Category Archives: Anatomy of an Edit

Yeah, of course those tight shots are important!

The story for this post is part 1 of a documentary I edited back in 2008.

In this post, I’ll share how I used music and the importance of tight shots.  I have lots of and lots of tight shots.  You can never have enough tight shots.  I’m glad my photographer had lots and lots of tight shots to choose from.

Scott’s Story (the documentary) starts at [:11] on my YouTube channel.  The editing, in the beginning, is pretty standard.  I’m not trying to be fancy, just simple S.W.A.P. (synchronizing words and pictures).  Tight shots can really take the viewer into your location.  If you want to make them feel like they are closely watching it on T.V., then use tight shots.

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Like this tight shot of the wheel.

The beginning of the documentary is essential.  It sets the style for the rest of the piece. The photographer and the reporter both felt this was a compelling story.  Scott’s story didn’t need any fancy editing.  My goal was to stay out of the way as much as possible.   If you don’t notice my editing in this story, then I’ve done my job.

During the beginning of the story, I did want to throw in a few shots that show Scott’s tremors.  I am showing this without the reporter talking about it. You could say it’s the surprise at the beginning of the story.  I wanted the first few times you see this to be subtle.

At [1:11], you see Scott lying on the ground, working on the Go-Kart.

Then, I show a tight shot of Scott’s left handshaking at [1:12].  When you show a tight, it should share one piece of information, and that one piece of information should be important to the story.  A tight shot of the wheel show details of the go-kart.  The go-kart is an essential part of the story.  A tight show of Scott’s hand is also a necessary part of the story.   The viewer just doesn’t know why yet.

Then, I show a medium shot with Scott’s left foot in the foreground at [1:14]. These 3 shots together introduce the viewer to something that’s not right with Scott.

At [1:34] The reporter track says,

Firing up the Engine, you’ll notice something else.

Now I want to make sure the viewer sees the tremors and understand this is a crucial moment in the story.  I bring the music up full for a second and Scott says,

This is hard to do with my hand shaking.

I then show a tight shot of Scott’s handshaking.  That tight shot is not up long.  But with the addition of the music and the use of the tight shot the viewer should get it.

I place the music here to signify a moment in the story.  Scott and his best friend are talking about his tremors.  There is a noticeable change in the mood of the story.  The music helps with that mood.

I bring up the music every now and then, never just cause.  If the music comes up full, it’s for a reason.  At [1:57] Scott says,

Parkinson’s is a degenerative brain disease without a cure.

I bring the music up full after he says that for the same reason as before, a moment for the viewer to feel.  The music helps to reinforce the moment.

I leave the music underneath until [2:49].  Notice it just fades away?  No, you didn’t, and neither does the viewer.  I  slowly bring in down over 5 seconds.  Back to that, trying to keep the editing as unnoticeable as possible.

I do want to bring attention to Scott’s hand, A lot.  Pay attention to just how many times there is a tight shot of Scott’s hand just in this first segment.

Here is another tight shot at [1:48] showing Scott’s tremors.  So much information in tight shots.  It’s amazing sometimes how such a small thing can carry so much information for a story.  Please continue watching part of Journey of Hope.  Please see how often I use tight shots.  When you see a tight shot of Scott’s tremors, ask yourself, is Shawn using too many tight shots?  Am I over-showing the earthquakes?  I don’t think so.  Enjoy my tight shots.  Now go out and shoot some tight shots yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Try Making as Many Edits as Possible Using Eye Trace

The story for this post is We’re Shootin, the big ones.  

You are going to need to watch the piece several times and read the blog entry a few times before this entry really sinks in.  Please stick with this entry.  It will make your editing better right away.

This is a story about setting up a fireworks display.  I used this opportunity to think about eye trace with as many edits as possible and do it with a limited amount of time.  I only had about 2 hours to edit this story. 

At [:02] into the story, I have a tight shot.


He picks this item up.  Before it leaves the frame 100%, I cut to another shot.  Your eyes are watching the object go up, and so your eyes are in the top middle of the frame.  Next, I looked for a shot that;

  1. Matched the action

  2. Has some action to look at in the middle of the screen to maintain eye trace

I found one.

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I’m keeping your eyes in the middle of the frame.

This gentleman walks to screen left.  I looked for a shot that has an action screen left.

