Tag Archives: Video Editing Blog

She’s nervous. As an editor it’s my job to help convey that in the edit.

You are an editor.  Occasionally…. wait…I’m mean you’ll always have to convey emotions when you edit.  Sometimes it’s easy.  Your subject is laughing, crying, showing emotion, and it’s easily seen and understood.  Quite often, it may be more subtle, and you’ll need to help convey the emotion with the help of some editing tools.  Here is a story I produced and the tools I used to help express how Kellie felt as she went into a shark-tank with sharks.

The story for this post is We’re Going into Their World on my Youtube page

This is from the ‘Extreme Kellie’ series I produced for KWGN. In this story, Kellie MacMullan (now DeMarco) takes a dive with sharks at The Aquarium in downtown Denver.

The first thing I did before I edited this story was to find music.  Using something from the soundtrack to Jaws or any other scary aquatic movie wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s also a cliche.  People already have an emotional attachment to the theme from Jaws.  I want to help the viewer understand how scared Kellie is to actually do this all the while, not making a mockery of the dive. Music isn’t an easy thing for me. I’ll often spend hours and hours listening to finding the right music for a story.

For the opening portion of the story, I choose something the average viewer wouldn’t recognize.  The song is Heed Our Warning from the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen The Score.  I start the story with music up full for 3 seconds to establish mood.

The 1st five shots of the package are all from the HD underwater camera.  Notice all 5 shot I take the edit with the shark predominantly in the middle of the screen.  I always have eye trace in mind when I edit.  I want to keep the viewer’s eye right in the center of the screen for all these shots.  Why?  The impact of the shark in the 5th shot shown here…

That shot really grabs the viewer’s attention.  I bring the music up full for just a beat during this shot to give it just another second of impact.

At [:11] When Shane Taylor, Kellie’s instructor says,

“We’re going into their world, you know I think if you just respect what they’re to do, things will go really, really smooth,” I take a shot from above the tank.  I added a slow push-in to this shot.

Why do I choose this shot?  During the interview at [:11], Shane looks down. What’s he looking at?  If you place the camera at his eye level and pan it down, this is what you’d see. This is another example of how I use eye trace.  I know this post is about helping convey emotion, but there are always other elements going on in editing, and I like to point those out.

At [:24] I have a shot of a shark swimming shot from above,

followed by a shot of Kellie looking into the tank.

Look at this shot closely.  I wait for Kellie to have some expression on her face.  I want to show the viewer she’s nervous.  I then cut back to the sharks swimming from above. I’m following the logic of eye-trace.  Kellie is looking at something, I show the viewer what she’s looking at (eye-trace).  But it’s not just eye-trace. It is also finding something in the video to show the emotion of the moment.

At [:32], I show Kellie, and she says, “I’m nervous.”

The next shot I choose is that of a shark opening its mouth.  Wow, looking back on that edit, I love it. I’m really conveying the emotion of the situation.  The shark opening its mouth really works here.

With this shot, I bring up the music full again. Why did I cut away from Kellie to this shot?  In the sequence of Kellie in the water, I didn’t like my choices of shots.  They were either jumps cuts or cutaways, adding nothing to the story. I’m trying to keep the viewer engaged as much as possible.  Cutting a sequence of Kellie dropping into the water isn’t nearly as powerful as cutting back and forth from Kellie to the sharks.

At [:58] I bring the music up full again and show a great shot of Kellie.  With the music up full and her expression, you can really feel the tension she’s feeling. That’s good editing.

Notice coming out of this shot at [1:00], I wait until she slightly moves her head.  The next shot wide, her head continues to move.  I like using match-action to help hide edits.  Little things like this make an average editor better.

At [1:25], Kellie goes underwater, and I change the music. I’m now using the song Grand Central from the soundtrack to the movie K-Pax.

This song has a feel of discovery.  I want the viewer to realize Kellie is not so nervous anymore.  She is intrigued by her dive.

I bring the music up full several more times.  The shots are beautiful. Kellie’s taking this all in. I want the viewer to take it all in too.  So, I let a few shots just breathe.

This was a fun piece to edit.  Great underwater shots to choose from.  I kept editing very simple.  Trying to let shots breathe.  Simple music and notice no dissolve.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to like The Edit Foundry on Facebook.

