Category Archives: Anatomy of an Edit

Using Soundbites and Narration to help make Edit Decisions that effect Rhythm and Pacing

When you make an edit, it’s an important decision.  Each edit should advance your story.  So when do you make an edit?  There are many reasons.  Your story should have a rhythm like a good song has a good beat.  How do you find your rhythm? Here’s an idea.  Follow the rhythm of the narration and the soundbites.

EG Trekking Careers – Lindsay Gore

This is a story I produced for Emily Griffith Technical College, profiling a successful graduate.  Throughout this story, I use the rhythm of my narration and the rhythm of Lindsay’s soundbites to help make edit decisions.

The 1st shot of the story is Lindsay walking to her salon station.

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My narration is, “Lindsay Gore, preps for another client.” I make an edit on the word preps. The tight shot of hair stays up on the screen from 03 to 06.

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Lindsay says, “It’s pretty crazy in here. We do a lot of business.” After she says here, I make an edit. I’m finding natural pauses to help me make edit decisions.

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At: 09, my narrations is, “This full-service salon is Strandz hair studio.” My edit is on the word isIt is a natural moment of pause in the narration.

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At: 13, she says, “I do own Strandz.” Then she says, “I bought it two years ago. I worked here for almost 9 years before I bought it. In the back of my mind, I always knew I would like owning my own salon, and I love it.” I make two edits based on the rhythm of her voice.

At: 19, she completes her thought I bought it.

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At: 21, she completes the thought; my own salon. I make an edit after salon, but before she starts her next thought, which is I love it.

My next narration at 22 is, “It takes a lot to run a business.”

I make an edit between a lot and run.  I’m following the flow of my narration to help me decide when to make an edit.

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At: 28, her soundbite is, “After I started at Emily Griffith, I had a cousin in Cosmetology school at another place.”  I choose to make the edit after the word cousin.  I felt a natural pause in the rhythm of her voice at that moment.  I made the edit based on that.

Further, into that soundbite at 33, she completes a thought, “At another place.” After place, I make an edit.

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Please watch the entire story and pay attention to when I make the decision and how the rhythm of narration and soundbites can help with edit decisions.

Want another example?

Here is a story by the 2016 NPPA Photographer of the year Rob Collett.

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“Where’s Baby?”


The 1st soundbite of the story, “Baby. Black grey. 17 pounds. Rob makes an edit after the word grey and before he says 17.

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Then the narration begins.  “Missing poster after missing poster.”  Rob makes an edit after poster in the narration.

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Rob’s using the rhythm of the narration to help in his edit decisions.

At: 10, the narration is, “Each, handwritten and personalized.”  The edit is after each and beforehand.

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At: 18, the soundbite is, “Oh, I love his face, he’s a kisser boy.  Rob makes an edit after the word face and before the word he.

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Please continue watching the story by Rob.  Pay attention to the exact moment when he makes an edit.  There is a definite rhythm to the story.

These little things can take your editing to the next level.

It takes time to figure out how to use Music in Video Editing

I love using music too much. I misuse it, sometimes use the wrong type of music.  I force music into an edit just because.

You should be doing this too. You read that right.  Force it, use the wrong music, use it badly.

Use music as much as you can.  It takes time to figure out how to really make music work for a story.  Pay attention to how you hear it in film, commercials, documentaries, and television shows. When an edit adds music, it can change so much about the feeling of a story.

Practice, mess up, practice, get it right, practice, change your mind about what you got right and what you messed up, and then practice some more.  You’ll get it, but it’s going to take time.  Crafting a good edit is one thing, adding music and making it work for the edit is a whole other set of skills.

The story for this post is Journey of Hope Pt. 4

I won an Emmy for this documentary.  The journey of Hope is the story of a man with Parkinson’s disease.  Scott Orr decides to undergo life-changing brain surgery to help control the tremors associated with Parkinson’s.  I’m just going to use part 4 for this post.

When I edited this documentary, I worked where real music is allowed.   I used the soundtrack to Erin Brockovich.  This is the only soundtrack I used for the entire documentary.  By using the same music from the same source and the same composer, the whole documentary felt connected.

Don’t have the ability to use real music?  Search HARD through your library to find music that works.  I edited another documentary for the Discovery Channel called After Obesity, The Final Cut

I found a disc with music from one composer that had an extremely similar feel to the Erin Brockovich soundtrack.  I created a feel for this documentary as well as using one composer.

If you can use popular music, I recommend using something that’s not too mainstream or current.  I’ll use popular music that you don’t recognize immediately.  The reason I do this is music usually attaches itself to people on some emotional level.  I don’t want people to come into one of my stories with a pre-convinced emotion.  I want them to gain their own emotional attachment to my story.

  • Music can help the pace of a story
  • Music can add an emotional draw
  • Music can help reveal a moment in a story
  • Music can help with transitions between story elements

The journey of Hope Part 4  begins with music up full.  It’s rather serious in tone.  My music selection is helping set the tone in this section of the story.

This section of the documentary begins on a medium shot of the operating room.

The next shot is that of Dr. McVicker [:04] looking down seriously.

At [:07] the narration begins, We all know in life there are risks.  That’s followed by a soundbite by Dr. Kumar asking Scott a question.  The combination of music and selected soundbites gives the viewer a sense of something wrong during the surgery.  So at this point, the music is the establish-er of the mood, and the soundbites and narration are secondary.  I keep the music volume low so you can hear the narration and soundbites.  How low you ask?  Each story you edit will be different.  There is no magical number that will work.  You really have to understand the logic of audio.  

Let’s continue with the post.  

The music stays low until [:24]. The narration is When something appeared terribly wrong.

It’s at this point when you see Scott open his eyes and look to his right.