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This is the shot I found.  I wanted something more screen left, but I didn’t have it.  So, this was the best shot that I could find.

Not only am I looking for what is in the shot, but I’m also looking at the action in the shot and how it maintains eye trace with the next edit.  It’s fascinating to think about.

The next time I use eye trace in this piece it at [:07] from the interview,

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to the b-roll shot.

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I’m looking at the next shot and what’s going on.  I’m thinking ahead.  In fact, during this piece, I was often thinking at least 3 edits ahead. For this edit, I’m thinking about the end of the shot.  When it starts isn’t nearly as important as when it ends.  I’m thinking about eye trace to the next shot.  I wait until the guy walks far enough screen left just as he bends down. I make a cut,

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to this shot.

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Notice this gentleman is screen right, maintaining eye trace, and he moves subtly to our right. His movement helps the edit.

Not every edit has eye trace, and I’m highlighting the good ones for this post.

I’m thinking about eye trace as much as I can and making as many edits as I can work. The gentlemen walk screen right at [:13]

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Just when he gets to the point I want him at, I make a cut.

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To the interview, that’s set up screen right.

Again, with this edit, I’m thinking about what happens at the end of the edit more than what happens at the beginning of the edit.

I hope you see how thinking about eye trace can add a little something extra in ordinary everyday stories.

There are several other instances of eye trace in this story. Watch where there is some movement in the story.  A person walking or something coming into the screen.  Notice all the edits I’m paying attention to eye trace.

So here’s a test for you.  The next time your editing a story, think about the end of the edit more than the beginning of the edit.  Is something moving?  Can you use eye trace to make your edit better?

Thanks for reading the Edit Foundry.

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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

Add This and Add That to Help Convey The Emotion

Our story for this post is How Far She’s Come.

I’ll bet you’ve edited a story very similar to this.  The story is great, but the visuals you have to put it together with are just ok.  I strive to make every edit the best I can.  Here are some tips and tricks to help you the next time you get a story like this or any story for that matter.

This is a story about a little girl that fell out of a window in an apartment complex.

Our story begins inside the apartment.  The first shot is of the little girl.


I did have a few exteriors to choose from.  I decided to start with the little girl.  Would you rather see a cute little girl or an exterior of a building?  

I use a lot of natural sound from the little girl.

This post is about adding elements to a story to help convey emotion.  At [:15] is my first little addition.  I do a match-frame from her cute face…

..and then I slow the video down 50% and increase the scale of the frame.

 I increase the scale on the very next shot as well.

The next shot after that too.

My logic for using these frame scale increases is I like to pull the viewer into a story.  It’s a subtle way of adding a little emotion.

  • Tip #1 Increase scale to mimic a slow zoom as a way of pulling viewers into the story

Here another trick I use when I think a story needs a little help with emotion.  I’m going to slow the narration down.  I’m NOT going to alter the voice.  Here’s my trick; between her sentences, I put 10 frames of nothing.  When I think a reporter is talking too fast, a quick way to help the pace out and slow the narration down is to put ten frames of nothing or silence down.  When I edit documentaries and use this trick to slow the down narration elements.  It’s a good little trick, those 10 frames often give the viewer time to absorb information.

You can really hear it at [:24].  Now that I’ve pointed it outlook for other places in the story where you hear me putting space between narration sentences.  There are more in this story.

  • Tip #2 Add 10 seconds of silence between the narrator’s sentences to slow down the narrator.

At [:26] I pan down from the top floor of the apartment to the ground below.  I am not a fan of pans.

 Once in awhile, a pan works.  This is one occasion where conveying the fall to the viewer works with a pan down.

At [:29] here me pausing her narration again.  10 frames make a big difference!

Another scale increase at [:31]

You’ll also notice every shot from [:18] to [1:03] is a dissolve.

A series of dissolves with several shots and frame scale increase.  All my little tools to help pull the viewer in and add a little emotion.

I also decided to add music to the story.  I chose something straightforward and unrecognizable. 

At 1:03, there are no more dissolves (well for a while) and no more music.

Back to go old storytelling.

Why?  I don’t feel a need for any music now.  The little girl is recovering, she’s in therapy, and I have lots of good stuff to convey the feeling of the day.  I don’t need music here to help.

It’s not till [1:54] that my story needs a little help again. We’re going back outside, back in time talking about the fall.  I use dissolves, and the frame scale increases again to convey to the viewer were in the past still.

