One of my top 5 video edits of my career

Have you edited a story that gets people talking?  Does it impacts lives, win awards, or do people just watch it over and over to learn?  This entry is about that type of story.  If I were to rank edits I did over the past 20 years, this is in the top five.

This emotional story challenged me as a video editor.

Please watch Ryan Gave Chad the Gift of Life on my Youtube Channel.

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The story begins with a slow zoom in on the Arnold family in the waiting room.

Adding a slow zoom in the edit process pulls the viewer into the story.  The next five shots are simply a series of shots showing the Arnold family in the waiting area.  As I was looking through the raw I was simply looking for shot variety.  I start with a wide shot, then went to a medium shot, to another medium shot, and then to a tight shot.  The last three shot are all intimate.   I want to keep the viewer intimate with the family.

  • I’m not going to force an edit element if it won’t work

Notice at [:08] the music starts.  The music doesn’t swell until [:13].  I want to bring in music, but I want to make it subtle.  I like transition shots.  For this story I didn’t like anything shot for transition elements.   I’m not going to force an editing element if it won’t work.  I chose to use music for transition.

The music full at [:13] and the four shots in pre-op set up several story elements.  The music sets up the feeling of concern; at least that’s what I hope I’m doing with this particular piece of music.  I use two shots of Ryan and two shots of Chad. The music and shot selections tell the viewer a lot about the story.  No need for redundant narration.  This is a good example of just visuals and music working together to tell a part of the story.

This is an incredible story.  I don’t want any distractions. So, I did some color correction.  The video shot during pre-op was a bit on the yellow side as you can see in this screen-grab.

Here is my color corrected version.

  • I like to use all the tools I have at my fingertips

I know the walls are yellow, but with a minimal effort I greatly reduce the overall amount of yellow in the shot, I bring out the flesh tones of Ryan and his wife.  I like to use all the tools I have at my fingertips to make a great story.

After the four shot montage there are seven edits that all have dissolves. Do these shots cut together?  Yes they do.

This is a creative and emotional call.  I think the dissolves help reinforce emotion.  The final dissolve leads into the first soundbite from Chad.  You can still hear my music underneath this soundbite.

As the emotion of the soundbite increase, the level of the music decreases.  Listen when you watch the story again

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I don’t want any distractions.  Chad has enough emotion in his voice.  The music isn’t necessary here.

At [1:41] I start a second piece of music.  Using the same technique as before, the music comes up underneath the story a few seconds before I bring the music up full.  I’m using music as my transition element again, this time to move into surgery.

The second soundbite at [1:56] follows the routine I did with the first soundbite.  The music decreases as the emotion in the soundbite increases.

At [2:09] is the part of the story where they are in surgery.  I have several shot to choose from.  I have many great shots of Ryan’s liver.  I choose not to be overly graphic with surgery video for one main reason, Chad dies.  This story contains some of the last video of him alive.  His wife will watch this story.  His children may watch when they become older.  These are elements of editing you don’t necessary think about in the edit bay, but I think you should.

At [2:53] is another selection of music.  I use the music here differently.  I bring it up full immediately after the second doctor soundbite.  I’ve established throughout the story when music comes full there is a change in the story.  This time it’s not a location change, it’s the final part of our story. The sad part of our story.  I have a series of pictures of Ryan with his family.  All the pictures have motion on them.  At [3:08] the reporter track tells the viewer Ryan dies.

I have the music up full for four seconds.  I’m allowing the viewer the take in what the reporter narrates.  Ryan dies.  The cliche is fade to black.  I don’t like editing cliches, especially in this piece. I want to do something simple while still visually telling of Ryan’s death.  A slow fade to black and white with this picture did the trick.  The next three picture are still in black and white while the reporter talks about Ryan.  I think keeping the pictures black and white are a clever look and help with feel here.  I do however return to color on the final picture of Ryan and his family.

After this section of the story Chad talks about life without his brother Ryan.  He is very emotional.  I don’t need music and I don’t put any music in until the end of the story.  Chad stops talking and is trying to hold back his tears.  Lots of emotion but no sound here.  I decide to bring up the music to fill the sound-void.  It’s very subtle here.  I’m trying very hard not to have the music overpower his emotion.  I want to keep all editing distractions to a minimum.

This final image I leave the viewer with is one of the final images of them together.  I took a freeze-frame of Ryan and Chad hugging before surgery.  I turn it black and white and have a slow zoom out.  I have a slow zoom in to begin the story and a slow zoom out to end the story.


