The Edit Foundry

Sequencing, Match Action, Shot Variety and No Jump Cuts With Amateur Video

April 21st, 2014 by shawnmontano

When I worked at KDVR/KWGN I had the honor of producing several stories with Kellie MacMullan (now DeMarco) called Extreme Kellie.  Like all stories they each had their challenges.  A challenge with this particular was the amount of amateur video I had to use.

The ideas behind these segments is Kellie goes out and takes part in some great activities.  For this one, It’s Not What You Expect, Kellie skydives.  This story is an example of using amateur video.  I start the story off with a few aerial shots just to establish where the actions going to be.  You’ll notice I dropped the saturation and added a little blur on the video.  Why, just frankly cause it looks cool.

Kellie asked me to do this one as a natural sound story (Photo Essay).  I decided to have fun and add a few cuts of music. The first song you’re hearing is Raining Oil by Thomas Newman from the Jarhead Soundtrack.  I chose this song because I felt it created that anticipatory feeling.

Our story starts out with the man she’s going to tandem jump with getting her all set up.

Kellie is featured predominantly in these stories, so obviously I’m going to show her a lot.  These little moments (like her facial expression above) are particularly important to help the audience understand her hesitation.

I add the owner of the skydiving company to help tell the story.  You’ll notice from [:38] and on the story uses mostly video shot by the skydiving company.  I love to sequence whatever video there is.  Sequencing regardless of who shot it still helps tell the story.  More importantly sequencing advances your story visually.  Just because it’s amateur video doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sequence.  It just means you have to work harder to find the sequence and craft the edit. From [:40] to [:47] is a simple sequence edited to music to simply get us up off the ground and into the air.

The music I choose for this section is Hard Sun by Eddie Vedder from the Into the Wild Soundtrack.  Another sequence at [:50] to establish they are up high in the sky.

From [:53] to [1:13] is another sequence of Kellie and her instructor.  They’re getting ready to jump out of the plane.  I wasn’t given many tight shot and most amateurs don’t know the value of tight shots.  So, when I was given the opportunity to use not just one tight shot but two, I’m all over it.  Notice also in this section of sequence I get as close to movement on the edit as I can, this also helps make the amateur video look not so amateur.

  • Sequencing, match action and no jump cuts all with amateur video.

From [1:20] to [1:35]  I’ve got shot variety, match action, mixing up wides, mediums and tights.

Yes you can still tell good stories and have good editing with amateur video.  So here is your checklist for making amateur video look good;

1. Sequence

2. Match your action

3. Figure out a way to have shot variety

4. Edit on the action or a close to it as you can

5. Do the same thing you do if it was shot by a professional


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You should have almost no lip flap in any story….EVER! (ok, almost EVER)

April 14th, 2014 by shawnmontano

Almost no Lip Flap

I have a video editing pet peeve called lip flap.  Lip flap is when you take a shot and the person or persons in the shot is talking while there is narration.  Maybe they are talking to the reporter, or another person in the shot.  What they’re really doing is distracting the viewer.  Anytime I see a shot like this edited in a story I think it’s very distracting.  I’m trying to listen to the narration and I’m trying to listen to what the person in the shot is saying.  All that listening and I’m retaining hardly any information.  I don’t see lip flap nearly as much as I used to but I did notice it in this recent CBS Sunday Morning segment on Matzo. 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 1.55.23 PM

 Go to [1:40] into the story. Her narration returns and she’s talking on camera.  This is very distracting.


I try and avoid lip flap.  I think you need to avoid lip flap.  Here a story where there could of been lots of lip flap but there isn’t.  Why?  Because I don’t like lip flap!

The following story is Passion Parties which can be viewed here >>> Passion Parties <<< on my youtube channel.  Watch the story first, then continue with this blog entry.


As you can imagine the ladies talked a lot throughout the entire party. I simply chose edit points to eliminate any distracting lip flap.  Watch it again.  There are plenty of opportunities in the raw to choose from with no lip flap.  I still show the enjoyment of the passion party just with no lip flap.  Ok, well almost no lip flap.  If you go to [1:23] I do have a shot with lip flap.

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Here is a great example of an edit decision I made in which a lazy edit of lip flap could of been made.  Got to [1:51] into the story.  I show a quick shot of the host.

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 2.35.18 PM

 I make an edit when she’s NOT saying anything.  Simple edit decisions like this take away distractions from the viewer.

At [1:57] I do have another edit with lip flap, but I choose to back-time a soundbite over not having lip flap.  Since I’m talking about this story I thought I’d just mention two more elements that make this story work.