The reporter stands up is something that was shot on a different day at a different location.  I tried to convince the Reporter and an Executive Producer I could make the story better and work without the stand-up.  Obviously, I lost that one.  You can’t win every editing battle.  But I’m happy I tried.

The closing shot is that of the little girl again playing being cute.  I’m bookending the story keeping the opening and closing shots similar.  I also think this is a much better shot than say an exterior.

Thanks for reading

Shawn Montano

If you can’t S.W.A.P use Symbolism

If you can’t use S.W.A.P, use symbolism.  What’s S.W.A.P.?  Synchronize Words And Pictures.  So when the narration says, “This Bus,” you ideally would show the bus.

Have you ever had a section of narration and you have absolutely no idea how you are going to cover it?  Ideally, you strive to cover an interview or narration with whatever they’re talking about.  Well, that’s not always going to happen.  Quite often, a reporter, writer, or producer will right you into oblivion, and you have to figure out what video you should use.

Here is an example of a story like that and what I did with it to make it work.  A majority of the story, I felt the shots I chose worked well.  But there are some lines of a track I really struggled finding the right shot.  So please watch the story and check S.W.A.P (Synchronizing words and pictures) when it works, then look at the shots I choose when I don’t have an excellent relevant shot, here I try to use symbolism.

The story is a look at the recovery efforts after a tornado hit the town of Windsor, Colorado.

So here’s some of my logic to the story Reminders of May 22nd

Our first track is

There are still reminders of May 22nd.

I start the story with a medium shot of a bare tree.  I felt this bare tree looked like a tree you would see on any day of tornado stories.

The next shot is of that same tree, but now you see what appears to be what’s left of an aluminum shed.

Then I take a tight shot of that ripped shed. Notice I take the edit mid-motion.  Like if you were there, you’d get here that noise the aluminum makes, and then you would look at it.

Take notice that the first 6 shots in this story all have slow zooms I added in editing.  My subtle way of pulling you into the story.

At [:13], You hear the reporter, and then I cut to her visually.  This is another little trick I do a lot.  Helping take the viewer to a new location and imitating the eye.  If you were looking at that tree and then heard the reporter talk, you wouldn’t look at her until she already started speaking.

I’ve got music going in this whole story, but this [at:16] is the first time I bring it up full.  I give a moment for the viewer to absorb the shot…

…now, my journey to try and find some relevant video begins.  I show the shot above because the mayor speaks about houses with no roofs.

Then he talks about someone losing half a home, so I show this shot.

Then when he’s talking about fences being gone, I use downed fences video.

He then talks about seeing the living room and kitchen, so I show this shot.

Throughout the story so far, I’m doing my best to find shots relevant to the story.

Obviously, the tornado should be shown.  I had to pull it from a file package, so I only had a few shots to choose from to make this section work.

Now my true symbolic adventure begins.  There are several lines of track I’m totally not sure what to cover with.  I try to find shots that have some kind of symbolism,  something the viewer can look at, and it helps understand and correlate with the narration.

The soundbite I’m covering with these two previous shots is

For what we’ve seen in a year, it’s a great accomplishment.

Showing the town of Windsor sign up is just a symbolic shot of the city getting back to normal.  Tornadoes knock down trees, so showing trees ready for disposal is again a symbolic shot of recovery.

This doesn’t require reasoning.  Showing someone working on a house shows repair from the tornado.  I think it’s important to point out that I work very hard to find relevant shots; I’m only going a symbolism route if I cannot find a shot that genuinely works with the narration.

This daycare was heavily damaged, and people familiar with the story will appreciate this shot.  Sometimes an edit may only be for a few.

The narration is about rebuilding families.  There is symbolism in this shot that is just subtle, and that’s the board in the foreground.

Please continue watching.  There are a few other symbolic shots that I think work very well.  I challenge you to find the right shot for every edit.  I do.

Those challenges aren’t always met.  Several edits in life, you just have to find something that’ll work.

Thanks for continuing to read

Shawn Montano



Use should be Constantly Experimenting with Natural Sound

One of my favorite stories I have ever done is It’s a Kids Game.

I love using natural sound (you should too).  I love experimenting with natural sound.  I have used too much natural sound in a story.  I have used too little natural sound in a story.  The only way to figure out if you use too little or too much is to experiment.  Ultimately you have to decide if your story has too much or too little natural sound.

