Thinking Like an Editor: Editing Choices
More exciting stuff, and actually, this is gonna be a fun session. This session is "Think Like An Editor". You didn't have to think at all for the last 18 classes, right? No. Think like an editor, and what I wanna do here is we're gonna cut the show again, we're gonna use some of the skills that we learned, but I don't want this necessarily to be one of those tool sessions. You kinda know the tools, we'll use the tools to do things, then maybe, as we discuss things we'll determine what may be the best tool for, you know, the creative solution that we're looking for. So this is very much a conversational, I wanna have a conversation with you guys, have you guys ask questions, because it's how you can think as you should as an editor, a lot of questions throughout the course have been, you know, creatively, how do you use your workflow? What do you do here? What do you think about? What do you prep? What are some of your thoughts when shooting, when delivering? So we're gonn...
a go, we're gonna look at the footage. We're gonna again work with the Mike Hagen interview, I like that, because we're pretty familiar with this at this point, and it's kinda something that's very tangible, that people may be doing. So we're gonna look at that, determine what story we wanna tell, what's the valuable part. Cutting that down, to get that story, trying to make it sound continuous, I mean, we know what we wanna say, but now we have to put words in the person's mouth using their own words. And then ways we can leverage some of the skills. Trimming via waveforms, we talked a little bit about that throughout, we had the audio part, we had the audio unit's option to really go down to the sample rate. So we'll look at, you know, really getting the (snaps fingers) sometimes out. Strategic use of b-roll, and whether we're using it as a cutaway to illustrate something, or whether we're using it to hide an edit, and how we can use it. We're gonna talk about when is it appropriate to use some sort of animation or motion, and especially when dealing with a story about photography, that's one of the best examples to use motion, to really inspect and explore an image. We'll talk a little bit perhaps about title strategies. We know how to make a title, but maybe it's more of, okay, when do you wanna bring a title in? Do you ID somebody, do you wanna label a picture? So we know how to execute some of this stuff, but I want it to be thinking, what do we want the ultimate program to look and feel like? And then sometimes, it's rethinking how we want to work with our audio, and that's really just talking about, in my opinion or estimation, audio enhancements in the case of this, maybe I wanna add some bubble effects underneath the dye footage at a very low volume, just to give that feel that it was recorded at the time. So I brought that, and hopefully we can get through all of that, the media is there for those who download, but that's my thought pattern for this lesson, is really, a chance to have you ask questions about how I do things, and for me to hear feedback from you about concerns you have, or things you might do that could benefit us. So, you know, it's a very interactive, probably one of our most interactive sessions. So let's go ahead and switch to the laptop, and this is Mike's interview, and I'm gonna just go ahead and I'm not gonna play the whole thing again, we heard most of it already. I'm gonna refresh you on what we talk about, and I'll play some snippets as we think about this, let me go ahead and open this in my viewer.
I started when I real young.
So I throw out the question to him, and I need to start this piece with, do I wanna start it abruptly, or do I wanna introduce him? (chuckling) So serious. There's our sync, there's me talking about our sync.
There's our sync clap. We're syncing up all of our camera, and our audio.
I didn't realize it'd be this long. Then there's our hour.
I've seen a lot of your work, real pretty stuff. Tell me a little bit about your photography, what got you into photography.
