Finding the message in the edit with star editor Taylor Tracy Walsh

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Description automatically generatedImage source: Taylor Tracy Walsh

When actress Dakota Johnson, known for her starring roles in the Fifty Shades of Grey series and Peanut Butter Falcon, took on the job of directing a new Coldplay music video, she needed an editor. Johnson’s team shared Taylor Tracy Walsh’s website for her consideration, and Johnson liked what she saw.

“I couldn’t believe when they called up and said that she was a fan of my work and wanted to work with me,” recalls Walsh. “It’s always so much fun to collaborate with different people and see what they’re doing creatively.”

Walsh is no stranger to working with big names. As an editor known for her work on music videos and commercials, she’s worked on projects for artists such as Ariana Grande, Katy Perry, and Demi Lovato, as well as international brands such as Adidas, Longchamp, and Star Wars. For the past decade, she’s used Adobe Premiere Pro to create colorful, exciting, and engaging videos that are a joy to watch.

“You can know your editing program front to back, but to be a real editor, you need to understand how to infuse a human quality into projects,” Walsh says. “It’s about finding motivation and purpose for each cut to drive a message.”

Becoming a creative force

Walsh got her creative start as a child when her father introduced her to Adobe Photoshop. Her creativity blossomed further when she started editing corporate videos for a small company in her hometown of Omaha, Neb. While Walsh learned a great deal about the technical art of editing, she yearned for something more creative and challenging.

She eventually accepted an internship that led to a full-time editing position in Los Angeles. After spending several years as a freelance editor, Walsh now works at Cabin Edit, a post-production house with a passion for storytelling.

“I really like when I have the opportunity to work collaboratively with other editors at Cabin Edit,” Walsh says. “It’s so interesting to see how other people approach editing and what qualities they bring to their edits. It’s a great chance to learn from each other.”

Unlike her younger days, when she aimed for the stylish, fast-paced cuts popular with music videos, today Walsh believes in taking time with her edits. She enjoys syncing left-to-right camera movements to create the feel of a single seamless shot or finding match cuts with shapes or other interesting elements. When working on the music video for “365” by Zedd featuring Katy Perry, director Warren Fu spent a great deal of time carefully pre-planning and storyboarding the futuristic and cinematic video. Walsh found the edit in this project by letting lighting cues influence how the shots came together to tell the story.

Creating intentional edits

While Walsh is well-known for her editing on music videos, she particularly enjoys the challenge that comes with editing commercials.

“Music videos are inherently fun and creative, but I find commercials to be even more interesting because there can be more psychology and purpose behind them,” she says. “You’re trying to create a very specific message for the brand, so you need to be much more intentional about your edit.”

One Adidas commercial she co-edited was very similar to music videos, as it featured strong music and energetic visuals. But unlike a typical music video, Walsh also needed to keep the commercial nature of the project in mind, framing shoes or highlighting clothing in ways that would help them stick in the minds of audiences.

“A lot of the edit is problem solving,” she says. “You’re working with the director and client to make sure that the video is dynamic and interesting, but also makes sense. Sometimes the edit is where you find the message that brings the whole video together.”

Dynamic editing with Premiere Pro

While Walsh may take two to three weeks to edit some videos, for others she might be given tight deadlines of five days or less. That’s why she likes taking advantage of Premiere Pro for fast and efficient edits. Walsh typically uses the pancake timeline technique, with one timeline containing the working edit and another timeline stacked above or below containing select sequences. Using this technique, she can quickly click and drag clips between timelines for rapid editing. Walsh also sometimes creates sub-sequences organized into bins to reduce the amount of footage she’s viewing on the timeline at any one time.

Image source: Taylor Tracy Walsh

When working on music videos, Walsh first sets up her timeline by syncing all of the clips and setting up layers. While a simple video may contain only 15 layers, a full performance video may contain up to 95 layers. Markers help her keep track of important points in the timeline.

“I love working with markers,” she says. “I usually color code them to keep track of different parts of the song, so I might mark the first chorus purple and the second verse in blue. By the end I’ll have a rainbow of markers across the timeline. It makes a huge difference when trying to keep everything organized.”

Walsh has started to use a multicam workflow to quickly cycle through performance takes and camera angles, which she says is an advanced workflow addition to the way she’s traditionally edited. “I used the multicam workflow in Katy Perry’s ‘Cozy little Christmas’ and her recent pregnancy announcement video for ‘Never Worn White,’” she says. “It made going through alternate takes with her very fast without having to find and replace takes in the edit before she could see how they play out.”

Integrated features also help Walsh work faster. Using integration between Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro lets her quickly update graphics without needing to open a separate app. The Essential Graphics panel also provides an easy way to search Adobe Stock for just the right graphic for a project.

Advice for future editors

Walsh has a few words of advice for people who might want to get into the exciting world of editing. She suggests starting off by looking at videos that inspire you, and then try to recreate the same feel in your edit.

“You don’t want to copy someone else’s edit frame by frame, but play around with clips to see if you can capture a similar style,” says Walsh. “Just shoot some footage with friends and have fun with it. It’ll bring you one step closer to discovering your own style.”

Watch the replay of the Tips + Tricks Tuesday interview with Walsh and get access to Valentina’s tutorial guide and more.