What Does an Animation Editor Actually Do?

A new video explores this seeming conundrum.

If you’ve ever thought about it, the idea of an animation editor might seem unnecessary. After all, animated films aren’t made like live-action films (obviously) where there can be multiple versions of scenes and multiple takes of those versions, or where new material is written on set or improvised. In animation, the script is etched in stone before the work of realizing it ever begins. It’s all there, a perfect blueprint that just has to be built according to specs and there you go, finished film. There’s not even any excess footage, so what is there to edit?

Turns out, a lot. Because ultimately, editing isn’t about taking things out, it’s about helping to shape the story from the available material, and in that regard, an animation editor is every bit as crucial to the process as is a live-action editor. In fact, editing animation comes with its own unique set of challenges that in turn require a unique set of skills.

In the latest video from Andrew Saladino’s The Royal Ocean Film Society, the hows and whys of animation editing are explored, revealing a process that is actually kind of the opposite of how we think of it. In traditional editing, the footage is shot then cut, right? Not so in animation, where the editing begins as a storybuilding process months and occasionally years before the first frame is animated, and the editor can end up working on the project almost as long as the director.

I myself had never considered the validity, or maybe even the existence, of animation editors, but thanks to Saladino I’ve got a fresh appreciation for the fascinating way they contribute to the finished product, and I think they in particular shine a light on editors not as mere technicians, but as storytellers. Carve out eight minutes for this one and it’ll change how you view animation forever.