Up Emotion
Emotion is connective tissue between your audience and your video — use it.  Emotional soundbytes are fantastic for grabbing audience interest.

5) Don’t Be (Too) Graphic
Graphics tend to be boring — especially when edited back-to-back.  A timely graphic, that illustrates a key point, is OK; just don’t overdo it.

6) Don’t Overcut
Quick cuts are a nifty trick to simulate change and grab attention.  But if over-used, quick cuts can be incredibly annoying.  Editing boring content with lots of quick cuts to fake energy and excitement is disrespectful to your audience — they will resent it.  Cut wisely.

7) 180-Degree Plane
By observing a 180-degree plane — an invisible line between your video and its audience — you keep a natural perspective for the audience. Breaking the 180 degree plane makes a video difficult to follow.

8) Vary Degrees/Cut on Motion
When cutting between shots, always try to use new shots that look at the subject from a difference of at least 45 degrees – otherwise, your shots may be so similar that they appear to be a jump cut.  Motion distracts the eye; when cutting from one image to another, try to do it when the first subject is in motion.   This masks the edit better.

9) Know The Rules Before You Break Them
Jump cuts are frowned upon in news videos, however they can be effective in holding attention in entertainment videos.  Many of the biggest YouTube performers — people like Jenna Marbles, Ray William Johnson, Smosh and PewDiePie — use jump cuts frequently to keep attention.  Ditto for Vine stars, who have only six seconds of video to convey a story.

10) Take A Break
Always take a short break during editing — and return with a fresh set of eyes.  Shaking up your perspective always helps, and it’s a great way to catch errors and mistakes, too.



Once you have your video assets in front of you and are ready to assemble some key points for wochit purposes, here are a few tips:

  • Try to open with a short soundbite
  • Add an attention-grabbing (yet appropriate) thumbnail
  • Write a strong video headline to tease your video

Some good video examples:

1) Ferguson Cops, Court Clerk Reportedly Lose Jobs Over Racist Emails Cited in DOJ Report
Why: Good example of an opening soundbite and assets in context with script.

2) ‘Lego Dimensions’ is the Latest Game to Transport Your Toys Into the TV
Why: Soundbite of Lego teaser, then works its way into game and natural transition to the interview with Lego spokesperson about the game.  Good example of matching assets to script.

3) South Carolina Shooting Victim Didn’t Grab Taser Says Witness
Why: Great opening with protest sound on tape then smooth transition to voiceover.

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