Second Assistant Editor

  • Second Assistant Editor

Second assistant editors are only employed on high-budget productions that require a large post-production staff. These technicians aid the first assistant editor (also called the assistant editor) and the picture editor, and may be tasked with supervising interns or trainees in addition to tasks delegated by the assistant editor.


Among the typical responsibilities of the second assistant editor are synchronizing rushes (that is, aligning the sound with the picture on dailies); digitizing rushes, or converting footage to a digital format for non-linear editing; labeling tapes and DVDs; and recording play-outs onto tape. Additional responsibilities will be delegated by the assistant editor to the second AE as necessary, but the second assistant editor’s primary function is to ensure to smooth operation of the editing room in whatever capacity required. This could include tasks like mailing or delivering tapes and DVDs to the processing lab, fielding calls for the editor, or fetching coffee—any way that the assistant can provide a hassle-free environment for cutting a film together. They are expected to act without direction and with initiative, even if that means sweeping, taking out the trash, and wiping down workstations.

Skills & Education

A college degree in film and television production with a concentration on non-linear editing is highly recommended. There are also workshops and opportunities for software and hardware training around the country. Second assistant editors should be proficient in the use of Avid and Final Cut systems, as well as having a firm understanding of linear editing techniques. Some exposure to sound editing, visual effects, and dialogue editing is also beneficial. This person should be familiar with multiple formats, including film, digital video, and beta. Use and operation of hardware used to convert recorded formats is crucial.

What to Expect

As a second AE you will work primarily as a freelancer and in apprenticeship to the assistant editor. This is a learning position that offers those interested in pursuing a career as a film and video editor the opportunity to learn intermediate-level skills while on the job. You will gain exposure to industry hardware systems, as well as making valuable contacts with professionals. These are the people you need to impress to get your next gig. Experience as a trainee is the first step toward work as a second AE. Trainees are hired on most high-budget and medium-budget projects, and many are recruited from college or university film programs or through internships with film and television studios. After two or more completed productions as a second assistant, you can aim to move up to the role of first assistant, where you will directly assist the picture editor and learn higher-level skills.


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