Join Abba Shapiro for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding editing conventions, part of Narrative Scene Editing with Final Cut Pro X v10.0.9.
Before we start editing our individual scenes, I want to review some of the traditional editing conventions, and for some of you this will just be a refresher, but this will help you get going. Let's step into 02-04 Rules and take a look at some of the wrong ways and then the right ways to cut between two shots. Now the first shot we're going to look at is actually done pretty well, and I'm doing this for reason, so take a quick watch. (Mr. Dalton: Did you finish it? ) So what happens here is the shot is relatively good, it's a little bit of a delay until he says did you finish it, but I really don't mind that because it's building up drama, and the reason I started with this is some of you will like the setting and some of you will be bothered by it.
And this is intentional, because editing is a very subjective thing, it's artistic. So, always go with your gut, and you'll realize that you're not going to make everybody happy, and there's always a different way to cut together a scene. Now let's take a look at some obviously incorrect edits. (Joseph: It's cold.) (Mr. Dalton: Did you finish it?) Now the problem with this scene here is that it goes from static to static. You should always try to cut on action, because the viewer is distracted by the motion in the scene and they don't see the cut.
The objective of making a good cut is so they don't even notice it. So what we're doing instead of cutting from a static wide shot to a static close-up, or in this case a static over the shoulder, is we do something very similar, but instead when we cut we cut while Joseph is turning his head to the left to look at the coffee and he turns it back when we return to the shot. (Mr. Dalton: So, how's the coffee?) (Joseph: It's cold.) Because he's turning his head, that's where our attention is drawn, and we don't notice the edit, and it doesn't matter that we don't see his face, because we hear his voice, and we see the reaction of Mr. Dalton. Moving on to the next scene.
(Mr. Dalton: Meet it.) (Joseph: The company's in--) We actually did cut on the action, so it should have worked. But if you take a look when we cut between the wide shot and the close-up, yes there was action as he left the screen in the wide shot, but look at the expression and the position of Joseph's head. When we cut to the next shot not only has the position changed, but his expression and his mood, he went from kind of being downtrodden to being angry all within a fraction of a millisecond, and that's why that edit doesn't work.
To make an edit like this work, you often have to use B-roll or cut away and rethink how you're going to transition from one shot to the other, let's take a look at a more effective way that this shot could work. (Mr. Dalton: Firm could be on the line here. Six p.m. tonight, simple deadline, meet it.) So what happened here is we did cut on him turning away, but we cut to a B-roll shot of his back.
Now this does two things for me, it allows me to transition more smoothly because I can actually put Joseph's voice underneath, and it also makes a statement that he's turning his back on Joseph. So it's really a win-win situation when it comes to the editing. And by the time we see Joseph's face, we've already heard him speak, we know he's angry, and the cut works. (Joseph: The company's in free-fall, and you want--) Moving ahead, we have another situation where we're cutting from the static wide shot.
(Mr. Dalton: Make sure you do your job, nothing more, nothing less, understand? Six p.m.) Now the timing is really good because it builds up drama of nothing more and nothing less and than the 6 p.m. And I want that amount of space, but it's a boring shot. The wide shot gets boring, and the close shot gets boring. So again, we can fix it, it's a little more complicated, because we're going to actually move Joseph's response audio, and we're going to mix up this scenes, but take a look how you could edit it to make it more fluid and more dramatic.
(Joseph: --another risk. It's a creative approach.) (Mr. Dalton: My creativity has nothing to do with this. I did my time. My job now is to wear this suit--) So what makes this work? Well, first of all, we have him turning his back, and that's fine, but this is where we actually make up some space. When we cut to him, he is starting to walk back into the shot from this angle, and that has we cut to that side shot...
His is continuing to walk, and because there's action we don't notice there's any difference. Now take a look when we come back to him, again it's not static, and that's why it works. (Mr. Dalton: --has nothing to do with this. I did my time. My job now--) As he says the word now he actually leans into the shot, so we're cutting on that action. So instead of him like standing there, because he's leaning in, we're drawn to that, and we just listen to what he saying.
