Time? Limited. Video? Limited. Discover The Line Between Perfection and Mediocrity

Ever edit a story with a limited amount of time and a limited amount of video?  I’m sure your answer is yes.

This is a story I edited on the Sunday before the Democratic National Convention in 2008.  It’s called Where Real Democracy Occurs.

I spent about an hour editing this story.  Anytime I have a story like this and little time, the first thing I’m going to do is cover it.  Covering usually takes about 15 minutes.  What do I mean by cover?  I mean no black holes.  All the edits may not be the cleanest, but it’s air-able.  Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do, in the time you have.

Is there anything awe-inspiring about this story?  Nope.  Anything awe-inspiring about the editing?  Nope.  So why write about it? We all have to edit crap, news, corporate videos, reality T.V., you’re going to get crap no matter where you edit.  When you get this below-average video, you need to be prepared.  You need to be prepared to find that point in your world between perfection and mediocrity.

  • You need to be prepared to find that point in your world between perfection and mediocrity.

You never want to spend too much time on an edit like this. I want to impress.  I want it to be the best.  Is putting more time into this project worth it?  That’s the question you have to ask yourself.  No one can answer that question for you.  It may take years for you to figure out your line.  I have finally discovered mine. Could I have done better?  Yes.  Would it have been worth my time?  No.

It’s these kinds of pieces that you just practice the craft.  Working on things like where to take an edit.  Work on pacing.  Work on your ability to add natural sound.

After I cover a story like this, I start looking for natural sound.  It’s what takes the viewer there.  The shot at [:16] isn’t stable when I take the edit.

I want to use that natural sound at that moment.  I didn’t have much wiggle room as far as taking the shot later as the photographer moved onto the next shot. I also didn’t want to cover any of it with feet from the previous shot.

The reporters write “hit the pavement,” so I use the feet shot to reinforce the track.

I’m under a deadline, so you don’t see any sequences in this story.  I love sequencing.  It’s the bread and butter of storytelling.  I don’t enjoy editing unless there is sequencing… perfection/mediocrity, find your line.

Since I don’t have any sequences, I will S.W.A.P. (Synchronize Words And Pictures). You’ll find me SWAP-ing in this story a lot.

At [:18], the reporter says, “A normally quiet morning in downtown Denver.”  I don’t really have those kinds of shots, but I do have some shots with a small number of people in it, so I use them.  Anything I can use to reinforce reporter track I’m going to use.

Did you see all the tight shots I used in this piece?  No?  What?  Watch it again!

A lot of medium to medium and wide to wide.  There are two reasons for this;  I didn’t get many tight shots, and I don’t believe in forcing tight shots.  If it works and the shot has meaning, great. If your editing a tight shot in just cause you to feel you have too many medium to medium, then stop and think about it for a minute.  The human eye takes in much more of the world as a medium shot; then it does as a tight shot.  Something to think about next time your shooting all those tight shots.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE tight shots.  I just don’t force them.

Back to the story. I’m using natural sound as much as I can, and I’m trying to keep the pace of the story up.

Whenever there is an interview, you’ll notice they are only up for about 4 seconds on camera, just long enough to super (lower 3rd) them.

The women’s bite at [:56]  was a little long,

so I trimmed her bite and covered it to flow better.

If you listen carefully, you can hear where I butted two bites together.  Stories like this should keep a good pace. Leaving someone up on camera for 10 seconds really slows a story down.  This isn’t going to win any awards, but it takes the viewer to the protest.  I try and use shots relevant to what’s going one and use as much natural sound possible.

The opening shot is the best thing I like about the story.

You’ll see people marching, the state capital, and a cop. That pretty much establishes everything your about to see. The closing shot is not that strong. I’m out of video and out of time, and at least it says the march is still going on. Again, back to the eye of the viewer, if you were sitting on the curb watching as all this, what might see before you get up and leave.

Sometimes little accomplishments like a good opening shot, proper use of natural sound, and a good pace are enough to feel you’ve done a story justice.  More importantly, you walk away feeling good about the story and knowing you didn’t waste any time.  Congratulations.  You found your line between perfection and mediocrity.

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