The art of editing comes down to frames of difference.
It’s 3 frames here or 4 frames there that can make each and every edit so much better or so much worse. This post is about some of those subtle editing tips.
The story for this post is Sentence Please.
- Subtle editing tips
- Staggering audio and video edits
- Maximizing shot potential
Sentence Please is a story I edited in just a few hours. Under the opening shot, you hear the announcer. He’s telling a speller a word. I stagger the edits. I create a J-Cut and an L-Cut in the first two seconds of the story. These are also known as split-edits. For those of you not familiar;
- A J-Cut is when you hear audio from a shot and then see the video. You make the letter J visually in the timeline.
- An L-Cut is when you cut to a different video, but the audio from that previous shot remains.
In Sentence, Please hear the announcer say, “Speller, your word is Malaria.” The first shot of the story is a wide shot of the room with the announcer audio.
I make a cut (video only) and show the announcer. That is a J-Cut.
Then I make an L-Cut. You continue to hear the announcer, but the video is that of a speller.
In addition to using J and L cuts, I’m also employing eye trace.
I want to take the shot of the speller in pink [:01] right as she turns her head. The turn of her head helps acknowledge the announcer to her left (our right).
I am also trying to back-time the shot of her, so she speaks the word right after the announcer finishes speaking. In case you didn’t realize, I merged two different versions of the announcer to make this work. The photographer didn’t pan quickly from the announcer to the speller. The edits made it seem like two cameras were shooting the spelling bee. Create the illusion of a two-camera shoot in your edits.
You’ll see plenty of split-edits in this story. You’ll see plenty of split-edits every day in everything you watch. Split-edits are a part of the craft that you should notice all the time. No really! You need to start seeing split-edits everywhere. They are a vital component of editing. Take notice of them in your favorite movie, your favorite TV show, even your favorite commercial uses split-edits.
Let’s continue with the story and some more subtle editing tips.
The first reporter track in this story is “52 kids sat on the stage.”
For 52 kids, I show a lot of kids on stage. The next shot is that of a speller’s nervous hands.
I take the edit the second I see him fumbling with his hands [:05] nervously. The simple tight shot shows he is nervous. I also take the edit mid-fidget. Meaning the action of fidgeting has already started. Having as many edits with the action already started also makes edits look more natural. You should try to avoid making an edit before any action begins. Again this is another subtle tip. An important tip. Try taking your edits mid-action more. Your edits will look better, and your stories will flow better.
- Very often the action within a shot can help convey a subtle message
I want to keep reinforcing the kid’s fidgety state throughout the story.
After a shot of another speller at the mic, the reporter track is “All with one goal in mind.”
The next shot is that of a speller looking down. I take the edit right when she moves her hand around.
Her motion helps convey everyone’s feelings while they are on stage. I also take the edit midmotion.
The difference between a good editor and a great editor is something that comes down to the frame you choose. In the edit, did I prefer something that helped convey the message of the story? Really start asking yourself, why is that shot in my story, and why did I take the edit the moment I did?
- I cannot stress how vital editing midmotion helps your overall editing.
At [:17] I’m milking a shot. I like to maximize shots visually and auditorily. I use the shot, and the speller says meticulous twice. I place the reporter track within the two times the speller says meticulously. It’s a subtle way of getting more natural sound into a story. If you’re under a deadline, this is faster than trying to find another shot. You’ve got the shot on the timeline. See if you can milk it for all it’s worth. Just remember not to dry up the shot. Meaning doesn’t leave it up for any longer than you should. Vague, isn’t it. Every single shot in every unique story is different. There is no hard rule for this. It’s a feeling you get once you become a good editor.
At [:20], the reporter track is “The 7 to 14-year-olds each won their Boulder Valley or St. Vrain school’s contest to get here.”
I still want to show that uneasy feeling onstage. This shot of a 7-year-old perturbed was too good to pass up. His expression tells so much.
Don’t you just love this shot? I do. That’s why I’m writing about it. This shot has emotion in it. As I previously wrote, I always cut into emotion and never cut away from it. Do you think I cut away from this shot too early? I do. I should have left it up just a bit longer.
This shot is subtle. I wait to take the shot the second she scratches her face. Movement in every edit is what I strive for. Even if it’s something this subtle.
You’ll also notice a good amount of edits that are backtimed. Meaning I make a cut visually and back time the edit, so the natural sound moment I use plays right into a piece of narration or a soundbite.
Back timing edits are another tool to help blend and stagger audio and video edits.
Watch the story again. This time pay attention to what each kid is doing in each shot. Also, pay attention to how the action in the shot helps convey their feelings.
Little things like what’s going on in your shot, and when you take the edit can often make a good story just a bit better.
- Every shot in this story has meaning
- There are many split edits in this story
- Subtle moments help make a story better
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