I did more than just experiment with natural sound in It’s a Kid’s Game.  I experimented with the rhythm of natural sound in this story.  A long time ago, someone told me that using natural sound elements in threes was his/her guideline or rule, meaning he/she would use three distinct ‘pops’ of natural sound when appropriate.  This rule/guideline helped with the rhythm of stories.

What if you tried to do anything but three natural sound pops.  What if you did four, five, or six.  What if you did just one but tried to avoid three.  That’s what I attempted to do one day while doing a natural sound story.

I’ve written the story out here as if I was following was a script.   So, watch It’s a Kids Game, then read the script, then watch It’s a Kids Game again.

Here is the script;

  • Whiffle ball being thrown
  • The player taking a deep breath
  • Swinging a ball
  • Pitcher saying ‘All right.’

  • “It’s kind of like a swiss cheese ball.”
  • A whiffle ball being thrown
  • A ball hitting the chain link fence
  • A ball bouncing on the tennis court
  • Someone hitting a wiffle ball with a bat
  • Spectators saying ‘nice.’

  • It sounds like baseball.
  • A batter takes a big sigh
  • Someone saying ‘One out.’
  • Someone saying ‘bases-loaded.’
  • The pitcher saying 3,1
  • A batter hitting the ball

  • “It resembles baseball a lot.
  • A batter hitting a whiffle ball
  • Another batter hitting a whiffle ball
  • A batter watching ball go by and hit hitting the net
  • A spectator saying ‘just a bit outside, ball two.’
  • Ball going into net and batter saying aw!

  • They’re all kids when it comes to this game.
  • Guy saying oh! as he misses a ball while batting

  • That’s the first time I’ve ever seen an adult play whiffle ball before.
  • A batter hits a wiffle ball

  • Wiffle ball, all the way.
  • ‘Count’
  • ‘2-0’
  • The natural sound of someone missing

  • The Balls are a lot smaller.
  • Sound of pulling the ball out of the bucket
  • Sound of pitcher’s efforts

  • And they’re a lot obviously lighter.
  • It’s pretty much like throwing air
  • Sound of whiffle ball going by and hitting the fence
  • The guy said, oh!

  • It’s the baby brother of baseball.
  • The guy hitting a foul ball

  • It’s America’s game.
  • One guy hits wiffle ball
  • Another guy hits whiffle ball
  • The guy saying, ‘yeah, baby.’

  • It might be the next Olympic sport you never know, yeah, you never know.
  • The guy saying ‘all right.’
  • Give you something to hit

  • We’re all a bunch of has-beens, bunch of has-beens never will be’s.
  • Natural of shoe scraping ground
  • Sound of his second-foot scraping ground
  • A batter hitting the ball

  • They don’t run like the bases, they just basically have points where um it’s used for 1st base, 2nd base or whatever cause there’s not enough room you know to run.
  • Sound of whiffle ball
  • Sound of the ball hitting the fence

  • You can’t get a full team of guys together anymore. We’ve got work, kids.
  • Bat hitting a whiffle ball
  • Kids saying whiffle ball
  • Gentlemen clapping

  • It gives us a chance to come out and be heroes even if it’s in front of six guys in an afternoon.
  • Guy missing pitch

  • I’m really surprised to see a lot of these guys have gotten it over the fence here.
  • You got it, get over, get over.
  • Hey, this guys just hit a home run.

  • I always used to think it was a kids game, but it’s actually gettin’ to be pretty serious.
  • Bat hits ball
  • Wiffleball comes in

  • It’s just kinda come out here and be a kid for a little while.
  • I should of hit that one.

  • I played it back in elementary school, but that was it.
  • Ball coming in
  • guy hitting ball

  • It is a kid’s game.
  • More adults are getting into it.
  • Ball hits backstop
  • If it makes me just a little bit younger.
  • “Nice, buddy.”
  • I’ll take every second of it I can get.
  • Good game, good game.

As you observed, I only used natural sound in groups of threes only 4 times.  I tried to avoid doing that, but I also had to get this story to air.  I wanted to prove you don’t need to follow some rules or guidelines simply because.  Understand the rules (which are really just guidelines) and then break them.

Thank you for reading

It Went Viral! But did the editing help?