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Using Midmotion in video editing to your advantage

After Sex Offender is a story on my 2011 NPPA Editor of the Year entry.

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This general news story I edited in just over an hour. The photographer was invited to follow the Adam Walsh Task Force rounding up sex offenders.

Marking an In on your clip midmotion practically helps every edit you will ever make.

Our story starts with a medium shot of a Marshall knocking on a door.

The 2nd shot [:03] of the story is this a shot of a resident and the marshall opening the screen door.  Notice,  I wait until the Marshall has already started opening the door.  You are going to see edits taken midmotion A LOT throughout this story.  I’m a big fan of midmotion

Starting an edit midmotion does several things.  When you edit midmotion the feeling the viewer gets is they are watching something un-staged.  If we start the edit and then he opens the door the act feels more staged.  Like someone saying action and then it happening.

You want edits to hide as much of any staging a possible (None of this story was staged and I never want the viewer to even remotely think that).  Speaking of staging, watch reality TV for a real good example of this.  Most of you reading this already understand nearly all of reality TV isn’t all that real.  How else could the camera be in the right places unless they knew what was going to happen.  It’s the editing that makes reality TV seem so, well real.  Editing midmotion, starting the edit after an action has started, hides (which is what editing is supposed to do) a lot.

The third shot [:05] we’ve move inside a residence.  I use a J cut to help with the transition inside.  The sound of the marshall before the video of the marshall inside blends the edits together better.

The 4th shot [:08] is also inside.  I don’t let movement stop in the previous shot (they are walking in and the photographer following them is moving).  I take the edit on this 4th shot just before the photographer walks into this bedroom.  I use the movement of the photographer to help with my edit.

Notice a theme here.

There is movement/motion at the beginning of each shot.  Something I also pay attention to is eye trace and eye movement.  Notice the last frame of shot 3 and the first frame of shot 4 (previous two stills) the Marshalls are in the center of the frame.  I’m placing the viewer’s eye exactly where I want it; in this case in the center of the frame.

  • There is movement/motion at the beginning of each shot

Here is the last frame of shot 4.

Here is the first frame [:12] of the next shot I chose.

Both gentlemen are in the frame at the exact same spot.  That’s no accident.  When I get an opportunity to place the viewer’s eye exactly where I want them to be I do it in an edit.

Again in this shot I’m taking the edit midmotion.

This is a, I think it’s cool edit. I take the edit midmotion just like I done before.  I chose to start the edit on this frame not because of eye movement but because the Marshall looks ‘cool.’  Coming out of the vehicle he’s got this drivin look on his face.  He looks around while putting a piece of paper in his pocket.  I think he just looks cool.

The next shot [:17] taken midmotion and I utilize a J-cut here.  Why?  If we were following we wouldn’t be constantly looking at him. Once we heard him say something we would turn our heads and look at him.  The J-cut imitates that (imitate the eye).

The next 7 edits are all taken midmotion.  I don’t do that on this shot [:44] however.

Why?  Well he have a caught criminal.  He is just sitting there.  The action of him sitting in handcuffs would draw your eye alone.

Another J-cut [:46] here.  Why?  Well you would be looking at the arrested individuals wouldn’t you.  You would hear the Marshall speak and then turn to look at him.  That’s why a J-cut is here.

For this edit [:50] notice I time the edit so that he puts head down just as the Marshall is saying they admitted to being here illegally.

The next 4 shots there is not much going on so my emphasis on movement isn’t as important.  The Marshall is also doing some interviewing so I let those shots play out.

The final six shots there isn’t an emphasis on movement as well.  The Marshalls have wrapped up todays work.  I’m simply looking for shot to help convey that as much as possible.  I’m also looking for shots that look ‘cool.’  I particularly like this one.

I like the rack focus [1:05] from the back of the vest to the Marshall.
It really is the simple things that make you a better editor.


This blogs primary focus is on the editing of stories.  I would like to point out a few things about the videography.

1.  The photographer stayed with either a medium or wide shot whenever an opportunity to catch an apprehension on camera.  A very good idea.

2. Only when the environment was under control, like after an apprehension did the photographer shoot tight shots or try to get sequences.

Thanks for reading.


What exactly do you put in a sequence in video editing

This entry is about sequencing.  You already know about sequencing?  Please, bare with me.  You might learn something even if you didn’t understand about sequencing.

What’s a sequence?