The music comes up full, and I let the shot breathe, allowing the viewers to understand the gravity of the moment.  It’s just a small moment.  It’s a reinforcement moment.  A moment to grasp the possible seriousness of everything that’s come so far.

Now listen closely.  From [:34] to [:38], the music fade down.  It’s very subtle and takes a full 4 seconds to fade away. The moment has passed. The minor scare is no longer an issue.  I want the music to fade away, but I don’t want the viewer to notice it fading away.  I want them to just focus on the story.

At [1:20], I cut out of the operating room and into the waiting room.

A few emotional moments are about to happen.  Earlier I used the music to set the tone.  Now I’m going to do the opposite.  The soundbites and emotion in the frameset the tone.  The music just supports it.  Everyone is happy, the surgery went well. These are positive soundbites. I call this a feeling of relief.  Everyone’s relieved the surgery went well.  The music helps convey everyone’s sense of relief.

At [1:24], the music starts midway through Scott’s fathers’ soundbite.  I’m using the soundbite to help bury the start of the music.  You don’t really realize the music is there right away.  The less the viewer notices the better editor you are.

I carry the ‘relief’ music underneath this whole section of Scott’s parents, his wife, and his best friend in the waiting room.

At [1:44], I bring the music up full.

There is a shot of Scott lying there calm. I’ll bet he’s relieved the surgery went well too.  I’m conveying that feeling.

At [1:43], I bring the music up full to [1:45]. There are two shots.  One of Scott’s head and one of his hand.  His hand isn’t moving.  That shot is the reason for the entire surgery.  The tremors have stopped. Very poignant moment, don’t you think?  Guess what?  Music full and a moment for the viewer to take it in.

If you are not familiar with Parkinson’s Disease, go here for a good explanation.

At [1:57] to [1:59], the music ends with a small moment.  That part of the story ends as well. Coincidence?  No.  I back timed the music to end right there.

  • I use music to help tell the viewer to understand that this is the end of this part of the story.

I’ve used two different pieces of music now. I’m not using it constantly.  I’m only trying to use it when I want to help reinforce the emotion of the moment.  The most important aspect of using music, maybe when you don’t use it.  I don’t use music again until [2:53]

At [2:52], Scott’s about to test the Pacemaker for the Brain he’s had implanted to help control the trembling in his hand.

  • This is the reason for the surgery.
  • It’s a critical moment in the story.

Well, based on those two bullets points and everything I’ve done so far with the story, It says time for some more music.  I chose something light and not overpowering.  I start the music up first and then the scene’s narration.

At [3:07] is the first time Scott sees his hand not tremble after the activation of the Pacemaker for the Brain.

I let the shot breathe with the music up.  Again, I’m allowing the viewer to take at the moment for just a little bit longer.

At [3:18], I let the music come up again.  Scott says, “Wow, haven’t seen that in a long time.”

Another moment I want to just let breath for an extra second.

  • Each time a moment or something poignant is said or seen, music comes up full in this section of the documentary.

At [3:25], Scott twitches his fingers as he’s looking down.  I let that moment breathe as well.  It’s also the end of that piece of music.  Again, I’m telling the viewer that’s the end of this part of the story.    Again I back-time the music, so the score ends right as this section of the story ends.

At [3:50], I start the music up again.  You have to listen very carefully.  I bring it up subtly.  As you can hear, I like to bring up music subtly.

  • I don’t like music all of a sudden there.

At [4:09], I bring the music up full again. The narration is, There is no cure for Parkinson’s, or it’s symptoms.

It’s not a moment, but it’s a poignant statement.  I decide to bring up the music because it is touching.

At [4:26], I change the music.  They are about to take the go-kart on the track  I wanted something upbeat and fun but something that still fit with the rest of the music.  I use this piece of music for the rest of the story.

At [4:54], the music ends as our story ends.  Again, I back timed the music to make this happen.

I hardly ever use the music as it was initially constructed. I’ll use bit and pieces and rework the music to fit my story.  I strive hard to make cuts the viewer won’t notice.

So, I may use the beginning of a piece of music, cut to the middle part I like to bring up full, then make another cut to help with my back timing to the end.

Thanks for continuing to read The Edit Foundry.  Don’t forget to like The Edit Foundry on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @shawnmontano


Adding frames of silence in video editing adds more than just silence

Adding frames of silence in video editing adds more than just silence – say what?  By adding a few frames of silence, you can enhance a story.

Ever edit a story with little video?  That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.  This happens every day to an editor somewhere.  This story has very little video.  Video is not essential, especially if you have emotion.  Anytime I get a chance to edit a story that has emotion, I’m all over it.  What do I do to help the story?  What emotion can I help display with editing?  How will my edit decisions impact the story?  Are there edits I’m not going to make that are important?  Let’s see if I can answer some of those questions.

The story for this post is Karen

It’s my job as an editor is to make you laugh, or to make you cry.  Sometimes the material we are given makes that a little easier than other times.

This story is about a woman who is almost a victim of a serial rape suspect.  In the interview, she is very emotional.  My job as an editor is to make sure her emotional state comes through in the story.

My job is to also stay out of the way.  What do I mean by that?  Sometimes an editor needs to not make an edit.

  • Those non-edits may be the most important edits you ever make.

At [:06], Karen sniffles, and the story pauses slightly.  I am introducing her emotional state.  I’m grabbing the viewer as quickly as possible.  There is a full 2 seconds of silence after the first narration before she sniffles.  Let your viewers in.  Give them time to feel.  So many stories I see the emotion goes by so fast the viewer doesn’t have time to feel it.

  • The #1 rule of editing is emotion.  Always cut into it and never cut away from it.

The pace is slow.  I’m going to maintain that pace as best I can.  Here are a few tricks.

