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.
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.
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.
The story for this post is We’re Shootin the big ones. You are going to need to watch the piece several times and read the blog entry a few times before this entry really sinks in. Please stick with this entry. It will make your editing better right away.
This is a story about setting up a fireworks display. I used this opportunity to think about eye trace with as many edits as possible and do it with a limited amount of time. I only had about 2 hours to edit this story.In my last post I tried to explain what eye trace was, in this post I’m going to explain how I used eye trace to make edits.
At [:02] into the story I have a tight shot.
He picks this item up. Before it leaves the frame 100% I cut to another shot. Your eyes are watching the item go up and so your eyes are in the top middle of the frame. Next, I looked for a shot that..
Matched the action
Has some action to look at in the middle of the screen to maintain eye trace
I found one.
I’m keeping your eyes in the middle of the frame.
This gentlemen walks screen left. I looked for a shot that has action screen left.
This is the shot I found. I wanted something more screen left but I didn’t have it. So, this was the best shot that I could find.
Not only am I looking for what is in the shot, I’m looking at the action in the shot and how it maintains eye trace with the next edit. It’s really interesting to think about.
The next time I use eye trace in this piece it at [:08].
I’m looking at the next shot and what’s going on. I’m thinking ahead. In fact during this piece I was often thinking at least 3 edits ahead. For this edit I’m thinking about the end of the shot. When it’s start isn’t nearly as important as when it ends. I’m thinking about eye trace to the next shot. I wait until the guy walks far enough screen left just as he bends down I make a cut.
Notice this gentlemen is screen right, maintaining eye trace, and he moves subtly to our right. His movement helps the edit.
The next shot at [:11] the action is also screen right.
But the next shot at [:12] is not a great edit. The viewer’s forced to move their eyes all the way screen left.
My new goal is a perfect eye trace production. The day I get that done I’ll definitely show you!
If I had a shot to move the viewer’s eyes from screen right to screen left this shot would of worked better.
This shot does work for eye trace on the next edit. I’m thinking about eye trace as much as I can and making as many edits as I can work. The gentlemen walks screen right
Just when he gets to the point I want him at, I make a cut.
To the interview that’s set up screen right.
Again, with this edit I’m thinking about what happens at the end of the edit more than what happens at the beginning of the edit.
I hope you see how thinking about eye trace can add a little something extra in everyday ordinary stories.
There are several other instances of eye trace in this story. Watch where there is some movement in the story. A person walking or something coming into screen. Notice all the edits I’m paying attention to eye trace.
So here’s a test for you. The next time your editing a story, think about the end of the edit more than the beginning of the edit. Is something moving? Can you use eye trace to make your edit better?
Do you think an editor can make a viewers eyes move? Yes they can. It happens all the time. The next time you watch a movie think about exactly what you’re looking at on the screen. Chances are an editor is using eye trace to get you to look at exactly what they want you to look at.
Over the years I have done research on eye trace. It’s a simple concept to begin with, and if you think about it in your everyday editing it’ll improve so many little things.
In this post I like to bring your attention to what is going on in the shots you choose.
Action affects what the viewer is looking at
Eye trace sends the viewer’s eye where you want them to go
You can control what people are exactly going to look at
You cannot think about every edit and what’s happening in every shot, quite often there isn’t time in your projects. The more you keep eye trace in mind the easier your going to make several edits in your story.
I want the viewer looking at certain things. My edits are going to help. In Joe’s Smile you may see more example of eye trace, I’m only going to point out some.
Eye trace has two primary objectives.
To keep the eye focused on the same point on the screen (or close to there as possible) as the last frame of an edit ends and the new frame of the next edit starts. Confused? I was too. Here’s an example.
In the shot above at [:15] in the story Joe looks up and turns his head to the right (our left).
Then, I make an edit as he’s in mid-turn. He completes his head turn in the next shot. Your eye catches his head moving, and then in the next shot I have your eyes exactly where I want them, to the left of the screen focused on Joe. Your eyes followed Joe through the edit and didn’t scan the screen for something else to look at. That’s eye trace, putting the viewer’s eyes where YOU want them.
Think of it as you are a magician. A magician’s job is to get the audience to look at what he wants them to look at. Like that ball in his hand and not the other hand in his pocket getting the next part of the trick ready. Your ideal job as an editor, keep the viewer’s eye where you want them.
The edit’s also hidden by Joe’s movement. Meaning you don’t really realize there is an edit there because the action looks natural.
Here another example at [:21]. Your eyes go to his head, as he start to move his head I cut.
His head movement completes in this shot above at [:22]. Your eye’s stayed on the left side of the screen in relatively the same place. I kept them there using eye trace logic.
