Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Basic Editing Advice

Submitted by by Peter John Ross

Just because it's digital video doesn't mean you shouldn't log your shots during principal photography.

Logging details about the takes, the camera angles, and all the basic information can make your edit session more economical and timely. If you know there are only two good takes on an entire digital video tape and you know from a log sheet where on the tape the good takes begin and end, you can just type that into the batch capture mode of most non-linear editing systems.
Then you can be creative with the footage at hand, and not waste time looking for the good shots, or filling up valuable hard drive real estate with gigabytes of unusable takes.

For myself, I edit the whole piece together, not necessarily in sequential order, but from the most obvious scenes and takes and then assemble a rough cut. From the rough cut, I then chisel away at the unnecessary lines and scenes to get to the final edit.

Check out my previous Timecode Burns article to help you become more efficient. You may find using a dedicated script supervisor incredibly helpful in familiarizing yourself with the footage so that you are aware of your options.

After working as an editor, I am always shooting for the edit. I will start or end a scene with push-ins or pull-outs of something like a light bulb or the dark part of a painting or wall for natural transitions. Pre-planning these kinds of shots and storyboarding before shooting helps focus on what to shoot and how it will tie into the editing later.

You should always be aware that for every scene, you should try to cover the two C's, coverage and cutaways. These are the things that make editing possible. Finding something relevant to enhance the story as a cutaway is essential to shooting for the edit. What is coverage? Coverage is getting multiple angles of the same scene. Coverage allows someone to edit out unwanted dialogue and also tap into reactions, not just people speaking.

If you are one of the new digital video filmmakers that write, direct, produce, shoot, and edit your own movies then prepare yourself for a completely different mindset as an editor. This job is very different than the other aspects of filmmaking. This job is about telling a story with the raw footage. If you were there when it was shot, you have a bias in that you know what the geography was, and how the ambience felt. As an editor, it's your job to orient the viewer who has never been to the set and didn't see anything. It's your job as editor to give the viewer a sense of the location, and tie it into the acting, the costumes, the set design, and most importantly the story the director is trying to tell.

Of course, if it was not shot with anything other than close-ups, you can't really edit much, so it's a team effort. The director needs to shoot for the edit, making sure all aspects of the scene are shot so that editing can help shape the story in post-production.

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