  • There are at least 10 frames of silence between the narration and any soundbite.

Watch the story again.  Just listen to it this time.  If you listen carefully, you can hear all the pauses in between narration and soundbites.  This is a subtle trick.  It also a handy skill.  The beauty of it is it won’t cost you but a few more seconds.  If you’re in a world that requires short running times, this is huge.

At [:11] is her first soundbite. “I just kept thinking if Shawn hadn’t of come home with me, I just know what would have been happening.” After that soundbite, she looks at Shawn (her boyfriend, not me) and then turns her head and takes a deep breath. 

Upon revisiting this story, I think I left this moment just a bit too soon.  I think I could have held this for at least 15 more frames. Would 15 more frames have made any difference in the overall story?  No, but it’s essential to understand how just changing a few frames in an edit can create such a different edit in the end.

After the soundbite is a slow 80 Frame dissolve to a car going by and I put a slow zoom in on the shot.

  • Another simple editing trick for emotion, put a slow zoom on static shots to help pull the viewer into the story.

There wasn’t much video to work with on this story.  The only way to have more videos would have been to shoot a re-enactment.  This is not the type a story you would ever ask anyone to re-enact.  I use generic video at several points.  Do I care? Nope.  The story’s got emotion.  Viewers won’t remember these shots the next day.  They will remember Karen crying, though.

Karen didn’t want her house identifiable in the story.   I used these tight shots that could be from any home in any neighborhood.  Notice I put a slow zoom on each of these shots.  I hate static shots.

I am a fan of movement.  This is a visual medium of motion.  I like to have as much motion in every story as possible.

At [:45]  her soundbite is  “It was the first thing that popped into my mind, that it was him.”

There is a full second (30 frames) of silence before the narration starts.  I’m giving the viewer that extra time to feel and see her.

  • Sometimes nothing is more powerful than something.

At [2:16] is the final section of narration in this story.  9 seconds go by, and then she sniffles.  The story ends.  This is a powerful moment with no narration and no sound from her.  She is merely emotional on camera.  You can feel how fortunate she feels not to be a victim.  You can feel how terrified she still is.  Simply amazing, what 9 seconds of silence does for a story.

About the Dissolves

I dissolve mostly by feel.  Feel is impossible to teach.  Let me try and rationalize these dissolves with some logic.  In this story, most of the dissolves represent a transition in space. Dissolving from inside the house to outside.  Dissolving from a sketch to Karen. The 3 shots of the exterior starting at [:22] are cut together because they are all outside shots.

As for the dissolves from Karen full to Karen medium or Karen tight, I simply don’t like cutaways in this type of story.  Karen is the story. Her emotion is the story. Cutaways of her hands, of a lamp, or anything else won’t add to the story.

Thanks for reading.

You can follow me on Twitter @Shawnmontano

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One of my top 5 video edits of my career

Have you edited a story that gets people talking?  Does it impact lives, win awards, or do people just watch it over and over to learn?  This entry is about that type of story.  If I were to rank edits I did over the past 20 years, this is in the top five.

This emotional story challenged me as a video editor.

Please watch Ryan Gave Chad the Gift of Life on my Youtube Channel.

The story begins with a slow zoom in on the Arnold family in the waiting room.

Adding a slow zoom in the editing process pulls the viewer into the story.  The next five shots are simply a series of shots showing the Arnold family in the waiting area.  As I was looking through the raw, I was simply looking for shot variety.  I start with a wide shot, then went to a medium shot, to another medium shot, and then to a tight shot.  The last three shots are all intimate.   I want to keep the viewer close with the family.

  • I’m not going to force an edit element if it doesn’t work

Notice at [:08] the music starts.  The music doesn’t swell until [:13].  I want to bring in music, but I want to make it subtle.  I like transition shots.  For this story, I didn’t like anything shot for transition elements.   I’m not going to force an editing element if it doesn’t work.  I chose to use music for a transition.

The music full at [:13] and the four shots in pre-op set up several story elements.  The music sets up the feeling of concern; at least that’s what I hope I’m doing with this particular piece of music.  I use two shots of Ryan and two shots of Chad. The music and shot selections tell the viewer a lot about the story.  No need for redundant narration.  This is an excellent example of just visuals and music working together to tell a part of the story.

This is an incredible story.  I don’t want any distractions. So, I did some color correction.  The video shot during pre-op was a bit on the yellow side, as you can see in this screen-grab.

Here is my color corrected version.

  • I like to use all the tools I have at my fingertips

I know the walls are yellow, but with a minimal effort, I significantly reduce the overall amount of yellow in the shot, I bring out the flesh tones of Ryan and his wife.  I like to use all the tools I have at my fingertips to make a great story.

After the four-shot montage, there are seven edits that all have dissolves. Do these shots cut together?  Yes, they do.

This is a creative and emotional call.  I think dissolves help reinforce emotion.  The final dissolve leads into the first soundbite from Chad.  You can still hear my music underneath this soundbite.

As the emotion of the soundbite increase, the level of the music decreases.  Listen when you watch the story again

I don’t want any distractions.  Chad has enough emotion in his voice.  The music isn’t necessary here.

At [1:41], I start the second piece of music.  Using the same technique as before, the music comes up underneath the story a few seconds before I bring the music up full.  I’m using music as my transition element again, this time to move into surgery.

The second soundbite at [1:56] follows the routine I did with the first soundbite.  The music decreases as the emotion in the soundbite increases.

At [2:09] is the part of the story where they are in surgery.  I have several shots to choose from.  I have many great shots of Ryan’s liver.  I decide not to be overly graphic with surgery video for one main reason, Chad dies.  This story contains some of the last videos of him alive.  His wife will watch this story.  His children may watch when they become older.  These are elements of editing you don’t necessarily think about in the edit bay, but I think you should.

