Category Archives: Sequencing

What exactly do you put in a sequence in video editing

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

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What’s a sequence?

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

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

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

All stories are one master sequence

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

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

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Every day in your life, you experience sequencing.

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

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

Imitate life.

Imitate the eye

Life is full of sequences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I call this a transitional sequence.

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

The next sequence is Kellie putting on gear.

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

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

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

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

  • Putting on shoes

  • Moving Kellie to another position

  • Putting on harness

  • Putting on helmet

  • Attaching Kellie to safety rig

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

Next, we have a transitional sequence.

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

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

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

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

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Then a medium shot of her starting the climb.

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Followed by a shot from below her looking up.

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

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Followed by a shot from the above wide.

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

  • I give the viewer intimacy with Kellie

  • I provide the viewer with familiarity with the rock

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

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

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

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


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

So what do you put in the sequence?

  • A beginning, a middle, and an end

  • Tight shots for intimacy

  • Wide shots to help with spatial relation

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

  • Shots that advance your story

Remember, only you can help prevent bad editing

Thanks for reading.

In Deadline Video Editing I’m constantly thinking Wide, Medium, Tight and Match Action

This story led my 2011 National Press Photographers Association Television Video Editor of the Year entry.

I’m honored to receive this award for the 4th time in my career.  There are teachable moments in every story.

Gratitude is a Common Denominator is a story to watch for this post.

This is a one hour edit.

Here are some tips for editing under the deadline.

  • Lay down all your narration to the timeline
  • Create a raw sequence
  • Lay down all your SOTS to the timeline
  • Lay down as many natural sound breaks, and you are aware of (more on this later)
  • Don’t worry about these edits being clean just yet

The first thing I do is lay down the narration in its entirety.  I DO NOT place narration in the preview window.  I load straight to the timeline.  I’ll go through the narration and delete what I need to, meaning I remove the 3,2,1s and the pauses, etc.

Next, I place my SOTS in the preview window.  I mark the ins and outs and drop to the timeline.  I’m editing for speed, and I know I’m going to trim and clean up the final edit as I go, so I’m not entirely worried about clean mark Ins and Outs. I just want to get them down on the timeline.

Next, I’ll place as many natural sound breaks into the timeline as I immediately know.   Did I look at the video first?  Did the writer note natural sound moments?  Are there obvious ones?  I don’t waste time searching for natural sound breaks now.  As I scroll through the video, I know I’ll find more.

I start with a tight shot.

Everyone knows the red bucket.  When you see money going into the red bucket and the sound of bells, your mind immediately evokes the memory of A Salvation Army volunteer.  Good natural sound selection is a great way to put the viewer’s mind into the subject matter.

  • Good natural sound selection is a great way to put the viewer mind into the subject matter

The next 3 shots are of musicians playing Christmas carols with natural sound.

I’ve established the story, what its about, and set the mood in 4 seconds.  Pacing is often a tough thing to set up early. Usually, stories start fast and then slow down or do just the opposite.  When I’m under deadline, I like to discover my pace as soon as possible.  I’m also going to go back to these gentlemen playing at the end.  These are my bookends to this story.  If you can find some element of a story and place it at the beginning of the story and have enough video and the ability to return to that element, it’s a great and easy way to bookend your story.

At [:06] into the story, I establish my central character with a visual introduction as well as the natural sound of him saying, “Here we go, help Salvation Army right here.”

Another thing I am always thinking about is my shot selection.  I like to keep up the variety.  The next shot in the story at [:10] is a tight shot.

In deadline mode, I can’t always pick the optimum shot.  I continuously think wide, medium, tight.

  • In deadline mode, I’m continually thinking wide, medium, tight

If your thinking shot variety along the way, it will eliminate problems as you edit.

Another element of editing I continuously have on my mind is match action.

Notice in the next three edits-I starts wide here,

then a medium shot taking the edit right as he turns his head (trying to hide the edit).

Follow by a wide shot starting the edit right on his movement (again trying to hide the edit).

Notice how often I use his head movements to help me with selection edit points.  It’s a great trick to keep in your back pocket to help keeps edits clean and hide the edit.

I’m very proud of this deadline edit.  It’s clean and straightforward.  However, I do want to point out two things that bugged me.  I simply ran out of time to change/fix before it aired.

The first one is here.

Notice that gentlemen looking at the camera?  So did I, but not until it was too late.  When someone acknowledges the awareness of a camera, it’s called breaking the 4th wall.  You don’t want the viewer aware this is a story being recorded.  You just want them to watch with no conscious elements to make them realize anything other than that.  Well, this gentleman looking at the camera and then moving out of the way is a distraction to the story.  I would suggest you avoid this as much as possible.  Silly me!

The other one is at [1:14]

My photographer was handheld at this point.  The camera shakes.  It is subtle but still noticeable.  You want to do everything you can to keep the viewer from realizing they are watching something being captured on a camera.  Camera shake is one of them.