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.

walter_murch

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.

rule-of-six

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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Sequencing, Match Action, Shot Variety and No Jump Cuts With Amateur Video

When I worked at KDVR/KWGN, I had the honor of producing several stories with Kellie MacMullan (now DeMarco) called Extreme Kellie.  Like all stories, they each had their challenges.  A challenge with this particular was the amount of amateur video I had to use.

The idea behind these segments is Kellie goes out and takes part in some great activities.  For this one, It’s Not What You Expect, Kellie skydives.  This story is an example of using amateur video.  I start the story off with a few aerial shots just to establish where the actions going to be.  You’ll notice I dropped the saturation and added a little blur on the video.  Why just frankly cause it looks cool.

Kellie asked me to do this one as a natural sound story (Photo Essay).  I decided to have fun and add a few cuts of music. The first song you’re hearing is Raining Oil by Thomas Newman from the Jarhead Soundtrack.  I chose this song because I felt it created that anticipatory feeling.

Our story starts out with the man she’s going to tandem jump with getting her all setup.

Kellie is featured predominantly in these stories, so obviously, I’m going to show her a lot.  These little moments (like her facial expression above) are particularly relevant to help the audience understand her hesitation.

I add the owner of the skydiving company to help tell the story.  You’ll notice from [:38] and on the story uses mostly video shot by the skydiving company.  I love to sequence whatever video there is.  Sequencing regardless of who shot it still helps tell the story.  More importantly, sequencing advances your story visually.  Just because it’s amateur video doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sequence.  It just means you have to work harder to find the sequence and craft the edit. From [:40] to [:47] is a simple sequence edited to music to simply get us up off the ground and into the air.

The music I choose for this section is Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder from the Into the Wild Soundtrack.  Another sequence at [:50] to establish they are up high in the sky.

From [:53] to [1:13] is another sequence of Kellie and her instructor.  They’re getting ready to jump out of the plane.  I wasn’t given many tight shots, and most amateurs don’t know the value of tight shots.  So, when I was given the opportunity to use not just one tight shot but two, I’m all over it.  Notice also in this section of sequence, I get as close to movement on the edit as I can; this also helps make the amateur video look not so inexperienced.

  • Sequencing, match action, and no jump cuts all with amateur video.

From [1:20] to [1:35], I’ve got shot variety, match action, mixing up wides, mediums, and tights.

Yes, you can still tell good stories and have excellent editing with amateur video.  So here is your checklist for making amateur video look good;

1. Sequence

2. Match your action

3. Figure out a way to have shot variety

4. Edit on the action or a close to it as you can

5. Do the same thing you do if it was shot by a professional

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You should have almost no lip flap in any story….EVER! (ok, almost EVER)

Almost no Lip Flap

I have a video editing pet peeve called lip flap.  Lip flap is when you take a shot, and the person or persons in the shot is talking while there is narration.  Maybe they are talking to the reporter or another person in the shot.  What they’re really doing is distracting the viewer.  Anytime I see a shot like this edited in a story, I think it’s very distracting.

I’m trying to listen to the narration, and I’m trying to listen to what the person in the shot is saying.  All that listening and I’m retaining hardly any information.  I don’t see lip flap nearly as much as I used to, but I did notice it in this recent CBS Sunday Morning segment on Matzo.

 Go to [1:40] into the story. Her narration returns, and she’s talking on camera.  This is very distracting.

 

I try and avoid lip flap.  I think you need to avoid lip flap.  Here a story where there could have been lots of lip flap, but there isn’t.  Why?  Because I don’t like lip flap!

The following story is Passion Parties

Watch the story first, then continue with this blog entry.

 

As you can imagine, the ladies talked a lot throughout the entire party. I simply chose edit points to eliminate any distracting lip flap.  Watch it again.  There are plenty of opportunities in the raw to choose from with no lip flap.  I still show the enjoyment of the passion party just with no lip flap.  Ok, well, almost no lip flap.  If you go to [1:23], I do have a shot with lip flap.

 

Here is an excellent example of an edit decision I made in which a lazy edit of lip flap could have been made.  Got to [1:51] into the story.  I show a quick shot of the host.

 

I make an edit when she’s NOT saying anything.  Simple edit decisions like this take away distractions from the viewer.

At [1:57], I do have another edit with lip flap, but I choose to back-time a soundbite over not having lip flap.  Since I’m talking about this story, I thought I’d just mention two more elements that make this story work.

Intimacy

How often do you see stories on the air that, when appropriately edited, get you intimate with the information?  This is one of those stories that needs intimacy.  How do you get intimacy?  You do it with tight shots.

Sometimes extremely tight shots as to avoid future conversations with a Producer or News Director.

