Video editing is probably the single most powerful skill to perfect if you want to tell a good story with video.
Compared to all the other tasks needed to make a professional-quality video and using all the techniques available to the filmmaker, editing is where much of the magic happens. It’s the icing on the cake! Of course to make it all work well, you have to have good-quality story elements to begin with but you can make or break your movie in the editing room.
Novice filmmakers tend to think of editing as a way to cut out mistakes and bloopers. Of course you do that but in truth, the main purpose of editing is to arrange all of your elements in order to tell and refine the story for your viewers.
Ideally, editing should be a planned process so you shoot things the correct way for your planned out and final look. How you shoot things makes a huge difference in what you have to work with during the editing phase.
The process of editing boils down to combining the many different storytelling elements onto the timeline. The timeline is a visual representation of every element of your movie. This is your final product while still in the video editing program.
Just like how a chef combines the different ingredients in a recipe to make a scrumptious supper, so too the video editor (you) combines the available storytelling elements to make a charming story. How well you do it largely determines whether your finished video is good or not.
Things like the shots within a sequence, the order of sequences, the pacing, the sound effects, the special effects, the dialogue etc. all go into your final product. Editing is where all things are blended together. How its done makes a world of difference in the final analysis of effective storytelling.
One of a video editor’s main decisions is whether to actually include a shot/scene or not.
To decide, sk yourself these questions:
- Does the scene/shot add to the story or does it detract?
- Is it well-lit with good sound?
- Does it fit well into the sequence?
- Is it meaningful to advance the story?
- Is there a better choice?
- Does it evoke emotion on the part of the viewer or is it boring?
- Does it make the finished movie or sequence too long?
Those are the types of things that run through an editor’s mind. Whether one is editing a Hollywood blockbuster or home movies from the cruise, storytelling decisions determine whether your final movie is fun to watch or not. Does anyone, including you, really want to watch four hours worth of footage from your vacation? No. That would be long and boring.
Not Always an Easy Decision
As an example of how tricky this decision can be, I want to present two instances from a film you are no doubt familiar with, The Wizard of Oz.
The first video posted on the top of this page is the incredible dance sequence (Ray Bolger) of the scarecrow as he laments not having a brain. In the final movie, this dance ran about 2:40. In the clip containing the deleted portion, it runs about 4 minutes.
You decide. Does that extra one minute and twenty seconds deserve to be left on the cutting room floor? Did it slow down the action and make you yawn? It’s some of the most spectacular dancing I’ve ever seen but regardless, the editors cut it. I wasn’t there to participate in the debate of course, but I bet the main argument for deletion was that increasing the sequence by about 30% in overall length made it too long which translates into a bored audience.
Believe it or not, Judy Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was nearly cut. Using 20-20 hindsight, deleting the song which made Judy Garland a legend is a terrible idea. Such an overwhelmingly dumb idea it might even qualify its maker to be fired and banished from the industry! But imagine yourself in the shoes of that decision maker, before the public had even heard of her. They felt like a sentimental song slowed the pace and stopped the action. They were in a hurry to get to the action-packed tornado scene. Who could blame them for that?
Makes you wonder what other treasures have been left on the cutting room floor over the years!
I hope these examples help you better understand the process of decision making while editing video. Editing is much more than a mechanical process of finding the right effects and transitions. Most novice filmmakers concentrate on the mechanics of editing. Certainly you have to get the mechanics down, but ultimately, video editing is all about storytelling, blending together the best elements in the best way to communicate a story that causes an emotion respond.
Thanks for reading Video Production Tips.
P.S. I am a HUGE Wizard of Oz fan. 🙂 Can