Category Archives: Effects

Keep Your Effects Simple

The story I am going to use for this post is Minimoto.


This story was on my 2007 Editor of the Year entry.  It’s a natural sound feature.  Looking back on this package and the effects I used, I think it still holds up today.  The effects don’t look dated.  This looks like something I might edit today.  I try to keep all my effects very simple.  I am just looking for a few effects to enhance a story and not to distract from it.  Trust me, I’ve had my fair share of edits where the effects were so distracting you didn’t even know what the story was about.  I encourage everyone to play with all those effects in your palette.  I encourage you even more to create effects of your own.

This was part of a program I produced called Colorado Getaways Extreme.  My co-producer and I liked the show to look different, so we added effects to each story.

You’ll notice as we go along, I use the same effect in a story over and over.

I’m going to take you through these and describe how I did them.  You don’t need a high-end machine to do any of these.  All you need is a simple NLE that will let you do two layers of video.

The story starts right off with effects at [:01].  This is simply two layers of the same video.

Video layer 1 is normal. Video layer 2 is the exact same shot.  I increase the size (scale) to about 200 percent and drop the opacity to about 40 percent. This gives the feeling of speed and a blur sensation.  The video is slowed down by about 50 percent as well.  This helps with the blur sensation.

Right after that is single frame edits at [:02] at half opacity of a swish pan my photographer shot.

I love single frame edits. I use them whenever I can.  I could write an entire post about single frame edits…hmmmm.

  • I use single frame edits whenever and where ever I can.  I love them!

  • You’ll see lots of single frame edits in this story.

Next is a shot of a minimoto moving left to right at [:03].  Video layer 1 is blurred.  Video layer 2 is cropped, so you just see the body of a minimoto, scale increased to 200% and blurred as well.

After that is more single frame edits using that same swish pan.  Using a swish pan and single frame edits create that motion feel.

This is a circle wipe.  I just layed the wipe onto the video like an effect.  Then moved it to match the contour of his face.  The wheel is scaled to 200% to cover the entire screen.

After that sound bite, you see a combination of single frame edit and the effect I used at [:03] This is the exact same crop used from earlier.  I saved the effect.  I do this in a lot of stories like this.  I’ll reuse and idea over and over.

More single frame edits.  I dropped the contrast down to make the bikes look darker here. There is also a slight blur.  Very slight.  The quick cuts are edited to the music.

 The same circle wipe from earlier at [:06].  I just moved to to the other side of the screen.  See, the same effect over and over.

The same circle wipe again at [:09].  Moved down on top of her windshield.  Another slight blur to disguise the bikes a little.

At [:10], I speed up a driver putting on his helmet.

The next shot, I slow down another driver moving her head.  I like the look of two speeds juxtaposed together.

This is a neat wheel shot.  I like editing when a movement has already started (If you know me, you know I’m a massive proponent of editing on motion).

This isn’t an effect I created in the edit bay. I field produced this story.  I had my photographer shoot with a forced perspective.  So as not to give away the true size of the minimotos.

A good idea when doing a story when you want to use the foreground but don’t want to give away all the story.

At [:11], Coming out of that interview above, I have the video scaled to 200% and then quickly resize it to normal.  All of these color effects I use, I’m just playing with contrast.  This is really simple to duplicate. Use your color correction filter.  Drop your blacks down, increase the mids, and highlights.

Another forced perspective.  I love these kinds of shots.

I like to using shots when the photographer is zooming in or out of moving to another shot.  This is an example at [:15].  My photographer was zooming in to get the shot, and I used it.

  • I like using photographer mistakes or the moments before they set up for great shots.

This is two layers of the same video at [:23].  Layer 2 opacity is dropped,  and I scale starting big and pulling back to 100%.  In this same sequence is single frame edits using the same swish pan I’ve been using.  I’m also using the same color effect from above.

Reiterating what I said before.

  • All my effects are straightforward

  • I use the same effects over and over in stories.

At [:25] scale, single frame edits, playing with the opacity, using color correction or color effect, and some cropping, and that is most of the effects I use.

Those simple things are all you need to create effects like these.

From [:26] to [:43| there are no effects.  I do want to tell some of the story without effects getting in the way.  When you’re doing an effect driven story, just sprinkle the effects here an there.  When you’re cooking, you don’t put spices in constantly; you put them, in the beginning, a few during your cooking and then some at the end, right?  Well, you should edit like that.

Notice the next effect section at [:41]. Then, not again until [1:07]. Then the last bunch toward the end at [1:28].  You don’t have to go hog-wild with each edit, just sprinkle it in.

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.



I’m a Dirty Video Editor

I got your attention, didn’t I?  So what’s dirty editing?  I don’t think there is an actual term coined for what I’m about to talk about.  I’ve heard it referred to as checker-boarding, but I’m still not entirely sure that grasps the concept enough.  So I’m going to call it dirty editing.

Dirty editing is using your timeline to its maximum potential.  Dirty editing is an editor’s timeline that’s messy.  Editors are often messy.  We often put a clip here and there.  We put stuff down in the timeline, not really knowing if we’ll use it or when we’ll use it. We just want it there in case we do use it.

The finished product you output should be clean and polished.  That does not mean your timeline has to be clean and polished.  It’s your timeline, make a mess.  Guess what? You don’t have to clean it up!  This is the timeline for this story.

For this blog entry, we are going to us the story Sarah didn’t walk away at all.