In my post-news career in the freelance world, I do many different types of productions.  I do corporate videos, presentations, music videos, business profiles, and much more.  The rules of editing I learned in my news career I still apply as often as I can when I produce material today.

This production went viral.  This Ignite talk by Ash Beckham is the #1 Ignite talk viewed ever on Youtube. It’s been viewed over 550,000 times!

My editing had nothing to do with this video going viral.  The content drove it to be viewed by so many.  I do think my editing helped in the viewing and understanding of the content.  Yes, there is a logic in editing this video.

If you are familiar with Walter Murch, you know about blink points.  If you are not, allow me to explain.  When you listen to someone talking to you, your blinks may, in fact, coincide with your understanding of the information.  You quite often blink when you’re brain has processed some info.

Walter Murch has a theory that the human blink is emotional punctuation.  Murch found that nearly every single time he decided to make a cut, a character in a movie he was editing would blink very close to the frame he chose to make an edit on.  He concluded a person will blink every time they understand thought or emotion.
“So it seems to me,” Murch says, “that our rate of blinking is somehow geared more to our emotional state and to the nature and frequency of our thoughts than to the atmospheric environment we happen to find ourselves in.  The blink is either something that helps an internal separation of thought to take place, or it is an involuntary reflex accompanying the mental separation that is taking place anyway.”

As I was editing the Ignite Boulder presentations, I used this ideal.  The first sentence Ash says is, “My name is Ash, and I can say unequivocally I am so gay.” and right after she completes that thought, I make an edit.

I put her graphic on the screen full, and she says, “… eliminating the word gay as a pejorative from our lexicon.” She completes the thought, and I make an edit.

I am using her completions of thoughts to make edit decisions. I’m not using her complete sentences.  Quite often, you see multiple edits make before she completes a sentence.  Now I will sometimes use other cues to make my decision.  Perhaps I make a decision because I want to cut to the full-screen graphic. After all, she talks about it.  For the most part, in this edit, I used what I felt were thought completions. Here’s an example.

Explain to you the difference between what I just said and what this image conveys (CUT).  Now you may be saying Ash we live in Boulder we love gays here, (CUT) we have pride, we have BCAP all true, (CUT) but I guarantee you there are places you go every day (CUT).

As you can see, I’m not waiting for her to complete a sentence but a thought.  Watch the entire video and really concentrate on it when she makes a complete thought.  Watch how often I have an edit at that same moment.

Here is another example in the edit when I use blink points.  At [1:38] she says

“The top row they’ve all come out, (CUT) now the bottom row we cross our fingers but (CUT) until they do, their cartoons and muppets so at the very least they’re happy (CUT).  Now there is a long list of things that you should never call so gay (CUT); an assignment you don’t wanna do is not so gay(CUT). Someone’s new haircut is not so gay (CUT). A workout you don’t like is no so gay (CUT).  A test that you bombed is not so gay (CUT). Someone’s car is not so gay (CUT).   Now again, I may be preaching to the Boulder loving gay choir (CUT).”

Blinks point can be used in ANY type of edit.  Blink points should be used in EVERY edit.  Next time you are stuck with where to make an edit, think about blink points.

Thanks for reading.




The Cut. It is an effect too!

The story you are about to watch put me on the map.  Several talented people took notice of my developing skills.  I won several awards for this story.   You should have a story like this, a story everyone notices and lives for a few years.  Ok, enough about that.

This is an educational blog, so what can you learn from a story like this.  You can learn that the basic elements we use every day can turn into an effect.  Yes, the cut can be an effect.  This was edited in a tape-to-tape edit bay back in 1999.

Our story for this post is New York Street Boys.

In this post, we’re going to talk about

  • Using a cut as an effect
  • Using quick edits as a transition device

The cut is the device storytellers use most often.  I’d guess over 95% of the content you see in film, television, and the web uses cuts.

We often see storytellers use effects to enhance a story.  Many of us know what effects our NLE are capable of and can grab any one of the numerous effects to enhance a story.

New York Street Boys is an effect driven story, except the effect is simply a cut.

Our story begins at [:02].  It starts with a wide shot of crowd gathered.

After that shot, we have 44 cuts in less than 8 seconds.  All of these cuts are edited to the beat.  I’m creating an effect by merely cutting quickly.

