Category Archives: Video Editing 101

Using Soundbites and Narration to help make Edit Decisions that effect Rhythm and Pacing

When you make an edit, it’s an important decision.  Each edit should advance your story.  So when do you make an edit?  There are many reasons.  Your story should have a rhythm like a good song has a good beat.  How do you find your rhythm? Here’s an idea.  Follow the rhythm of the narration and the soundbites.

This is a story I produced for Emily Griffith Technical College profiling a successful graduate.  Throughout this story, I use the rhythm of my narration and the rhythm of Lindsay’s soundbites to help make edit decisions.

The 1st shot of the story is Lindsay walking to her salon station. My narration is, “Lindsay Gore, preps for another client.” I make an edit on the word preps. The tight shot of hair stays up on the screen from 03 to 06.  Lindsay says, “It’s pretty crazy in here. We do a lot of business.” After she says here, I make an edit. I’m finding natural pauses to help me make edit decisions.

At: 09 my narrations is, “This full-service salon is Strandz hair studio.” My edit is on the word isIt is a natural moment of pause in the narration.

At: 13 she says, “I do own Strandz.” Then she says, “I bought it two years ago. I worked here for almost 9 years before I bought it. In the back of my mind, I always knew I would like owning my own salon and I love it.” I make two edits based on the rhythm of her voice. At: 19 she completes her thought I bought it. At: 21 she completes the thought my own salon. I make an edit after salon but before she starts her next thought which is I love it.

My next narration at 22 is, “It takes a lot to run a business.”


I make an edit between a lot and to run.  I’m following the flow of my narration to help me decide when to make an edit.

At: 28 her soundbite is, “After I started at Emily Griffith, I had a cousin in Cosmetology school at another place.”  I choose to make the edit after the word cousin.  I felt a natural pause in the rhythm of her voice at that moment.  I made the edit based on that.

Further, into that soundbite at 33, she completes a thought, “At another place.” After place, I make an edit.  Please watch the entire story and pay attention to when I make the decision and how the rhythm of narration and soundbites can help with edit decisions.

Want another example?

Here is a story by the current NPPA Photographer of the year Rob Collett.


The 1st soundbite of the story, “Baby. Black grey. 17 pounds. Rob makes an edit after the word grey and before he says 17.  Then the narration begins.  “Missing poster after missing poster.”  Rob makes an edit after poster in the narration.  Rob’s using the rhythm of the narration to help in his edit decisions.


At: 10 the narration is, “Each, handwritten and personalized.”  The edit is after each and beforehand.

At: 18 the soundbite is, “Oh I love his face, he’s a kisser boy.  Rob makes an edit after the word face and before the word he.  Please continue watching the story by Rob.  Pay attention to the exact moment when he makes an edit.  There is a definite rhythm to the story.

These little things can take your editing to the next level.

What exactly do you put in a sequence in video editing

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

What’s a sequence?

  • A sequence is 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
  • A sequence should have a beginning, a middle and an end (more difficult 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).  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.

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 first 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 downstair 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.

I start with a tight shot of her putting on her shoe on her right foot.

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

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 shot are related by time, the time Kellie uses to put on her shoes.
  • All 3 shot 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 very common sequence we observe every day in the world.  Effective storytelling and effective sequencing don’t have to show everything.  It should show 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 my timeline.

The next sequence is Kellie putting on gear.

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.  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 climbing the rock.

Followed by a shot from below her looking up

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

Followed by a shot from the above wide.

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 give the viewer intimacy 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 starting 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 good 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 perspective on where Kellie is on the rock and I’m still sequencing.

Can’t stay wide to much.  I want the viewer to stay intimate with Kellie as much as I can as well, like in this shot.

Notice in the rest of the story I’m constantly 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.

Putting Images Together in Video Editing to Tell the Story

You have to put images together in video editing to tell a story.  You’re a storyteller.  It doesn’t matter if you are editing a news package, a documentary, a film or an online feature using stills, It’s all storytelling.
Putting the images together to try and tell a story is video editing.  Every edit should be made for the story.  Before sequencing, action/reaction, movement, eye trace or continuity, there is the story (See guideline of six for more).

You learned about telling stories with pictures when you first started reading.  When my sons were little I would have them read to me.  They were taught when they don’t know a word to look around at the pictures for clues.

As video editors, we need to help the audience with clues.  We need to give them picture clues.

When the wild things “made him (max) king of all wild things,” Maurice Sendak shows a picture of this happening.

