5 Essential Editing Tips to Help You Improve Your Filmmaking
There is a lot of overlap these days with video content creators covering multiple roles of filmer, editor and presenter for instance. As a result of this there are a number of things you can do to help improve your overall filmmaking ability – things you can do when behind the camera to help in the editing suites. In this list we’re going to take a look at some fantastic tips to help filmmakers think like an editor and how to collect shots to improve with the editing process.
1 – Frame the Scene
In this first topic, we’re going to look at creating a framing “language” so to speak. So, from the point of view of the camera operator, you’ll want to keep some kind of consistency when framing the subject so that the editor can do their job easier. By having some kind of consistency with the framing you can cut to different shots but still keep the subject in place, giving the audience logical consistency.
Imagine an action sequence or a fight scene where generally you get a lot of quick cuts, your eyes are able to keep up thanks to the subjects or action taking place in the same part of the frame so you’re not always searching for the action or losing track of what’s going on. Probably you’ve also noticed the reverse of this which is when the cuts are too quick and there’s no consistency; you can easily lose the action and a fight scene for instance will lose its effectiveness because the audience isn’t actually seeing much action but just quick cuts that imply fast-paced movement and energy but don’t actually show it.
Now that you know this tip, you can also subvert it and use the opposite effect to mislead, distract or surprise the audience. Maybe you want to edit in some frames where the audience’s perspective changes as a scene develops; you may be able to achieve this by subverting the consistent framing to introduce different views and perspectives on the scene. Also, as with anything, the more you play around the more you learn and will gain an understanding of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to filming and then editing.
2 – Close-Ups
These shots add detail and draw the audience’s attention toward whatever you want, adding some context to the scene. For example in thrillers we’re often given extra information via close-ups that the director specifically wants us to see, either to give us further information or to act as a red herring. In any case, capturing close-ups of relevant facial expressions, objects or anything else just adds to the visual feast that the audience can engage with – it holds attention and builds the story.
This can also furnish a character with distinctiveness, personality and generally making them more real and believable. For instance if we see certain details on their clothes or how they live within their home: is it clean, orderly, a mess, extravagant or demure? A lot of this information we get to see as an overview but certain specifics that the director may want to emphasise can be caught with close-ups. Perhaps how something moves or how somebody reacts, in any case you may just want to intersperse close-ups throughout a scene just for variety? Whatever the reason, they’re always a good shot to capture as you might want to edit or emphasise something later.
3 – Environment Shots
Much like the close-ups, shooting the wide shot of the entire scene gives the audience further information to build up their understanding of the world and the characters who inhabit it. This can also include b-roll footage that can be used, repurposed, cut up and stitched in later on. Any video will benefit from establishing scene shots and probably they’ll be filmed naturally.
With editing you basically want as many frames at your disposal as possible (within limits of course). Covering all your obvious bases means that you can edit with more information and therefore create a more engrossing world that also maintains the audience’s attention.
4 – Keep Filming
Sometimes you may be filming something and as soon as the action has been caught, you switch off and move onto the next scene. This isn’t always the best practise as you or the director may want to hold onto the shot for a few seconds to either fade out or let the moment sink in with the audience. If this gets cut short, it could ruin the scene by losing the intended effect.
It’s generally good practise to hold the frame at least for a few seconds just in case there’s an extra detail you may discover later and wish to add in. You’ll probably instinctively keep filming until the very last anyway as this is best practise and storage is so cheap.
5 – Capture and Cut Away from Expressions
This falls into the world-building category as again you’re wanting to create an all-encompassing environment where characters influence their wider world. Seeing reactions and expressions from other actors or subjects not only provides variety for the audience but also offers visual clues about the story or topic. Cutting away from the action or focussing on a reaction means that the scene isn’t too static – for instance in an interview you’ll often see still images relevant to the topic being cut into the video. It’ll also cut between question and answer as the conversation continues.
Generally the rule of thumb is to follow the action and subsequently the reaction. You want to cover as much of the scene as possible in order to better inform the story and keep the visuals interesting and stimulating for the audience!
Andrew Farron works for Fable Studios, a Creative-led boutique video and animation studio that creates tailored brand stories that endure in your audience’s mind. Fable combines your objectives with audience insights and inspired ideas to create unforgettable corporate video productions that tell the unique story of your brand.