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Bob Hayward

BOB'S BASIC EDITING GUIDE
by Bob Hayward

Editing is a general term in film making, really meaning, compromise, censoring or shortening. All these things we do as editing takes place. Editing your home movies of holidays or weddings can be a painful process, what to leave out? who to cut out? and for how long?

A wedding video for the bride and groom can be any length, as rose tinted glasses often obscures the obvious and the boring, but for the neighbours a 3 hour video of distant aunt's and uncle's would be hell on earth, whereas a brisk 15 minutes can be a delight to watch. It is possible when you know how to create a visual effect on the screen to force the viewer to have a range of emotions, from laughter to sadness, in extreme cases crying can be induced, sleep, and even vomiting.

As the editor you have enormous power over the viewer, everything he sees you allow him to see, and vice versa. But where to begin, here are a few tips to get you started. There are no hard and fast rules, and all rules in certain circumstances can be broken. Avoid cutting during a pan, this disturbs the eye and editing that is noticed is generally wrong unless you intend the cut to be noticed for dramatic effect. Never let a pan, such as a landscape scene, last longer than 25-30 seconds.

This slows down the film too much and any rhythm (or pace as it's called in the trade), will be lost, this will mean the concentration of the viewer is also lost at that point. If you're making a travelogue, include people in your shots, don't just provide a collection of still life's, remember it's the movies so lets see something move. If cutting a music sequence, (i.e. a sequence of pictures cut to the rhythm of music), try varying the cut point, do not always cut on the beat, try cutting off the beat. A sequence should not have too many or too few shots, this is determined by the subject matter. A school playground would look more exciting and active with several close shots of 3-4 seconds duration but would look ordinary as one long pan of 30 seconds. Generally the faster the pace required the more shots you need. There are a whole range of do's and don'ts when filming people, especially in drama's but I will save that for another day. When constructing a sequence think first of the order. For example if you are making a holiday film, start by showing us where you are with as wide a shot as possible, then make the next 3 shots progressively closer in shot size, it's called setting the scene. If you're telling a story, think of it as a book. It must have a front an end and a middle. The front must contain "Hello" shots such as arriving somewhere or meeting someone. The end must contain "Goodbye" shots such as driving away or solving a plot, if it's a comedy give the punch line. When you watch a good thriller on T.V. such as Morse or Miss Marple, etc., you probably don't even see the editing, but next time record it, and then watch it back again and look for the cuts. Try to work out the logic, there is one and it would have all been worked out on paper first. Close up shots on television look better than wide shots, the reverse is the case in the cinema, so with widescreen television coming you can expect a glut of landscapes.
Bye for now.

Bob Hayward

SECOND TAKE FEBRUARY 1999

 

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