10 Rules for Video Editors

Viewing 5 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #37531
      Avatarjerronsmith
      Participant

      I originally compiled this list several years ago when I began teaching video editing at the New York Institute of Technology. I recently added it to my blog (thepixelsmith.blogspot.com) and thought it would be cool to post it hear as well. I hope that it can lead to some debate and maybe provide a basis for some beginning editors who are just starting out.

      Ten Rules for Video Editing
      10 Rules for Video Editors

      This list is based on a similar series of concepts that I picked up from Gretchen Siegchrist in an article on Video Editing on About.com. I first compiled my variation when I started teaching video editing at the New York Institute of Technology several years ago. I compiled it because I felt my students needed somewhere to start their understanding from. Most of them had never even attempted to think critically about what they see on the screen in front of them and I thought this might help in that regard. Anyway, just a couple of idea follow.

      Stay Motivated
      Every cut should have a motivation. There should be a reason that you want to switch from one shot or camera angle to another. Sometimes that motivation is a simple as, the camera shook, or someone walked in front of the camera.
      Ideally, though, your motivations for cutting should be to advance the narrative storytelling of your video. One of the most obvious signs of amateur editing are cuts and transitions that have no motivation behind them. Adding a cube spin transition may look cool to you but ask yourself, “does this advance the narrative or is it merely distracting”.

      Match the Scene
      The beauty of editing is that you can take footage shot out of order or at separate times, and cut it together so that it appears as one continuous scene. To do this effectively, though, the elements in the shots should match up. For example, a subject who exits frame right should enter the next shot frame left. Otherwise, it appears they turned around and are walking in the other direction. Or, if the subject is holding something in one shot, dont cut directly to a shot of them empty-handed. If you dont have the right shots to make matched edits, insert some b-roll in between.

      Cut on Motion
      Motion distracts the eye from noticing editing cuts and is the most common way of achieving the much sought after match cut. Cutting on motion helps to establish a motivation for the cut. So, when cutting from one image to another, always try to do it when the subject is in motion. If you have a shot of your subject turning, then cutting to a shot of a door opening (or someone approaching, etc.) at the height of the subjects motion provides motivation for the previous action and makes the cut seem natural and seamless.

      B-Roll is your friend
      A-roll is your main footage, your main subject or the main elements of your narrative, while B-roll is everything else. B-roll refers to video footage that sets the scene, reveals details, or helps illustrate or enhance the narrative. For example, if you are editing an event like a show opening you can use footage of the building exterior, or the attendees arriving. These clips can be used to cover any rough cuts, or smooth transitions from one scene to another.

      De Plane boss, De Plane
      For this one to work it requires that when the footage is being planned and shot you keep the rule in mind. Imagine that there is a horizontal line between you and your subjects. Now, stay on your side of the line. By observing this 180-degree plane, you keep a perspective that is more natural for the audience. Changes in perspective that break this 180 degree plane can be jarring for the audience because they make it impossible for the audience to establish their positional relationship to the scene.

      Whatever you do dont Jump, unless you really need to of course
      Usually, editors strive for match cuts, seamless changes from one scene or camera angle to the next, editing that is completely transparent to the viewer. A jump cut occurs when you have two consecutive shots with dramatic differences. These differences can be based on movement, screen position, etc. Jumps cuts can occur in any type of project. Often when editing interviews you will want to cut out some words or phrases that the subject says. When the remaining clips are placed side-by-side, the slight repositioning of the subject will be very jarring to the audience.

      Cutting to b-roll can cover this jump.
      By definition, Jump cuts are not seamless, they create a disconnect for the audience, it makes the cut very obvious and makes them take notice. Sometimes this is in fact the intention though. Films such as Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho and Goddards Breathless purposely use jump cuts to create a dynamic uncomfortable experience for the viewer.

      45 Degrees above Zero
      When editing scenes shot with multiple cameras, always try to use shots that are looking at the subject from at least a difference of 45 degrees. Otherwise, the shots may be too similar and appear like a jump cut to the audience. If your shots are within that 45 degree arc you may still be able to make use of them if the camera had two different levels. A close-up can usually be cut to a long shot without worry.

      Change your Level
      This requires multiple cameras to achieve but is often worth the effort. When you have multiple shots of the same subject, its easy to cut between them without creating a jarring experience for the audience. So, when shooting an interview, or a lengthy event such as a wedding, its a good idea to occasionally change focal lengths. A wide shot and a medium close up can be cut together, allowing you to edit parts out and change the order of shots without obvious jump cuts.

      Look for Similarity
      This principle is the key to the much sought after match cut. Theres a cut in Apocalypse Now from a rotating ceiling fan to the blades of a helicopter. There is a similar cut at the beginning of Stanley Kubricks 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which a scene of a bone spinning in the air is cut to a scene of a space station in orbit around Earth. The scenes change dramatically, but the visually similar elements make for a smooth, creative cut.
      You can do the same thing in your videos. Cut from a flower on a wedding cake to the grooms boutonniere, or tilt up to the blue sky from one scene and then down from the sky to a different scene.

