Film editors are masters of the “invisible art”.
Their work leaves elusive traces only film enthusiasts and experts can pick up. Yet, this is one of the roles presiding over the whole creative process, alongside directors and cinematographers.
In a nutshell, editors delete, arrange, and synchronize shots and sounds. It’s a labor-intensive work testing both your technical and artistic skills. This isn’t something that everyone is cut out to do.
To make the immersive magic happen, an editor goes through a series of trial-and-error loops.
The ultimate goal of film editing is to capture a director’s vision and craft a seamless product. This post-production process ensures the story comes together in a coherent and compelling way.
If this sounds like something you’re itching to do, read on. Here are the primary areas of film editing, as well as techniques and tools behind them.
Film editing is an integral part of film post-production.
A film producer is typically but not necessarily the one who hires an editor. Movies traditionally had one lead editor, but big-budget projects can have more. Editors closely collaborate with directors, sound editors, and cinematographers. Together, they need to bring the vision for the film to life.
How does this process unravel?
Well, essentially, editors stitch the raw and unedited footage together to create a finished product. In other words, they combine different shots into scenes.
In this sense, you can think of a film as a puzzle that editors put together piece by piece. And once their job is done, viewers can barely distinguish one piece from another. This brings us back to a point: good editing works on screen without diverting attention from main elements on storytelling.
As a rule of thumb, there are four main stages of editing.
They are logging & assembly, rough cut, the main edit, and the fine cut. But, the truth is, the creative processes can differ widely in practice. It all depends on the preferences of the film director and studio.
That being said, the first step is always to familiarize oneself with all the shots of the movie. This task alone can take hours and hours.
One of the main objectives here is to select and ditch the segments of footage. Not everything will make it to the final product and that is fine. There’s no need to go overboard with film runtime.
Hence, editors are forced to smartly prioritize and strategize. They must identify the best shots/takes that reveal important character beats, plot points, and essential action.
It’s necessary to weigh entertainment and dramatic value of these shots, as well as how much they foster story continuity.
Before the age of digital editing, one had to physically cut the film strips and piece them together.
Nowadays, editing is carried out via software tools. No more tape and glue, just clicks and more clicks.
The good news is there’s no shortage of amazing solutions out there. Some of the most popular ones are Adobe Premier Rush, Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro, and DaVinci Resolve.
This tech revolution has leveled the playing field and rendered editing much more beginner-friendly. This is not to say rudimentary software skills are everything you need to jumpstart the career.
In fact, software governs only the technical side of editing.
There’s still the whole creative side of the editing medal. Techniques aren’t self-explanatory or even intuitive at times. There are often countless different ways and angles to approach each shot.
And even seemingly small details can make or break the movie.
Editing techniques are many and varied.
To help you get on top of the basics, we will explain several vital rules.
The first one is to show something new with each clip. This simple editing principle keeps the story flowing and keeps viewers hooked.
Varying shot size and angle is anther trick worth noting. It leads to a more varied and interesting viewing experience. But, one should be careful not to confuse people with extreme changes.
A transition from a wide shot to a close-up can feel abrupt. Simply put, it’s hard to maintain spatial awareness and understand how the shots fit the bigger picture.
What you need is a mid-shot inserted in between, which fills the gaps nicely.
In case you don’t know, transitions are joins between shots. They come in the form of cuts, fades, dissolves, etc. Knowing when to utilize each of these tricks takes practice and mastery.
On top of all this, editors have to get the pacing absolutely right.
Shots shouldn’t be too long or overly short. For completely different reasons, they can throw film goers off. It’s often difficult to establish what does the trick ahead of time.
Did we mention editors also synchronize sound record with the film?
Yes, it’s true and doesn’t even exhaust the list of tasks.
If this all sounds like too much to handle, that’s because it is. But, don’t let the scope of the challenge ahead dissuade you from an editing career.
It’s a highly rewarding and lucrative endeavor. You can gradually develop a deeper understanding of what viewers concentrate on and how to manipulate their attention.
For instance, seek online or face-to-face classes, workshops, and training courses. They are fast-tracks to acquiring the necessary skills and competencies. This spadework should pay dividends later and enable you to climb the career ladder.
Film editing isn’t an exact science, but fine art.
You need to know what you’re getting yourself into before taking the plunge. So, do your homework: familiarize yourself with basic terminology and techniques.
We’ve shown you what editors do and how. They look through the entire film footage, slicing together shots and polishing them to perfection. There’s a myriad of choices to make and each one matters and adds up.
Every shot must work on its own and as a part of the film.
It’s a tall order, but if you’re still on board, be our gust. Embark on a learning journey and get a feel for the industry.
Get in touch with us in case you want to undergo an editing course or workshop.
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