In Deadline Video Editing I’m constantly thinking Wide, Medium, Tight and Match Action

This story led my 2011 National Press Photographers Association Television Video Editor of the Year entry.

I’m honored to receive this award for the 4th time in my career.  There are teachable moments in every story.

Gratitude is a Common Denominator is a story to watch for this post.

This is a one hour edit.

Here are some tips for editing under the deadline.

  • Lay down all your narration to the timeline
  • Create a raw sequence
  • Lay down all your SOTS to the timeline
  • Lay down as many natural sound breaks, and you are aware of (more on this later)
  • Don’t worry about these edits being clean just yet

The first thing I do is lay down the narration in its entirety.  I DO NOT place narration in the preview window.  I load straight to the timeline.  I’ll go through the narration and delete what I need to, meaning I remove the 3,2,1s and the pauses, etc.

Next, I place my SOTS in the preview window.  I mark the ins and outs and drop to the timeline.  I’m editing for speed, and I know I’m going to trim and clean up the final edit as I go, so I’m not entirely worried about clean mark Ins and Outs. I just want to get them down on the timeline.

Next, I’ll place as many natural sound breaks into the timeline as I immediately know.   Did I look at the video first?  Did the writer note natural sound moments?  Are there obvious ones?  I don’t waste time searching for natural sound breaks now.  As I scroll through the video, I know I’ll find more.

I start with a tight shot.

Everyone knows the red bucket.  When you see money going into the red bucket and the sound of bells, your mind immediately evokes the memory of A Salvation Army volunteer.  Good natural sound selection is a great way to put the viewer’s mind into the subject matter.

  • Good natural sound selection is a great way to put the viewer mind into the subject matter

The next 3 shots are of musicians playing Christmas carols with natural sound.

I’ve established the story, what its about, and set the mood in 4 seconds.  Pacing is often a tough thing to set up early. Usually, stories start fast and then slow down or do just the opposite.  When I’m under deadline, I like to discover my pace as soon as possible.  I’m also going to go back to these gentlemen playing at the end.  These are my bookends to this story.  If you can find some element of a story and place it at the beginning of the story and have enough video and the ability to return to that element, it’s a great and easy way to bookend your story.

At [:06] into the story, I establish my central character with a visual introduction as well as the natural sound of him saying, “Here we go, help Salvation Army right here.”

Another thing I am always thinking about is my shot selection.  I like to keep up the variety.  The next shot in the story at [:10] is a tight shot.

In deadline mode, I can’t always pick the optimum shot.  I continuously think wide, medium, tight.

  • In deadline mode, I’m continually thinking wide, medium, tight

If your thinking shot variety along the way, it will eliminate problems as you edit.

Another element of editing I continuously have on my mind is match action.

Notice in the next three edits-I starts wide here,

then a medium shot taking the edit right as he turns his head (trying to hide the edit).

Follow by a wide shot starting the edit right on his movement (again trying to hide the edit).

Notice how often I use his head movements to help me with selection edit points.  It’s a great trick to keep in your back pocket to help keeps edits clean and hide the edit.

I’m very proud of this deadline edit.  It’s clean and straightforward.  However, I do want to point out two things that bugged me.  I simply ran out of time to change/fix before it aired.

The first one is here.

Notice that gentlemen looking at the camera?  So did I, but not until it was too late.  When someone acknowledges the awareness of a camera, it’s called breaking the 4th wall.  You don’t want the viewer aware this is a story being recorded.  You just want them to watch with no conscious elements to make them realize anything other than that.  Well, this gentleman looking at the camera and then moving out of the way is a distraction to the story.  I would suggest you avoid this as much as possible.  Silly me!

The other one is at [1:14]

My photographer was handheld at this point.  The camera shakes.  It is subtle but still noticeable.  You want to do everything you can to keep the viewer from realizing they are watching something being captured on a camera.  Camera shake is one of them.

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