As you can see, I had to use shots that gave the viewer enough information to process what they were seeing, without being obscene.  This was a very challenging edit.  Next time someone asks you how important tight shots are, show them this story about Passion Parties.  After you watch, have a conversation about a critical tight shot in EVERY STORY.

 

Oh, and don’t forget in that next story you edit with all those tight shots  NO MORE LIP FLAP!

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When I Edit I Want to complement The Photographer

In this post, I continue using the Journey of Hope Documentary. I use part 2 of Journey of Hope

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzHUXkXmpyg

When I edit, I want to compliment the photographer.  When I get a story that I know the photographer has put a lot of effort into, I want to honor their shooting.  I want them to feel like I’m an extension of themselves.  The best compliment I can get from a photographer is, “That’s exactly what I thought when I shot that.”

A good editor can see why a photographer shoots a shot and extrapolate how the photographer would use it.  Each time Dave Wertheimer came into the edit bay, he loved what I was doing and liked that I got into his head and edited the story as if he was pushing the buttons.  I’ll give you some examples.

From [:10] to [1:09] is Scott’s head-shaving party.  My photographer got plenty of stable, locked-down shots.  My photographer got plenty of shots I could choose from.  My photographer shot sequences.  My photographer stayed ahead of the action.  I had every shot I needed to make this a proper sequence without forcing any meaningless or undeveloped shots.  I, for the most part, used the shots in order.

From cutting his hair to shaving his head, I advanced the story with each edit and used the shots like I think the photographer would.  Watch that sequence again. It should feel like you were in the room with all of them seeing all they see.  That’s what my photographer shot, and that’s what I put together.

From [1:10] to [2:04] is the sequence at the MRI.

I honored the sequences of Scott in the MRI.  I start with him going into the MRI and work him coming out to get straps tightened.  I’m honoring the sequence that was shot.  Dave likes shooting match action.  Dave will get shots, change camera angles, and then wait for the match action to happen as the two shots at [2:17].

A good editor finds those shots and knows they’ll work together.

A good photographer makes edits for you when shooting good match action.  You just have to find where to put them into the story.

While all this is important in long-form editing, paying attention to what is shot and how it is shot can save an editor a lot of frustrating time.

Next time your editing ANYTHING, you did not shoot ask yourself why did he/she shoot that?  If you can figure it out, you can probably find a place to that shot in your story.

Yeah, of course those tight shots are important!

The story for this post is part 1 of a documentary I edited back in 2008.

In this post, I’ll share how I used music and the importance of tight shots.  I have lots of and lots of tight shots.  You can never have enough tight shots.  I’m glad my photographer had lots and lots of tight shots to choose from.

Scott’s Story (the documentary) starts at [:11] on my YouTube channel.  The editing, in the beginning, is pretty standard.  I’m not trying to be fancy, just simple S.W.A.P. (synchronizing words and pictures).  Tight shots can really take the viewer into your location.  If you want to make them feel like they are closely watching it on T.V., then use tight shots.

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>

Like this tight shot of the wheel.

The beginning of the documentary is essential.  It sets the style for the rest of the piece. The photographer and the reporter both felt this was a compelling story.  Scott’s story didn’t need any fancy editing.  My goal was to stay out of the way as much as possible.   If you don’t notice my editing in this story, then I’ve done my job.

During the beginning of the story, I did want to throw in a few shots that show Scott’s tremors.  I am showing this without the reporter talking about it. You could say it’s the surprise at the beginning of the story.  I wanted the first few times you see this to be subtle.

At [1:11], you see Scott lying on the ground, working on the Go-Kart.

Then, I show a tight shot of Scott’s left handshaking at [1:12].  When you show a tight, it should share one piece of information, and that one piece of information should be important to the story.  A tight shot of the wheel show details of the go-kart.  The go-kart is an essential part of the story.  A tight show of Scott’s hand is also a necessary part of the story.   The viewer just doesn’t know why yet.

Then, I show a medium shot with Scott’s left foot in the foreground at [1:14]. These 3 shots together introduce the viewer to something that’s not right with Scott.

At [1:34] The reporter track says,

Firing up the Engine, you’ll notice something else.

Now I want to make sure the viewer sees the tremors and understand this is a crucial moment in the story.  I bring the music up full for a second and Scott says,

This is hard to do with my hand shaking.

I then show a tight shot of Scott’s handshaking.  That tight shot is not up long.  But with the addition of the music and the use of the tight shot the viewer should get it.

I place the music here to signify a moment in the story.  Scott and his best friend are talking about his tremors.  There is a noticeable change in the mood of the story.  The music helps with that mood.

I bring up the music every now and then, never just cause.  If the music comes up full, it’s for a reason.  At [1:57] Scott says,

Parkinson’s is a degenerative brain disease without a cure.

