WHAT IS EDITING?
Film editing is part of the process of filmmaking. It involves the selection and combining of shots into sequences, and ultimately creating a finished motion picture. It is an art of storytelling. Film editing is the only art that is unique to cinema, separating film-making from other art forms that preceded it (such as photography, theater, dance, writing, and directing), although there are close parallels to the editing process in other art forms like poetry or novel writing.
Professional filmmaking is the ability to manage and manipulate what was recorded through editing. When shots are put together into a sequence as a method of storytelling you don’t just have raw documentation of what you have videotaped. Now you have the best shots put together with other aesthetic additions that make the final product more viewable and attractive.
The ability to edit video used to be relegated to commercially sponsored productions because the cost of equipment, and later software, was so high that it was not viable for average consumers to take their home videos and put them through the editing process. The main point of editing is selection. It allows the producer to decide exactly what they want included, and add what is missing from their project. Instead of indiscriminately showing every detail of what you are recording, you are now able to select the key moments you want to share or remember and highlight just those.
The best reason to use non-linear editing software is that it allows you to digitize your production and distribute it in a number of ways. Editing programs allow you to “export,” or reformat, your video in a number of ways. You can then post it on websites, email it to friends, or put together a flashy DVD. Without these kinds of options your video will simply be a lengthy series of recordings without much artistry or intent. What happens when you take your project to the next level is it allows more personality and creativity to be displayed and the impact of your video will be further amplified.
Keeping An Eye on the Story
When editing digital video projects the problem is deciding what style they should implement when editing their films. Should they just put all the relevant clips together, or should they try and mix up the footage to give it more energy? The best way to keep story at the heart of your project is to use a method called Continuity Editing, which has been used in the studios of Hollywood since before sound graced the silver screen.
1. Continuity Editing
Continuity Editing is exactly what it sounds like, a system that focuses on creating a clear continuity for your final video. The goal of this style is to create a very smooth flow between all of your clips so that the narrative story will be obvious without unnecessary interruptions, and to ensure that there is continuity in the space and aesthetics of your video. This means to make sure that there are no “jump cuts” - that people do not appear to jump around the room in different shots, and so that there is not different lighting or background sounds in different angles of the same scene. Essentially this type of editing is to be seamless, and make sure that their audience stays focused on the story instead of the techniques used.
a. Keep It Straight
To maintain this type of non-obvious editing you need to be consistent with certain visual elements of your clips so you do not interrupt the narrative flow of your video. Make sure that when selecting clips, or choosing which ones should be paired up, that you do not violate the “180 degree rule.” This rule states that everything should happen on a 180-degree straight line, and you should never jump to the other side of that line as a viewer. This means that if someone is on the left side of the screen watching a television that is on the right side, the next scene should not have him or her suddenly on the right side of the screen watching a television on the left side. It is great to have slight changes in angles when mixing the shots together, but nothing as dramatic as completely changing their position on the screen.
b. Establish and Reestablish
There is a standard shot sequence that has been classically used in Continuity Editing, which uses an establishing shot, then a breakdown, and then a reestablishing shot. This sequence begins with a wide establishing shot that shows the location and the physical position of the characters in relation to this scene. This allows the viewer to understand the physical geography of the action on the screen. Then you select a series of “breakdown shots,” which are all of the medium and close shots that add energy and focus to the scene that is happening. At the very end of all the action you go back to a similar shot as the establishing shot so the audience has the ability to reestablish the geography of the location and the relationships between all of the characters.
c. Eye Level
There are a series of visual choices that the editor needs to make to play on the expectations of the audience. Viewers have an intuitive way of watching films based on the way the see in life and the films and television they grew up watching. If you want your editing to remain seamless and unnoticed then these principles should be respected in your Continuity Editing. When you have two people looking at each other, where each video clip is a close-up on their face, make sure that the position of the eyes on the screen are the same in both shots. This is the easiest way to communicate to the audience that the characters are looking at each other in the eyes.
d. Give a Pause
If you are having the subject leave the location of a scene and then in the next scene having them enter into a new location make sure to leave space at the end and beginning of each scene. When they are leaving make sure to show the location a second after they leave a frame so the audience is clearly aware that they have left. In the next scene make sure to leave a second before they enter the location to make it clear to the audience that they are entering. Otherwise it can be confusing to the audience and will appear as if they simply transported locations.
