The Edit Foundry

Good Edits are Subtle Edits

October 17th, 2012 by shawnmontano and tagged , , ,

The art of editing comes down to frames of difference.

 It’s 3 frames here or 4 frames there that can make each and every edit so much better or so much worse.  This post is about some of those subtle editing tips.  I told you a few tips in my last post #1 Rule of Editing is Emotion.  So lets expound on more tips. The basics of editing are easily taught and easily learned.  It’s the subtle edits that take time and experience to incorporate in each and every edit you do.

The story for this post is Sentence Please 

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We are going to discuss 

  • Subtle Editing Tips
  • Staggering Audio and Video Edits
  • Maximizing Shot Potential

Sentence Please is a story I edited in just a few hours.  Under the opening shot you hear the announcer.  He’s telling a speller a word.  I have staggered the edits.  I created a J-Cut and a L-Cut in the first two seconds of this story.  These are also known as split-edits.  For those of you not familiar

  • A J-Cut is when you hear audio from a shot and then see the video. You make the letter J visually in the timeline.
  • A L-Cut is when you cut to different video but the audio from that previous shot remains.

In Sentence Please you hear the announcer say “Speller you word is Malaria.”  The first shot of the story is a wide shot of the room with the announcer audio.

 I make a cut (video only) and show the announcer.  That is a J-Cut.  

Then I make an L-Cut.  You continue to hear the announcer but the video is that of a speller.

In addition to using J and L cuts I’m also employing eye trace.

I want to take the shot of the speller in pink [:01] right as she turns her head.  The turn of her head helps acknowledge the announcer to her left (our right).

I am also trying to back-time the shot of her so she speaks the word right after the announcer is done.  In case you didn’t realize I merged two different versions of the announcer to make this work.  The photographer didn’t pan quickly from the announcer to the speller.  The edits I made it seems like there was two cameras shooting the spelling bee.  If you can create the illusion of a two-camera shoot then you are well on your way to becoming a solid video editor.

You’ll see plenty of split edits in this story.  You’ll see plenty of split edits every day in every thing you watch.  Split edits are a part of the craft that you should notice all the time.  No really.  You need to start noticing split edits everywhere.  They are a key component of editing.  Take notice of them in your favorite movie, your favorite TV show, even you favorite commercial uses split edits.

Let’s continue with the story and some more subtle editing tips. 

The first reporter track in this story is “52 kids sat on stage.”

For 52 kids I show a lot of kids on stage. The next shot is that of a speller’s hands

I take the edit the second I see him fumbling with his hands [:05] nervously. The simple tight shot shows he is nervous.  I also take the edit mid-fidget.  Meaning the action of fidgeting has already started.  
Having as many edits with the action already started also makes edits look more natural.  You should try to avoid making an edit before any action starts.  Again this is another subtle tip.  An important tip.  Try taking your edits mid-action more.  Your edits will look better and your stories will flow better.
  • Very often the action within a shot can help convey a subtle message

 I want to keep reinforcing the kids fidgety state throughout the story.

After a shot of another speller at the mic, the reporter track is “All with one goal in mind.”

The next shot is that of a speller looking down.  I take the edit right when she moves her hand around.

Her motion helps convey every one’s feeling while they are on stage.  I also take the edit mid-action.  

The difference between a good editor and a great editor is something that comes down to the frame you choose.  In the edit did I choose something that helped convey the message of the story?  Really start asking yourself, why is that shot in my story and why did I take the edit the moment I did?

  • I cannot stress how important editing mid-action helps your overall editing.

At [:17] I’m milking a shot.  I like to maximize shots visually and auditorily.  I use the shot and the speller says meticulous twice.  I place the reporter track within the two times the speller say meticulous.  It’s a subtle way of getting more natural sound into a story.  If you’re under a deadline this is faster than trying to find another shot.  You’ve got the shot on the timeline.  See if you can milk it for all it’s worth.  Just remember not to dry up the shot.  Meaning don’t leave it up for any longer than you should.  Vague isn’t it.  Every single shot in every single story is different.  There is no hard rule for this.  It’s a feeling you get once you become a good editor.

At [:20] the reporter track is “The 7 to 14 years olds each won their Boulder Valley or St. Vrain school’s contest to get here.”

I still want to show that fidgety feeling onstage.  This shot of a 7 year old perturbed was too good to pass up.  His expression tells so much.

Don’t you just love this shot?  I do.  That’s why I’m writing about it.  This shot has emotion in it.  As I previously wrote always cut into emotion and never cut away from it.  Do you think I cut away from this shot too early? I do.  I should of left it up just a bit longer.


This shot is subtle. I wait to take the shot the second she scratches her face.  Movement in every edit is what I strive for.  Even if it’s something this subtle.

You’ll also notice a good amount of edits that are backtimed.  Meaning I make a cut visually and backtime the edit so the natural sound moment I use plays right into a piece of narration or a soundbite.

Backtiming edits are another tool to help blend and stagger audio and video edits.

Watch the story again.  This time pay attention to what each kid is doing in each shot.  Also pay attention to how the action in the shot helps convey their feelings.

Little things like what’s going on in your shot and when you take the edit can often make a good story just a little better.

  • Every shot in the this story has meaning
  • There are many split edits in this story
  • Subtle moments help make a story better

Thanks for continuing to read The Edit Foundry Blog.  

Please follow me on twitter @shawnmontano

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Posted in Anatomy of an Edit, Cuts | 24 Comments »

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