Category Archives: Emotion

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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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.

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The Guideline of Six in Video Editing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The story starts with an aerial of paragliders.

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The next shot, the shadow of the paraglider.

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

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

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

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

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

I found this graphic on the nofilmschool website.


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

The number #1 guidelines for storytelling is emotion.

Remember, emotion overrides all.


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

Never cut away from emotion, always cut to emotion.

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

Back to the video, we go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I maintain screen direction, but I break continuity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emotion over-riding all.

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

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

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

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

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

These 3 shots are jump cuts.

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I don’t care.

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

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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

Are you just a video editor? Neither am I.

This is a video editing blog.  I try to give you insight into my mind and the process I go through in editing stories.  I’m not just a video editor.    I produce, I shoot, and I write as well.

I wrote stories as a child.  I wrote throughout college.  I love writing.  I wrote my first story for broadcast for a news station way back in 2001.  Since then, I’ve dabbled in it here and there.  My primary job for most of my news-careers was just a video editor.  I slowly developed my skill as a writer.  In the beginning, I never narrated the stories I wrote.  This is one of those daily news stories under deadline I wrote.  I know this is a video editing blog.  I think it’s essential to be more than one skill-set.  So, allow me to explain my simple logic for writing a story.  Oh, yeah.  I edited this story too.

The story I’m going to use for this post is Miss Doe

When I log sound, I don’t write the entire sentence down.  I write the beginning of the sentence and then maybe a few keywords to help me remember the rest of the sentence.  I want to have just enough written, so I remember what was said in each soundbite I log.  I don’t always write my log on paper. Sometimes I’ll use my N.L.E. and write in the comments.  The first thing I do is put soundbites down on the timeline.  At this moment I don’t need them in order.

Once I’ve got my soundbites on the timeline, I start building a story with only sound.  I arrange the soundbites so I can create a story without any narration.  I have got a good skeleton of the story.

What’s a skeleton?  For me, it’s just soundbites strung together.  There is no b-roll or narration, yet.  I watch this over and over.  I arrange and re-arrange until I get some cohesive story.

When I write narration, I just want to create bridges.  They connect the soundbites.   I write simple sentences.  I try to make them as conversational as I can.

I’m not a great writer.  I am a good writer.

  • I try to keep my sentences plain and simple
  • I read it out loud, trying to make it sound as conversational as I can
  • I try to apply both these rules to writing this blog as well

The story begins with two soundbites butted together, followed by narration, “Jack and Lori Cavanaugh spend their mornings watching wildlife.”

I’m just writing to video.  I know I have a shot of each person, and a shot of wildlife. Simple stuff here.

I have a narration, “but on Christmas Day,” followed by a soundbite, “We have the deer come across our property all the time,” followed by another narration,  “a strange sight caught their eye,” followed by another soundbite, “Christmas morning, I looked out the window with my coffee.”  I simply just created a bridge between the soundbites.  It’s that simple.  Ok, it’s not that simple.  It takes practice to write narration.

In his story, a deer has an arrow in her nose.  We don’t have a video of the deer, but we do have pictures.  The question I had for myself was when to reveal the deer.

When Lori’s talking about the deer at [:20], I decided to show a shot of the deer for just a second, but not long enough for your eye to comprehend precisely what’s happened.  I chose a tight shot to only reveal the dear and not precisely what’s going on with the deer.

The narrations is, “a deer they nick-named Miss Doe was clearly suffering.”

We are [:29] into the story.  I’ve revealed her injury.  I felt good that I didn’t drag this moment out to far.

I show a picture of the doe again at [:42].  She’s the story.  I only have pictures of her.  The challenge for me in this story was not to over-rely on her photographs.  I also want to try and make sure I was showing her enough.

The following narration is, “Jack and Lori called immediately called the division of wildlife.”

You’ll notice when the reporter says Lori I don’t immediately cut to Lori.  On this story here at [:46] and at [:06], I tried to make cuts, but the edits didn’t feel right.  They felt rushed.  I was forcing S.W.A.P. (Synchronizing Words & Pictures)  I don’t want to force edits.  The edits are where they are for pacing purposes.

Speaking of pacing, you’ll notice the pacing of this story is very simple.  There’s emotion in this story.  I’m not going to rush it.

At [1:01], Lori gets emotional after her soundbite. At [1:04], her soundbite ends. I leave her up sniffling for almost 4 seconds.  I never try and cut away from emotion.