At [2:53] is another selection of music.  I use music here differently.  I bring it up full immediately after the second doctor soundbite.  I’ve established throughout the story when music comes full, there is a change in the story.  This time it’s not a location change; it’s the final part of our story. The sad part of our story.  I have a series of pictures of Ryan with his family.  All the images have motion in them.  At [3:08], the reporter track tells the viewer Ryan dies.

I have the music up full for four seconds.  I’m allowing the viewer the take in what the reporter narrates.  Ryan dies.  The cliche is fade to black.  I don’t like editing cliches, especially in this piece. I want to do something simple while still visually telling of Ryan’s death.  A slow fade to black and white with this picture did the trick.  The next three images are still in black and white while the reporter talks about Ryan.  I think keeping the photos black and white is a smart look and helps with feeling here.  I do, however, return to color on the final picture of Ryan and his family.

After this section of the story, Chad talks about life without his brother Ryan.  He is very emotional.  I don’t need music, and I don’t put any music until the end of the story.  Chad stops talking and is trying to hold back his tears.  Lots of emotion but no sound here.  I decide to bring up the music to fill the sound-void.  It’s very subtle here.  I’m trying very hard not to have the music overpower his emotion.  I want to keep all editing distractions to a minimum.

This final image I leave the viewer with is one of the last photos of them together.  I took a freeze-frame of Ryan and Chad hugging before surgery.  I turn it black and white and have a slow zoom out.  I have a slow zoom in to begin the story and a slow zoom out to end the story.

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Using Midmotion in video editing to your advantage

After Sex Offender is a story on my 2011 NPPA Editor of the Year entry.

This general news story I edited in just over an hour. The photographer was invited to follow the Adam Walsh Task Force rounding up sex offenders. Marking an In on your clip midmotion practically helps every edit you will ever make.

Our story starts with a medium shot of a Marshall knocking on a door.

The 2nd shot [:03] of the story is this a shot of a resident and the Marshall opening the screen door.  Notice,  I wait until the Marshall has already started opening the door.  You are going to see edits taken midmotion A LOT throughout this story.  I’m a big fan of midmotion

Starting an edit midmotion does several things.  When you edit midmotion, the feeling the viewer gets is they are watching something un-staged.  If we start the edit and then he opens the door, the act feels more staged.  Like someone saying action and then it happening.

You want edits to hide as much of any staging a possible (None of this story was staged, and I never want the viewer to even remotely think that).  Speaking of staging, watch reality TV for an excellent example of this.  Most of you reading this already understand nearly all of reality TV isn’t all that real.  How else could the camera be in the right places unless they knew what was going to happen?  It’s the editing that makes reality TV seem so, well real.  Editing midmotion, starting the edit after an action has begun, hides (which is what editing is supposed to do) a lot.

The third shot [:05] we’ve moved inside a residence.  I use a J cut to help with the transition inside.  The sound of the Marshall before the video of the marshall inside blends the edits together better.

The 4th shot [:08] is also inside.  I don’t let movement stop in the previous shot (they are walking in, and the photographer following them is moving).  I take the edit on this 4th shot just before the photographer walks into this bedroom.  I use the movement of the photographer to help with my edit.

Notice a theme here.

There is movement/motion at the beginning of each shot.  Something I also pay attention to is eye trace and eye movement.  Notice the last frame of shot 3 and the first frame of shot 4 (previous two stills), the Marshalls are in the center of the frame.  I’m placing the viewer’s eye exactly where I want it; in this case, in the center of the frame.

  • There is movement/motion at the beginning of each shot

Here is the last frame of shot 4.

Here is the first frame [:12] of the next shot I chose.

Both gentlemen are in the frame at the exact same spot.  That’s no accident.  When I get an opportunity to place the viewer’s eye exactly where I want them to be, I do it in an edit.

Again in this shot, I’m taking the edit midmotion.

This is a, I think it’s cool edit. I take the edit midmotion just like I have done before.  I chose to start the edit on this frame, not because of eye movement but because the Marshall looks ‘cool.’  Coming out of the vehicle, he’s got this driving look on his face.  He looks around while putting a piece of paper in his pocket.  I think he just looks cool.

The next shot [:17] taken midmotion, and I utilize a J-cut here.  Why?  If we were following, we wouldn’t constantly be looking at him. Once we heard him say something, we would turn our heads and look at him.  The J-cut imitates that (imitate the eye).

The next 7 edits are all taken midmotion.  I don’t do that on this shot [:44], however.

Why?  Well, he has a caught criminal.  He is just sitting there.  The action of him sitting in handcuffs would draw your eye alone.

Another J-cut [:46] here.  Why?  Well, you would be looking at the arrested individuals, wouldn’t you?  You would hear the Marshall speak and then turn to look at him.  That’s why a J-cut is here.

For this edit [:50], notice I time the edit so that he puts the head down just as the Marshall is saying they admitted to being here illegally.

In the next 4 shots, there is not much going on, so my emphasis on movement isn’t as important.  The Marshall is also doing some interviewing, so I let those shots play out.

In the final six shots, there isn’t an emphasis on movement as well.  The Marshalls have wrapped up today’s work.  I’m merely looking for a shot to help convey that as much as possible.  I’m also looking for shots that look ‘cool.’  I particularly like this one.

I like the rack focus [1:05] from the back of the vest to the Marshall.
It really is the simple things that make you a better editor.

This blog’s primary focus is on the editing of stories.  I would like to point out a few things about the videography.

1.  The photographer stayed with either a medium or wide shot whenever an opportunity to catch an apprehension on camera.  An excellent idea.