So if you recall, I asked him, tell me about your photography. Part of my agenda when I was doing the interview, because I think this is also, you know, again, valuable, is I didn't necessarily wanna know, I mean, not that I didn't wanna know about his background, but I needed to do some warm-up questions, to get into the meat of what we wanted to talk about, which were the things such as his travel, he takes these tours, he takes photographers on tours and his panoramas. But you don't just jump in and say, "Well, tell me about the tour groups that you take around." It's like, ah, ugh. So it's a conversation. So this is more of an interview technique, and it's to warm up, and it was also to bond with him, because we did have a common background, we both started in analog, we both were given used cameras as kids and got the bug. But anytime you are doing an interview, whether you're doing this for a corporate event, or a wedding, or whatever, you wanna build a relationship with the person you're interviewing, and so there'll be a lot more questions, there will be a lot longer answers than you may end up using. So it's important to develop that, and as you're doing the interview, you're thinking in your head, okay, what can I use in my show? What are really the valuable nuggets? And realize that, I mean, we're gonna cut this even longer than I would like, but I have ten minutes here. A lot of times when you're getting sound bytes, especially for like a corporate piece, you're using 20 or 30 seconds, and you don't want somebody to tell you a five minute story, because it's impossible to cut that down. Maybe you can get the story down to one minute, now you can get the delivery down to one minute, so you can actually get it cut down to 30 seconds, but you're also looking for those little nuggets. So that's just kind of a little bit of the background that was going on in my head when we were recording this. I was looking to talk about key points. We got the background, which I was interested in, and warm up, it's a great story. We talked about his travel photography, and I knew I wanted to be, because I had b-roll given to me in advance, and I said okay, I have something to work with, and I knew I could also talk about the panoramas and his future classes. But now, it comes to the point of, what story can I tell in the time that I have, that'll be useful and interesting to my viewer? And that's where I start needing to say, okay, what big chunks am I gonna cut out, and maybe even what little chunks, to start stringing it into the timeline, to deliver the message that I want? You know, how refined can I do it? It goes back to the example, if you learn to cut a commercial, there's nothing as challenging as cutting something that requires a finite 30 seconds, to make you realize that you can do things in a small amount of time. And also realize that your viewer, especially these days, is fairly impatient, and wants to see development usually. I mean, you know, yes, I love documentaries that take a while to develop and learn things, but there's other times that you just wanna be moved forward, and you don't need unnecessarily innocuous conversation. So that's what I would do in the first step. I would listen to it, and I would start slicing and dicing what I think is useful. So what I did here is I threw some clips, basic clips, I just marked in and out, and threw them on my timeline. And now, I'm gonna try to refine that. So I took the nine minutes I just threw down, I guess this is like the first couple. Let me go ahead and... So I...
I've seen a lot of your work, real pretty stuff. Tell me a little bit about your photography, what got you into photography.
Big eyes. Like a lot of photographers, I started when I was real young. I think I was 12 years--
So, I'm looking at that, and I'm thinking, well, I really don't wanna be in most of it, I want him to tell his story, I just need something to bracket it. So when I say tell me about your photography, I'm gonna go in and we're gonna just start typing things up, and I'm thinking, what can I cut, or where can I cut, to shorten this and still get the same message across?
Tell me a little bit about your photography, what got you into photography.
Like a lot of photographers, I started when--
So, you know what? I can say thanks for coming.
I've seen a lot--
I've seen a lot of your work.
Seen a lot of your work, maybe that's all I need. So a lot of this actually does become a little bit of trial and error to see if you can do it smoothly, but I would continue to go, I just did a trim edit. I did it very quickly, you guys were looking at me, I moved my hand, I didn't mean to do that. Let me go ahead and undo that. Remember, we're in the selection tool automatically, this is a ripple trim. As a matter of fact, I could just even if I want go ahead and select that, and use that. Extend edit, cut off the end.
I've seen a lot of your work, your photography, what got you into photography?
So, maybe I've seen a lot of your work, what got you into photography. I kind of have to play with that to see how I can tighten it, because I wanna just throw it to him as quickly as possible. Maybe I can just take this out, and see what it looks like. So this is what I did.
Tell me a little bit about--
Like a lot of photographers--
Tell me a little bit about. So I'm gonna extend that, and this is where this trim option comes into play nicely.
Tell me a little bit about, uh--
Your photography, that's all I need. So that's that one sure thing. I cut out six seconds, maybe.
About your photography.
