A story is told in three ways: First, the one told through writing. Second, is one told through the dynamics of acting and directing. And last, is the one told through the editing.
As video editors, or professional filmmakers, it is our responsibility to retell the story as we see fit, yet not contradicting the writers, actors, and director(s) vision for the story. So, after shooting a bunch of captivating footage, the next step in the movie-making process is for you to stitch your clips together to create a compelling story the writer, director(s) and actors envisioned. Our job specifies that we put thought into how we embed messages across each adjoining scene. The process of putting footage, scene, takes, or clips together may be called stitching, cutting, splicing, or editing. Most professional use those terms interchangeably.
Like I mentioned in DIY Cinematography | Video Editing – 101 , as a one-man crew or a stint budget production team with a crew who at times are inexperienced, most, if not all the pre, production, and the post-production responsibility fall on you. Not to worry, with diligent planning at each junction that marks the beginning of any of this processes, you most certainly can complete your film with minimal or no bumps. One thing worth mentioning is that editing takes time, and requires a lot of review and revision, so if you do not get your message across in the first attempt, try, try, and try again. On that note, you need to dedicate an ample amount of time, efforts, and creativity will to it. This can become challenging to do if your footage has no particular order in the first place so this post is dedicated to present ways to organize before ever splicing.
Our art form is a show and tells type. As storytellers/ video editors, we tell the story as it unfolds. This art form gives us absolute power over creating suspense, excitement, and all other ignitable emotions responses in our audiences. Editing is a unique tool when it is used willfully and intentionally can create truly compelling stories. For example through proper editing, you can turn a lackluster moment like a scene where your protagonist receives an punitive reprimand to one where your audience feels and share in his/her pain and punishment. This is the power of editing. More on how to achieve this will be in subsequent posts. However, organizing and planning are very important to aid you to maximize your creative efforts
Before we get started, here is how I will Index this post DIY lessons/tutorials.
- Reviewing and understanding the dailies
- Planning the cuts and organizing for the edit/splicing
- Rough cuts and fine cuts.
So, let’s dive right in!
I know your engines are primed, and that you are eager to jump right into your editing software to put one and two together. But, I would rather you take a crucial step to first learn your software. Since splicing takes a lot of know-how, you need to learn a few mouse, and keyboard shortcuts, or where to get immediate replies to this related questions. In other words, you need to know how to troubleshoot and search for solutions to whatever problems you will encounter in the editing process on your chosen editing suite. It is also important to understand the strengths and weakness of your suite. Your clients/ audience do not care what or how it is done, they simply will not share your interest in the editing process and its associated problems. If your edits become noticeable, you are forcing them to share your interest in your job which usually results in their underappreciated the contents of work. So it is your responsibility to know how to make your cuts as well as issues with your editing suite invisible to your audience, just like brush strokes. You want your editing to be seamless, such that it sucks your audience into the experience and engages all of their senses rather than awakening curiosity about the editing. If you are feel irresolute on what editing suit to use, I find this articles, Top 15 Best video editing software in 2017 ,and The Best Video Editing Software of 2018 helpful. Alternatively, watch this YouTube playlist that I have put together for you to get a better understanding of the top paid and free editing suit stack up against each by comparing their features and user experience. Also, feel free to do a little bit of research to make the right choice for your work.
Reviewing and understanding the dailies
At the end of everyday’ work, you will be present with a well or haphazardously indexed collection of footages(takes) for the day. These recordings are call dailies. In a professional work setting, the dailies are organized in a way that is fairly easy for you to understand. Usually, someone on set is assigned the responsibility to organize the footage as the director and the crew go through the shortlist to doing their business. The person on your team responsible for the organizing of your dailies is the Digital Image Technician(DIT)
Of course, there is a probability that you do not want to pay extra for a DIT. In which case, the role and its associated responsibilities rest completely on you. To make your workflow manageable and efficient, let me share with you my system of organizing as a one-man crew on a small budget.
Watch each footage over and over, while cross-referencing the script to see previous added directors notes and to add your editing notes. It may sound absurd probably because you shot the entire movie and you think that you know each scene and its multiple takes like the back of your hand, but before you draw the conclusion, try making your first few rough cuts. You will soon discover that searching for points to make your cuts in each footage as you are editing becomes a daunting task as well as an unnecessary strain in your creative efforts because more time is spent trying to re-familiarize yourself with the actions in each clip than necessary. On that note, the best practice is to sit and watch each clip regardless of their length or your opinion about the process. And as you do so, add metadata information to them to label and note to yourself. The metadata information is like notes-to-self about the steps and the kind of edits you are considering at clips of interest. Here are my favorite metadata and what I use them for; feel free to emulate this style:
- Comments and/or notes: Comments and notes perform similar functions in that they both allow you to write important information about a clip that you will need later during the splicing process. For instance, you can note to yourself or a colleague that you will use a clip as a slowed motion and a sped-up motion to create a time ramp. You may as well note or comment on the takes you received or shot by yourself that it is the good, excellent, or manageable footage of the bunch. So when editing, it becomes intuitive to look for the label or comments to expedite the process.