I try my very best to keep what I write to a minimum.  It doesn’t always work.  I like it when the people tell as much of the story as possible.  Try putting as much of the story down on the timeline, then you may realize that a lot of narration isn’t necessary.  Watch the story again.  There are a few cliches.  I know. I tried, but some of those simple cliches worked.  Pay attention to how much the soundbites drive the story.  Most of the information you get is from soundbites.  Obviously, we don’t get all the info from soundbites, and that’s where narration comes in.

  • Try writing and editing a story
  • You’re writing will get better over time

Your storytelling skills will improve with writing

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



Spatial Relations in Video Editing

Spatial relation is an often-overlooked principle of video editing. Spatial relation is something your brain has been processing since you were a baby.

Happy baby boy with straw hat

Around the 8th month of life, you began moving around your world. You explored the size and shape of objects and observed people and objects as they moved through space.  

Baby playing with block

How does this connect to editing video?  Well, your brain wants to understand the world too.  Since your brain was in its infancy, it’s been trying to figure out where things go. As an editor, you have to help the audience understand where they are in the world they are watching.  You have to help them connect points in space or time. So how do you do that?

Digital eye and cross

The story I’m going to use for this post is Give Him The Best Life

I start the story on a tight shot.

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It’s an important shot because it tells you this person is not well.  I’m getting you into the story.  You have no idea where he is.

The 2nd shot is a medium shot.

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You see his hand and his chest rising (I’m matching the narration).

The 3rd shot is a medium shot back to his face.

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See how he looks up?  The next shot is his mother above him.

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With the 3rd shot, medium of him on the bed at [:05],  and this shot edited together, I’m establishing a spatial relationship between Reece and his mother and how they exist in his bedroom.

We know we are in the bedroom.  I need to move Reece to a different position on the bed. First, I’m going to use a tight shot, so the audience doesn’t feel jarred by the fact he’s in a different spot on the bed, and the apparatus on his face is no longer there.

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There is a series of shots of him on the bed with his mom helping him get ready for the day.  All these shots are tight or medium.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the tight shot, and I love using them.  My 2nd most loved shot is the wide shot.  As wide as you possibly can be in the environment your in.  Why?  Your audience needs to understand the world you are putting them in, and the best way to do that is with wide shots.

In this story, I established Reece is on the bed.  Now by going wide,

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the audience understands where Reece is, where mom is, and what else is in the room in relationship to those two.

That is editing, keeping in mind spatial relations.

At [:48] I start wide this time.

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You see Reece still on the bed and his mother with a tube in her hand.

Then, a  match action cut off her using the tube to suction material out of his lungs.

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The general guideline in editing is to start wide, then move to a medium shot, then to a tight shot.  That doesn’t always work (hence why it’s a guideline and not a rule). Sometimes I start a sequence wide.  Sometimes I start a sequence tight.  It really depends on the shots I have and how they work together and maintain spatial relationship to each other.  I don’t want the viewer distracted.  I don’t want to viewer curious about how everything works in my world. I’m editing.  I want to help them as much as I can so they can watch the story and not watch the editing.

At [:52] I need to go to the next part of the story. I use a tight shot

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of mom beating on Reece’s chest.

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Then to a tight shot of mom.

Then to a medium of the two of them.

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I could of probably put these three shots together in any order, and they would have worked.  The previous sequence dictated how I put these shots together.  The important thing is I went to a medium shot, you could see the two of them and how they relate to where they are in their world.

At 1:09, I start tight again.

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Then go wide,

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so the viewer understands we are now in the bathroom.  I started tight because I didn’t want a jump cut from the interview to mom in the bathroom, just trying to avoid anything jarring to the viewer.

At 1:48 Reece is in a new spot

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On the kitchen table.  Then, a tight shot of his hand on the mouse ball

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If I only have time to show two shots in a sequence, I’m generally going to use a wide shot and a tight shot.  Wide for spatial relation and tight because I want the viewer to look at only one piece of information (which a tight shot should contain).

I continue moving Reece around the house.  Using tight shots and then wide shots, so the viewer understands where he is in the world I’m editing.

My photographer gave me lots of tight shots to choose from.  I wished for more wide shots, even some super-wide shots.

Understand spatial relations is significant in editing.  Help your audience understand where they are and what goes where in the world that’s in front of them.  The tight shot is a vital storytelling tool.  The wide and super-wide shots are #2 on my list.

Thanks for reading.

Shawn Montano

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