Techniques to Better Video Editing

By Barry Casson

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We could spend days on this subject but I will try to keep to the basics. When you get your video to the editing stage you have to have choices to make things work.

I don't care what your subject is. When shooting always make sure you a have master or wide shot of things. Then go in for a more detailed look at things (medium shots) and follow this with close-up shots of more fine detail.

Always include reaction shots to the subject matter (head shots of people observing things etc.) When you get to editing you have to have your "coverage" (all the shots needed to make editing work).

In addition make sure you get what is known in the biz. as "cutaways".  This is any shot going on in parallel time to the main action but not including the main action. You have seen shots on TV of two men fighting in an alley and then the camera cuts to a cop car going by the end of the alley. This is the cutting away from the main action shot.  The editor needs this in case parts of the fight scene won't cut together and he has to distract the audience momentarily to get around the problem.

Proper coverage of the scenes is the reason why we are able to watch episodes of a television series week after week and the show always appears to be edited smoothly.  The director makes sure that he or she has all the shots needed for a good editing job.

Make sure there is at least a three times change in image size from the master to the Medium and to the close-ups. Without this image size change you will see a "Jump cut" (a rather jerky transition from one scene to the next).

Cutting on action is another old established editing technique.  If you have a wide shot of someone coming into a room and sitting down on a chair. Have them do the same action again but this time frame the shot as a medium or close shot.  Now when you get to editing you can cut the shot on the action of sitting. You actually have them sitting twice and if you make the cut during the sitting movement the action will carry the edit nicely and make the cut seem smooth. In other words the audience will not be aware of the edit.

You don't want to bore your audience so make sure, no matter what the subject, that you have a variety of shots both, wide, medium and close.

Here's another great tip. Never assume that just because you can read whatever it is on the sign in the background that your audience can too.  Always get an "insert shot" of what is on the sign.  An insert shot is simply a close shot of something that was not visually clear in the master or wide shot and is important to the story.  A sign in the background with some important writing on it would be an example.

May the Focus Be With You...Barry

For more video shooting tips, go to and grab your copy of Barry's book, The Video Bible.

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