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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 11:37 AM

    • grayboy
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    The art of editing

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    This forum is great for getting help with the mechanics of editing, (how to add a video track, use keyframes, what graphics card to avoid, field order problems,  etc etc).  Just as important, more so in fact, is the art editing. 

    I am as much self taught as trained, and I know some of the tricks of editing, but I feel like there must be many more that I dont know.  Some of the things I know are like 'rules'.  Three that come to mind without giving it too much thought are
    • never cut to or from a moving shot,
    • dont cross the line
    • in an interview 'ums' and 'errs' are ok as long as the interviewee is in shot, but not when they are  speaking over a cutaway.
    • a shot must be a minimum of 3 seconds
    These are basic documentary style 'rules', and I have broken them all, particularly the 3 second rule,  but its useful to start from solid ground before you venture into the unknown. 

     So anybody else got any do's or dont's, or techniques that they would like to share.  Not just 'rules', but also techniques. 

    Graham
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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 1:22 PM In reply to

    Re: The art of editing

    Locked Contact

    "Rules are made to be broken."

    You could follow all the rules above, and more, and you would end up with the look of something made in the forties (Orson Wells and a few others excepted). Which is not all bad, I suppose, but a bit dated. All the rules are meant to help the viewer follow along and focus on what you want him/her to focus on instead of being distracted by some technique that sticks out.

    It is a good thing to be aware of those basic "rules" just like an artist learns to imitate the masters before launching out to his own style.

    That said... I deal a lot with interviews, have been dealing with them for more years than I care to admint. I've never heard that rule about ums and ahs, but in practice that is pretty much what I do. I just try for a natural sound. A few ums and ahs are always left in but many of them are removed because it just feels right. If someone stammers a lot, they just come off as looking stupid on the screen. We are much more forgiving listening to someone live than we are listening to them on the screen. So if you look at my edits, much of an interview's content has many, many edits when covered by b-roll. Many times this is the only way to get any use out of an interview - if it were to play as on-camera, it would be too excruciating to sit through. But cleaned up and covered by b-roll it flows "naturally." And of course, you can't remove the ums and errrs and ahs when the subject is on-camera, which necessitates b-roll. Unless you love jump cuts. And there is another rule to be broken.

    No shot shorter than 3 seconds? Never heard that one! And I don't think I have seen any film or TV program recently that adheres to that.

    There are a lot of techniques that have sprung up in recent years. But it has been interesting to find myself watching some old film and notice that some of what I think of as "new" is really very old. Like camera movement. I keep thinking it is a newer trend to try to keep the camera in motion. I don't know where I got that idea, because when I look at old films, I notice the camera is moving a lot of the time. I think what has changed is the ease with which you can make this happen. You don't have to have a huge crew and a huge crane to move the camera, so we see that "classic" technique in much lower budget productions now.

    It would be nice to keep this thread in the PC forum since it's the largest and has the most exposure... but I'm betting this gets moved pretty soon since it really is OT.

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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 2:12 PM In reply to

    • mBlaze
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    Re: The art of editing

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    rfmeredith:
    And of course, you can't remove the ums and errrs and ahs when the subject is on-camera, which necessitates b-roll. Unless you love jump cuts.

    Actually, I always cut 'umms' and 'errs' from on-camera shots whenever I can.  I use a technique from editor Steve Audette (FRONTLINE), where you add a Fluid Morph transition effect to hide the cut.  It only works if the camera is locked down and the subject doesn't move a whole lot at the cut.

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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 2:14 PM In reply to

    • grayboy
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    Re: The art of editing

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    The 3 second shot minimum was put forward to me by a news editor as the minimum time it takes to register the content of a shot. Shots shorter than this add texture and colour, and pace, urgency, or in a montage build up a composite feeling for a place or event, but the time on screen is too short for real information to be delivered.  So, particularly in news,  that was the minimum.  Maybe it was just a rule that this editor made for herself, but I think it holds up. 

    Just thought of another one.  I was told that the minimum length of a title should allow a slow reader to read it through 2.5 times.  Depends on how slow the reader is, but this can feel very slow, but again in general it works.

    Shh - I can feel a moderator coming along the corridor.  Lets hide.
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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 5:36 PM In reply to

    • Haze
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    Re: The art of editing

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    I thought the 3 second rule was reserved for oreos dropped on the floor.

    Getting advice about editorial from a news editor?  Oh brother.  There's a reason they're called "Hacks".

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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 7:20 PM In reply to

    • Solopost
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    Re: The art of editing

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    "Getting advice about editorial from a news editor?  Oh brother.  There's a reason they're called "Hacks"."

    Now that was a low blow.  If they were a wedding editor, then please, by all means use that... Big Smile

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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 7:58 PM In reply to

    Re: The art of editing

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    Sorry, I don't feel that any rules define the art of editing. At best, they may be guidelines for a common practice in certain types of editing.

