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Top Film and Video Editing Tips

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/21/2011

An editor is one of the most important filmmakers involved when making a movie and there are many top film and video editing tips to help him do his job right. These tips are important to follow because when a film is edited poorly it can adversely affect the final film.

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    Cut it Tight

    One of the best film and video editing tips for a young editor is to make sure that all scenes are cut together tight. Don’t leave too much space between lines of dialogue unless there is a pause for reflection or reaction. When a conversation is being carried out, too much of a pause between an actor’s lines can make a scene look jumpy and poorly constructed.

    This is important to understand even if it is just a one or two beat pause. Stretch your timeline out so that every frame can be seen when moving through the editing timeline. Tighten each shot, frame by frame, until it feels comfortable and normal. You want to make sure that, when cutting dialogue sequences, that the beats are perfect. This takes time but working frame by frame is always better than guessing how much to chop off.

    Editing is an art of perfection and there is never a reason to take shortcuts and hope for the best. Cutting frames here and there can make a movie seem much tighter when it is finished, making your job as an editor very important.

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    Use Reaction Shots

    The most amateur method of editing is to wait until a person is finished giving his dialogue to cut to the person he is talking to. A scene will always look better when reaction shots of the person listening to the conversation are interspersed throughout the scene. One of the top film and video editing tips is also to cut to the person that is about to respond a few frames after they begin to speak. This makes the editing of the movie seem more fluid and normal.

    Without reaction shots and overlaid dialogue between characters, the movie looks like nothing more than a series of cuts. You don’t want your editing work to look like you are just cutting back and forth. Cutting to another person while they are talking looks much moiré fluid than cutting right before they start to talk. You are telling a story with your editing and a story should flow through the various characters.

    Just jumping from one person to the next is boring and predictable. Editing where images instantly follow the dialogue seems more natural to the viewer's mind and makes your editing look more professional.

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    Mix Up the Camera Angles

    When editing for a director who likes to take various different shots of the same scenes, from different angles, use as many of these as possible. If you cut from a close up of one character to another, try to use a medium shot when you cut back to the first character. Using different angles makes the scene more interesting, giving the audience different views to look at. Don’t go crazy and use angles that don’t work, but don’t get stuck using the same shot every time you cut back to a specific actor. Play with the various camera angles and use a variety to make the most interestingly shot scene you can.

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    Avoid Jump Cuts

    One of the hardest things for an editor to do is cut to a closer shot of the same actor. When done wrong, this provides a jump cut and is very distracting to the viewer. One of the top film and video editing tips is to work to avoid jump cuts using one of two methods.

    The first method for avoiding a jump cut is to cut while the subject is performing an action. If a person is sitting at a table drinking a cup of coffee, wait until they pick up the coffee and then cut to a closer shot of them as they raise the cup. If they are not doing anything, it will be a jarring jump cut but, by waiting until they pick up the cup, it is a smooth transition cut because the viewer is focused on their action.

    The other way to make a cut is to add a cutaway shot, such as to a clock on the wall or a jar of sugar on the table and then back to the character in the closer shot. Good directors will supply plenty of these cutaway shots for the editor to choose from to make these cuts. If not, you must rely on cutting during action.






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