How often do you see stories on the air that, when edited properly get you intimate with the information.  This is one of those stories that needs intimacy.  How do you get intimacy?  You do it with tight shots.

Sometimes extremely tight shots as to avoid future conversations with a Producer or News Director.

As you can see I had to use shots that gave the viewer enough information to process what they were seeing, without being obscene.  This was a very challenging edit.  Next time someone asks you how important tight shots are show them this story about Passion Parties.  Then have a conversation about extremely important tight shot in EVERY STORY.  


Oh, and don’t forget in that next story you edit with all those tight shots  NO MORE LIP FLAP!

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When I Edit I Want to Compliment The Photographer

November 20th, 2013 by shawnmontano

In this post I continue using the Journey of Hope Documentary. I use part 2 of Journey of Hope

When I edit I want to compliment the photographer.  When I get a story that I know the photographer has put a lot of effort into, I want to honor their shooting.  I want them to feel like I’m an extension of themselves.  The best compliment I can get from a photographer is “That’s exactly what I was thinking when I shot that.”

A good editor can see why a photographer shoots a shot and extrapolate how the photographer would use it.  Each time Dave Wertheimer came into the edit bay he loved what I was doing and liked that I got into his head and edited the story as if he was pushing the buttons.  I’ll give you some examples.

From [:10] to [1:09] is Scott’s head shaving party.  My photographer got plenty of stable locked down shots.  My photographer got plenty of shots I could choose from.  My photographer shot sequences.  My photographer stayed ahead of the action.  I had every shot I needed to make this a good sequence without forcing any meaningless or undeveloped shots.  I, for the most part used the shots in order.

From cutting his hair to shaving his head I advanced the story with each edit and used the shots like I think the photographer would.  Watch that sequence again. It should feel like you were in the room with all of them seeing all they see.  That’s what my photographer shot, and that’s what I put together.

From [1:10] to [2:04] is the sequence at in the MRI.

I honored the sequences of the Scott in the MRI.  I start with him going into the MRI and work him coming out to get straps tightened.  I’m honoring the sequence that was shot.  Dave likes shooting match action.  Dave will get shots, change camera angles and then wait for the match action to happen like the two shots at [2:17].

A good editor finds those shots, and knows they’ll work together.

A good photographer makes edits for you when shooting good match action.  You just have to find where to put them into the story.

While all this is important in long form editing, paying attention to what is shot and how it is shot can save an editor a lot of frustrating time.

Next time your editing ANYTHING you did not shoot ask yourself why did he/she shoot that?  If you can figure it out you can probably find a place to that shot in your story.

Posted in Anatomy of an Edit | 44 Comments »

Yeah, of course those tight shots are important!

September 19th, 2013 by shawnmontano

The story for this post is part 1 of a documentary I edited back in 2008.

In this post I’ll share how I used music and the importance of tight shots.  I have lots of and lots of tight shots.  You can never have enough tight shots.  I’m glad my photographer had lots and lots of tight shots to choose from.

Scott’s Story (the documentary) starts at [:11] on my YouTube channel.  The editing in the beginning is pretty standard.  I’m not trying to be fancy, just simple S.W.A.P. (synchronizing words and pictures).  Tight shots can really take the viewer into your location.  If you want to make them feel like they are closer watching it on TV then use tight shots. 

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Like this tight shot of the wheel.  

The beginning of the documentary is important.  It sets the style for the rest of the piece. The photographer and the reporter both felt this was a  powerful story.  Scott’s story didn’t need any fancy editing.  My goal was to stay out of the way as much as possible.   If you don’t notice my editing in this story then I’ve done my job.  

During the beginning of the story I did want to throw in a few shots that shows Scott’s tremors.  I am showing this without the reporter talking about it. You could say it’s the surprise in the beginning of the story.  I wanted the first few times you see this to be subtle.

At [1:11] you see Scott laying on the ground working on the Go-Kart.

Then, I show a tight shot of Scott’s left hand shaking at [1:12].  When you show a tight it should share one piece of information and that one piece of information should be important to the story.  A tight shot of the wheel show details of the go kart.  The go kart is an important part of the story.  A tight show of Scott’s hand, is also an important part of the story.   The viewer just doesn’t know why yet.

Then, I show a medium shot with Scott’s left foot in the foreground at [1:14]. These 3 shots together introduce the viewer to something that’s not right with Scott.

At [1:34] The reporter track says,

Firing up the Engine, you’ll notice something else.

Now I want to make sure the viewer sees the tremors and understand this is an important moment in the story.  I bring the music up full for a second and Scott says,

This is hard to do with my hand shaking.