2. Only when the environment was under control, like after an apprehension did the photographer shoot tight shots or try to get sequences.

Thanks for reading.

What exactly do you put in a sequence in video editing

This entry is about sequencing. You already know about sequencing? Please, bear with me. You might learn something even if you didn’t understand about sequencing.

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What’s a sequence?

  • A series of shots that should get an object or a person from point a to point b

  • All shots in the sequence should have a commonality to them either by time, location, or elements in the shot

  • Should have a beginning, a middle and an end (more complicated than you think)

All stories are one master sequence

Why do you think that icon you double click to load in the timeline is called a sequence?

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Within that master sequence, you should have many, many, many (get the idea) many smaller sequences. It doesn’t matter if it’s a film, a news package, a personal profile on a web page, or a slide show full of photographs, all stories should use sequencing.

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Every day in your life, you experience sequencing.

In fact, when you open your eyes for the first time, you are about to start the opening sequence of your day. My first sequence usually consists of me opening my eyes, looking at the time, and then turning my head to see my lovely wife next to me. That is a three-shot sequence with a beginning, a middle, and an end. My morning continues with a sequence of me getting out of bed. A sequence of me going downstairs to make coffee.

Many more sequences make up my morning, how about you?

Imitate life.

Imitate the eye

Life is full of sequences

Your eyes observe those sequences. Put those sequences into your projects.

There much more to sequencing.  So let’s use a story I edited to help understand more about sequencing.  The story we’ll use for this post is On This Rock.

This is a story I edited for the ‘Extreme Kellie’ series I produced while I was at KWGN/KDVR in Denver.  In this story, Kellie decides to give rock climbing a try.

The first sequence in the story is Kellie putting on her rock climbing shoes.

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 5.26.51 PMI start with a tight shot of her putting on her shoe on her right foot.

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The next shot is a medium shot of Kellie fiddling with her shoe on her left foot.

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The 3rd shot in my sequence is Kellie showing the bottom of her shoe.

This sequence was only 3 shots, yet it had a beginning, a middle, and an end.

  • All 3 shots are related by time, the time Kellie uses to put on her shoes.

  • All 3 shots are related by location, Kellie sitting on the rock.

  • All 3 shots are related by commonality; Kellie, Rock, Shoes.

All these shots are in order of events.  We don’t see every event. We don’t see her tying her shoes.  We don’t see her putting on her shoe on her left foot.  Our minds fill in those blanks for us because this is a ubiquitous sequence we observe every day in the world.

Compelling storytelling and effective sequencing don’t have to show everything.  It should reveal just enough, so the viewer understands what going on in the sequence.  It should also advance the story.

The next four shots are Kellie talking about how high the rock is and me showing a couple of cutaways of the rock.

Is this a sequence?  Does is get an object or person from point a to point b?  Not really. Are the shots connected by location? Yes. Are the shot connected by time?  Yes (although they could have been shot on two completely different days and the viewer would never know; the beauty of editing). Do they share a commonality? Yes.

You see, Kellie and the rock in one shot and in the other shot just the rock.  Yes, this is a sequence with a beginning a middle but not really an end.

I call this a transitional sequence.

Because I’m going to move Kellie from one spot on the rock to another using the rock cutaway as my transitional shot. Think about if you were there watching all this happen. You look at Kellie. Then, you look up at the rock to see how high it is. While you are looking up, Kellie stands up and walks to a new position. You look down, and she is now standing in a different spot. You didn’t see Kellie get up an move. Your minds accept this because you were looking at something else during that time. The cut that might have happened in your head.  I’ve imitated it in my timeline.

The next sequence is Kellie putting on gear.

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We have a medium shot with a new background.  So, I’m establishing a new location with this shot. The next shot in the sequence is Kellie stepping into the harness. Followed by a tight shot of her tightening up the harness. Followed by Kellie looking down, commenting on making it tight.

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The beginning, middle, end.  I’ll bet you’re saying, “how is that an end?”  “We don’t see the harness complete on her body.”  In the next shot, you do.

The next two shots are Kellie putting on her helmet.  Just a two-shot sequence here.

These two shots are tied to the previous sequence and to the following sequence.  Getting getting ready to climb the rock is one sequence with a beginning, middle, and end.  The getting ready sequence is made of five sub-sequences.

  • Putting on shoes

  • Moving Kellie to another position

  • Putting on harness

  • Putting on helmet

  • Attaching Kellie to safety rig

Every story you edit, you should be able to break down into sub-sequences.  Within those sub-sequences, you should be able to further break down into sub-sequences. Sequencing should be everywhere in your story.

Next, we have a transitional sequence.

This is a sequence of Kellie getting ready to start climbing the rock.

Within all this sequencing is the actual selection of shots you make as an editor.

In this section of the story, Kellie is actually climbing the rock.  I’m going to sequence Kellie getting to the top of the rock.  The photographer did a great job getting lots of shots to choose from.  I’m going to explain why I chose the shots I did in the sequence.

I start with a tight shot of Kellie’s hand.

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Then a medium shot of her starting the climb.

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Followed by a shot from below her looking up.

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Followed by a medium shot from above looking down on Kellie.

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Followed by a shot from the above wide.

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I decided to start with tight shots, move to a medium shot, and then to a wide shot.  I’m doing three things here within the sequence.

  • I give the viewer intimacy with Kellie

  • I provide the viewer with familiarity with the rock

  • I give the viewer a spatial relation on where Kellie is on the rock

Spatial relations is something that’s often overlooked in all editing overall.  Spatial relations is how editors help convey to the viewer where objects are relative to space.  I started the sequence of Kellie beginning to climb the rock with two tight shots.