I understand I wanted to have fun with this story.  Rarely you ever get an edit that just calls out for a certain kind of edit.  I could have easily edited this with significantly fewer edits and had a good story.  This is a case of wanting the edits to enhance the overall experience of the story.

There are only 3 shots that are wide shots within that series of cuts.  Your eye probably only recognized two of those wide shots.  I did that because of the way the brain process information.  The brain can only process so much information at a time. If you’re going to use this type of editing and you still want the viewer to gather information about the story, tight shots are the way to go.

Try to use a vastly different shot.  Wide and tight and/or different colors or diverse elements.  This will help the viewer’s eye and getting information.

I’ve established the style in which I’m going to tell the story right from the beginning.  I’m going to use quick cuts, often single frame edits.  Does this represent the way the eye would work if you were there?  No.

New York Street Boys is not about imitating the eye.  It’s about using a tool, in this case, a cut to enhance the viewing of the story.

  • I want the viewer to see the story, hear the story, and I’m going to try and make them feel the story.

Quick cuts are my attempt to take the viewer as much into the story as I think I can.

In the series of cuts from [:12] to [:14], the tight shot has little going on in them.

In a few frames, you see the drumstick hitting the trash can.  But other than that, I keep what’s going on in the quick edits simple.

In the first 14 seconds of the story, I have lots and lots of cuts.  It would be an epic edit if I kept that pace up throughout this piece.  I don’t do this for a few reasons.

  • I don’t want this style to get in the way of the story
  • I’m just trying to use it to enhance the story in places
  • It would have taken me a long, long time to edit.

So from [:14] to [:31] I’m only just trying to tell a story.  I also introduce our first character in the story.

The next time I use quick edits is at [:32].  I’m using it as a transition device to introduce another character.

I do this quick edits transition again at [:52] to introduce the final character.

Looking back on this story, I realized I didn’t introduce the viewer to him like I did with Alex and Dean.  I guess that’s the reality of natural sound stories.  You don’t always have all the elements to tell the whole story.  It is a true talent to tell a great natural sound story.  I did a good job.  I did not do a great job.  You should always strive to tell a great story and have the editing secondary.  Honestly, I flipped those guidelines for this edit.  I put the editing first and the story second.  I will happen to you many times in your career.

At [:58] I use quick edits again as a transition device.  The story moves from them banging on trash cans to banging on their heads.

I have quick edits again at [1:09].  I use them for a transition to the crowd.  I felt I needed a little crowd reaction here with cheering.

  • You’ve got to have a reaction to all those actions in a story

I go back to quick edits at [1:15] to transition to the final element of the story.  The New York Street Boys using fire.

Again at [1:22] for the beginning of the fire portion of the show.

And then there’s my big finally at [1:32].  After doing all these quick edits in certain places, I wanted to create a big finale in the editing.  Just like the New York Street Boys create an end for the viewers in the mall, I wanted a big finish for the viewers watching the story at home.

Our story closes with a series of reaction shots from the crowd.

This was one of the most fun stories I’ve ever put together.  It took me about 8 hours to edit.  I edited this story tape to tape.  There are 246 edits in the story.  It runs [1:45]

Quick edits, when used in an appropriate story, can often enhance a story like this.  Taking the viewer in more intimately than even someone watching just a few feet away.  Frankly, it was a ton of fun to put this story together.



Eye Movement – They’ll remember your story better, no really!

There is research that shows horizontal eye movements causes the two hemispheres of your brain to interact with each other.  A lot of this research is about eye movement and memory recall.  If you can get your audience’s eye moving horizontally more than they would typically and there is even the slightest hint that they’ll remember your story, I say that’s one more tool in your editing arsenal.

The story I am going to use for this post is Lots of Snow.

We want to get the audience’s eye moving across the screen. Let’s break down doing this. I’m a huge fan of any movement in your edits. Now let us see if we can actually guide the eye around the screen.  Eye movement;

  • Makes your story look better
  • Movement imitates life and the way your eye would pick up visual cues
  • You can also move the viewer’s eye with audio cues
  • Eye movement helps the viewer retain more information in your story.

If you are hesitant to buy into my logic, here is some research on eye movement

Moving Your Eyes Improves Memory, Study Suggests

A quick eye-exercise can improve your performance on memory tests (but only if you’re right-handed)

This does not work for every edit.  If I could get this to work for every edit, I’d be an editing genius. I’m not.  I do, though, understand the power of making the eye move.