A lot of photographers--
And so I would move this, and I would find the spot, and then what I also might do is in this case, because it's a multi-camera, I might actually cut... Except for the eyes. (laughter) To a closeup of me, because then I'm talking, the audience is focused on me. I cut to the closeup of me, we don't notice the cut, because we're used to looking at me already, okay? So there's continuity, and now, when we cut back to Mike, we're cutting from a closeup to a closeup, and it's not necessarily as visually jarring. So those are some of the things that I think about. It's like, what am I doing to manipulate the viewer? What is the viewer looking at, at this moment in time? And this is important, because you know, if they're watching me, there could be a problem over here, and they're not looking at it, because they're focused on this part of the story. So, as an editor, you look at every frame over and over and over again, you may see little problems. You have to realize that your viewer may not, and if you sit back and you watch television, and this is gonna ruin television and movies for everybody, but you get used to, after editing, to see where there's continuity, and where they're actually focusing your eyes in another direction, or there's like, the same person has walked by four times. Big fan of IMDB, looking at mistakes and trivia, while watching, that's the new thing. But this is an important thing to realize as an editor, that you're molding your story, you're guiding them, and that you know things are happening that they don't, and you're either hiding it or don't overthink things, and that's what I think a lot of editors do, they're looking frame by frame, saying, look at that problem. People aren't gonna do that, and you know, the people that do, that's the IMDB things. If they're doing that, they're not listening to your story, that's the focus. And I wanted to give some really what I think is very useful advice on learning how to become a better editor, because that's one of the questions that a lot of folks ask me. They're like, "What can I do to learn to become a better editor?" And you know, watch things, and think as an editor, but, I like to tell folks to watch television without sound, and listen to TV without looking at the picture. Now, that doesn't mean go into your living room and turn the sound off on your television and sit there and watch, because everybody will think you're nuts, or you fall asleep, one of the two happens. But, there's a lot of opportunities when you're in an environment such as a restaurant or a bar or an airport where there's a TV playing in the background and you cannot hear the sound, and you can only see the picture, and what I want you to do is, can you see what's happening in the story, can you follow what's going on based upon what visually is being presented to you? Because you're not distracted by the sound, you're not distracted necessarily by the story. So you're looking at it, at several things. What's happening, can you figure it out, how frequently are they cutting? You'll notice, if you watch a lot of television, movies, watch something and start counting every time there's a cut. There's a cut, one, two, three, four, five, cut, one, you'll notice they cut pretty frequently, and it's not that it's a jarring cut, it's not like there was one every second, it's fluid, you don't notice it unless you're counting, and that shows you that most shots are pretty short, unless they're looking for something very specific, like a pan from one person to the other as there's an emotional change. You know, there's that artistry component. But cutting is pretty frequent, that they rarely hold on a shot for a long period of time, and if they do, one of two things is happening: Either the camera's moving throughout the shot that's literally changing the perspective. Or the action within the frame is changing enough that's changing the perspective. Very rarely is it just static and static. There is situations, I'm sure you've seen films, and that's the design, to make it feel hollow or static, but for the most part, usually you see that in bad student films. They set up the camera, two people talk to each other from across the room, and they say, this is my story, and they go to me, "What's missing?" It's like, you need to change it up, you need to tell a story with your visuals. What angles are you using? And a lot of times, whether you're shooting multi-camera, or whether you're shooting a single camera and shooting it multiple ways, one, that angle, high angle's gonna mean something different than low angle, you know? This is a position where whoever's being shot is seen as lesser or weaker. You shoot from below, they seem stronger and bolder. When I shoot an interview, I always make sure I put the camera at eye level, where the other person is, and then drop it a couple inches. So it still feels like eye level, but they're looking at the viewer, and they don't necessarily look smaller, because if you're interviewing somebody, you want them to look like they know what they're talking about, and if you make them really small, with a high camera, people are gonna be, "Huh?" So, you know, it's all that visceral feeling from where you position things and where you cut things, and it's things you think about from the moment you sit down and shoot, to as you decide what footage to bring in, as you decide what story to tell and do you have the footage. So by watching television without sound, but not the crazy way, just when you have the opportunity, you'll start