Basic Editing Tips

Edit out stuff you don’t need – less is more.

There are only two people who want to watch all that footage of a wedding video you shot last week. The bride’s mother and you, because you know you’re the best you’ve ever met, the bride’s mother will even complain about scenes you missed. Everybody else will be asleep after about 30 minutes.

Keep it Simple.

The easiest way to edit most things is with a master shot and cutaways. Let’s say that you’re making a music video. The simplest way to do it is with one continuous shot of the entire performance synced to the audio track. This static shot by itself is boring and nobody wants to watch three minutes and fifteen seconds of this, so you also shoot “cutaways.” After shooting your master shot, you go through again and shoot closeups of the guitar player grimacing musically, the singer shaking his mullet, the audience screaming and throwing their hotel room keys on the stage, and then you cut this video on the track above the master shot without interrupting the audio. You have a continuous audio track that’s always synced to the master shot, and you can cut away to other things to keep it from getting dull.

This works with something like a wedding as well. Your master shot might be a three shot of the bride and groom with the celebrant. Then your cutaways (shot with a second camera) might be a nice medium shot of the bride’s father, a close up of the bridesmaid crying, children fidgeting, a wide shot from the back of the hall, some panning shots across the audience, etc. This is called ‘b-roll’ in the Industry. “B-roll” just means “other stuff” or filler, (the “A-roll” is your master shot). Drop selections from your b-roll onto your master shot (remember to only drop the video; you want the audio track from the master shot).

Keep each scene to only a few seconds.

The audience gets bored if scenes are are more than a few seconds in length. Switch from Master shots then to “B” roll or cutaways. You can also use Still images for cutaways

Avoid Transitions except fade and dissolve.

Just because your computer has a star wipe transition doesn’t mean you should ever use it. With the exception of a few scenes in Star Wars, most professional film directors rarely, if ever, use a transition other than a cut or a fade. To the untrained eye, a star wipe might look cool, but that’s going to wear off.

Watch out for Jump Cuts

A jump cut is a long static shot with a middle section cut out. It’s called a “jump” because while the viewer is looking at the shot, an actor may jump from one place to another instantly. One easy way to avoid a jump cut is to paste a cutaway over the edit; a cutaway can be almost anything – a close up, a shot out the window, the face of another actor. The idea is that the viewer isn’t “looking” when the jump in continuity happens.

Watch for Continuity Errors.

One of the most famous continuity errors is in the 1977 film Bullitt, where Steve McQueen is chasing a black Dodge Charger and passes the exact same green Volkswagen five times.
You can avoid continuity errors by being careful about your shots. Professionals use a dedicated continuity person who takes hundreds of stills for comparison between shots. You can review your video and keep an eye out for things that change from shot to shot. How full should that glass be? Where was the dog sitting? At what point in the dialog did a particular character stand up? Was the character wearing glasses? Paying attention to continuity helps your viewer believe the story that you are telling.

Good editing is, for the most part, invisible.

A good editor can take an audience from point A to point B, and, when it’s over, we won’t remember how we got there – only that it looked seamless.

Cut on the action.

One powerful convention of editing is cutting on action, which is a way of preserving continuity and making cuts flow together. It helps you make your cuts invisible and draws viewers into your story. It is a very useful way to transition between shots, especially shots which may otherwise have nothing to tie them together. One common example is a person walking up to a door and reaching for the knob. Just as his hand touches the knob is the perfect opportunity to cut to a shot of the door opening from the other side.

The second shot should have a level of action equivalent to the first. The motion carries us from one image to another. It’s important to pick a spot in the action that will connect the two shots. Imagine a scene about football: obvious cuts would be when when the player passes the ball, when the receiver catches it and when the defence tackles the receiver. This doesn’t mean that you have to cut there, but these are natural places to change camera angles.

Matching action is part of what we call classical cutting – It means that, when you are cutting between action shots, all moving things (hands, heads, etc.) need to be in the same place at the end of one cut and the beginning of the next shot.

Even if you’re not cutting the fast-paced action of a football game, everyday situations present plenty of motion – people sitting down, turning, opening an oven, walking through a doorway, closing a car door. This is all action, and every one provides opportunities for making natural, seamless and invisible cuts. The action itself is a vehicle which holds the continuity between shots.

Use Plug -ins.

There are many ways of doing the one thing in final Cut. Usually the manual way takes more time than automated ways. If you are doing the same operation over and over – there will be a plug-in that has been created for that purpose. A great example of this is the synchronising of multiple cameras – it can be done manually but is much quicker and more accurate by using the pluraleyes plug-in that listens to the different sound tracks and matches them up to the video sources – Is it magic at work?? check out the link below to find out for yourself.

 

Learn Final Cut Pro X from $4.99

47 individual lessons over 8 hours of tutorials,
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