Teaching TV Editing
TVT Home Page
Lee Schaeffer
Churchill & Woodland Hills High School (Ret.)

Editing Techniques

The best way to learn editng is to have the experience of editing quality footage.  The best way to learn how to shoot video is to edit bad footage.   The process should be repeated on simple projects so the student masters both talents.

There is a language to film or video just as there is to spoken or written languages. The human mind demands that shots be presented in a logical sequence. However, the human mind of the viewer does not analyze the sequence for time. SHOT - A continuous, non-stop running of the camera. JUMP CUTS

Jump cuts result when two sequential shots do not make logical sense. For example, one shot shows a person standing and the next shot show the same person seated or in a different location. Except on MTV, you will never see a jump cut in a commercial film or video except for some unique artistic effect. When the mind tries to make sense of a jump cut, the viewers' train of thought is disrupted and the illusion of reality is destroyed.
Eliminating Jump Cuts
The goal of any editor is to produce a video without any jump cuts. To achieve this goal, the videographer must have shot footage that provides the editor with a series of shots he can work with. The best technique to learn how to shoot for postproduction is to learn how to edit in the camera. Once you master this skill, there is little need for low budget postproduction. Several cinematic techniques are used in all films to make the material flow logically and to solve the jump cut problem.

Cutaway Shots

Separate two shots with a shot of something completely different. During a church wedding service, a person is walking down the isle. If the camera is stopped when they are partway down the isle and then restarted as they reach the front, the result will be a jump cut. Solve the jump cut by taking a cutaway shot of a stained glass window, people in the pews, flowers or other decoration.   The mind assumes that the person moved the whole way down the isle while the viewer was watching the other shot.
Reaction Shots
Similar to the cutaway shot but contains a subject that relates to the sequence of shots. In the above example, a shot of people watching the person walking down the isle would be a reaction shot.
Walk In/Out Transitions
The jump cuts result when the same subject is in different positions in two adjoining shots. Avoided the jump cut by allowing the subject to walk out of the first shot. Then they can appear in the next shot in a slightly different place. If the space or time separating the two shots is larger, start the camera before the subject enters the shot to allow them to walk in to the field of view.
The ultimate transition is to have matching shots where the action is continuous between two shots. Cut the shot at a point in the action and begin the next shot on the same action. Then the movement will appear to flow across the transition. Accomplish the cut-on-action by having the person repeat the action for the two shots. A close up shot of the person entering a door followed by a wide shot taken from the rear of the room. If the subject is performing a repetitive action, you can take a close up of one cycle of the action followed by a wide shot from a different angle. A person shooting baskets, diving into a pool, hammering a nail or even eating dinner are candidates for cut-on-actions.
The editor's mantra is "If you can't solve it, dissolve it!" The dissolve allows a transition between two shots that involves extremes in time and place. For example, a shot of Lincoln leaving Springfield would dissolve into a shot of his arrival at the capital in Washington. Unfortunately, it takes three VCRs and an edit-controller or a computer editing system to achieve this effect.
Scripting a Production
You need a visual representation of your script when producing a screenplay of a formal production. This is accomplished by creating a storyboard using a stack of 3"X5" cards for each shot. Include on each card a simple sketch of each shot, the action and camera motion and the dialogue. Cards are preferred over paper because you can review the shot sequence and add reaction and cut away shots and to determine when to use walk in or outs. The completed storyboard will resemble a detailed comic book. This may appear to be a tedious process but it saves the embarrassment of doing your homework on the set or realizing in the editing process that you don't have the material that is required.
This is the exercise to keep a large class busy with limited equipment.
 Introduction: Have several students shoot a simple class room incident
  1. Student opens door and
  2. enters classroom,
  3. walks past teacher
  4. who gives him a nasty look for being late to class
  5. and marks him absent in the grade book.
  6. Student walks to seat in class
  7. as other students give him the "you are going to get it now look"
  8. Student sits down.
Most first time student videographers will shoot this as a continuous run. After viewing sequence out of the camera with the class and point out how long it is, Have other students re-shoot the sequence but this time have them stop and start the camera. When this tape is played, it usually gives some excellent examples of JUMP CUTS. From this introduction, I then introduce some standard editing techniques:
I then re-shoot the sequence myself, using In-Camera editing techniques to save time and having the "actor" repeat various parts of the action to make Walk In/Out and Cut-On-Action transitions.
Class Projects

The best technique is teaching them to make a storyboard using one 3X5 card for each shot. The class is then broken into "cooperative learning teams."  These groups are given the assignment of making a 10 shot action sequence of an action event that can be shot in or near the classroom. (No fights!) The groups then choose a Director, Cinematographer, Camera operator and Actor(s). They then shoot the sequence editing in the camera since this is the way they will normally shoot home video. Each groups camera footage is viewed out of the camera on a classroom monitor to see what worked and what can be done to improve the sequence.  It should be noted that what does not work is usually a matter of "timing".  Have the groups re-shoot the sequence.  After that sequence is reviewed again repeat the sequence leaving a 10-second "pre-roll", post roll  and "take two" if needed.  Now the students should have quality footage to loaded into a computer editing system as the sourse material for teaching NLE. 

In-Camera vs. Post-Production

In-Camera Post-Production
Requires practice
Best for trips.
Can't fix bad shots
High quality but time consuming
Expensive editing equipment required.
Best when shooting from a detailed script.
More control over sound.