The Guideline of Six in Video Editing

The guidelines of six come from the Rule of six. What’s the Rule of six, you ask?

It’s an editing concept I first learned about reading In The Blink of An Eye.

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Walter Murch is a film editor for Apocalypse Now, The Godfather III, and many other films.

The Rule of six is a list of rules you should follow with each cut you make.

1) Emotion
2) Story
3) Rhythm or pacing
4) Eye-trace (leading or directing the eye to what the viewer should look at)
5) Two-dimensional plane of the screen (or screen direction/180 rule)
6) Three-dimensional space of action (or continuity)

This list was developed for film. However, you can apply it to all visual storytelling. It’s a logic to the edit decisions you make every day. I’ve broken down a story you can see the Rule of six in action.

I’m not a big fan of rules.  I prefer guidelines. 

So, from here on out, we’ll refer to this as The Guidelines of Six in Video Editing. I use this in news, program, documentary, corporate, and commercial/promotional editing.

The story we’re going to break down is We’re Just Floating Along.

This is a segment from the Extreme Kellie franchise I edited at KDVR/KWGN. 

The story starts with an aerial of paragliders.

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The next shot, the shadow of the paraglider.

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The action of the shot is happening at the same position in both shots. The action is just left of center, that’s not by accident. That’s me wanting you to look at precisely what I want you to look at.

I’m using rule #4, eye-trace (leading or directing the eye to what the viewer should look at).

The next shot I’m cutting for rhythm/pacing, rule #3.

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I always like to think about eye trace (rule #4) when I’m editing.  Every shot won’t work, and nor should you try and make every shot work.  If you went for eye trace in each shot, you’d spend a lot of time looking and not a lot of time cutting. I’m cutting for rhythm or pacing here.  I wanna maintain an individual pace, and this rule overrides eye trace.  Oh yeah,  you should follow the guidelines in order.  Keeps these rules (or guidelines as I like to call them) at the top of your mind as you cut. 

Heck, maybe you should print this out and paste in on you NLE for future edits.

I found this graphic on the nofilmschool website.

walter_murch

What’s this mean?  You should cut for emotion over everything.  Think about your last edit and how it would have been different in your followed the guidelines of six.

The number #1 guidelines for storytelling is emotion.

Remember, emotion overrides all.

rule-of-six

I don’t care if the video is blue if the shot is shaky if there is a swish pan to get to the emotion. 

Never cut away from emotion, always cut to emotion.

Guideline #2 is the story. Really start thinking about this Rule. I mean really, really start thinking about this Rule. Did you advance your story? You should always be advancing your story.  If you not, then see if the reason why you’re making a cut falls under guidelines 3,4,5 or 6.  

Back to the video, we go.

 I do a series of faster edits at [:08] for rhythm. I’m simply cutting to the music. 

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Notice the paragliders are mostly centered in this series of shots.  I always have eye trace in the back of my thoughts.

Now here’s a spot that you could argue that rhythm, guideline 3, is an over-riding story, guideline 2. The shots are still relevant to the story. I’m not showing crazy tights shot of the sky? I’m showing paragliders. Story and rhythm are working together here.

Back to eye trace here at [:11]  Paragliders are just above center and just to the left.

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In that same spot just above center and to the left, Kelly’s head (The instructor Kelly, not the anchor Kellie); more eye trace in action. 

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The shot at [:23] is for rhythm and advancing the story.  

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As you can see, no eye trace into the edit.  But, out of the edit take a look at [:27]

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You are looking at the paraglider. Your eyes are looking just left of the center frame. I’m getting you ready to look at what I want you to, which is Kelly (instructor) putting the harness on Kellie (anchor).

Ok, I’ve to think you’ve got the whole eye trace thing.  So, I’m not going to point those out anymore.

The shot from Kellie and Kelly wide above to the shot tight shot Kellie putting on the backpack fall under two dimensional plane of Screen (screen direction), or guideline #5. Kellie (anchor) is on the left, and Kelly (the instructor) is on the right.  

I maintain screen direction, but I override continuity rule #6.  Do you see how Kellie (anchor) turned at [:28].  She facing left at [:28]

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but facing right in the tight shot at [:29]

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I maintain screen direction, but I break continuity.

A word about guideline #6, three-dimensional space of action, or continuity. Continuity is the guideline that is incredibly hard to maintain in broadcast news editing.  The easiest way to get around continuity is tight shots.

From [:45] to [:59] I’m just thinking about guideline 4 or screen direction.  This is a sequence of getting the paragliders up. I’m also advancing the story, guideline 2.

At [:59] I cut to a shot of Kellie giving the camera a thumbs up.

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This shot is for emotion, guideline #1. I’m showing Kellie’s enthusiasm.

From [1:00] to [1:10], I’m thinking about rhythm.

At [1:11], Kellie talks about being nervous.

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Emotion, guideline #1. I’m NOT going to make a cut even though the photographer adjusts the iris during the shot.  I break rhythm too by keeping this shot up so long.

Emotion over-riding all.

From [1:20] to [1:44], I’m cutting for rhythm and for the story.

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At [1:45], Kellie shows emotion, and I stay with it.

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There are several more examples of the guidelines of six and how it implies to each edit. I invite you to watch the piece and really look at each edit and ask yourself, why did he do that?

Rarely is one edit made based on one guideline; more often, several rules are in play.

I do want to point out something toward the end of the story.

These 3 shots are jump cuts.

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I don’t care.

Each shot has emotion.  No need to cut away from it.  This is another example of emotion over-riding all.

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