I’ll Have Your Eyes Exactly Where I Want Them

Do you think an editor can make a viewer’s eyes move?  Yes, they can.  It happens all the time.  The next time you watch a movie, think about precisely what you’re looking at on the screen.  Chances are an editor is using eye-trace to get you to look at precisely what they want you to look at.

Our story for this post is Joe’s Smile

  

Over the years, I have done research on eye-trace.  It’s a simple concept, to begin with, and if you think about it in your everyday editing, it’ll improve so many little things.

In this post, I like to bring your attention to what is going on in the shots you choose.

  • The action affects what the viewer is looking at

  • Eye trace sends the viewer’s eye where you want them to go

  • You can control what people are exactly going to look at

 You cannot think about every edit and what’s happening in every shot, quite often there isn’t time in your projects.  The more you keep eye-trace in mind, the easier you are going to make several edits in your story.

I want the viewer to look at certain things.  My edits are going to help.  In Joe’s Smile, you may see more example of eye-trace, I’m only going to point out some.

Eye-trace has two primary objectives.

  1. To keep the eye focused on the same point on the screen (or close to there as possible) as the last frame of an edit ends, and the new frame of the next edit starts.  Confused?  I was too.  Here’s an example.

In the shot above at [:15] in the story, Joe looks up and turns his head to the right (our left).

Then, I make an edit as he’s in mid-turn.  He completes his head turn in the next shot.  Your eye catches his head moving, and then in the next shot, I have your eyes exactly where I want them, to the left of the screen focused on Joe.  Your eyes followed Joe through the edit and didn’t scan the screen for something else to look at.  That’s eye trace, putting the viewer’s eyes where YOU want them.

Think of it as you are a magician.  A magician’s job is to get the audience to look at what he wants them to look at.  Like that ball in his hand and not the other hand in his pocket getting the next part of the trick ready.  Your ideal job as an editor, keep the viewer’s eye where you want them.

The edit’s also hidden by Joe’s movement.  Meaning you don’t really realize there is an edit there because the action looks natural.

Here another example at [:21].  Your eyes go to his head as he starts to move his head I cut.

His head movement completes this shot above at [:22].  Your eye’s stayed on the left side of the screen in relatively the same place.  I kept them there using eye-trace logic.

Think about editing on movement the next time you’re doing a story.  Think about keeping all that movement on the same point on the screen.  Break your screen in 4 quadrants.  Try keeping the movement in one of those quadrants for 2 edits. It’s not that easy and won’t work ALL the time,  but it’s pretty when it does.

Here is an entirely different example of eye-trace.  People will always look at the eyes of whoever is in your shot. Everyone’s natural curiosity is to wonder what he/she is looking at.  So, if you show a shot of someone looking at something, your next obvious shot is what they are looking at.

At [1:22], we have a shot of the dentist looking down.  Notice the dentist is predominately screen left. What’s he looking at?

We should show the viewer.  He’s looking at Joe’s teeth, or lack thereof [1:23].  Notice Joe is predominately screen right.  This is another example of eye-trace.  If you were to follow the dentist’s eye’s down from the shot of him to the next shot of Joe, you’d trace his line of sight almost entirely. 

This is another example of eye trace.  The viewer naturally looks down, and as their eyes move down, you take edit and place what you want them to see in that next shot and that point in the frame, eye trace in action.

One more example.  Joe’s got his new teeth, and he’s smiling!  What’s he laughing at?  Again realize Joe’s screen right.

I know there are two women in this shot, but the women on the left are laughing and catch your eye first.  So, following Joe’s line of sight, it’s logical to think he’s looking at her.  With this edit, I make the viewer perceive that as well.  The women on the right looking at the women laughing helps as well with this.

I thought I’d show you an example of a bad edit too.  At [2:49], we have Joe smiling with his new teeth. Joe’s screen left as he smiles.

But in the next shot, he’s screen right smiling.  I didn’t put the viewer’s eye where I should of.  Like I said, it won’t always work.

Now go and practice eye trace in your editing.

Thank you for reading.  As always don’t forget about the Edit Foundry on Facebook

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