What does a VT editor do?
VT editors work on studios and outside broadcasts, making the short films that go into a programme. On big entertainment programmes, like Strictly Come Dancing, they make the films that introduce the contestants. On a sports programme, they cut the films that set-up the teams and star players.
“VT” stands for “video tape”. The name derives from the days of pre-digital technology and its stuck. The short film, or insert, is often known as a VT and the person who makes it is the VT editor. VT editors are not the same as the editor on a long form documentary or drama, they are often known as the picture editor and they cut the whole programme from end to end. VT editors in studios and on OBs only edit segments of a programme, though they are sometimes be referred to as a picture editor too.
In recent years an increasingly important editing tool is the “EVS”. EVS is a company that specialises in hardware and software designed for fast turnround inserts on outside broadcast and studio shows. This makes it ideal for cutting highlight sequences in a live programme. So, VT editors are sometimes known as an EVS operators, as they have been specifically trained to use the EVS tools.
The VT editor or EVS operator is often positioned near to the production gallery or close to the OB mobile control room. Working alongside the programme director or producer, the editor selects the best shots and puts them in the right order to tell a great story. It sounds simple - but choosing the images that stand out and cutting them together to create tension and pace takes enormous skill and judgement, especially when time is tight. The film needs to be ready to go on time and at the right duration. It’s not unusual to complete the job just a few seconds before the director puts the film on air.
VT editors and EVS operators for studios and OBs are nearly all freelance, and often specialise in areas such as sport, music, or entertainment. They need to know their subject well, if they are to construct the best narrative. They often work alone, with the producer just coming into to sign the film off as ‘ready for transmission’. A technical background is useful but not essential, the most important thing is to be a great storyteller and make decisions fast.
What’s a VT editor good at?
- Storytelling: be a savvy editor who can recognise the interesting and important moments in a show or event and assemble them in the best order to create a clear narrative
- Quick thinking: be able to identify rapidly the best shots and decide the best order in which to put them all together
- Subject knowledge: understand the moments in a football match, talent show or political debate that are important and make sure they are in a ‘highlights’ film
- Technical insight: know what equipment is being used in the edit suite – how it all connects into the studio or outside broadcast unit
- Organisation: be systematic and orderly in how you keep track of the inserts, and keep everything in its place for when you need to find a certain clip