How to cut video for edit various types of action scenes.
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Hi, I’m Tom Skowronski. You know cutting video together for action is much different than for any other type of genre. Understanding these basic fundamentals will help you make better action video.
There are several factors that you need to take into account when editing action scenes. Maintaining screen direction, sight lines, making sure that your cuts land on the action, creating the illusion of continuity, thematic pacing and motivated edits are all different issues that deserve some extra attention.
To help us understand how cutting on the action works let’s take a look at continuity. The basic concept is to create an illusion of continuous motion or story-driven cuts while taking out the slower aspects that slow the pacing of the video. Continuity compresses real time on the screen and carries a progression of the sequence.
For example in this clip from the movie The Rundown, we see one character making a trek through a dance club. We see just enough to understand the direction that he is headed and at the same time understand the environment that he is in. It takes 30 seconds to play out on the screen but since we are following a line of continuity we never get lost and understand what we are watching.
Keeping in only the shots that will give off the illusion of continuity will keep the viewers’ attention and their imagination fills in the rest. This is how cutting on the action works. We make a mental connection that overlooks the fact that the cuts may not be in perfect time.
Cutting on the action is an editing technique in which the editor cuts from one video clip to another clip of the same action that matches the first video. Although two shots may have actually been shot hours apart from each other cutting on the action gives the impression of continuous time when watching the edited project.
By having a subject begin an action in one shot and carry it through to completion in the next the editor creates a visual bridge which distracts the viewer from noticing the cut or noticing any slight continuity error between the two shots.
An important factor of cutting on the action is maintaining screen direction. For example when we have a subject exit the frame in one shot and then enter the frame in the next shot the second shot must match the screen direction and motive of the first shot. As you edit together successive shots of any moving object make sure that the subject always moves in the same direction on-screen from shot to shot. A car crossing the street from right to left must be moving from right to left in the following shot.
Another form of cutting on the action is when there are multiple stories going on at the same time in which case the editor cuts back and forth between both scenarios. This is known as parallel editing. This technique is used to create an illusion that multiple events are happening at the same time.
The best way to create this illusion is by cutting back and forth between two different actions or storylines. This type of editing can create a higher level of anticipation or anxiety for the viewer since they are interpreting two events happening at the same time.
The length of the shots from each story line determines how interwoven the events appear to the audience. To make the events appear closer in time simply shorten the shots. A new trend in cutting video called thematic editing is quickly becoming a style and in of its own right within darker and more mysterious action movies.
Thematic editing is a rapid, impressionistic sequence or montage of disconnected images to communicate feelings and ideas rather than telling a story. It serves the purpose of conveying an emotion rather than actually document each individual action of that scene.
One of the most important pieces of a puzzle is to always remember – is that each action scene can be cut in multiple different ways. The key is to be patient and use the person that gives your scene the most impact.
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