I bring the music up full after he says that for the same reason as before, a moment for the viewer to feel.  The music helps to reinforce the moment.

I leave the music underneath until [2:49].  Notice it just fades away?  No, you didn’t, and neither does the viewer.  I  slowly bring in down over 5 seconds.  Back to that, trying to keep the editing as unnoticeable as possible.

I do want to bring attention to Scott’s hand, A lot.  Pay attention to just how many times there is a tight shot of Scott’s hand just in this first segment.

Here is another tight shot at [1:48] showing Scott’s tremors.  So much information in tight shots.  It’s amazing sometimes how such a small thing can carry so much information for a story.  Please continue watching part of Journey of Hope.  Please see how often I use tight shots.  When you see a tight shot of Scott’s tremors, ask yourself, is Shawn using too many tight shots?  Am I over-showing the earthquakes?  I don’t think so.  Enjoy my tight shots.  Now go out and shoot some tight shots yourself.

Thanks for reading.

Before You Start the Edit, Get Organized

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2QMCfUmUX0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzHUXkXmpyg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLzQFOoohvU

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obAwtyyKvwk

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 things 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 a critical process, especially in anything, especially in long-form.

I edited this is in Avid. Here are some things I did before starting 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 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 a smaller amount of media at once.  I still sub-clip, exceptionally 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 number of clips in a bin small.  In a documentary, I’m usually editing sections at a time.  So, it makes bins correspond to these sections as 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 to reorganize 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 possibly 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 had 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.

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!

Get organized.  Over-organize.  Practice getting organized.  

I have noted 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 an excellent practice to get into.  If you don’t know how to put a locator on a clip on in the timeline, I sincerely suggest you invest some time learning how to do that.

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

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.

01

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?

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I’ll Have Your Eyes Exactly Where I Want Them

Do you think an editor can make a viewer’s eyes move?  Yes, they can.  It happens all the time.  The next time you watch a movie, think about precisely what you’re looking at on the screen.  Chances are an editor is using eye-trace to get you to look at precisely what they want you to look at.

Our story for this post is Joe’s Smile

  

Over the years, I have done research on eye-trace.  It’s a simple concept, to begin with, and if you think about it in your everyday editing, it’ll improve so many little things.

In this post, I like to bring your attention to what is going on in the shots you choose.

  • The action affects what the viewer is looking at

  • Eye trace sends the viewer’s eye where you want them to go

  • You can control what people are exactly going to look at

 You cannot think about every edit and what’s happening in every shot, quite often there isn’t time in your projects.  The more you keep eye-trace in mind, the easier you are going to make several edits in your story.

I want the viewer to look at certain things.  My edits are going to help.  In Joe’s Smile, you may see more example of eye-trace, I’m only going to point out some.

Eye-trace has two primary objectives.

  1. To keep the eye focused on the same point on the screen (or close to there as possible) as the last frame of an edit ends, and the new frame of the next edit starts.  Confused?  I was too.  Here’s an example.

In the shot above at [:15] in the story, Joe looks up and turns his head to the right (our left).

Then, I make an edit as he’s in mid-turn.  He completes his head turn in the next shot.  Your eye catches his head moving, and then in the next shot, I have your eyes exactly where I want them, to the left of the screen focused on Joe.  Your eyes followed Joe through the edit and didn’t scan the screen for something else to look at.  That’s eye trace, putting the viewer’s eyes where YOU want them.

Think of it as you are a magician.  A magician’s job is to get the audience to look at what he wants them to look at.  Like that ball in his hand and not the other hand in his pocket getting the next part of the trick ready.  Your ideal job as an editor, keep the viewer’s eye where you want them.

The edit’s also hidden by Joe’s movement.  Meaning you don’t really realize there is an edit there because the action looks natural.

Here another example at [:21].  Your eyes go to his head as he starts to move his head I cut.

His head movement completes this shot above at [:22].  Your eye’s stayed on the left side of the screen in relatively the same place.  I kept them there using eye-trace logic.

Think about editing on movement the next time you’re doing a story.  Think about keeping all that movement on the same point on the screen.  Break your screen in 4 quadrants.  Try keeping the movement in one of those quadrants for 2 edits. It’s not that easy and won’t work ALL the time,  but it’s pretty when it does.

Here is an entirely different example of eye-trace.  People will always look at the eyes of whoever is in your shot. Everyone’s natural curiosity is to wonder what he/she is looking at.  So, if you show a shot of someone looking at something, your next obvious shot is what they are looking at.

At [1:22], we have a shot of the dentist looking down.  Notice the dentist is predominately screen left. What’s he looking at?