    The art of editing to me is about stuff like juxtaposition and context.
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  • Wed, Nov 14 2007 8:17 PM In reply to

    • NICKB
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    Re: The art of editing

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    You could get a computer to auto edit your film via rules.

    The danger with rules is that it stops creativity!

    We live in a world were everyone is an editor but few can edit.
  • Thu, Nov 15 2007 2:52 PM In reply to

    • grayboy
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    Re: The art of editing

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    Ok maybe I used the wrong words - 'art'-  and 'rules' - although in my defence I did put it in quotation marks cos i knew soemone would start to say you cant edit using rules, rules are there to be broken, yahdeyahda.  Of course  - thats a given. 

    Nonetheless there are techniques, ways of doing things that allow us as editors to create a piece that an audience can follow, understand, be moved by, be entertained by, all without realisng the piece has been edited.  For instance - I know almost nothing about editing fiction.  I have messed about on a couple of short pieces to no great effect.  (I have had some training as a documentary film maker, call me a hack if you like but there are plenty of editors who find documentary editing far more creatively challenging than fiction, but thats a whole other argument.)  So I am interested in stuff like if you have an establishing shot of a lawyer in a courtroom giving his opening comments, and then cut to a closeup of him, do you use the audio from the closeup throughout, as you cut back and forth, or do you use the audio from the LS for the LS and the audio from the CU for the CU.  When you are cutting to create continuous action do you cut before the action, or after it?   Stuff like that.  Maybe its just a question of trying stuff out and seeing what works, but sometimes its nice to have a few shortcuts so you can get through a job to the end, confident that it hangs together, and then you can go back into it and try out doingthis way, wht happens if I do this.

    Or maybe its more mundane than this.  For instance I was begining to get real bad neckache from staring at a screen for 8 hours a day.  I changed the height of the monitors, I got a different chair, I did exercises.  Then I read  about Walter Murch editing standing up.  Ding! It was obvious, so  for the past two years I have been standing up.  Its much better, for my neck and maybe for my editing.  Would I have made this change on my own, maybe, but heaing about someones elses method made me think about my own.

    Graham
     
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  • Thu, Nov 15 2007 3:35 PM In reply to

    • Solopost
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    Re: The art of editing

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    "never cut to or from a moving shot,"

    Not really a 'rule'.  Cutting between moving shots can really add to impact and pacing.

    "in an interview 'ums' and 'errs' are ok as long as the interviewee is in shot, but not when they are  speaking over a cutaway."

    Not a good rule to follow - especially in news were it could be taken as edited the interviewees original sentence.

    "a shot must be a minimum of 3 seconds"

    Previously discussed as it can add the pace, excitement and impact of a scene.

    Editing is less of 'rules' and more of 'feel'.  What works in one genre will not necessarily work in another.  And, as you know, the 'rules' are not 'rules'.. they are guides.

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  • Thu, Nov 15 2007 3:42 PM In reply to

    • steve maio
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    Re: The art of editing

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    The eye and its focus are the strongest cues to how an edit should cut.  Go see a live performance, a play or even concert, where multiple things occur at once, where actions and movement draw in your eye.  Pay close attention to the lighting, particularly spotlights, and the way some things fall off into darkness when the audience should pay attention to a particular item or setting.

    Then consider the way you take in the world.  Watch a sporting event, or take in a nice day at an active park.  At first, simply be there.  Take it all in.  Then replay the way you just viewed the world in your mind.  Did you naturally take in the whole scene at once, then focus in on specific people or activities?  Did you eventually settle on a specific topic (activity) and follow that?  Did you then focus on specific elements of that activity?  The frisbee itself, the way the girl's hair moved, or the smaller detail of the way the sun played on the grass?

    Think back to the play or concert.  Is not the lighting trying to emulate this natural focus of our mind and eye?  Taking in a location, focusing on one area, and perhaps even one object, as the action and story unfolds?

    Do you remember the early days of film, the use of the iris?  That is the direct result of this action in a play to change the lighting.  Now, we have multiple focal lengths, cut aways, and b-roll to change focus, not a darkening of the screen.  But we are still ultimately try and emulate the way the world is taken in, and either try to play things out as naturally as possible, or jar the audience by shifting the order of things.

    Of course the world is normally taken in with a wide overview, and perhaps a refocus down to whatever element.

    But there are... unnatural moments... in life that we view and/or remember differently.  I once stepped out of Port Authority to be greeted suddenly by the grim image of a shoeless, motionless, healthy looking man sprawled unnaturally on the stairs, quite dead.  A runner caught by a bus on 41st street, thrown clear to the steps of the exit, his shoes and socks taking a different trajectory.  But as I experienced this day, my first and only focus was this lifeless shell that was once a man.  THEN I saw the police officer hurrying us along, then the block, then the shoes in the road, then the overview of a busy rush hour on 8th avenue, the sound of the city suddenly coming into my perception like a rush of water on a previously quiet stream.