picking up some of these techniques. You'll notice things. And watch commercials. Commercials are 30 second films, and some are horrible, but some, you'll just get these brilliant ideas, because you need to get a message across, and you can learn from that. On the flip side, I tell people to listen to television without looking at it, and again, don't sit there and close your eyes and listen to TV, you'll fall asleep, unless it's really good, but I do. But there are situations where you're in the kitchen, you're making dinner, you're cleaning up, and the TV's on, and you can hear it. There's an old saying that good television is good radio. When you're listening to television, it's not just the story, but what is the sound space that they're building? What are you hearing? Yes, you're hearing people talking, but there's raman bands, maybe you hear cities outside. I cut a 30 second spot once, it was a commercial, and we shot it without sound. It was just drops of water going into a bucket. And it was shot, you know, 16, back in the day of film, and it was easy to cut the spot, it was like five cuts. Drop, drop, drop of water, at the end it goes into a bucket, bucket gets thrown into the gutter. It was all about kids and runaways and that they get lost, you know, help kids, I don't... I don't even remember this great tagline I had. Anyway, the point of the story is, we spent eight hours doing the audio mix for a 30 second spot, because visually, it put us with this drip, drip, drip of water, but I wanted to feel like people were in a city. So I had sounds of cars, and horns, an occasional baby crying, or a siren. All this little nuance of sound that says I'm in New York, and I had to build that sound space. And that's what you often wanna do when you wanna take something to the next level on an audio perspective. You know, I have this interview. When I cut to the b-roll, maybe I do wanna hear bubbles. I don't wanna hear "Bubbles!", but again, it's subtle. What's the music doing? If you're looking at anything, you can layer that sound, you can put raman bands in that may not exist. You know, you're doing some sort of event, we talked about room tone in an earlier lesson. Maybe you're at an event, just record three, four minutes of the chatter of the room, that you can then put underneath as a bed, to make it feel like something's happening. This is great, because I did the interview, and it's not a really clean interview, in that there's some noise happening, well, if I put a nice bed really low underneath, it just feels like you're at the event, and you grabbed the person and put them to the side, so you're building a sound space. So think about the sound, and that's one thing, you start listening and watching things differently, and that's how you're gonna get better, and then you're gonna see something, and you'll say, "I wanna try this," and you'll do a cut, and you'll make three or four edits, and go, "Yeah, I like this style." So enjoy what you're doing, enjoy what you're watching, but you're gonna start looking at things a little bit differently as to the why did they do that. You know, in the purest form, there should be a reason for every shot, and there should be a reason for every cut, okay? As opposed to, I just need to fill space. If you go in with that perspective, even though you may not achieve it for everyone, you are gonna be more focused on telling a better story, instead of just randomly putting images down. What's gonna work, how can I reshoot this? We had the food, you know, you're doing food stories. Like, okay, I did this for the first time, I'm now getting used to it, how can I be different, how can I stand out? How can I appeal to my viewer? You put yourself all the time into the shoes of who you think your audience is, and be a very discerning audience. So those are the things that go through my head, at the beginning, and of course throughout the entire process. So in this case, my goal is to get to the meat as quickly as possible. It's to not focus on me. I was there just to move him along, so if I can cut me out during the whole middle and just have him feel like he's telling the story, that's great, because that's my message. And then, I'm thinking, okay, I'm gonna tighten this up. I'm gonna have only a couple ways to really make these edits smooth, I'm lucky I have multiple cameras, that will help, but there will be instances where even cutting from one camera to the other, it's gonna feel like a jump. So I'm saying, okay, maybe I need to put some b-roll in. That will cover my edit. Then again, I may also be listening for, oh, he's talking about the things he learned that are still important. Focal length, shutter speed. If you recall, and I'm gonna play this clip, he goes, "Knowing that using a fast shutter "to capture action, or a slow shutter to show motion," and I'm looking, oh, I have some photographs of him that he's shot where he's capturing a bird, that's fast action. Okay, this is all clicking. Making notes, and I'm making mental notes, but also while I'm editing, I could be reorganizing the stuff in my bin saying, okay, action shots, or even like, selects, that's a term you'll hear. These are like your favorite shots. Oh, here's a good slo-mo shot. So I'm thinking what I have seen as I reviewed my footage, as I'm hearing the story, and I'm sometimes making the decision about how I'm gonna edit and what I'm gonna put in based upon maybe what b-roll I have. Maybe like, this is great, but I have nothing to cover it for ten minutes. It's a great story, but does it live on its own? Does