We should show the viewer.  He’s looking at Joe’s teeth, or lack thereof [1:23].  Notice Joe is predominately screen right.  This is another example of eye-trace.  If you were to follow the dentist’s eye’s down from the shot of him to the next shot of Joe, you’d trace his line of sight almost entirely. 

This is another example of eye trace.  The viewer naturally looks down, and as their eyes move down, you take edit and place what you want them to see in that next shot and that point in the frame, eye trace in action.

One more example.  Joe’s got his new teeth, and he’s smiling!  What’s he laughing at?  Again realize Joe’s screen right.

I know there are two women in this shot, but the women on the left are laughing and catch your eye first.  So, following Joe’s line of sight, it’s logical to think he’s looking at her.  With this edit, I make the viewer perceive that as well.  The women on the right looking at the women laughing helps as well with this.

I thought I’d show you an example of a bad edit too.  At [2:49], we have Joe smiling with his new teeth. Joe’s screen left as he smiles.

But in the next shot, he’s screen right smiling.  I didn’t put the viewer’s eye where I should of.  Like I said, it won’t always work.

Now go and practice eye trace in your editing.

Thank you for reading.  As always don’t forget about the Edit Foundry on Facebook

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

If you can’t S.W.A.P use Symbolism

If you can’t use S.W.A.P, use symbolism.  What’s S.W.A.P.?  Synchronize Words And Pictures.  So when the narration says, “This Bus,” you ideally would show the bus.

Have you ever had a section of narration and you have absolutely no idea how you are going to cover it?  Ideally, you strive to cover an interview or narration with whatever they’re talking about.  Well, that’s not always going to happen.  Quite often, a reporter, writer, or producer will right you into oblivion, and you have to figure out what video you should use.

Here is an example of a story like that and what I did with it to make it work.  A majority of the story, I felt the shots I chose worked well.  But there are some lines of a track I really struggled finding the right shot.  So please watch the story and check S.W.A.P (Synchronizing words and pictures) when it works, then look at the shots I choose when I don’t have an excellent relevant shot, here I try to use symbolism.

The story is a look at the recovery efforts after a tornado hit the town of Windsor, Colorado.

So here’s some of my logic to the story Reminders of May 22nd

Our first track is

There are still reminders of May 22nd.

I start the story with a medium shot of a bare tree.  I felt this bare tree looked like a tree you would see on any day of tornado stories.

The next shot is of that same tree, but now you see what appears to be what’s left of an aluminum shed.

Then I take a tight shot of that ripped shed. Notice I take the edit mid-motion.  Like if you were there, you’d get here that noise the aluminum makes, and then you would look at it.

Take notice that the first 6 shots in this story all have slow zooms I added in editing.  My subtle way of pulling you into the story.

At [:13], You hear the reporter, and then I cut to her visually.  This is another little trick I do a lot.  Helping take the viewer to a new location and imitating the eye.  If you were looking at that tree and then heard the reporter talk, you wouldn’t look at her until she already started speaking.

I’ve got music going in this whole story, but this [at:16] is the first time I bring it up full.  I give a moment for the viewer to absorb the shot…

…now, my journey to try and find some relevant video begins.  I show the shot above because the mayor speaks about houses with no roofs.

Then he talks about someone losing half a home, so I show this shot.

Then when he’s talking about fences being gone, I use downed fences video.

He then talks about seeing the living room and kitchen, so I show this shot.

Throughout the story so far, I’m doing my best to find shots relevant to the story.

Obviously, the tornado should be shown.  I had to pull it from a file package, so I only had a few shots to choose from to make this section work.

Now my true symbolic adventure begins.  There are several lines of track I’m totally not sure what to cover with.  I try to find shots that have some kind of symbolism,  something the viewer can look at, and it helps understand and correlate with the narration.

The soundbite I’m covering with these two previous shots is

For what we’ve seen in a year, it’s a great accomplishment.

Showing the town of Windsor sign up is just a symbolic shot of the city getting back to normal.  Tornadoes knock down trees, so showing trees ready for disposal is again a symbolic shot of recovery.

This doesn’t require reasoning.  Showing someone working on a house shows repair from the tornado.  I think it’s important to point out that I work very hard to find relevant shots; I’m only going a symbolism route if I cannot find a shot that genuinely works with the narration.

This daycare was heavily damaged, and people familiar with the story will appreciate this shot.  Sometimes an edit may only be for a few.

The narration is about rebuilding families.  There is symbolism in this shot that is just subtle, and that’s the board in the foreground.

Please continue watching.  There are a few other symbolic shots that I think work very well.  I challenge you to find the right shot for every edit.  I do.

Those challenges aren’t always met.  Several edits in life, you just have to find something that’ll work.

Thanks for continuing to read

Shawn Montano