|A great book
on this topic is Roy Thompson’s Grammar of the Edit, from Focal
To me editing is where the real creativity happens. You are given
the challenge of bringing a story to life and, in many cases, fixing
all of the problems that production wrought.
The main point of editing is to help move the story (or doc or instructional
piece). You want to simplify as much a possible to help the viewer
understand the point of the video.
In my documentary work I feel that editing is like sculpture. Michelangelo
said that he did not create his pieces in as much as he just “freed”
his pieces from stone. I feel this in so much of my work--there is
“the” story, many times unbeknownst to me, that, while
editing, reveal itself slowly and obviously.
An edit is a change between two shots.
Categories of Edits
This is an immediate scene change. This is the most basic edit.
It you are doing cuts only with Final Cut Pro, the system is all
real time. This is not an edit to be undervalued. As long as you
follow continuity and avoid “jumping” this edit usually
goes unnoticed. It is used frequently to edit between action to
show simultaneous action.
This is the gradual change from one clip into another. It is perceived
as the passage of time, however dissolves are frequently used to “slow”
down a work, or as a stylistic tool.
This is the dipping to black (or another blank screen). This connotes
a long passage of time or an act/location change.
I don’t use these that often. These are things like wipes, page
curls, or star bursts, etc. They draw attention to themselves and
are usually used by people who have just started to edit and feel
they have to use all tools that came with the program.
elements to an edit
My pet peeve. The best editors are not just manufacturers of eye candy.
They will edit due to reasons to edit. There are parts to every scene
that motivate the
reason to make an edit. This motivation cam be visual or aural. A
phone ringing a pointing finger, a twitch of an eye. Either create
the motivation or watch for it in your field tapes
New shots should present new information. By slowly revealing this
information or arranging it in a particular manner you can make your
production interesting or boring.
You don’t have to see what you hear, but you should be able
to hear what you see. Off screen sounds can substitute for expensive
shooting. Audio is probably more important in video than the actual
video. Adding natural sound, correct microphone placement, enhancing
some sounds, adding music, all can make a good video great.
Watch camera angle, composition, and degrees of view. To go from shot
to shot you need to change placement by at least 30 degrees, this
is the same for field of view. You cannot move the camera more than
180 degrees without “crossing the line.”
Make sure that the glass of water sitting on the table is not empty
then full when you cut between the scenes of the restaurant. Make
sure you match the walking patterns between cuts. Have shots to use
to slip in between other shots that are messed up. Shoot twice (or
16 times), edit once.
shalt motivate edits.
Thou shalt watch jump cuts and use them intentionally or not at
Thou shalt watch the “line.”
Thou shalt match shots.
Thou shalt watch character frame exits and entrances and watch the
Thou shalt use the close up and think of target media when shooting.
The close up in the friend of web video, yea!
Thou shalt watch continuity.
Thou shalt, in the process of being revolutionary, break some or
all of the rules some or all of the time but do it for a reason
and not just because we are lazy or trying to mock previous editing
of teen-aged television programming.
Thou shalt edit all of the time to improve our craft and artistry.