But Kellie could be anywhere on the rock in those two shots.  In the next shots, you actually see the ground below here but don’t really know how far she has to go.  In the 4th shot, I’m giving the viewer a proper perspective that she’s at the bottom of the rock and has a way to go.  Now the viewer has a perspective.  Your job as the editor is the take the viewer to the scene as best you can.  Give them an idea of everything you can about what going on in the sequence.

I continue to give the viewer a perspective on where Kellie is on the rock, and I’m still sequencing.


Notice in the rest of the story, I’m always moving from shots from above her to shots below her, all in sequence.  All about helping the viewer with perspective.

So what do you put in the sequence?

  • A beginning, a middle, and an end

  • Tight shots for intimacy

  • Wide shots to help with spatial relation

  • Variety (from above, from below, from the side) – help the viewer get an idea of what is going on and where

  • Shots that advance your story

Remember, only you can help prevent bad editing

Thanks for reading.

The Why of My Simple Motion Effects in Video Editing

A motion effect changes the size, shape, opacity, duration, the position of your video, image, text, or graphic in your projects.  Motion effects are easy.  I’m not going to explain the how of motion effects.  I’m going to explain why.

Our story for this post is We haven’t heard that word in forever.

The first shot [:00] is Garrett shooting a basketball around in an empty gym.

There is a slow zoom.  The photographer didn’t shoot that, I did that in post.  I want to pull you into the story visually and symbolically.  I change the scale from 100% at the start of the clip to 130%.  130% of the original resolution is about the maximum I scale video.  Beyond 130%, your video starts getting blurry.

The next shot [:07] is of the scoreboard.

I start the scale at 125% and create a slow zoom to 100% scale.  The speed is 75%.  The shot is blurry.  I like the way the light coming from the scoreboard blends with the silhouette shot of garret playing basketball.  The cross-dissolve between the two shots is 4 seconds.

The next shot [:11] is a super-tight shot of the scoreboard rotated -30 degrees.

At 130% scale and scaled it back to 100%.  I copy and paste the motion attributes from the previous motion effect to save time.

You should think backward when you’re creating a motion effect.  Think about what you want the effect to be at the end of the clip. Do you want to zoom in, zoom out, change the duration?  In each of these cases, I think about the last frame before I decide what to do with the first frame of the clip.

The next time I do a motion effect [:27] is between George Carl’s sound bites.

I change the speed of this clip.  The real reason, the shot doesn’t last as long as I want it, so I slow down the rate to 50%.

Ok, back to Garret playing basketball and back to me with a slow zoom [:55].  I’m just trying to pull you into the story.  I don’t want it to be always so obvious I’m doing this.

Scale from 100% to 115%.  It’s subtle.  The viewer barely notices it.

Another scaling from 100% to 120% [1:31]

Another subtle scaling from 100% to 120% on this interview [1:42]

I like zooming in on moments of emotion or revelation in soundbites.

This story is video light. I didn’t have much time to work on it either.  I use what I have and get creative when needed. The reporter talks about the doctor’s office, the video I don’t have.  So, I change the speed of this video to 33%.

I know where I want my shot to end, right when the camera is up close in his face.

I want the shot to start right as the camera stabilizes, and the photographer is just past his light stands in the shot.  Using fit to fill, it calculates 33% speed.

The next shot, same logic.

I know I want to end when the camera is in focus.  I know I want to start while the shot is still blurry.  I fit to fill for a 50% velocity.

Many times in editing, I think about where the shot ends more than where the shot starts.

These motion effects that are quick and easy.  Great to use when under a deadline, and you have a 4 minutes plus story to keep the viewer engaged in.

Thanks for reading The Edit Foundry.

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In The Style Of Jump Editing

You know how to edit.  You understand the basic concepts of video editing.  You know the importance of a sequence.  You’ve grasped screen direction.  You know the importance of tight shots.  You know the rules, which are more guidelines than rules.  So, you want to break some rules?

This is a style that you could use, no matter what type of storyteller you are.  I call this jump editing.

Jump cuts are intentional.  There are some rules to jump editing (or guidelines).

Are you ever given a story that just screams jump cuts?  I was given a few of these in my time in a newsroom.  The goal is to tell the story of a makeover while weaving a story of a woman that is ambushed.  I have fun with stories like these.  I do have a method to this madness I call jump editing.  I’m going to share my process.

I cut the story as tight as I can.  I fit as much story and visuals as I can in 1:45.  You see lots of edits, not too many, but enough to make the story fast and fun.

Our story for this post is She’s a Lady.

Our story begins with our host walking up to an unsuspecting woman.

In the second shot of the story [:02], I increase the scale to 130%.  I take the edit mid-motion.  Taking edits on motion helps disguise jump cuts a little, music videos do this all the time.

Why did I increase the scale?  So the next shot isn’t as brutal of a jump cut with this shot.  The change in scale creates two shots with a little bit of a difference in composition.

Her position in the frame helps as well.  Another idea I didn’t do.  Re-size the image and move it to adjust where the person is in the frame.

The next shot, the videographer pans from our makeover candidate to our show host.  The shot ends looking like this.

I break up the host talking about the ambush (she rambles on with information that doesn’t advance the story) when I make the next edit. It is this [from 08 to 10].

Again, I use the same trick as before.  I increase the scale of the shot. In this shot, I increase the scale to 120%.

It is enough of a compositional change that hides a jump cut (sort of). I make another edit breaking up our host talking.  I change the scale back to 100%.

You’ll see later in the piece jump cuts where our woman is in different spots in the store.  I’m ok with those kinds of jump cuts regardless of editing style.  When you are going from the interview or the one being interviewed and the composition is the exact same, I think a subtle change in composition really helps these edits not become too jarring.

