Category Archives: Eye Movement

What is video editing?

Forgive me if you know what video editing is. This post is to those just beginning their journey or those that need a refresher.

Some may argue that Horse in Motion (1878) was the first film. That film was accomplished using multiple cameras. These were still photographs assembled into a motion picture. They used 24 cameras to capture this.

Actual motion picture cameras weren’t developed until the 1880s. That is when the camera started capturing all the single images on one reel. At this time, there was no editing. Each film ran as long as there was a film to roll.

Filmmakers often would shoot and just stop the crank of the camera when they felt they completed capturing that scene. Then, they would reset for the next shot and start cranking again when the next scene was ready. You could say this was the beginning of editing. It was editing in the camera, so there still was no manipulation of the reel.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that editing really began.  Did you know that one of the very first reasons for editing is that studios wanted films to be longer? They wanted multiple film reels compiled into one continuous movie. After that revelation, they started putting images together to try and tell a story.

One of the very first films that not only combined reels but began to develop some rules (or guidelines as I prefer) for video editing is The Great Train Robbery (1903)

Watch this movie and realize

  • There is action/movement in every scene
  • They maintain screen direction (except for one edit)
  • There is sequencing
  • Each edit advances the story
  • There is an effort made in pacing/rhythm
  • Editing hasn’t changed much in over 100 years.

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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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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Movement in Every Edit (well almost every edit) in Video Editing

I’m a fan of movement. You should be a fan of movement. I like to have as much movement in a story as possible. Often, I base my edit decisions on movement. If I’m choosing between two shots, I’ll choose motion over a better-composed shot with no action happening in the shot.

We are a visual medium.

Give your viewer as much to look at as they possibly can handle. Our story for this post is It’s Bad.

This is a spot news story edited in about an hour.  There are practices you can learn here and apply to any edit. The idea of motion isn’t a new one. Next time you are editing a story, think about the exact frame you are choosing as your IN point and the action in that edit.

There are a lot of static shots.  The standard video for stories like these is;

Crime tape

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Paramedics working

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Cops observing


and spectators watching

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We know what the video is going to be like in any type of story like this. So often in stories like these, I see edits chosen with nothing going on.

Only 6 shots with no movement, count them.

Pay particular attention to the next few shots and what I choose as the IN point.

[:07] IN point when S.W.A.T member puts on his helmet

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[:08] – IN point when another S.W.A.T member move his head

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[:09] – IN point when a police officer takes a step

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[:11] – I wait until just before you see many S.W.A.T members moving forward

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I’m trying to keep the story moving.  This may sound obvious but watch a newscast and look at how often there is nothing is going on within a shot.  I strive to have something going on in as many shots a possible.  Even little things like;

[:15] – Crime tape blowing in the wind

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[:20] – Cops walking from frame right to frame left

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[:38] – Officer’s arm moving in the left-hand corner of the screen

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I’m waiting for something to happen before I set the IN point.

Watch It’s Bad again.  Now that you know what to look for, notice how much all the little things like a bit of movement adds to the story.  Next time you edit a story like this think about it

  • Think about what’s in the shot

  • Is there something going on you can show instead of just a static shot

  • Wait for something to happen and then set your IN point