The Craft of Editing

Advance HDTV by Paul J. Toth

What people think and what really happens

The craft of video/film/whatever you want to call it is a skill. The operation of a non-linear editing system is one thing but what about the craft? How do you learn what makes a good edit and what doesn't? I don't know if I have the answers but I've cut many projects, with about 65-70% destined for broadcast.

To me the craft of editing is not only knowing which buttons and knobs to push, tweak, click (which is a part of it, for sure) it's also knowing how to make the images 'sing' (what to do with those buttons and knobs). How to make them elicit the correct response from the viewer. I'll submit the idea that if you gave the same project with the same footage, script, etc. to ten different editors you'd get back ten different feeling videos. The order might be the same and elements might be the same but each one would have a different feel, maybe even a different look (for example: color correct, Magic Bullet Looks).

They would be similar, however, you'd probably find that there was 1, 2 or even 3 that made you want to pay attention, that brought your eye and maybe even your heart into the finished product. OK, boring corporate video can be tough to get that kind of buy in from a viewer but I use the same skills and craft no matter what I'm cutting, whether it's a commercial, TV show, corporate video or feature film. Sure there are different disciplines required for each of those formats (what? there is?) and there is indeed a different method or paradigm associated with doing each of them.

For me, though, at the basic heart of any edit is the rhythm, the pacing, the feel. (there's that feel word again, what in tarnation do you mean?). Well I don't know if I can describe what I mean by feel but after having viewed many thousands of hours all all of the above (and also cutting news stories of which I did for many years) there is indeed a feel. For me it's the spaces in between voiceover or interview clips, it's the spacing of where these clips go and for how long you see the person on camera. Many rookie cutters go from b-roll to interview clip as soon as the clip starts and their pacing becomes choppy and the feel is not there. Sure it ultimately depends upon what you have to work with but even the most shoddily done productions can be salvaged in editing (to a point... by salvage I mean make it at least viewable and understandable). Of course there's a price to pay to get that. read more...

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