Video Editing Primer

2 05 2007

I’ve heard the statistic that the average American watches 5 hours of television per day.  (and the joke that ‘those people are missing a lot of good shows’).   The average video clip is about 2 to 3 seconds.  That means that each day the average American sees 45,000 video edits each day or 16.4 million edits per year.   You would think that with so much experience watching edits that we would naturally be better at actually DOING edits.  This is not the case.  Editing can be a very arbitrary process, but like filling out tax forms, killing vampires, and being married, there are some rules you can follow to do it correctly.  (This is in no way a comprehensive list but just enough information to help those of you who need to hear this kind of thing.)

Things you must consider when editing:

Probably the most important thing you must consider when editing a video is this:  Story.  The editor’s job is to cut together non-connected clips to create a story.  You can follow every other video editing rule to a ‘T’ but, if the finished video doesn’t make sense or doesn’t tell the story, then the editor has failed.  Granted, the editor can only work with what the director has given him but still you have to tell the best story you can.

Timing or Pacing.  The second greatest cardinal sin you can commit as a video editor is to make your story boring.  No one wants to see a video where decades and eons of time rest between bits of action.  That is why you are an editor.  You cut down the film into the smaller parts that are important to the narrative.  Otherwise ‘The Neverending Story’ wouldn’t be a 12o minute movie, they’d still be filming it.  You also don’t want your film to be a series of two frame frenetic cuts about the love life of hummingbirds either.  You will exhaust your audience.  Pacing your movie with longer cuts for slower parts of the narrative and faster cuts with action scenes keep the viewer interested.

Finally, and this is something that I’ve notice that people have a problem with:  Editing on the Action.   If our eyes are like video cameras, and our ears are the sound recording equipment,  then our eye lids are the video editors.  When you turn your head suddenly, get startled, or do any sudden, quick movement,  you blink.  It is an involuntary response to protect your eyes.  This familiar reaction is useful as an video editing technique as well.   Edits will often occur at the point of impact,  the moment when our eyes will naturally and automatically blink.   Don’t resist the urge to edit on the action.  It will improve your work signifigantly.

This was just a basic primer for editing video footage.  Stay tuned for part II:   Editing for Animation.



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