When our subjects accept, the shot of her accepting is fast.  There are two pans back to back.  Another way I hid the jump cuts, I use the pan and make my cuts on the movement or right before the movement starts.  After the pans, we are introduced to an assistant in the makeover.

Then I edit a shot of everyone entering the first store. The camera is still panning when I take the edit, and everyone entering the store is moving [:09].  There is a lot of change in the composition as well, two things that ease the jump cut.

They are in the store, and then I go back to the interview in the middle of the mall.  Why?  I always like to show emotion on camera.  Emotion overrides all in editing, right?  That’s why I go back outside of the store because our candidate is excited about her makeover.

A music montage follows.  I’m using Tom Jones’ She a Lady for this story.  I love me some Tom Jones.  The song also fits the story very well. In the montage notice again a lot of movement.

The edit at [:15] I take just when she pulls her head up.

The next shot at [:16] I take the edit right as she turns her head.  The next shot at [:17], there isn’t much movement.  It’s also not a jump cut from the shot at [:16].  Back to a jump cut at [:18] and back to finding the movement to edit on.

After the music montage, I tell a little bit about her story.  We get to know our candidate.  Everybody has a story.  The prime objective is to just show the makeover; however, I wanted to tell a more of a story.  I am a storyteller, you know.

Several Jump cuts after this use as much movement as I can find in the shots the videographer brought back.

At [:39], the videographer does a swish zoom out.  I only use this once.  It’s too distracting for me to use a lot.   I liked using it here to break up all the jump cuts.

Transitional shot next at [:42].  Not everything has to be a jump cut.  A chance to bring the music up full as well.

I use the transitional to transition them into the next store.

Once I get into the store, I use more tight shots than I did before.  We are in a jewelry store, and jewelry is small, that just lends itself to tight shots.  How else are we going to see the pretty jewelry?

Another music montage at [:56].  Again I’m finding motion in the edits.

We move to another store at [1:03]. This time I simply use a pan down from the outside store sign to them entering for my transitional shot.

The sequence from [1:13] to [1:21] is my favorite part of the story.

Women LOVE trying on shoes.  I say it again.  Women LOVE to try on shoes.  Showing all these shoe shots is good.  Showing her moving her foot, in the mirror, her foot bouncing all shows happiness in her, and the viewer feels it.

This is followed by her asking her daughter if she likes mommies shoes, and then she says, “so fun!”  I don’t change the composition of the shots.  I don’t cut away. Why? Editing for emotion.

So what to take out of this post?

  • Learn the rules (guidelines) and break them (appropriately).
  • Use motion to help with your jump cuts
  • Re-size shots to change composition a little to help with jump cuts
  • Jump cuts are fun, but don’t go overboard.  Too many become distracting.  Find a balance.
  • Still, try to tell a story
  • Remember, emotion first. That overrides all else in editing.

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Keep it simple with graphics and text in video editing

An essential element of storytelling is the use of text and graphics.  Often you’ll be asked to be creative when a visually weak story comes your way.  A good video editor has ideas always ready to go; simple ideas.  This story was produced over 15 years ago.  The lesson is simple; graphic and text elements can add to your story.  Just a few simple effects can enhance a story.

In my time in a broadcast newsroom, one of my favorite types of stories to edit was an investigative story.  I was always challenged with stories that weren’t full of visuals.  This is one of my favorites from my time at KUSA.


This story is an investigation of a sheriff’s misuse of prisoners.  Time is going to be a factor in this story.  So you’ll notice me telling the viewer what time it is relative to the video. The first time I use text is at [:14]

 I put the time up in the top left corner.   I put the time on two layers, I just made the text bigger and slowly dropped the opacity on the 2nd layer.  The reason I did the outline text is simply I wanted something to grab the viewer’s attention to they see the time.

The next time I use text, there’s a lot more going on.  The mugshot and the stack of arrest records were created in photoshop. The documents are at an angle. I l like to create depth any chance I get visually.

I keep it simple. The text I’ve generated is moving slightly as well as the arrest records and mugshot.  I think the movement is critical.    I pull out the arrest record slightly to imply they are coming from those papers, which they are.

Also, notice in the upper left is a cutout of the prisoner.  This is a super simple element that can quickly be created in photoshop.









You see a cutout of a prisoner more prominently in this shot.  See him in the middle of the screen?  This was also accomplished in Photoshop.  Very easy to do, I do the same thing here again.  Bringing mugshot and arrest record forward.  Notice you also see Thaddeus in the background.  I still see these same tricks in news stories today.  What works, works.









I have 8 layers of video.

  1. The shot of the 3 prisoners all blurred
  2. a cutout of the prisoner the reporter is discussing
  3. The Mugshot
  4. The text of the prisoner’s name
  5. A layer of the arrest record
  6. A layer of the arrest record
  7. A layer of the arrest record
  8. Text highlighting convictions

In all three of those, the position of the mugshot and arrest record is simply so you can see the cutout of the prisoner in the background.










I use time again here.  Same idea as before.  Keeping it simple.









I didn’t create this graphic, the graphics department did.









I did create this graphic.  Again time is part of our story.  I do a simple stretch of the titles. The times come in the same way as I’ve been doing the whole rest of the package.  I blur the left side of the screen.  Why? Prisoners are on the right side of the screen, and the left side is an excellent place to put the text.









One last thing I want to talk about in this post.  I created this wipe as a transition. Why?  I’m not a big fan of the stock wipes in any NLE.  So I decided to create my own.  Try crafting your own wipe.

Thanks for reading.

Every Edit in Video Editing Could be a Transition

Every edit you make in video editing could be a transition, a cut, a dissolve, a wipe, all transitions.  A sequence could be a transition.  A pan could be a transition.  A person walking across the screen could be a transition.  Anything that advances your story and takes the viewer to another location, Time, or space is a transition.