These are just a few of the elements that make a clear story edit. This kind of Continuity Editing is the best way that a digital video editor can simply get their footage across to the audience without any confusion or disconnect. Remember to keep the continuity of the story primary, do not violate the 180 degree rule, use establishing and reestablishing shots at the beginning and end of each scene, keep eyes at the same screen position, and keep pauses in place when leaving or entering a location. Continuity Editing was developed in the early film industry, but its objectives are still relevant to the home digital video enthusiast.
2. Creative Editing
Though many home digital video producers are most concerned with communicating their story clearly, as with home movies or independent film projects, some are more concerned with energetic creativity and making an artistic statement. When it comes to editing there is a school of thought that respects this ethos and is based more on emotional than intellectual logic. This is called Complexity Editing
.Complexity Editing is a way that film producers and editors take a deeper look at the images they have recorded and intensify the action and energy of the footage. This does not focus on what the footage literally shows, but instead on a host of other aspects including visual elements and socio-political interpretations. Though Complexity Editing can be used through an entire project, it is usually only employed for certain segments of a video.
One of the most common utilizations of Complexity Editing are Montage sequences. You see these in movies all the time where there are many small clips cut together against music to illustrate something happening to the characters, such as them cleaning a house or falling in love. The idea here is that you put several separate images together that each mean something different, but when paired together end up with an entirely new meaning. This means that there is an entirely new effect that is created simply by adding all of these video clips together. This is a classic visual concept called the "Gestalt principle," which states that human perception will “create a whole from the sum of the parts.”
There are a variety of standard types of Complexity Editing that are commonly used to achieve certain goals. One is called "Rhythmic Editing" and is based on using the length of clips to maintain the energy of a sequence. If you cut from a very short clip to a longer one the pace can disappear, so instead of focusing on story continuity you cut together clips of equal length to maintain the feel that you are establishing.
c.Idea Associative Editing
Another style is "Idea-Associative Editing," which is where two contrasting clips are cut together as a way of getting a new meaning. There are two main ways that this is done, and they are Comparison and Collision. Idea-Associative Comparison puts two images together to show how they may be similar, like showing an image of a stock broker on the phone paired up to an image of a lion stalking his prey. Idea-Associative Collision wants to focus on showing the contrast between two things, like a wealthy businessman driving a Lexus against a homeless individual riding public transportation. Both of these are meant to illicit a response from the audience, but are not necessarily designed to move the story forward.
The Rule of Six or Principles of Editing
When editing a video project you have to keep in mind both the spatial and contextual continuity for a given scene. You have to keep in mind that the action is a small part of the entire film and that the various angles it was captured in need to be put together in a way so the audience will be able to understand what is occurring. These elements can be designated by the Rule of Six, which are the six points that need to be considered when cutting together a scene. The order of importance of these is different depending on whom you ask, but the following is a good hierarchy to consider.
1. Emotional Continuity
The most important goal of editing a scene is the emotion that it should hold. Keep the tone of the film in mind, as well as the specific aspect of the overall sense that the scene should carry. When selecting shots, length of cuts, and transitions, think about how the rest of the scenes were edited, then how this scene fits into the whole. Try to never violate the feelings in the moment for story or spatial continuity. It is better to keep the overall tone of the film continuous because that is what the audience will pick up on most.
The story is also very important, so make sure that this scene fits in perfectly with the whole film. Place it in correct order, and make sure that the scene clearly portrays what has happened. If a given scene is not clear then the continuity of the plot will be lost and the audience will disconnect.
Think about the rhythm of the film, and the other scenes, and make sure that the edits you do on a sequence maintain this. You do not want to suddenly have a scene that breaks the film up and loses the audience’s focus. If a scene does not seem right for its location then it should be cut entirely.
Eye-trace is the first of the last three items of the Rule of Six, which if they were all put together would not be as important as one of the first three. This means that you should keep in mind what the audience will be looking at in each frame, and to make sure that you have everything exactly where you want the audience to see it. For example, if you have main action happening and you would like the audience to focus on it then put it in a central spot in the frame, and do not let background objects or action take over the image.