I then show a tight shot of Scott’s hand shaking.  That tight shot is not up long.  But with the addition of the music and the use of the tight shot the viewer should get it.

I place the music here to signify a moment in the story.  Scott and his best friend are talking about his tremors.  There is a noticeable change in the mood of the story.  The music helps with that mood.

I bring up the music every now and then, never just cause.  If the music comes up full it’s for a reason.  At [1:57] Scott says,

Parkinson’s is a degenerative brain disease without a cure.

I bring the music up full after he says that for the same reason as before, a moment for the viewer to feel.  The music helps to reinforce the moment.

I leave the music underneath until [2:49].  Notice it just fades away?  No you didn’t, and neither does the viewer.  I  slowly bring in down over 5 seconds.  Back to that trying to keep the editing as unnoticeable as possible.

I do want to bring attention to Scott’s hand, A lot.  Pay attention to just how many times there is a tight shot of Scott’s hand just in this first segment.

Here is another tight shot at [1:48] showing Scott’s tremors.  So much information in tight shots.  It’s amazing sometimes how such a small thing can carry so much information for a story.  Please continue watching part of of Journey of Hope.  Please see how often I use tight shots.  When you see a tight shot of Scott’s tremors ask yourself is Shawn using too many tight shots?  Am I over-showing the tremors?  I don’t think so.  Enjoy my tight shots.  Now go out and shoot some tight shots yourself.  

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Thanks for reading.

Posted in Anatomy of an Edit | 166 Comments »

Before You Start the Edit, Get Organized

August 23rd, 2013 by shawnmontano

I have edited several documentaries in my lifetime.  Journey of Hope was the second documentary I edited.  Here is  links to all 4 parts.

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This documentary is the story of Scott Orr and his decision to have life changing brain surgery.  This surgery would help with the tremors associated with Parkinson’s Disease.  This documentary was one of the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done at a television station.  It challenged me on so many aspects of editing and production.  It pushed me as an editor to use every skill I had developed.   Before I started editing I got organized.

I didn’t capture a lot of the video for this.  In fact my photographer, Dave Wertheimer, captured a majority of the video for me.  I still went threw every tape (Yes, this was back in the days when we shot on tape).

  • Logging is extremely important process especially in anything, especially long form.

I edited this is in Avid. Here is some things I did before started editing.  It doesn’t matter what NLE you use, these are all things you can do in any NLE.

  1. Every time a shot changed I put a locators on the video. That way I could toggle between EVERY SHOT.  So as I watched every tape that was captured I added locators.  Most of the time I watched the video at either two or three times speed.  I didn’t have time to watch everything in real time.  Nowadays we don’t have this problem because every time you hit record with a digital camera you get a new clip.  But if your recording a clip, moving around and don’t pause recording this is still a good idea and a time saver in the long run.  


  1. I sub-clipped A LOT.  I sub-clipped interviews, the surgeries, at the race track, head shaving party, etc.  So later I could just go to the sub-clips and look at smaller amount of media at once.  I still sub-clip, especially long interview.


  1. I had a different bin for each tape the photographer shot.  VERY important for organization and for sanity.  This is still something I do to this day.  I make many, many bins in long form edits.  I try to keep the amount of clips in a bin small.  In a documentary I’m usually editing sections at a time.  So, makes bins to correspond to these sections at best I can.  I re-arrange bins all the time, moving clips around in bins to be better organized.  The last documentary I edited I spent over 6 months on so I knew reorganizing in the end was still a time saver.
  2. I have additional bins for music, graphics, sequences, etc.


  1. I made sure my media was as organized as I could possible have it.


  1. I also made sure my media was organized in folders on my scratch.  I am very, very organized.  I can’t tell you how much time this has saved, especially when I needed to find a clip or move media to different drives. 

Here is an example of the folder structure I had on a recent project.

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Within my master folder are sub-folders.  Within my sub-folder are more sub-folders.  See how I broke down folders by various cameras used.  I have a folder for animations, graphics, music and VOs.

  • Keep Organized!

Here is a picture of my bins within a project.

Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 10.28.24 AM


Get organized.  Over-organize.  Practice getting organized.  

I have notes all over the place.  I have notes on paper and I have digital notes.  When I put locators on the video I write notes on the locator all the time.  It is a good practice to get into.  I you don’t know how to put a locator on a clip on in the timeline I seriously suggest you invest some time learning how to do that.

Do whatever you can BEFORE the edit in order to be the most organized video editor you possibly can.  

Posted in Video Editing 101 | 135 Comments »

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