it move the audience enough that I don't need some sort of backup? So you're constantly making these decisions, and some of them are hard decisions, because you sometimes have to cut something you really like, because it doesn't necessarily work in the confines of what you're cutting. Another useful tool to become a better editor is, many DVDs, remember those things? Now you have to download the entire iTunes extras, are little film courses. When I studied film, I would go to a class, and I would hear my instructor give his interpretation of what that film meant. Now, I can watch the movie, and I can hear the director tell me what they were thinking. I can hear the art designer tell me what they were thinking. I can sometimes hear the editor tell me what they were thinking. Additionally, I can sometimes see deleted scenes, and there might be the director's commentary, saying why they cut it, and that's fascinating, because I've heard directors say, okay, we cut this, this was early, it didn't work well, the audience just did not respond to it, that's why it's cut. This was giving away too much of the mystery of the plot point later, so we had to cut it. And then sometimes they'll go, "This was the last scene we had to cut, I loved this scene, "it was my favorite scene, the actors were brilliant, "the camera worked perfectly. "I did not want to cut this scene. "Unfortunately, it did not move the picture forward, "and that was the most painful thing for me to pull out." And you learn from that, you learn why things are removed. And often, those director cuts that you get sometimes are not necessarily better. You know, there's times when there's too much. I mean, sometimes, the distribution companies, they cut out too much just to make the movie under two hours so they can keep running it over and over again in the theater and make money. Other times, it's better short. So it's fascinating to be able to watch this, and learn about this. So these DVDs, which are still valuable for that information, ten hours of behind the scenes stuff, you can use that as basically a master's class in learning about what's good, and leverage that knowledge to your editing. All great things, everything's a story that you can leverage. So that's some of the things that I just even are racing through this AD and D, AD and D, AD and D? ADD. There we go. The ADD in my head, as I'm editing, I'm thinking, okay, all of this stuff. Been doing a lot of rapid fire talking here, and I promised this would be interactive, so I'm gonna go ahead and see if this has spurred on any questions, before I continue. I'll take a breath, yes, we have questions coming.
So one of the things you mentioned was the beginning film student who sort of makes the unfortunate mistake of shooting maybe just one master, and it's two people far apart the whole time. If you're stuck with that footage, do you have any wisdom for what you do, if you're the editor, to make that better? Aside from going back and shooting again, and learning from your mistake?
You know, sometimes it is really hard to fix, if you don't have any options to cut to. The first thing is, realizing and appreciating, not that the mistake was made, but where the opportunity to be better the next time. And this is a really valuable experience. I know a lot of people who are camera people, and some of them are brilliant technically, but until they have to cut some of their own stuff, they don't appreciate the challenges you have in piecing together the story. They have it in their idea how it would work. And you are often, or the folks watching are often, the camera person, the producer, the editor, you know. And you realize, as soon as you start cutting your stuff, you are gonna become better at designing what you wanna shoot and executing that, because you're yelling at the other you that shot it. You're saying, you know, I worked so hard to get this beautiful 30 second shot, and you realize you're cutting a minute and a half piece, you're never gonna use, I used this example earlier, of this 30 second shot. You will also learn techniques such as, you know, you're looking at b-roll, and maybe you shot video b-roll, we've been working with a lot of stills, but you know you go and you say, okay, I'm gonna do a pan to the left. Well, guess what? You're editing and you go, you know something? I needed the pan from the right to the left, not the left to the right. By the way, I'm a mirror image, so I'm, who knows which way I'm going? Up and down is easier. So I learned that when I'm shooting something that has movement, you know, if it's gonna be a zoom, start with a static and hold it for five seconds, 'cause maybe I want that. Zoom in, hold it for five seconds. As an editor now, I have a static closeup, I have a static wide shot, and I have a push in that can either start static and end, or start in motion and end static. And I do the same thing in reverse. I start close, and I pull back. I try to give myself as many options as possible to use in the edit when I'm in production, because I can always throw things away, but it's really hard to go back and say, I wish I did, and you always will say I wish I did. So going back to the question, there are probably some tricks that you learned to cover things up here. If I really had something very static, I would probably use a lot of good audio mixing techniques, to build that as a deeper space. One of the other challenges I see with a lot of new filmmakers is they don't pay attention to the audio. They're so worried about getting it cut, and the story, and the