FeatureCrafting an Edit

Published on Sunday, 27 January, 2013 | Comments

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by Martin French

For the final part of our series of features about creating media for your company we shall focus on crafting an edit and talk a little about planning your shooting so you have enough material to actually edit something together.

What we're not going to do with this piece is teach you how to use a particular piece of software.

Teaching a specific piece of complex software is a long process, even to master the basics, but we are planning some screencasts on the subject in the coming weeks and months.

What we are going to do is cover the basics in terms of structuring a piece of video. There are, of course, many different kinds of video production you can make so we will have the generalise a little.

Planning

Many film makers overdo the planning side of things, usually to justify their fees. Planning does matter but it's often just a matter of sorting out times and dates, where the film maker (that's you) needs to be at any given time.

If you're covering a month long project and you can't be there every day to cover every single moment then you need to determine the key points of the project and take the time to capture moments from those days.

If it's a rehearsal period leading up to a premiere then company class, first day of rehearsal, end of week one, at least two or three additional days of rehearsals throughout the process including the final day of studio rehearsal, a technical day, first day in the theatre, tech run and then live show.

Simple! (sort of)

Mix and match the above to suit your particular project but the main point is to capture the significant moments throughout the project so in your final film you can go from Point A to Point B.

If kids are involved (anybody under the age of 18) then make sure they are cleared to be filmed by their parents.

Structure

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simple hand written notes and structure can help a lot when cutting

No matter what your video is about, just like any story it needs to have a beginning a middle and an end. Even if you're making a simple feature consisting of a sequence from your work the beginning will be the opening titles, the middle will be the footage of your work and the end will be the credits.

For more complex pieces, such as a short form documentary, the three pronged approach becomes a little more detailed and a little more nuanced.

Here in TheLab™, for more complex projects, we create a simple timeline, by hand, in a notebook. This timeline is little more than a general structure for the edit with some rough timings and details of the particular sections of the project we are going to introduce as the video progresses.

These scribbles can be enormously helpful, especially if you have hundreds of clips from lots of different days, because you can quickly visualise how you think the edit should unfold.

Once Upon A Time

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try to keep the speed of your edits under control - sequence from Premiere CS6

If you're crafting a short documentary then the beginning becomes an introduction to the film, setting up the story you're about to tell the viewers with your awesome camera work and finely honed interview skills.

It can be a simple montage of clips covering the range of situations and people involved in the project or an interview, where a participant essentially narrates the premise of the project.

Because this is editing you can use both of the above examples and mix them together. Pretty tricky huh?

The film's middle section is comprised of material that actually tells your story. Not every project is a linear experience but every project does progress through time and for the purposes of your film this is ideal (high five for the space time continuum). Even a one day project goes from Point A to Point B.

Now, this doesn't mean that your edits have to be done in chronological order but it does give you, as the editor, a logical progression to follow.

Try very hard to moderate the speed of your cutting. Don't be afraid to hold a shot for an extended period of time if you really want to show what's happing. Rapid cutting doesn't make things more exciting just because. You can end up annoying the hell out of your viewers if you persistently cut rapidly from one thing to another.

If you're editing a show together from multiple angles then pick your edit points carefully. Don't flip from one camera to the next for no particular reason. Make sure, in the final cut, that viewers can easily follow the choreography and everything hasn't descended into a massively confusing flurry of camera angles.

Interviews

Documentaries are, in many cases, constructed through the narrative supplied via the interviews you conduct with participants, teachers, organisers, et-al.

Talking to people at the beginning or during a project can provide some good material but interviewing people at the end of a project is vitally important.

If the project is finished then you can ask people about particular things that happened during the time everybody was working together. You can't do that if nothing's happened yet.

It also becomes much easier to tie your questions to material you know you have filmed.

For your final edit, what people are saying doesn't always have to tie in directly with what people see on screen but occasional direct references help connect the interviewee with the material you have filmed.

If your interviewees all sound like they are commenting from afar on the project then your video is in danger of looking like something a local council makes to promote traffic lights.

Another thing we often see in edits of finished films is far too much time spent showing the viewers the person who is speaking. For a dance project the interesting part is the work you are creating, the activity in the studio.

Show the person who is speaking so you can introduce them and name check them but then cut back to the action, so to speak, as soon as possible. We don't need to see the person to hear them, no matter how pretty you think they are.

Music and Sound

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simple sound editing is very straight forward in most editing packages

Adding some music to your edit, especially for dance, is a very obvious way to give your production lot of texture.

If you are crafting a new piece of work then you probably already have music from a composer to use but if not, don't despair.

These days a lot of great music is available, royalty free, from websites like Vimeo.com and withetiquette.com (there are lots of others though). Try and choose something a little out of the ordinary, don't always go for the heavy beats/techno whatever and please don't "cut to the beat" whatever you do!

Mixing sound can be done inside your editing program (Adobe Premiere CS6 makes this very easy) or if you want to get more technical with things you can pull your finished edit into Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, Logic or one of a dozen other sound packages if you have access to them.

When you run music over an interview try to strike an easy balance between the voice of the interviewee and being able to hear the music. You want it to be noticeable but not distracting or so loud your viewers can't hear the words being spoken.

If you look at the image above you will notice a curve line on the volume of the audio track in the editor. Most editors allow you to do this kind of very simple fading in and fading out with audio tracks.

When transitioning from music to voice take the music away (not completely though) about half a second before you bring in the voice. This will create a smooth transition. If, on the edit, the voice part appears to crash in then add a short fade-in to smooth things out.

Overall, try to avoid any jarring transitions in the sound from one section of your film to another. Don't be afraid to fade to black and go silent briefly to bring in a new section of the film.

Graphics

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keep your graphics clean and simple, the interviewee is the important thing

Finally we come to on screen graphics and what we lovingly call I.G.E's, which stands for "irrelevant graphical elements".

If you don't know anything about graphic design or how to use motion graphics software like After Effects then keep things simple.

White text on a black background may be a cliche but it's really hard to do it badly. just keep it simple, keep your type at a reasonable size so it's easy to read but not so large it looks clumsy.

Editing programs all have title designers built in with access to a decent range of type styles. Choose a clean and clear typeface, no fancy swirls or twirls and the use of Comic Sans will be met with swift, violent action.

For "lower third" graphics, shown above, the principles are the same. Again, if you can't do clever motion graphics then use the built in title designer to create something simple and clean.

The persons name should be in a larger type with their job/title in a slightly smaller type beneath it. Add a subtle drop shadow to help separate the title from the background and keep it on screen for about 7 seconds so people can read it. Simple fades can be applied to titles or you can just crash them in and out if you want to be edgy!

Finally, the I.G.E. In the example above you can see the IGE on the top right, which in this case is a URL for the festival. Most television programs these days have some sort of IGE on the screen. They can help with watermarking and to provide a useful piece of information, like a web address, for your viewers.

Keep them small, keep them simple and keep them out of the way

[ Video Gear for 2013 ]
[ Editing in 2013 ]
[ Filming Dance in 2013 ]

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