- Name/title: You want to use a standard naming technique. The shortlist usually contain the information needed to title and/or name your takes. By using the shortlist and adding the important naming information to each clip you build order around your work files (clips, music, sound etc.,). This makes it easier for you to pick your project from anywhere even if you had been away from it for a month. The information in the names/title tells you everything about the take. The job of naming/titling (organizing ) is assigned to the DIT if you have one; most DIT complete this job in adobe prelude. The information he will will include an hint or keyword, scene number and alphabet, frame type or short type(camera angle and motion), and take number. Here is an example, Courtyard, S1A, LS, 1. These information is derived from the slate. A slate or clapper board is a tool that which assist the postproduction crew sync audio and video together without mayhem. Slates or clapper usually have spaces all the information you or your DIT can collect information for naming and/or titling.
- Markers: You want to use a standard naming technique. The shortlist usually contain the information needed to title and/or name your takes. By using the shortlist and adding the important naming information to each clip you build order around right into your work files. This makes it easier for you to pick your project from anywhere even if you had been away from it for a month. The information in the names/title tells you everything about the take. The job of naming/titling (organizing ) is assigned to the DIT if you have one, and most complete this job in adobe prelude. The information he will include is an hint or keyword, scene number and alphabet, frame type or short type(camera angle and motion), and take number.
Planning the cuts and organizing for the edit/splicing
Over time as you continue in this practice, the idea of organizing thing your takes for ease of use simply jumps right at you. It becomes even more intuitive when you have a lot of footage from your shoot. Not to mention, creative ideas like where to make cuts and transitions begin to form in your mind as you review and organize the footage. After organizing your dailies it, may seem impossible to hold back your zeal to jump right in to create. But, instead, I urge you to contrive the cuts, before making them. Here are the reasons why you need to plan your cuts:
Logline: In an earlier post, I defined a logline. This is relative to the checklist included in that post. I will be rephrasing a few things which will be easy to surmise if the other post prior to this. In this planning the cut phase, you must pay attention this editing key:
- Whose scene is it? knowledge of this helps you focus on the main character in the scene as you make your cut.
- How does the person change relative to the story? Knowing what changes happen emotionally, physically are editing cues. It assist you make cuts that shows only what drives the message without distracting information.
- where in the scene does the change(s) occur? This is similar to the above, however more specific adding this asset to your edit and help set location or time in your story. You want to look out for things that helps convey that message.
- How does the change happen? Here you are looking to casual relationships. Your thought process would be, what other event, subject, or character was involved in the changes observed in the main character and how can I cut them into this edit.
By answering this questions, it becomes too easy to deduce and approximate the frames that you want to juxtapose to express and convey the important messages in the scene without any redundancy. But remember that no scene is independent of the entire movie. consequently, you must constantly consider what scenes came before and what will come after as you plan your edits for any scene. The advantage of doing this is that you can start your edits from any point in the entire movie and still make sense of what you are working on.
Continuity: I can’t dive into the full concept of continuity in this post, but Let’s establish that the reasons why we make cuts are to show something; hide something; or there just isn’t any new information in the clip. So we make cut away to something that would do the job of sustaining our audience’s attention just as well as it continues the sequence and action(s). You do not want your edits to stick out like a thorn, therefore, you must plan the edit to establish a continuation form a motion or action in subsequent clips. Basically, actions, acting, or motions that begin in one clip/frame that does not reach completion in the clip/frame must continue in the next clip/frame. It is important to have an inkling of what kind of cut and clips you want to use for the process ahead of time. Surely you can pass the planning stage without any bumps when you are working on shot projects, but it is impossible to avoid it when you are working on a bigger project like a fighting/dialog scene in a short movie. Knowledge of the multiple takes present for editing that scene and how they function together helps make any transition from one cut/frame to another fluid easy on the eye and mind. So plan ahead, study your clips to establish continuity.
Rough cuts and fine cuts.
After reviewing your dailies and planning your cuts, it is time to tend to your creative thirst. Put your plans to action. Rough cuts are highly recommended, they help you see in real-time how your edits work. They present you the opportunity to quarry the effectiveness of your ideas without fear of make changes to you edits. I like to start my project with an ideas that I think will work for the script. You will find me making rough cuts at different point in a scene to test out the message effectiveness. Once I am comfortable with my edits, I build on it till an I complete this next step. Which is where I meticulously fine cutting the clips down to the last frames useful frame. In this step i eliminate any redundancy. Any frame that present useful information is subtracted, while frames important to the story that may not be present in my earlier rough cut are added. The idea is simple, start with rough cut as a foundation. Get comfortable enough to move clips around and cut between them. Play it, and if it makes sense, fine tune it to the last important frames in between each clips.
At this point you have a good idea of how to get started with video editing. But we need to take our game to the next level. To bring this to reality, the next few post will have practical video as examples. I will touch on the types of video and audio cut (montage etc.) and more importantly the rule of three (kuleshov effect).