  • A sequence is a series of shots that should get an object or a person from point a to point b
  • All shots in the sequence should have a commonality to them either by time, location, or elements in the shot
  • A sequence should have a beginning, a middle and an end (more difficult than you think)

All stories are one master sequence (why do you think that icon you double click to load in the timeline is called a sequence).  Within that master sequence you should have many, many, many (get the idea) many smaller sequences.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a film, a news package, a personal profile on a web page, or a slide show full of photographs, all stories should use sequencing.

Every day in your life you experience sequencing.  In fact when you open your eyes for the first time you are about to start the first sequence of your day.  My first sequence usually consist of me opening my eyes, looking at the time and then turning my head to see my lovely wife next to me.  That is a three shot sequence with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  My morning continues with a sequence of me getting out of bed.  A sequence of me going downstair to make coffee.  Many more sequences make up my morning, how about you?

Imitate life.  Imitate the eye.  Life is full of sequences.  Your eyes observe those sequences.  Put those sequences into your projects.

There much more to sequencing.  So lets use a story I edited to help understand more about sequencing.  The story we’ll use for this post is On This Rock.

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This is a story I edited for the ‘Extreme Kellie’ series I produced while I was at KWGN/KDVR in Denver.  In this story, Kellie decides to give rock climbing a try.

The first sequence in the story is Kellie putting on her rock climbing shoes.

I start with a tight shot of her putting on her shoe on her right foot.

The next shot is a medium shot of Kellie fiddling with her shoe on her left foot.

The 3rd shot in my sequence is Kellie showing the bottom or her shoe.  This sequence was only 3 shots yet it had a beginning, a middle and an end.

  • All 3 shot are related by time, the time Kellie uses to put on her shoes.
  • All 3 shot are related by location, Kellie sitting on the rock.
  • All 3 shots are related by commonality; Kellie, Rock, Shoes.

All these shots are in order of events.  We don’t see every event. We don’t see her tying her shoes.  We don’t see her putting on her shoe on her left foot.  Our minds fill in those blanks for us because this is a very common sequence we observe every day in the world.  Effective storytelling and effective sequencing doesn’t have to show everything.  It should show just enough so the viewer understands what going on in the sequence.  It should also advance the story.

The next four shots is Kellie talking about how high the rock is and me showing a couple of cutaways of the rock.

Is this a sequence?  Does is get an object or person from point a to point b?  Not really.  Are the shots connected by location?  Yes.  Are the shot connected by time?  Yes (although they could of been shot on two completely different days and the viewer would never know; the beauty of editing).  Do they share a commonality?  Yes.

You see Kellie and the rock in one shot and in the other shot just the rock.  Yes this is a sequence with a beginning a middle but not really an end.

I call this a transitional sequence.  Because I’m going to move Kellie from one spot on the rock to another using the rock cutaway as my transitional shot.  Think about if you were there watching all this happen.  You look at Kellie.  Then, you look up at the rock to see how high it is. While you are looking up Kellie stands up and walks to a new position.  You look down and she is now standing in a different spot.  You didn’t see Kellie get up an move.  Your minds accepts this because you were looking at something else during that time.  The cut that might of happened in your head.  I’ve imitated it my timeline.

The next sequence is Kellie putting on gear.

We have medium shot with a new background.  So, I’m establishing a new location with this shot.

The next shot in the sequence is Kellie stepping into the harness.

Followed by a tight shot of her tightening up the harness.

Followed by Kellie looking down commenting on making it tight.  Beginning, middle, end.  I’ll bet your saying, “how is that an end?”  “We don’t see the harness complete on her body.”  In the next shot you do.

The next two shots are Kellie putting on her helmet.  Just a two shot sequence here.  These two shots are tied to the previous sequence and to the following sequence.  Getting getting ready to climb the rock is one sequence with a beginning, middle and end.  The getting ready sequence is made of five sub-sequences.

  • Putting on shoes
  • Moving Kellie to another position
  • Putting on harness
  • Putting on helmet
  • Attaching Kellie to safety rig

Every story you edit you should be able to break down into sub-sequences.  Within those sub-sequences you should be able to further break down into sub-sequences. Sequencing should be everywhere in your story.

Next we have a transitional sequence.

This is a sequence of Kellie getting ready to start climbing the rock.

Within all this sequencing is the actual selection of shots you make as an editor.

In this section of the story, Kellie is actually climbing the rock.  I’m going to sequence Kellie getting to the top of the rock.  The photographer did a great job getting lots of shots to choose from.  I’m going to explain why I chose the shots I did in the sequence.

I start with a tight shot of Kellie climbing the rock.

Followed by a shot from below her looking up

Followed by a medium shot from above looking down on Kellie.

Followed by a shot from the above wide.