I ended up adding a lot of effects on the story.  I have several layers of video. Watch my timeline as we go along.  Just because I only have one layer of video, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically going on video layer one.

Our story begins on video layer two.  I had to put a reporter as-live in front of the package.  This was actually one of the last things I did.  I wanted to dissolve from the reporter to the package.  I often like to play with the duration of my dissolves.  If I keep both of these first two clips on video layer one and add a dissolve, I have to continually adjust the dissolve until I get the desired length I want.

I think it’s just easier to place one of your clips on video layer two, then use keyframes [:13] to drop the opacity at the place you want.  I just move the keyframe until I get the dissolve I like.

I do use a dissolve next at [:20].  I wasn’t too worried here.  I knew I wanted a two-second dissolve centered on the transition.

Pretty routine stuff so far.  Now comes some serious dirty editing.

At [:24] I slowly dissolve up (using keyframes) the picture of Sarah.  Notice it’s on video layer three on the screengrab of my timeline above.  I know I want to have a car crashing (file blurred and turned black and white) underneath her picture.  I don’t waste time moving things up and down the timeline (meaning changing video layers). It doesn’t matter that there is no video on video layer one for a moment.  What matters is my final product looks the way I want it.

Here is the picture of Sarah (cropped) and the car crash, and you can also see a seat underneath both of those clips.

  • A tip.  When you have multiple layers of video, and you want them to ALL fade to black at the exact same time.  Use a slug-like you see below (In Final Cut & black video in Premiere).

You can get a slug in the same drop-down menu you would engage the text tool in Final Cut Pro 7.  You can also get slugs in Avid & black video in Premiere.

Load a slug into your viewer and drag it to the timeline and place it on the video layer higher than you already have at that moment in your timeline. Change the opacity of the slug, just like any other clip.

I do go back to video layer one at [:31]

After the interview with the father, my timeline gets dirty again [:38].

I have a picture of Rebecca fading (increasing the opacity) upon video layer three.  Then, I have a photo of her sister fading up on video two.  Then, I have a picture of the seat belt on the video layer one.  It all looks useful to the viewer.  I’m merely maximizing my timeline.  All non-linear editors give you multiple layers of video.  Use them.  Any way you like it.  That’s the beauty of non-linear editors, they conform to you.

After these few shots, I have another shot of a seat belt and a shot of Sarah at 50% opacity with a garbage matte.  Then look.  I’m up on video layer three.

And there is NOTHING on video layers one or two.  I’m already up there why come down to video layer one?  Just so, my timeline looks clean?  Dirty editing at it’s best!

I don’t move back to lower video levels primarily for efficiency reasons.

  1. Already there, just keep editing
  2. It’s more efficient to just stay where you are and continue editing
  3. A skilled editor becomes a faster editor.

I’m placing another screengrab of my timeline here so you can refer back to it as you continue watching the story on my YouTube site.  It’s Dirty.  It’s just the way I like it!

Thanks for reading!

Just Enough Effects in Video Editing

Extreme Kellie was a series of fun packages I put together at KDVR/KWGN. I’m going to take you threw the edits. The first thing I did was find music.  I chose two songs.  The first one is O.N.E by Yeasayer.

The visuals are excellent.  My effects are minimal.  Effects are only added as ‘bumps’ in the story.  I call a ‘bump’ a place in the story where there’s just music or a need for a transition of some sort.

In the first shot, I have a blur effect.

This was accomplished by simply putting the same video that was on video layer one on video layer two.  I moved the video on the video layer two 3 frames and dropped the opacity.  This is an easy way to create this effect.  I drop the opacity up and down, so the effect isn’t constant.

These kids have some great moves.  I want shots to breathe.  I also want edits to the music.  I added some edits and changed the scale of shots on the beats.

Each of these edits I change the scale starting at 140% and then returning the shot to 100%.

Watch the story on my YouTube site to see it in action

At [:05], I do one of my favorite simple effects.  I take a portion of a shot, usually about 6 frames.  I start the shot at 100% scale, and then 6 frames later make the shot 400%.

I reverse the effect for the next shot, starting at 400% moving forward 6 frames and returning the shot to 100%.

A simple sequence follows one of the kids jumping fast at [:06].

At [:11], I bring the music up full, and there are four jumpers.  Three of the jumpers do a backflip that times out to the beat of the music.  This is being lucky.

Sometimes being lucky makes one look like a good editor.  I’m honest, got just plain fortunate with this.

I do the scaling again at [:28] like I did at the beginning of the piece.

I do this for the same reason as before.  I want the shot to breathe, and I want to edit to the music.  I accomplish both with this simple effect.

From [:33] to [:47], take a look at how meticulous my match action is.

I pride myself on this.  I think to match action hide edits, and it’s effortless to do with extensive practice.

No, match action isn’t an effect, but it’s a vital editing tool.

At [1:14], I change the music.  Why? The first part of the story was about the kids.  This part of the story is about Kellie.  A change in music singles a change to the viewer. I choose Cobra-style by Teddy Bears.

At [1:19], another use of scaling up on the beats.

This is simple, easy, effective, and an excellent way to add just a little something to your story.

At [1:44] to [2:08], there are no visual edits.  Just audio edits.  I wanted to show Kellie jump-roping for a whole series, so the viewer could see Kellie performing.

This is a case where no edits work better.  However, as you here, there is a lot of storytelling with audio underneath this shot.  After the music full for a few seconds, I have one kid talking about jump-roping.

One last scaling up on the beats at [2:58].

Thank you for reading.