4 Ways to Make Your Video Editing Tighter
1. Cut With Purpose
The number one job of the editor is to convince us they aren't even there. In other words, a good cut is one that draws no attention to itself.
If you cut to a new angle, it has to occur for a reason. A cut out of nowhere will draw attention to itself. Cutting on motion is a good rule of thumb.
For example, imagine a scene taking place between two men. They are both seated on a couch, and the scene transpires in a shot/reverse-shot between two medium shots.
After a short conversation, one of the men stands up and heads toward the door. For this action, you have a wide shot you'd like to cut to. What would be a good way to go about executing the cut?
Well, just as the man begins to stand up in the medium shot, place an out-point. In the wide shot, do your best to find the frame that matches the same motion of the man getting up in the medium shot, and place an in-point.
When you combine the two shots together, the motion of the man getting up naturally leads us into the wide shot, leaving us with an inconspicuous cut.
Purposeful cuts aren't limited to just motion either. Pauses in conversation are also obvious cut points, as well as loud sounds, voices off screen, and changes in tone. Before making a cut always ask the question, "Does this edit have a purpose?"
2. Mix and Match
So say you've got a scene to edit where a certain actor is very hit and miss. Some lines are delivered believably, while others are the hammiest of ham. They just can't seem to make it through an entire take consistently.
Fear not, for all isn't lost! We are video editors, and can make magic out of monstrosities. We can use clever cuts to mix and match the best parts of each take into one seamless flow.
For instance, say the first part of the actor's take is great on take 1, but falls apart in the middle. Conversely, the first part of take 2 is a nightmare, but the middle works. Simply take the first half of take 1, then right before it falls apart, briefly cut to another shot.
It could be a reaction shot, a cutaway, or whatever you have that fits.
Bear in mind, this edit still needs to make sense, so don't randomly cut for no reason. Instead, find the best instance to insert the filler shot that flows naturally.
Once you've cut to this shot, cut the clip from take 1 before it gets to the bad part of the performance in the middle.
After that, insert the clip of take 2 right after the filler shot, which contains the stronger delivered middle portion. Viola! Now the scene will flow together with the best of both performances.
3. Create Out Of Thin Air
One of the most creative aspects of video editing is the ability to create moments through cuts that didn't actually occur while filming. This takes a keen eye to spot, but can be extremely rewarding.
Let's say there's a comedic scene that you're editing. Two actors playing police officers have to tell the chief that they caused a huge incident that will cost the department hundreds and thousands of dollars.
However, the scene plays out pretty drab. The actors deliver their lines swiftly, and the chief immediately reacts. There isn't any build up or tension.
Now it's time for us to save the day. We can have one actor deliver the first couple of lines normally, but then spice it up.
Let's say we cut to a reaction shot of the other actor, and fade out the audio. Now there's a beat of awkward silence that wasn't there before.
Then, if possible, we add the sound effect of a tea kettle beginning to boil while he continues explaining the incident. All of a sudden, the scene is now getting tense.
If you have a reaction shot of the police chief staring at them both angrily, you can draw it out even more, before resuming the audio when the chief begins losing his mind. A flat scene now has palatable tension that was manufactured out of nothing.
4. Slave Over The Sound
Sound design is even more important than video editing when it comes to making inconspicuous cuts.
Your audio can make your break your entire project.
The first thing to remember is that every single cut needs to have an audio crossfade.
A crossfade refers to blending two audio clips together, creating a seamless flow from one clip to the other. If this is not done you may hear pops, hisses, or other strange noises on the instant of the cut.
Not only does every clip need a crossfade, but you have to listen closely to each fade. Since it's blending two clips together, you have to make sure that both clips have a few seconds of silence on each side of the cut to accommodate this.
On some clips a crossfade can cause dialogue or other sounds to bleed in, so be careful. Try listening with and without headphones, and on different computers or televisions.
The second key thing to remember with audio is to always have room tone at the ready.
If you didn't shoot the footage and the filmmakers forgot to record room tone, you can find some sounds online. However, it's always best to have authentic room tone acquired on site.
To gather room tone, simply record 30 seconds to two minutes of silence in whichever room you're filming.
When editing, it's important that every scene has its own unique room tone. These are the little sounds we don't think about in day to day life. Air conditioners, fridges, etc.
Once you have your clear room tone, paste it all throughout the scene, and make sure to crossfade each cut. This will provide a backdrop for all of the sounds, and will make the cuts even less noticeable.