This week I completed my video montage. Wow! It was quite an experience to write, direct, act, record, and edit my own piece. I definitely learned a lot and while my final product changed significantly from my original plan, I’m happy with what I ended up with.
I went back to the Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video once again, this week tackling chapter ten – Editing. The first, and most important advice this chapter gives the reader is to be a good editor, you must divorce yourself from the director. The editor must only look at the shots on their own merit and only use shots that tell the story to the viewer. Good editing is being able to understand what is important to move the story along, and being able to toss out the rest of the fluff – even if the fluff was a difficult shot, or truly beautiful prose in writing.
Another important piece of advice this chapter presented is that appropriate editing style delivers the message without distracting from it. A good editor must always keep the message at the forefront of their mind when selecting the pacing, sequences, sound levels, and even background music. The best editing style is usually invisible to the audience, unless you are trying to specifically convey something like the passage of time in a montage or increased tension through many quick cuts.
I also read several blog articles about cuts, pacing, and rhythm in editing. I found the article 13 Creative Editing Techniques Every Editor Should Know to be the most helpful of the articles. This article explained how various cuts are used in editing film. In past videos, I have been uncomfortable using a standard cut to line up two shots without including some sort of transition. I realize now, after reading about what each type of transition is meant to convey, that I was probably over-editing my video. The editing techniques discussed in this article are:
- Standard Cut
- Jump Cut
- Cross Dissolve
- Fade In/Out
- J or L Cut
- Cutting on Action
- Cutaway Shots
- Cross Cut or Parallel Editing
- Match Cut
- Smash Cut
- Invisible Cut
No one does the montage like Wes Anderson. The Royal Tenenbaums relies heavily on montages to show a lot of story in a small amount of time. One of my favorite scenes is when Royal takes his grandsons out to “brew some recklessness into them.” This is an active montage with each shot only lasting 1 – 5 seconds. Often a quick shot will set up the rule that is about to be broken (no running, don’t walk, etc.) and Anderson uses several small clips of the same scene or activity instead of longer, continuous clips to keep the pace up. This is combined delightfully with upbeat music.
The movie Snatch was one of my favorites circa 2000. Although some of the language is a bit regrettable 20 years on, the editing of this scene is amazing. Beginning with a high angle on Bullet Tooth Tony as he sits with three guns pointed at him, that moves into a close up as the Sol, Vinny and Tyrone realize they’re outmatched and outgunned, to the crash zoom of “Replica” and “Desert Eagle .50” to drive the point home, this is remains a favorite scene all these years later.
This movie The Princess Bride utilizes a form of parallel editing to cut between the world of the story and the “real world” where the grandfather is reading the story to his sick grandson. This type of parallel editing is best seen at about minute 2:10 of the screeching eels scene when the film cuts quickly away from the action of Princess Buttercup being swarmed by eels to the grandfather addressing his grandson. The movie them cuts back to the eel scene, but uses the grandfather’s voice instead of the voice of the actors on the screen to remind the viewed for another moment that we’ve actually watching the visualization of a story being read aloud.
This week I shot and edited my video montage from last week’s pre-planning post. I followed my plan to shoot a montage that showed the passage of time using a character doing the same thing over the course of several days. I filmed many different shots of myself in different outfits recreating the same actions.
When I finally sat down to begin editing, it became clear that my original concept was too large for the amount of time that I had – approximately 3.5 minutes or the length of the song “These Days” by Nico and the Velvet Underground. I would have had to cut each clip down to only a few seconds to show them all in the allotted time, and that would have negatively affected my pacing. Instead, I decided to portray one day in the life of my character, but try to draw out the monotony and isolation in each frame.
While I had always planned to use no narration, I had intended to include sound effects such as birds chirping to signify the morning, water running, creaking stairs, etc. Once I began to edit, I decided to leave the sound effects out and only use the music at a constant level throughout the video. I felt almost like my character was living in a bubble, and wanted to make it feel like the viewer was farther away from the character – on the outside looking in – except for the music which helps tell the story.
I found it very easy to “divorce the director” as The Bare Bones Manual suggests. As I was editing, I cut several scenes that I felt didn’t serve the piece or broke up the storyline unnecessarily. I know that sometimes I try to tell too much story, and I really paid attention to only including shots that I felt moved the story along or provided emotion or context to the viewer. I did need to reshoot several scenes so I’m lucky that I was the director, videographer, and actor! I will certainly need to be careful to make sure that I am organized and get all the scenes I need in one shot in the future.