    So remember- you are unfolding things for very deliberate purposes.  If you wish to follow the "prescription" of wide and on down, by all means, do so, your edit will seem natural and ease your audience into the scene.  If however you are presenting the uncomfortable, the unusual or even the shocking, or perhaps simply want the audience to sit up and take notice in a different way, those rules no longer apply.

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  • Thu, Nov 15 2007 5:33 PM In reply to

    • Haze
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    Re: The art of editing

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    grayboy:
    I have had some training as a documentary film maker, call me a hack if you like but there are plenty of editors who find documentary editing far more creatively challenging than fiction, but thats a whole other argument

    To clarify.  Cutting a documentary that tells a compelling story takes a great deal of skill - see Ken Burns for reference.  Mashing together a bunch of shots with no motivation other than it's 5:45 and they need the story for the 6pm news takes very little creative skill  - aka "HACKing it together".

    I understand what your driving at grayboy, however I don't think teaching editorial instincts can be done over the internet.   Take the piano for instance, anyone can learn to play the individual notes.  Anyone can string those notes together to play a song.  But very few can play the piano with passion - to feel the emotion of the music.  How would you go about describing how to play the piano with passion?  As it relates to editorial consider that trimming an edit by as little as one or two frames can make a huge difference.  Knowing whether to add 2 frames or subtract 2 frames takes experience or instincts.  If you have the intincts you already know the answer.  If you're seeking learn from experience you need to be seated next to a seasoned editor.  Because "seeing is believing" or in this case seeing is learning.  The internet can't teach you where to make the cut.

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  • Thu, Nov 15 2007 5:48 PM In reply to

    • grayboy
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    Re: The art of editing

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    Dont you find that a cut to or from a moving shot really jars on you?  I try never to do it, it just looks really clunky and clumsy.  Obviously in a montage thats say building up an impression of speed using shots out of a car window where the individual shots dont register, or in a seqeunce like the shoot-out in Heat, yes ok.  But where shots have to do more, I try not to cut into a moving shot and if there is no other shot to use, I dissolve into and out of it.  Am I being too precsriptive?  Or just anal?

    Is it the case that in the US you have to show that an interview has been edited, for legal reasons?  Here in the UK we can still use cutaways to 'conceal' edit points, although in the light of recent criticism of the use of noddies this could conceivably change.  Nobody likes a noddy, but sometimes they can get you out of a hole.

    I take all your points about editing being an elusive, intangible, touchy feely sort of a process.  Its not a science, you cannot edit to a formula.  But -  I bet we all have ways of working that we fall back on to get the thing rolling, or to get ourselves out of trouble, or to make that edit work even though it doesnt look like its going to.  Or just to get the creative juices going.   I find it really difficult to get an edit going if I dont have some music and an intro worked out.  It might not be the one that ends up on the master, but if I know I have something at the beginning I am more comfortable going forward.
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  • Fri, Nov 16 2007 12:20 AM In reply to

    • NICKB
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    Re: The art of editing

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    grayboy

    I think you are asking a very tough question maybe THE toughest question on editing.

    Give 10 of the worlds best editors the same film to cut and you will get 10 different results!

    I think it is a state of mind you have to get into, you have to 'tune in' you should be able to feel the timeline running through you as you take in the visual and audio signals of the pictures and sound.


    To start with do not try to make a great edit.

    First do a rough cut to get structure and make it realy rough and chunky so as to get the basic story in shape rather than focusing on perfecting a trim the reason why i make the edit realy rough on the first cut is so that i dont get comments like can you take 4frames off that edit etc when what we should be focused on is the big picture of structure, also before you start up the Avid maybe do a paper edit / plan of what it is you are trying to achieve that might sound daft in the world of fast computers but doing a plan on paper and thinking about it will set your mind up
    to start the edit.


    "I find it really difficult to get an edit going if I dont have some music and an intro worked out."

    That sounds to me as if your editing in a linear way, i would never start an editing project by doing the intro first, in fact i would tend to start off doing the easy bits first just to warm up.
    I guess at the early stage of an edit i see it as a jigsaw puzzle type of problem, so think non linear would be my advice.
  • Fri, Nov 16 2007 1:47 AM In reply to

    Re: The art of editing

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    You guys should've been at the Boston Avid Users Group last night.  Above mBlaze made mention of Steve Audette's techniques, Steve gave a full on two-hour presentation on the art of editing Frontline and we had to end up cutting him off because we ran out of time... he talks fast and non-stop and the guy still had more things to say regarding creating the illusion/idea that the viewer is expected to take away from watching whatever you edit. 

    He made numerous references to painting and how a good artist uses the colors to create the illusion of depth and perspective.  Editing, true editing, is an art form, it's telling a story with moving pictures.  Many people forget that and too wrapped up in the technical side.  For Steve and other true masters of the art, it's all about directing the viewer to see/hear/feel what is intended at any given time while watching the piece. 

    Thanks again to Steve for yet another great presentation. 
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