color correction and everything, that when you watch it, it feels vacuous. You don't feel the depth of this being a real environment, because you don't hear the nuances of, like, birds chirping, or what's happening out the window. You hear the hollowness of just two actors talking to each other, and it's real hard to even fine tune the rhythm of two actors talking, because you as an editor, the pace at which you have people talk to each other is going to affect the pace and the feel of your show. So I mean, I could cut this with questions where I'm up-cutting him all the time, almost interrupting him, and it's gonna have this much faster pace. Question, answer, question, answer. Or I could actually take what he's saying, and he may list three cities that he's visited, and I may slice between each of the three and pull it apart, and now I can let some video play over it as if he actually paused between each one. And I can visually feel that city, because he has beautiful underwear footage, or he's out in Africa on a veld, looking at lions eating his equipment. You know, there's a lot of things that you can do creatively to change the pacing, and that's what you're doing with the editing, and you're thinking about this, and you're building it. And I'll tell you, there are times that I've spent a day editing something, and come back the next day and literally threw everything out from the previous day. And if the time permits, don't force yourself to keep fixing something that's not working. Sometimes it's good to start fresh, you know? From the photographers out there, the photographers here, you've often probably worked on a picture for hours, and then realized, you know something? It is not working, I need to move on. And the same thing with an edit. You might sometimes say, you know, I thought it would work, I'm gonna try a different design. So some of my thoughts, again, there's a plethora of opportunities to learn out there, way better than it was 20 years ago, because the internet has so much information, but with every really good piece of advice, there's probably the 12 year old who's telling you how to do, you know, the film director. This is my editing challenge, I need to find out how to do something. I search the web, I find that one of two things happen. Either it's a 20 minute clip of the 12 year old, who knows what he wants, but it takes him 15 minutes to get to the point, because he's yelling at his mom, "I'm recording," and then you get, "You need to hit this button," so that, it's not vetted, which is why CreativeLive is nice, so that's the challenge, not a very good storyteller, or when I Google something, I find I actually once knew it, and I come up, and that's really embarrassing, too. So, I never knew I knew that! How exciting! But there is a lot of ways that you can search and find the answers to stuff, and there's even websites that discuss some of these films and the editing, and you'll start seeing things, like I saw a film recently, and I watched it, I'm trying to remember the name, but actually, it's irrelevant, because I could see that, I mean, I remember what it is, but I'm not gonna mention the name. It was a recent film that I watched and I said, it's an okay film, but in my head, I can see they were really challenged with telling this story, because of the way they had to cut it, and the way it felt, because things were missing, and they kinda had to start with a flashback to kinda set the stage, to build excitement, to build tension. And I can see it having been an editing challenge. And I'll tell you, I've had the luxury in my career to meet a lot of really amazing film editors and television editors, and I can't tell you how valuable they are, because they can take a film that's not great and make it great, okay, or that's good and make it great, and they're the same people that, you know, if it's a bad edit, they can't save something. I mean, editors have saved a lot of films that these visionary, not visionary, but some of these directors are just throwing stuff at them. They're like, "Yeah, it was a nightmare to edit. "I just had to figure something out." So, it's fascinating, if you ever get the opportunity to hear editors talk, there's an old, and this is old, it's like 25 years old, documentary called "The Cutting Edge". Great name, it probably came out in the 80s or the 90s, and you look at a bunch of films, like "Bullitt", the Steve McQueen movie, and they talk about the editing and the rhythm of editing, and why the cuts are there. It's a great documentary. I think it still is available. It's called "The Cutting Edge". It used to be that if you bought the film "Bullitt", with Steve McQueen, it's a great car chase, I'm pretty sure it was "Bullitt", it came as the second feature, okay? So you could buy it by itself for 20, or you could buy "Bullitt" for like 8 on DVD, and you got the second DVD of this. But it's called "The Cutting Edge", look for that, and I think there was also another one called "The Art Of Light", but "The Cutting Edge" is a great little documentary that still, even though it's 20 years old and in three by four aspect ratio, you get to hear how an editor thinks, and that's one of the things that's gonna make you a better editor, and that's when I referenced earlier on that when people take a course and I've taught them the tools in a week or so, they're like, "Am I an editor?" And I go back to, you're competent with the tools. Now go out and become an editor. And that takes time, that takes breaking things, making mistakes and learning from those mistakes.