So that's the trick of how you can massage a shot or massage multiple shots to make them flow. Let's take a look at this next situation. (video playing) Now what you'll notice with this scene is that they don't look like they're looking at each other. They're actually both looking off in the same direction, their eye lines don't match, and that's happened sometimes when they shoot something very quickly and the actors aren't looking in the right direction, or it's iso-cameras, and it's very distracting.
Well, the truth is is that I actually cheated to illustrate this point, the director actually did a very good job when editing this. I simply flipped the scene. So I'm going to go ahead and remove this, let me just click on this and go ahead and open up the Inspector, and there is our effect, it's flipped actually it looks like I flipped, and I flipped it again, but that's okay. I'm going to simply turn off the flip, and now he is looking in the right direction, let me go ahead and close the inspector so you can see it better, and I'll hit Play.
(video playing) And as you see, it now looks as if there actually having a conversation. Now you'll probably noticed that there was no audio with this scene, and I did that intentionally because I wanted to make another very useful point. You should always watch your edits with the sound turned off, because then you're not distracted by the audio, and you can easily see if an edit works or not. As a matter of fact, I often recommend to people if they want to become a better editor, go and watch television with the sound off.
Now don't think I am crazy here. It's not like I turn on the TV at 10 o'clock and watch a 1-hour drama with no sound, but there are a lot of times that I'm either in an airport or restaurant or waiting somewhere where I can see a television and not hear what's being said. And it allows me to focus on the actual cutting and the shots without being distracted by the story or being cheated by the sound space of J-cuts and L-cuts. Another thing you should do when watching this type of program is just start counting whenever they cut to a scene, 1-2-3, et cetera, and you'll notice that most shots last between 4 and 6 seconds before they cut to another shot.
Now this is not a hard and fast rule. In a lot of situation like in a montage or action sequence, you may cut every 10 or 20 frames. Other times you maybe creating a very lyrical moment or beautiful pan of a horizon, and you may have a shot that's 30 or 40 seconds. So don't say every show has to be 4 to 6, but there is a natural rhythm that flows with that frequency of cuts. And finally, we're going take a look at this last scene which we've actually watched earlier to see how good it sounds and not be distracted by the visuals.
This is the reverse instead of watching without sound, sometimes it's good to listen without watching, and I do these two ways, I listen to TV when I am in the kitchen, and I can actually hear how deep the sound is with all the sound effects, and I am not distracted by the visuals. Again, when you cut your show, playing it back and listening to it without watching it, it will allow you to find out if there are audio issues, blank spaces, repeated words. Now you could turn your head away or turn your monitor off, but if you actually start editing, sometimes you want to look to the screen but not at the picture.
Now there are ways to turn the visibility off on your video, but that's a lot of steps. So what I like to do is simply put something on top of it that's dark. And so I'm going to go to the Generators tab. I'll show you exactly what I do. I will go to the Generators tab, I go to Solids, and I just choose Custom, because that's going to give me black. And then I can select where I want that to start. If I want I can either double-click on it or just drag it over as the connected clip, and now stretch it out as long as I need.
This allows me to watch my timeline, but be focused on just the audio. (Joseph: The company's in free-fall, and you want to take another risk. It's a creative approach.) (Mr. Dalton: My creativity has nothing to do with this. I did my time.) So these are just a few of some of the basic editing conventions that we will explore throughout the course, and we'll also look at a few more tricks to make your edits smoother.
- Preparing and importing your media
- Evaluating shots and performances
- Incorporating additional assets like images
- Editing a dialog scene
- Adding reaction shots
- Using alternative takes
- Editing a montage
- Selecting and organizing clips
- Enhancing a scene with audio
- Replacing location audio or a dialogue track
- Transitioning between scenes
- Using creative color and effects