I decided to start with tight shots, move to a medium shot and then to a wide shot.  I’m doing three things here within the sequence.

  • I give the viewer intimacy with Kellie
  • I give the viewer intimacy with the rock
  • I give the viewer a spatial relation on where Kellie is on the rock

Spatial relations is something that’s often overlooked in all editing overall.  Spatial relations is how editors help convey to the viewer where objects are relative to space.  I started the sequence of Kellie starting to climb the rock with two tight shots.  But Kellie could be anywhere on the rock in those two shots.  In the next shots you actually see the ground below here but don’t really know how far she has to go.  In the 4th shot I’m giving the viewer a good perspective that she’s at the bottom of the rock and has a way to go.  Now the viewer has a perspective.  Your job as the editor is the take the viewer to the scene as best you can.  Give them an idea of everything you can about what going on in the sequence.

I continue to give the viewer perspective on where Kellie is on the rock and I’m still sequencing.

Can’t stay wide to much.  I want the viewer to stay intimate with Kellie as much as I can as well, like in this shot.

Notice in the rest of the story I’m constantly moving from shots from above her to shots below her, all in sequence.  All about helping the viewer with perspective.

So what do you put in the sequence?

  • A beginning, a middle, and an end
  • Tight shots for intimacy
  • Wide shots to help with spatial relation
  • Variety (from above, from below, from the side) – help the viewer get an idea of what is going on and where
  • Shots that advance your story

Remember, only you can help prevent bad editing

Thanks for reading.


The Why of My Simple Motion Effects in Video Editing

A motion effect changes the size, shape, opacity, duration, position of your video, image, text or graphic in your projects.  Motions effects are easy.  I’m not going to explain the how of motion effects.  I’m going to explain the why.

Our story for this post is We haven’t heard that word in forever .

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The first shot [:00] is Garrett shooting a basketball around in an empty gym.


There is a slow zoom.  The photographer didn’t shoot that, I did that in post.  I want to pull you into the story visually and symbolically.  I change the scale from 100% at the start of the clip to 130%.  130% of the original resolution is about the maximum I scale video.  Beyond 130% your video starts getting blurry.

The next shot [:07] is of the scoreboard.


I start the scale at 125% and create a slow zoom to 100% scale.  The speed is 75%.  The shot is blurry.  I like the way the light coming from the scoreboard blends with the silhouette shot of garret playing basketball.  The cross dissolve between the two shots is 4 seconds.

The next shot [:11] is a super tight shot of the scoreboard rotated -30 degrees.


At 130% scale and  scaled it back to 100%.  I copy and paste the motion attributes from the previous motion effect to save time.

You should think backwards when you’re creating a motion effect.  Think about what you want the effect to be at the end of the clip. Do you want to zoom in, zoom out, change the duration.  In each of these cases I think about the last frame before I decide what to do with the first frame of the clip.

The next time I do a motion effect [:27] is between George Carl’s sound bites.


I change the speed of this clip.  The real reason, the shot doesn’t last as long as I want it, so I slow down the speed to 50%.

Ok, back to Garret playing basketball and back to me with a slow zoom [:55].  I’m just trying to pull you into the story.  I don’t want it to be always so obvious I’m doing this.


Scale from 100% to 115%.  It’s subtle.  The viewer barely notices it.

Another scaling from 100% to 120% [1:31]


Another subtle scaling from 100% to 120% on this interview [1:42]


I like zooming in on moments of emotion or revelation in soundbites.

This story is video light. I didn’t have much time to work on it either.  I use what I have and get creative when needed. The reporter talks about the doctor’s office; video I don’t have.  So, I change the speed of this video to 33%.


I know where I want my shot to end, right when the camera is up close in his face.


I want the shot to start right as the camera stabilizes and the photographer is just past his light stands in the shot.  Using fit to fill it calculates 33% speed.

The next shot, same logic.


I know I want to end when the camera is in focus.  I know I want to start while the shot is still blurry.  I fit to fill for a 50% velocity.

Many times in editing I think about where the shot ends more than where the shot starts.

These a motion effects that are quick and easy.  Great to use when under a deadline and you have a 4 minutes plus story to keep the viewer engaged in.

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In The Style Of Jump Editing

You know how to edit.  You understand the basic concepts of video editing.  You understand the importance of a sequence.  You’ve grasped screen direction.  You understand the importance of tight shots.  You know the rules, which are more guidelines than rules.  So, you want to break some rules?

This is a style that you could use no matter what type of storyteller you are.  I call this jump editing.

