March 23rd, 2011 by shawnmontano
In this post I am going to talk about an important principle of editing.Â It’s an often overlooked principle, the principle of spatial relation.Â Spatial relation is something your brain has been processing since you were a baby.
I have a seven month old baby girl.Â At first, she just processed information by putting was right in front of her in her mouth.Â Now she is beginning to understand in order for her to explore more she has to get to it.Â My daughter just started rolling from her tummy and her back.Â She figuring out the world, one roll at a time.
She also looks around a lot.Â She figuring out objects and people.Â She sees her bottle, she wants to put it in her mouth.Â Â She’s developing spatial relationships to people and objects in her world.Â She grasp distance, she sees me far away she cries until I get closer.Â An infants brain is an amazing thing.
So how does this connect to editing video?Â Well, your brain wants to understand the world too.Â Since your brain was in it’s infancy it’s been trying to figure out where thing go.Â As an editor, you have to help the audience understand where they are in the world they are watching.Â You have to help them connect points in space or time.Â So how do you do that?
The story I’m going to use for this post is Give Him The Best Life
I start the story on a tight shot.
It’s an important shot because it tells you this person is not well.Â I’m getting you into the story.Â You have no idea where he is.
The 2nd shot is a medium shot.
You see his hand and his chest rising (I’m matching the narration).
the 3rd shot is a medium shot back to his face.Â See how he looks up?Â Next shot is his mother above him.
With the 3rd shot (medium of him on the bed at :05) and this shot edited together I’m establishing a spatial relationship between Reece and his mother and how they exist in this bedroom.
We know we are in the bedroom.Â I need to move Reece to a different position on the bed.Â First, I’m going to use a tight shot so the audience doesn’t feel jarred by the fact he in a different spot on the bed and the apparatus on his face is no longer there.
Then there is a series of shots of him on the bed with with his mom helping him get ready for the day.Â All of these shot are tight or medium shots.Â I’m a firm believer in the power of the tight shot and I love using them.Â My 2nd most loved shot is the wide shot.Â As wide as you possibly can be in the environment your in.Â Why?Â Your audience needs to understand the world you are putting them in, and the best way to do that is with wide shots.
In this story I established Reece is on the bed.Â Now by going wide,
the audience understand where Reece is, whereÂ mom is and what else is in the room in relationship to those two.
That is editing keeping in mind spatial relation.
At :48 I start wide this time.
You see Reece still on the bed and his mother with a tube in her hand.
followed by a match action cut of her using the tube to suction material out of his lungs.
The general guideline in editing is to start wide, then move to a medium shot, then to a tight shot.Â That doesn’t always work (hence why it’s a guideline and not a rule).Â Sometimes I start a sequence wide.Â Sometimes I start a sequence tight.Â It really depend on the shots I have and how they work together and maintain spatial relationship to each other.Â I don’t want the viewer distracted.Â I don’t want to viewer curious how everything works in my world I’m editing.Â I want to help them as much as I can so they can watch the story and not watch the editing.
At :52 I need to go the next part of the story. I use a tight shot
of mom beating on Reece’s chest.
Then to a tight shot of mom.
Then to a medium of the two of them.Â I could of probably put these three shot together in any order and they would of worked.Â The previous sequence dictated how I put these shots together.Â The important thing is I went to a medium shot shot you could see the two of them and and how they relate to where they are in their world.
At 1:09 I start tight again
then go wide
so the viewer understand we are now in the bathroom.Â I started tight because I didn’t want a jump cut from the interview to mom in the bathroom.Â Just trying to avoid anything jarring to the viewer.
At 1:48 Reece is in a new spot
On the kitchen table.Â Then a tight shot of his hand on the mouse ball
IfÂ I only have time to show two shots in a sequence I’m generally going to use a wide shot and a tight shot.Â Wide for spatial relation and tight because I want the viewer to look at only one piece of information (which a tight shot should contain).
I continue moving Reece around the house.Â Using tight shots and then wide shots so the viewer understands where he is in the world I’m editing.Â My photographer gave me lots of tight shots to choose from.Â I was wishing for more wide shots, even some super wide shots.Â I do understand he was in a house and was limited.
Understand spatial relation is very important in editing.Â Help your audience understand where they are and what goes where in the world that’s in front of them.Â Tight shot are a very important storytelling tool.Â The wide and super wide shots are #2 on my list.
Thanks for reading.