Five golden rules for a great edit

As strange as it sounds, your work as an editor should largely go unnoticed. Most people really only notice the awkward and bad edits - to avoid falling into that category, make sure you follow these five tips for success:

  1. Get into the right mindset before you begin: As an editor you make and implement editorial decisions regarding mood, pace and flow. I always find my edits come together so much quicker and stronger if I am working with the perfect sound bed from the start. Never underestimate how this can contribute to your final product.
  2. Start with something interesting: Get noticed and ask a question in your first couple of shots, then spend the rest of the edit revealing your answer.
  3. Be strategic: Editing can be a bit like a game of chess, you always need to think at least three steps ahead. So I always try and work in three’s; having your middle clip acting as the pillar or center piece, with your clips either side leading in and out. This strategy creates a solid structure for your edit and helps you stay focused on what you want to achieve.
  4. It’s not always best to look before you listen: If you’re working with interviews, edit blind and create your voice over first. Once you think you are done with it, close your eyes and play it back to yourself. You’ll then have a true idea if something is awkward within the story and you’ll begin to start visualising all the overlay options that will complete the story.
  5. Cut the crap early: It’s important to strip back your options as soon as possible. You don’t want to fall victim to thought paralysis! More often than not you get multiple variations of the same theme from a shoot. Be brutal, get all your scenes down to two or three options. This way you’ll be able to make quick decisions and keep up a great momentum with your edit.

Get noticed and ask a question in your first couple of shots, then spend the rest of the edit revealing your answer.

Want to know more? Barry Schwartz did an enlightening and hilarious TED Talk on thought paralysis and the paradox of choice. I try and watch it a couple times a year to make sure it stays top of mind when it comes to my work and wider life.

P.S. Keep things tidy and organised, all of this is redundant if your workflow resembles a hoarders’ attic. You’ll thank yourself when you get the tricky projects that might end up having multiple unexpected revisions.

Dan King
Head of Motion

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