Transitions can change the mood in your story.  Every edit should advance your story.  Every transition should have a purpose.  I am not a big fan of wipes.

I love Star Wars.  The Empire Strikes Back is one of my top 5 favorite movies of all time.  I understand why there are silly wipes in the film (they wanted to harken back to the black and white tv serials).  The reason I point out The Empire Strikes Back is it’s still one of my favorite movies despite silly wipes.

If you use a wipe or two in a story, it’s not a bad thing.  Just think about which wipes you use and if they’ll distract from the story. Wipes draw attention to themselves.  A good editor tries to hide his edits.  There are, however, times when transitions like dissolves are necessary.

The story for this post is The Ocean Carries Meaning.

I’ll break down the story and talk about transitions.  I’ll explain why I used a dissolve the way I did and what are some other transitional elements in the story.
The first 4 shots of this story I use dissolves.
The first two shots of the ocean are compositionally similar.  If you cut those two shots together, it’s a compositional jump cut.

What is a compositional Jumpcut?  Compositional Jump Cut is when you cut two shots together with similar visual perspectives together.


Look in the middle of these shots.  See where the ocean meets the horizon?


In each of these shots, that line is virtually identical.  Another thing that’s similar in perspective is the amount of sky relative to the ocean and sand.  The sky shares the same amount of space in both shots.  If these two shots were cut together, I would refer to them as a compositional jump cut.  Compositional Jump cuts, by the way, is something I came up with.  I’ve never actually heard or read that phrase.  I just think it’s an easy way to explain why you don’t cut these kinds of shots together.

So, why didn’t I choose another shot?  I wanted to show that two beauty shot and didn’t want another shot.  It’s as simple as that.  I tried to make these two shots work, and using a dissolve I felt was the best way to do that.

From the 2nd shot above to the first Time we see Tom [At 09], I use dissolve again. These two shots actually cut together fine.  Why did I dissolve here?  It’s a feel thing.  I just felt like I needed to keep the dissolves going as almost a theme at the beginning of the story.

Sometimes multiple dissolves simply are there because they are complementing each other.

From Tom coming down the ramp [At 12], I dissolve to the interview shot.  Why?

Because they are both tight shots. Cutting those two shots together would create another compositional jump cut. Out of the interview, to the reveal of Tom [:17] in a wheelchair, I cut.  From [:17] to [:35] I cut because of sequencing.  At [:35], I cut back to the interview.

You just see the wheelchair, so the cut works fine. At [:37] is a tight shot of Tom’s leg, and I use some natural sound to transition to Tom in the swimming pool training.

Natural sound can be a great transition.  No need for a dissolve or wipe.  The natural sound does the trick for the story.  From here to [:48] is a sequence of Tom training in the pool, which all cuts fine.

At [:49], I dissolve from Tom’s training to a wide shot of the ocean.

Looking back at this edit, these two shots cut together just fine (if I’d chosen that).  I wanted a dreamy feel.  It’s Tom’s dream to dive, so from training to the ocean is almost a dream.  The dissolve helps convey that feeling of a dream.

Why didn’t I dissolve into the training?  Training is something he has to do, but it’s not his dream.


From [:51] to [1:12] are cuts.  It’s a sequence of Tom on the boat, and then a reporter stands up.  From the reporter stand up back to Tom, I dissolve.  Why?  She’s talking about how he got paralyzed.  I want to create a feeling of a transition of Time.

Dissolves can create a transition in Time

I Dissolve [1:26] from the interview back to Tom, getting ready to dive.

Again part of creating a dreamy feel. From [1:28] to [1:55], I’m cutting with sequencing.

At [1:58], I dissolve, and 3 more dissolves follow to [2:07] Again, back to the dream of diving.  I’m continuing with creating that dream feeling. From [2:09] to 2:38], I cut. I’ve already created the dream feels as he begins the dive.

Now I’m sequencing.  I don’t need to keep dissolving.  He’s living the dream, so you don’t need to create a feeling anymore. At [2:39], I dissolve from a wide shot of Tom underwater to a tight shot.


Why here?  I didn’t like the way the shots cut.  I’m kind of anal when it comes to matching action.  At [2:48], another dissolve. Same reason, the match action doesn’t cut right.  So, sometimes I dissolve simply because I don’t like who two shots cut together.

Here’s a place where I’d rather dissolve than use a cutaway.  So why not just show a cutaway?  First of all, the reporter is talking about Tom.  So, no cutaway would be relevant.  Second I try not to use shots unless they are relevant to the story.

Earlier I showed a cutaway of a fish [2:20] because it’s relevant to the story.


At [2:55] is another dissolve to an interview.  This is another feel thing.  I’ve just done two dissolves of Tom underwater.  Yes, I’m dissolving because I don’t like how the shots cut together. These two dissolves I’m again creating that dream come true feeling
Another dissolve just felt appropriate here [2:55].  It’s a feel thing.  I’m actually amazing myself explaining feel here.


At [2:59], I use sound as my transition.  I go from the interview to a sequence of Tom coming out of the water. From [2:59] to [3:24], I sequencing again, so I cut.


At [3:18], I bring up the natural sound of the boat. Again, using sound as a transition.  I’m telling the viewer the boats moving, and they’re on there way back.


At [3:24], I dissolve from a shot of the bird flying next to the boat to Tom on the dock (it’s a tight shot of his hand)


This dissolve is simply a time transition dissolve. The rest of the story finishes out on the dock, so I sequence.  No reason to dissolve anything here.

Transitions are critical to every story.

They are the tool that moves the story from one place to another.

They are also a tool to help set a mood.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I love comments.