For the typical audience member, editing is something that tends to go unnoticed. But this is exactly what should happen in most cases. Editing is the tool that helps a movie or video move smoothly from one part to the next. If you want the audience to forget they are watching a movie or video, then they should feel immersed. Choppy editing, or editing that doesn’t enhance the flow of the story, can be very distracting, and ultimately degrade the whole experience.
Some of the very basic editing tools can have the best effect. You could use straight cuts for an entire edit and that may be all you need! Nowadays this is a simple process using software in what is called non-linear editing systems. Linear editing is a thing of the past since we have become more digital, but it creates a nice visual for understanding just what editing is. Think of a physical film strip; an editor used to literally cut that to take out parts that didn’t enhance the story. We do the same thing digitally, but it’s much easier, especially since we have an undo button.
The basic cut connects two images or clips to create meaning and to move the story forward. In most videos and movies we see a cut every few seconds. This keeps our attention, since watching the same image for too long can feel boring. But timing between cuts is another very useful tool. A long take is a video clip that is longer than the typical few seconds duration, and keeps our focus on something happening in that clip. This can be used to create tension, or perhaps to make us feel like time is moving very slowly. On the other hand, keeping video clips short, so perhaps cutting every 1-2 seconds, can make a scene feel very fast, or like something very action-based is happening.
If you were editing for the first time, placing cuts and connecting video clips in various ways is a great exercise. Watch what happens when you change the length of the clips, or the amount of cuts in a scene. You can start to get a feel for the different emotions that can be conveyed through editing. Another great tip for first time editors is to use music. Music already creates some sort of feeling, which can enhance the type of edit you want to achieve. If it’s a sad scene, you’re likely to choose slow tempo music, and that tempo is a good baseline for where your cuts should be.
Once an editor has the basic cut down, and an understanding of timing, it can be fun to employ the other tools editing software allows. But at it’s most basic form, editing is all about the cut - so that should be mastered first.
NCTV is offering two free workshops to learn editing skills in the month of May. We will start with Basic Editing on Tuesday, May 2, and then Advanced Editing: Stylistic Cuts and Transitions on Tuesday, May 30. Both workshops begin at 6:30pm and you can sign up here, or just show up the day of!