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Image: Darren Pye

In the last tutorial we looked at techniques for shooting footage for your own productions. So, you followed the guidelines and came away with some great footage. Now you need to edit it.

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What is video editing?

Video editing is selecting and arranging your footage to best tell your story. It is complex art, full of esoteric techniques and terminology. But, at its heart, it is all about invisibility.
If editing is done well, the audience will never see it. They will be carried along by the narrative and the images; if it is done badly, editing will distract the audience and take them away from your story.

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What software do you need?

There are plenty of options when it comes to editing software, from the free to the incredibly expensive.
Whichever you use, the techniques and lessons are essentially the same.

Here is a great post on the best free editing software available.

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1. Get to know your footage

Watch it as many times as you can to familiarise yourself with it. The good shots, or sections of shots, will start to stand out and you’ll begin piecing the edit together in your head.

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2. Do a rough cut

Computer based ‘non-linear’ editing systems mean you can quickly put a rough cut together which will give you a good indication of narrative flow, pace and timing. You can then go back over the edit to make adjustments and corrections until you are happy with a final cut.

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3. Edit Interviews for Sound

If you are cutting an interview together, ignore the picture and cut the audio so that what the interviewee says flows well. Then cover any jump cuts or gaps with cutaway shots of what the interviewee is talking about.

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4. Keep it Simple

Let shots play out in their own time and don’t be too tempted to cut before shots have finished, half way through a pan say. Unless there is good reason not to, keep things in chronological order, or at least in a clear narrative order.
Don’t use transitions except for fades and dissolves. Homer Simpson may like star wipes, but they have no place in your film.

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5. Cut on Action

In your first shot, your subject walks up to a door. They stop. The shot cuts to the other side of the door. It opens. The subject walks through. The cut is clunky, devoid of movement. Cutting on Action means maintaining movement across two shots to create a seamless edit. The sequence would work better if we see the subject reach for the door handle and start to push. Then we cut to see the door opening from the other side and the subject walking through. Movement and momentum are maintained and the shot appears seamless.

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6. Vary your shots

Make each shot different from the next or it will seem as if nothing has changed in the scene.

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7. Look for Juxtapositions

Juxtaposition is the creation of a new meaning from two shots cut together. Soviet film-makers created an experiment in which a shot of a man’s face was inter-cut with, in turn, a bowl of soup, a dead body and a baby. The audience read the man’s face as showing hunger, sadness or joy, depending on the succeeding image – despite the fact that the shot of the man was always the same.
Good juxtapositions can add an extra depth to your film. Unintended, comical or offensive ones can ruin it!

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8. Be Harsh

Don’t be too precious about your shots. You may love a specific take, but if it doesn’t add to the finished film, you need to cut it.
And the one final rule, held as a guiding principle by editors through time: “If you can’t solve it, dissolve it.”

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This article is the second DIY tutorial from a series of 3. The previous entry talks about shooting your video. In the next entry we’ll be looking at getting your video online and sharing it with the world!

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Follow these tips and your next film will be a masterpiece – or at least a nice, watchable video.

If all this seems rather too much hassle, don’t forget that we are always here to help out, and we will never shoot anything on an iPad!

Drop us a line or give us a call if you need our services.
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