Spatial Relations in Video Editing

Spatial relation is an often-overlooked principle of video editing. Spatial relation is something your brain has been processing since you were a baby.

Happy baby boy with straw hat

Around the 8th month of life, you began moving around your world. You explored the size and shape of objects and observed people and objects as they moved through space.  

Baby playing with block

How does this connect to editing video?  Well, your brain wants to understand the world too.  Since your brain was in its infancy, it’s been trying to figure out where things go. As an editor, you have to help the audience understand where they are in the world they are watching.  You have to help them connect points in space or time. So how do you do that?

Digital eye and cross

The story I’m going to use for this post is Give Him The Best Life

I start the story on a tight shot.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 10.53.11 AM

It’s an important shot because it tells you this person is not well.  I’m getting you into the story.  You have no idea where he is.

The 2nd shot is a medium shot.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 10.54.05 AM

You see his hand and his chest rising (I’m matching the narration).

The 3rd shot is a medium shot back to his face.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 10.54.55 AM

See how he looks up?  The next shot is his mother above him.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 10.55.38 AM

With the 3rd shot, medium of him on the bed at [:05],  and this shot edited together, I’m establishing a spatial relationship between Reece and his mother and how they exist in his bedroom.

We know we are in the bedroom.  I need to move Reece to a different position on the bed. First, I’m going to use a tight shot, so the audience doesn’t feel jarred by the fact he’s in a different spot on the bed, and the apparatus on his face is no longer there.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 10.57.03 AM

There is a series of shots of him on the bed with his mom helping him get ready for the day.  All these shots are tight or medium.

I’m a firm believer in the power of the tight shot, and I love using them.  My 2nd most loved shot is the wide shot.  As wide as you possibly can be in the environment your in.  Why?  Your audience needs to understand the world you are putting them in, and the best way to do that is with wide shots.

In this story, I established Reece is on the bed.  Now by going wide,

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.00.49 AM

the audience understands where Reece is, where mom is, and what else is in the room in relationship to those two.

That is editing, keeping in mind spatial relations.

At [:48] I start wide this time.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.02.32 AM

You see Reece still on the bed and his mother with a tube in her hand.

Then, a  match action cut off her using the tube to suction material out of his lungs.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.03.02 AM

The general guideline in editing is to start wide, then move to a medium shot, then to a tight shot.  That doesn’t always work (hence why it’s a guideline and not a rule). Sometimes I start a sequence wide.  Sometimes I start a sequence tight.  It really depends on the shots I have and how they work together and maintain spatial relationship to each other.  I don’t want the viewer distracted.  I don’t want to viewer curious about how everything works in my world. I’m editing.  I want to help them as much as I can so they can watch the story and not watch the editing.

At [:52] I need to go to the next part of the story. I use a tight shot

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.04.08 AM

of mom beating on Reece’s chest.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.04.41 AM

Then to a tight shot of mom.

Then to a medium of the two of them.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.05.12 AM

I could of probably put these three shots together in any order, and they would have worked.  The previous sequence dictated how I put these shots together.  The important thing is I went to a medium shot, you could see the two of them and how they relate to where they are in their world.

At 1:09, I start tight again.

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.05.55 AM

Then go wide,

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.06.23 AM

so the viewer understands we are now in the bathroom.  I started tight because I didn’t want a jump cut from the interview to mom in the bathroom, just trying to avoid anything jarring to the viewer.

At 1:48 Reece is in a new spot

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.07.11 AM

On the kitchen table.  Then, a tight shot of his hand on the mouse ball

Screen Shot 2020-04-08 at 11.07.44 AM

If I only have time to show two shots in a sequence, I’m generally going to use a wide shot and a tight shot.  Wide for spatial relation and tight because I want the viewer to look at only one piece of information (which a tight shot should contain).

I continue moving Reece around the house.  Using tight shots and then wide shots, so the viewer understands where he is in the world I’m editing.

My photographer gave me lots of tight shots to choose from.  I wished for more wide shots, even some super-wide shots.

Understand spatial relations is significant in editing.  Help your audience understand where they are and what goes where in the world that’s in front of them.  The tight shot is a vital storytelling tool.  The wide and super-wide shots are #2 on my list.

Thanks for reading.

Shawn Montano

Like the Edit Foundry on Facebook

Follow me on Twitter

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.