Let’s examine our story.

Our story begins with two wide shots of the East High practice field covered in snow.

The first 3 shots in the story don’t have any movement, except for the opening shot of the high school student [:01] walking away from the camera.

I usually don’t like editing so many shots back to back edits without any movement.  In this case, I wanted to show the practice field with no action going on, just snow.

But at [:09], I establish a good portion of what the story is about with the shot of shovels and kids. And…

our eye movement adventure begins here.

You probably didn’t notice, but your eye was focused on the turned over traffic cone [:07].  Then your eye immediately moved to the left of the screen to pick up the shovel at [:09].  Your eye then moved from the left of the screen to the right side of the screen, where a young girl is pushing down on the shovel with her foot.  I have your eye exactly where I want it.  Because in the next shot at [:10], you see snow added to a pile.

  • I used a visual cue to move your eyes

In that instance, I led your eye visually.

Your eye is on the right side of the screen when the next edit comes along, and it moves to the right side of the screen. It’s not a visual cue, it’s an audio cue this time.  You here a girl say, “It’s time to get out and play.” Your eye immediately starts searching for who is saying this.  Your eye discovers it’s a girl on the left side of the screen.  I moved your eye again.

  • You can lead the eye with audio cues

At the end of this shot, a shovel throws snow across the screen.  As your eye moves with the snow, the very next edit at [:13] has shovels moving primarily on the right side of the screen.  This is another time when I’m leading your eye across the screen.

The next 4 edits don’t have a lot of eye movement.  Like I said, as much as I try, I can’t accomplish this in every edit.

At [:24] we pick up some more leading the eye.

Your eye moves to the right side of the screen and the end of the shot.  The very next shot has action I want your eye to focus on right there on the right side of the screen.  Your eye now focuses on the shovel and actually stays mostly on the right side of the screen.

As the shovels are pushed into the snow, and I make an edit.

Everything in the next shot at [:26] is screen left. I’m moving your eye to the left simply because there is nothing to see on the right side of the screen.

I like to have a balance.  Meaning an equal amount of action on the left side of the screen as on the right side of the screen.

  • By keeping your eye moving, I’m also balancing my edits

Shooting with the rule of thirds really helps in balancing your edits.

The next shot at [:27]

I keep your eye on the left side, but your eye now moves down and will focus on the shovel at the bottom of the screen.

At roughly the same point at the bottom of the screen in the next edit, a tarp full of snow begins moving as your eye picks that up.

It’s the action at the end of the edit at [:28] that helps with eye movement.  Editors often wonder when to start an edit.

  • I think it’s just as important to think about what happens at the end of the edit as well.

In this case, the shovel pushes into the snow, I make an edit, and there’s your eye right where I want it to be.

The next 3 edits don’t really have a lot of eye movement.

At [:35], Your eye moves to the left of the screen, searching for who is talking.  The next edit is a tight shot of the tarp dumping snow.  The action starts screen left and moves your eye screen right.

Your eye then comes back to the left as you focus on the man singing at [:37].  As he bends down at the end of the shot…

your eye moves down. I’m leading your eye to the next shot of a shovel right where the shovelhead is.  Again, what’s going on at the beginning of the edit isn’t nearly as important as what’s going on at the end of the shot before I make an edit.

That shovel moves screen left-right to the next shot of a person throwing snow.

I have a lot of first eye movement from [:48] to [:51] Pay attention to the shovels.

My favorite edit of this story happens at [1:05]. It’s what happens at the end of the edit that makes these two shots work so well together.  You see, a girl picks up snow and throws it.

And the very next shot is snow coming down on the top, on the right side of the screen; right where I want your eye to be.  This is also matching my action.

Editing with Eye movement logic isn’t something that I understood immediately.  It takes a while to work into stories and understand how to make it work.

I have to admit I never would have known about eye movement had it not been for John Hyjek.


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Less edits and longer shots make a slower pace in Video Editing

Pacing – To advance or develop (something) at a particular rate or tempo.  That definition is most appropriate.  Pacing first and foremost should advance your story.  How do you advance your story with pacing, you ask?  The pace of a story or a section of the story tells the viewer a lot about the story.

Are we about to get into a car chase?  Tell the viewer that.  Ramp up the pacing to say, “Here we go!”