As storytellers, we can take a cue from when we first started to learn about stories.  We read them and look at the pictures.  The pictures help the stories make sense.  Take this basic idea and apply it to video editing.

The following story I edited a several years ago about a snowstorm here in Denver.  It does not matter if you edited a story yesterday or 10 years ago, the images still have to make sense with the story.
Please watch More Than Just An Inconvenience.

The entire story my goal (and usually my goal with every story) is to find pictures to help tell the story.
The very first line of track from the reporter is

This was the end of the line.

And my image is

The next three shots I’m just trying to match the pictures and the words.

Instead of an interstate highway




Was a dead end road.


After the reporter track is a soundbite

I’ve been doing this for 30 years, you get…you know this stuff happens driving a truck. And it’s going to happen sooner of later and more than once.

I cover the second half of his soundbite with a truck with snow on it.


The shot supports the story and helps tell the story.

The next piece of track is

But twice in a week

And I show this


Multiple trucks in the shot.  The closest I can get to some kind of symbolism of twice.  I still think this shot advances the story.
The story continues

Truckers pass the time


with bottomless cups of coffee,



and John Wayne on the TV.


I’m making every effort I can to show what the reporter is talking about.

Now some make think I am being too literal with my editing of the story.  In the case of a simple general news story, I want to help the viewer understand the story as best as I can with the images I’ve been given.  As you develop your skills this is a pretty easy way to make sure your stories are making sense to the viewer.

Thanks for reading.


Before You Start the Edit, Get Organized

I have edited several documentaries in my lifetime.  Journey of Hope was the second documentary I edited.  Here is  links to all 4 parts.

This documentary is the story of Scott Orr and his decision to have life changing brain surgery.  This surgery would help with the tremors associated with Parkinson’s Disease.  This documentary was one of the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done at a television station.  It challenged me on so many aspects of editing and production.  It pushed me as an editor to use every skill I had developed.   Before I started editing I got organized.

I didn’t capture a lot of the video for this.  In fact my photographer, Dave Wertheimer, captured a majority of the video for me.  I still went threw every tape (Yes, this was back in the days when we shot on tape).

  • Logging is extremely important process especially in anything, especially long form.

I edited this is in Avid. Here is some things I did before started editing.  It doesn’t matter what NLE you use, these are all things you can do in any NLE.

  1. Every time a shot changed I put a locators on the video. That way I could toggle between EVERY SHOT.  So as I watched every tape that was captured I added locators.  Most of the time I watched the video at either two or three times speed.  I didn’t have time to watch everything in real time.  Nowadays we don’t have this problem because every time you hit record with a digital camera you get a new clip.  But if your recording a clip, moving around and don’t pause recording this is still a good idea and a time saver in the long run.  


  1. I sub-clipped A LOT.  I sub-clipped interviews, the surgeries, at the race track, head shaving party, etc.  So later I could just go to the sub-clips and look at smaller amount of media at once.  I still sub-clip, especially long interview.


  1. I had a different bin for each tape the photographer shot.  VERY important for organization and for sanity.  This is still something I do to this day.  I make many, many bins in long form edits.  I try to keep the amount of clips in a bin small.  In a documentary I’m usually editing sections at a time.  So, makes bins to correspond to these sections at best I can.  I re-arrange bins all the time, moving clips around in bins to be better organized.  The last documentary I edited I spent over 6 months on so I knew reorganizing in the end was still a time saver.
  2. I have additional bins for music, graphics, sequences, etc.


  1. I made sure my media was as organized as I could possible have it.


  1. I also made sure my media was organized in folders on my scratch.  I am very, very organized.  I can’t tell you how much time this has saved, especially when I needed to find a clip or move media to different drives. 

Here is an example of the folder structure I had on a recent project.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 10.21.52 AM


Within my master folder are sub-folders.  Within my sub-folder are more sub-folders.  See how I broke down folders by various cameras used.  I have a folder for animations, graphics, music and VOs.

  • Keep Organized!

Here is a picture of my bins within a project.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 10.28.24 AM


Get organized.  Over-organize.  Practice getting organized.  

I have notes all over the place.  I have notes on paper and I have digital notes.  When I put locators on the video I write notes on the locator all the time.  It is a good practice to get into.  I you don’t know how to put a locator on a clip on in the timeline I seriously suggest you invest some time learning how to do that.

Do whatever you can BEFORE the edit in order to be the most organized video editor you possibly can.