5. Two-Dimensional Space
You have to make sure that your edits maximize the two-dimensional aspects of the frame. The screen is a two-dimensional image, but you are trying to portray a three-dimensional world. Make sure you cut together correct images so that it will continue to give the illusion that they are watching a three-dimensional event. This means respecting things like the Z-Axis and staggered depths of field.
6. Spacial Continuity
The last one is to make sure to maintain the spatiality of the three-dimensional space in the frame. This means that there should not be jump cuts and that all movement in the frame accurately represents the space that you are trying to portray to the audience. This means that you need to show all movement through a series of shots, and do not let someone jump from one side of a room to another without showing them move to that second location.
From Filming to Exporting
Now that you have all the footage you need for your digital video film it is time to capture it onto your editing computer and get to work. Editing is really where the film comes together instead of just being a collage of scattered parts. To edit efficiently and quickly it is important to keep a proper editing order in mind.
Once you have finished your digital video recording you are ready to get to your computer and begin editing. Cutting together what you have just captured with your camera can seem like an insurmountable task, especially when you are trying to maintain continuity both for your story and the visuals. Video, as a visual medium, relies on visual ques to communicate the tone and progression of the project. One aspect that is important to use for this editing are Visual Vectors, which are inherent both in the environment and the action you have recorded. There are four types of visual vectors - graphical, motion, diverging, and continuity.
Graphical Vectors are vectors that are inherent in the inanimate objects of the scene. These include the lines and shapes of all the buildings and things in an environment. These are visual signals to the audience that define the nature and feeling of an environment and how it relates to the action occurring there. One important way to maintain continuity between video clips is to maintain the Graphic Vectors by making sure that lines and angles remain the same, or similar in nature, to the ones before it if they are the same scene. This will allow the audience to always feel that they are in the same place.
Motion VectorsThe most important Visual Vector to look for in continuity is Motion Vectors. These vectors are generated from movement on the screen, like someone walking from one side of the screen to another. You have to use Continuing Vectors in relation to these, which means that each clip cut together should maintain the same direction of motion. Do not change the direction of motion or cut to a clip where the motion has suddenly stopped because then the Motion Vectors will have been broken and the audience will feel lost. The same goes for Diverging Vectors, which is when the motion of two objects is the opposite of each other. If this is established in the scene it will break continuity if this is suddenly reversed.
The first thing you should always do is catalogue and sync all of your footage. This had even more relevance back in the days of film stock, but it is still important today. Make sure that all your footage is properly captured, labeled, and placed in accessible bins in your editing file. Go through and make sure that the sound is synced to each video clip because this can be a problem with longer pieces of raw footage.
c. Make Choices
The next step is to go through and find the best takes for each scene. This should be easy if you kept a Shot Log and other types of records when you were on set, but either way you need to review it closely. From here you can begin to eliminate the clips that you do not want to actually use in the film.
d. First Draft
From here you do the rough edit, or the story edit. This is the first thing people think of when they consider editing, but really it is just the rough draft. Go through and arrange the clips as you like, focusing more on putting together the story with the best images and transitions you can find. Do not worry about effects or corrections quite yet.
e. Final Cut
From here you can look over the film and begin preparing the final cut. This is where you trim some sections, alter others, add effects and transitions, and generally work out all of the kinks in the film. This can be considered a final draft, one that maintains the structure you developed in the first cut but really smoothes it out and makes it work even better.
Once that has been completed you need to start thinking about music and audio effects. Here is where you gather the musical tracks you have been collecting, as well as all the artificial sound effects you have used and begin putting them in. While placing them carefully you can do all the corrections you will need to to make them fit perfectly.
After this you should then focus on color and audio correction in the film. This can constitute both footage you acquired during filming, as well as things you put in later.
h. Final Mix
After this is where the final mix gets done. Anything that seems out of place or needs to be altered is done in this final process. At the end of this it should look like a completed video.
The last editing thing you will need to do is to put in the titles, credits, and any other surface things that are not actually part of the film. Though this isn’t part of the story space or visual continuity, special care should be taken to make sure that the text does not interfere with the watchability of the video and that it helps maintain the tone.
Finally compressing or conforming the film to the proper format is need. This could be simply exporting to a QuickTime file, or going through a complicated compression process for DVD authoring.