Are we about to start a love scene?  Slow down the pace of the story. Let the viewer know where gonna take it slow; unless the love scene’s pacing should be faster?

Everything has a pace.  Let’s go back to that definition again;  To advance or develop (something) at a particular rate or tempo.   We should develop something? Developing the story, a scene?  Once you know what you’re trying to develop, you can begin to set the tempo.

Everyone loves to listen to music.  The music you enjoy is a great place to start learning about pace.  Ever heard of Tears for Fears?  They produced this song Mad World

This song definitely has a pace.  To me, the pace feels too fast. Why?  Because the Gary Jules version, in my opinion, is better and has the right pace.

The same song with two different paces.  Is it possible for two versions of a story to have two different paces?  You betcha!  The pace will help the viewer understand how they’re supposed to feel.

Do you want the viewer to feel the urgency?  A faster pace would do that, like in the story. It’s Bad.

This story’s pace has a slower pace.  That pace is helping tell this story.

Our story for this post is In Search of Flatter Ground.

Our story begins with a medium shot of the airplane in the field.

I then cut to a tight shot at [:02] of a lucky rabbit’s foot.  The sound bite says, “we’re going to try and get it off the ground.”  I thought it was somewhat symbolic of luck.  The pilot was lucky to land in a field and not crash.  He’ll need a little luck getting the plane back off the ground.

The next shot at [:04] is up for 3 and a half seconds.

I’m establishing the pace of the entire story with one shot.  You need to see the car going in the bumpy field.  The bumpy field is critical to the whole story.  I am establishing the pace of the story.

Now let’s see if I can stick to it.  Remember, that shot was up for over 3 seconds!  Anyone ever told you or have you ever read 3 seconds is about how long it takes someone to adsorb everything in a shot in a story?  I feel that’s jibberish. No two 3-second shots are the same. Each is unique in the information in the shot.

The entire process of getting the airplane out of the field is slow and methodical.  That’s how this happens.  I’m going to try and convey a slow and methodical story.

The very next edit of the car at [:08] is also over 3 seconds long.  Damn, again, with those shots up for a while?  If the shot is up longer, then there must be fewer edits.  Fewer edits and longer shots make a slower pace.

At [:12] I have another wide shot of the airplane in the field.

I keep this shot up for over 2 seconds (sensing a trend yet).

The reporter in this story helps tremendously with pacing.  She has a calm delivery in her narration.  There is no sense of urgency in her voice.  She’s only telling the story.

  • A calm delivery helps control the pacing

Another way I help with pacing is how I use natural sound.  At [:25] is a tight shot of starting the airplane.  This shot and the natural sound to support it is up almost a full 2 seconds.

The next time you hear the plane is at [:29].  I leave that natural sound up for over a second and a half.

This shot is also up for 4 seconds.

At [:35] I have another shot of the plane.  The natural sound up for nearly two full seconds.

The shot itself is up for nearly 5 seconds.   I also leave this shot up so long because I want the viewer to see the difficulty in trying to take off from this field.

They finally get the plane out of the field.  They have to maneuver through cattle gates to get the aircraft to a better place for takeoff.  I’ve never seen an airplane maneuver through cattle gates, have you?  This shot is beautiful and worth leaving up for over 3 and a half seconds, and it helps with pacing.

There are a lot of great shots in this story.  The next shot at [:49] is one of my favorites, and I almost didn’t put it in.

Initially, I just had the plane on the highway.  No cop car in front of it.  The reporter came into the edit bay and suggested I change it.  She was right.  This reveal of the plane on the highway really makes the story.  At the beginning of the shot, I just use the natural sound of the wind.  I let the shot breath.  It’s a great shot, and it helps with pacing.

The final shot of the airplane at [1:09] is the last, and I leave it up until our story is over.

At [1:12] and for a full 3 seconds, you just hear the natural sound as the plane goes down the highway and disappears, only to reappear airborne.  All this is helping with pacing.  It’s also the single most fabulous closing shot I’ve ever had in a package I edited.

  • This story has 27 edits
  • This story is 1:26 long
  • Average edit every 3.18 seconds
  • Slow pace

Just for comparison sake.

A story with a faster pace is It’s Bad.

  • That story has 41 edits
  • That story is 1.17 long
  • Average edit every 1.87 seconds

Play with pacing.

It’s another great tool to make your editing better.

Thank you for reading.


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