Jump cuts are intentional.  There are some rules to jump editing (or guidelines).

Are you ever given a story that just screams jump cuts?  I was given a few of these in my time in a newsroom.  The goal is to tell the story of a makeover while weaving a story of a woman that is ambushed.  I have fun with stories like these.  I do have a method to this madness I call jump editing.  I’m going to share my process.

I cut the story as tight as I can.  I fit as much story and visuals as I can in 1:45.  You see lots of edits, not too many, but enough to make the story fast and fun.

Our story for this post is She’s a Lady.

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Our story begins with our host walking up to an unsuspecting woman.


The second shot of the story [:02] I increase the scale to 130%.  I take the edit mid-motion.  Taking edits on motion helps disguise jump cuts a little, music videos do this all the time.


Why did I increase the scale?  So the next shot isn’t as brutal of a jump cut with this shot.  The change in scale creates two shots a with a little bit of a difference in composition.


Her position in the frame helps as well.  Another idea I didn’t do.  Re-size the image and move it to adjust where the person is in the frame.

The next shot the videographer pans from our makeover candidate to our show host.  The shot ends looking like this.


I break up the host talking about the ambush (she rambles on with information that doesn’t advance the story), when I make the next edit its this [from :08 to :10].

Again, I use the same trick as before.  I increase the scale of the shot. In this shot I increase the scale to 120%.

Its enough of a compositional change that hides a jump cut (sort of). I make another edit breaking up our host talking.  I change the scale back to 100%.

You’ll see later in the piece jump cuts where our our woman are in different spots in the store.  I’m ok with those kind of jump cuts regardless of editing style.  When you are going from the interview or the one being interviewed and the composition is the exact same, I think a subtle change in composition really helps these edits not become too jarring.

When our subjects accepts, the shot of her accepting is fast.  There are two pans back to back.  Another way I hid the jump cuts, I use the pan and make my cuts on the movement or right before the movement starts.  After the pans we are introduced to an assistant in the makeover.


Then I edit a shot of everyone entering the first store. The camera is still panning when I take the edit and everyone entering the store is moving [:09].  There is a lot of change in the composition as well, two things that ease the jump cut.


They are in the store and then I go back to the interview in the middle of the mall.  Why?  I always like to show emotion on camera.  Emotion overrides all in editing right?  That’s why I go back outside of the store, because our candidate is excited for her makeover.

A music montage follows.  I’m using Tom Jones’ She a Lady for this story.  I love me some Tom Jones.  The song also fits the story very well. In the montage notice again a lot of movement.

The edit at [:15] I take just when she pulls her head up.


The next shot at [:16] I take the edit right as she turns her head.  The next shot at [:17] there isn’t much movement.  It’s also not a jump cut from the shot at [:16].  Back to a jump cut at [:18] and back to finding movement to edit on.


After the music montage I tell a little bit of her story.  We get to know our candidate.  Everybody has a story.  The prime objective is to just show the makeover, however I wanted to tell a more of a story.  I am a storyteller you know.

Several Jump cuts after this using as much movement as I can find in the shots the videographer brought back.

At [:39] the videographer does a swish zoom out.  I only use this once.  It’s too distracting to me to use a lot.   I liked using it here to break up all the jump cuts.


Transitional shot next at [:42].  Not everything has to be a jump cut.  A chance to bring the music up full as well.


I use the transitional to transition them into the next store.

Once I get into the store I use more tight shots than I did before.  We are in a jewelry store, and jewelry is small, that just lends itself to tight shots.  How else are we going to see the pretty jewelry.

Another music montage at [:56].  Again I’m finding motion in the edits.


We move to another store at [1:03]  This time I simply use a pan down from the outside store sign to them entering for my transitional shot.

The sequence from [1:13] to [1:21] is my favorite part of the story.


Women LOVE trying on shoes.  I say it again.  Women LOVE to trying on shoes.  Showing all these shoe shots is good.  Showing her moving her foot, in the mirror, her foot bouncing all shows happiness in her and the viewer feels it.


This is followed by her asking her daughter if she likes mommies shoes, and then she says “so fun!”  I don’t change the composition of the shots.  I don’t cut away. Why? Editing for emotion.

So what to take out of this post?

  • Learn the rules (guidelines) and break them (appropriately).
  • Use motion to help with your jump cuts
  • Re-size shots to change composition a little to help with jump cuts
  • Jump cuts are fun, but don’t go overboard.  Too many become distracting.  Find a balance.
  • Still try to tell a story
  • Remember emotion first. That overrides all else in editing.

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