Think about editing on movement the next time you’re doing a story. Think about keeping all that movement on same point of the screen. Break your screen in 4 quadrants. Try keeping the movement in one of those quadrants for 2 edits. It’s not that easy and won’t work ALL the time, but it’s pretty when it does.
Here is a completely different example of eye trace. People will always look at the eye’s of whomever is in your shot. Everyone’s natural curiosity is to wonder what he/she is looking at. So, if you show a shot of someone looking at something, your next obvious shot is what they are looking at.
At [1:22] we have a shot of the dentist looking down. Notice the dentist is predominately screen left. What’s he looking at?
We should show the viewer. He’s looking at Joe’s teeth, or lack there of [1:23]. Notice Joe is predominately screen right. This is another example of eye trace. If you were to follow the dentist eye’s down from the shot of him to the next shot of Joe, you’d trace his line of sight almost perfectly.
This is another example of eye trace. The viewer naturally looks down and as their eyes move down you take an edit and place what you want them to see in that next shot and that point in the frame, eye trace in action.
One more example. Joe’s got his new teeth and he’s smiling! What’s he smiling at? Again realize Joe’s screen right.
I know there are two women in this shot, but the women on the left is laughing and catches your eye first. So, following Joe’s line of sight it’s logical to think he’s looking at her. With this edit I make the viewer perceive that as well. The women on the right looking at the women laughing helps as well with this.
I thought I’d show you an example of a bad edit too. At [2:49] we have Joe smiling with his new teeth. Joe’s screen left as he smiles.
But in the next shot he’s screen right smiling. I didn’t put the viewer’s eye where I should of. Like I said, it won’t always work.
I’ll bet you’ve edited a story very similar to this. The story is great but the visuals you have to put it together with are just ok. I strive to make every edit the best I can. Here are some tips and tricks to help you the next time you get a story like this or any story for that matter.
This is a story about a little girl that fell out of a window in an apartment complex.
Our story begins inside the apartment. The first shot is of the little girl.
I did have a few exteriors to choose from. I decided to start with the little girl. Would you rather see a cute little girl or an exterior of a building?
I use a lot of natural sound from the little girl.
This post is about adding elements to a story to help convey emotion. At [:15] is my first little addition. I do a match frame from her cute face…
..and then I slow the video down 50% and increase the scale of the frame.
I increase the scale on the very next shot as well.
the next shot after that too.
My logic for using these frame scale increases is I like to pull the viewer into a story. It’s a subtle way of adding a little emotion.
Tip #1 Increase scale to mimic a slow zoom as a way of pulling viewers into the story
Here another trick I use when I think a story needs a little help with emotion. I’m going to slow the narration down. I’m NOT going to alter the voice. Here’s my trick, between her sentences I put 10 frames of nothing. When I think a reporter is talking to fast, a quick way to help the pace out and slow the narration down is to put ten frames of nothing or silence down. When I edit documentaries and use this trick to slow the down narration elements. It’s a good little trick, those 10 frames often gives the viewer time to absorb information.
You can really hear it at [:24]. Now that I’ve pointed it out, look for other places in the story where you hear me putting space between narration sentences. There are more in this story.
Tip #2 Add 10 seconds of silence between the narrator’s sentences to slow down the narrator.
At [:26] I pan down from the top floor of the apartment to the ground below. I am not a fan of pans.
Once in a while a pan works. This is one occasion where conveying the fall to the viewer works with a pan down.
At [:29] here me pausing her narration again. 10 frames make a big difference!
Another scale increase at [:31]
You’ll also notice every shot from [:18] to [1:03] is a dissolve.
A series of dissolves with several shots and frame scale increase. All my little tools to help pull the viewer in and add a little emotion.
I also decided to add music to the story. I chose something very simple and unrecognizable.
At 1:03 there are no more dissolve (well for a while) and no more music.
Back to go old storytelling.
Why? I don’t feel a need for any music now. The little girl is recovering, she’s in therapy, and I have lots of good stuff to convey the feeling of the day. I don’t need music here to help.
It’s not till [1:54] that my story need a little help again. We’re going back outside, back in time talking about the fall. I use dissolves and frame scale increases again to convey to the viewer were in the past again.
The reporter stand up is something that was shot on a different day at a different location. I tried to convince the Reporter and an Executive Producer I could make the story better and work without the stand up. Obviously I lost that one. You can’t win every editing battle. But I’m happy I tried.
The closing shot is that of the little girl again playing being cute. I’m book ending the story keeping the opening and closing shots similar. I also think this is a much better shot than say an exterior.