      Wipe, Wipe, Wipe
      There are three transitions you will see with regularity; the cut, the cross dissolve and the wipe. At weddings, I love it when people walk in front of the camera. They are apologetic, but unless it happened during the vows or the first dance, I am grateful for the wipe they gave me to use during editing. When the frame fills up with one element (such as the back of a black suit jacket), it makes it easy to cut to a completely different scene without jarring the audience. You can set wipes up yourself during shooting, or just take advantage when they happen naturally.

    • #166434
      Avatarcomposite1
      Member

      Nice. Editing 101, but despite the evil MTV hath wroth upon the field of editing, the ancient ways still make for the best movies. “Thus endeth the lesson….”

    • #166435
      AvatarXTR-91
      Participant

      jerronsmith,

      Nice editing tips. I am creating a website with many digital video tutorials and articles. If it’s okay with you, could I add this to my ownwebsite? Just give me copyright permission and I’ll also show the author “Jerron Smith” and the original blog site “thepixelsmith.blogspot.com”.

    • #166436
      AvatarNormanWillis
      Participant

      >>Whatever you do dont Jump, unless you really need to of course
      Usually, editors strive for match cuts, seamless changes from one scene or camera angle to the next, editing that is completely transparent to the viewer. A jump cut occurs when you have two consecutive shots with dramatic differences. These differences can be based on movement, screen position, etc. Jumps cuts can occur in any type of project. Often when editing interviews you will want to cut out some words or phrases that the subject says. When the remaining clips are placed side-by-side, the slight repositioning of the subject will be very jarring to the audience.

      Hi Jerron.

      Thank you very much for the tips. However, your postraises some interesting questions for me. Is it OK if I list my assumptions here, and then you and others can show me where I am not yet clued in?

      I am hoping to make instructional video. However, instructional video can get really boring and dry, so if I want people to watch it, I need to make it as interesting as possible. I noticed from watchingmusic videos that they do lots and lots and lots of cuts (from what I saw, a cut on average of every one-to-six seconds), so I thought that I should try to use as many cuts as I can. I am also planning on doing some light-duty compositing and green screen.

      I will be referencing lots of quotations. I have approximately a paragraph or two of material to cover in between the quotations, so I thought the thing to do would be to rehearse my material until I can say it right with a teleprompter running (should be no problem), and then record. Then in editing I can cut away to a backdrop of some kind with the quotations superimposed on the backdrop…so all I really need is to get my paragraph or two recorded with out a cut, and then I can cut on the quotations and such. Also, I can cut whenever there is a visual I can splice in, to illustrate my point visually. Does that sound right/reasonable?

      Iguess onebig questionI have is soundtracking. I thought no sound track would clearly be the best, but now I am watching other people’s instructional videos, and I notice that they use light sound tracks. Sometimes I think it is distracting, and sometimes I think it adds (but mostlythe former). Are there rules for sound tracking in instructional video?

      Another question I have is that in some of the instructional video I am studying, they presenter changes his background/studio environment every so often. I am assuming that the more one changes the scenery, the more interesting the video stays? But what do I do when I am basically a one-man-show with a small studio environment? Not worry about it? Change the camera angle? Or use the green screen a lot, to change the scenery that way?

      Any advice you or others have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you very much for your help.

      Norman

    • #166437
      Avatarjerronsmith
      Participant

      >>I noticed from watchingmusic videos that they do lots and lots and
      lots of cuts (from what I saw, a cut on average of every one-to-six
      seconds), so I thought that I should try to use as many cuts as I can.
      I am also planning on doing some light-duty compositing and green
      screen.<<

      That might not be a good idea. Music videos use lots of cuts but this does not mean that quick cuts are good for every situation or project. Instructional video would seem to be a genre where an editing style with slower cuts would be desirable. When I worked with Total Training on a training series they tended to prefer consistency and slow cuts to give the viewer a stable experience. I believe that the most important thing to keep in mind about creating an instructional video is that the presentation of the content was be concise, clear and easy to follow.

    • #166438
      AvatarNormanWillis
      Participant

      OK, thanks.

      But I did not mean to give you the impression that I am planning on cutting every one-to-six seconds. Actually I am planning on cutting after every few paragraphs or so, when I go to the next quote; so it would look like:

      Narration > Quote > Narration > Quote > Narration > Illustration…etc.

      Do you have any advice on sound tracking?

      Thank you,

      Norman

Viewing 5 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Best Products

Best After Effects and motion graphics template sites – 2021

You have the tools needed to create stunning motion graphics, but do you have the time? If not, using motion graphics templates can be a great way to add polish to a production without blowing your deadline.
homicide-bootstrap