Join Christine Steele for an in-depth discussion in this video Discovering the flashback scene through visuals, part of Premiere Pro: Narrative Scene Editing.
In this movie we'll combine continuity and complexity editing to rough out a flashback scene. We'll work with visual cues given by the director and executed by the cinematographer to capitalize on in- camera effects and craft a natural- feeling step back in time. Take a look at my sequence. I have created a sequence of selects, and I grouped them by type, which helps me grasp my visual options. Let's watch these. (video playing) (Joseph's father: There you go, nice and slow.) (Joseph: How does it stick together, Dad?) (Joseph's father: The sand and the water? Well, that's chemistry stuff.) So, as you can see, I've groups of shots by type.
I've got Joseph picking up the photograph in his office, which is triggering the memory that we are going to build, and I've got some selects of young Joseph, which is our flashback in time. Let me show you the sequence I've begun to build. (video playing) I'd like to walk you through my process and point out why I settled on the shots I chose.
From the beginning, I'll zoom in with the plus key and point out that I need to orient you to the fact that Joseph is in his office and about to have this flashback. I've selected a shot where we see him face on, notice something, and begin to walk across the room. Now these two shots are a pair, and what I've done here is paid special attention to the camera motion. As he gets up to walk away, the camera follows him and moves from left to right. Once again, there is subtle movement of the camera panning from left to right.
Here the camera is also panning from left to right. I have a lot of different takes of this shot, but that subtle movement across the cuts really helps smooth the transition. I've selected an in point on this second shot so that you begin to see Joseph's reflection, and the movement of that carries your eye down to his hand where he picks up the photograph. This is eye trace. My eye first goes to his reflection, then down to his left hand as it enters the frame, and then up to his right hand as he begins to pick up the picture.
I'll play that one more time. (video playing) So I use camera panning motion to smooth transitions between shots. Look for fluid or continuing motion through the frame across cuts. Now, in the next pair of shots I want to point out something about the natural body movement. It's not just camera panning motion I am looking for; it's the actor's motion as well. So from shot number two to shot number three watch this: Joseph picks up the photograph and pulls it towards his body and then his arm pulls back towards his waist.
In this third shot, he is actually pulling back. His head is pulling back, continuing that body motion from the left side of the frame to the right side of the frame. So it's not just the camera's motion I am looking for; it's the actor's motion as well. In addition I am looking for natural lighting effects that the director and cinematographer were clearly intending to be used for the scene. I've never met this director or anyone involved in this shoot and I didn't have any notes on this scene. No one told me what they wanted.
I simply watched the footage and I paid close attention to detail. It didn't take me long to see the beauty in the lighting and how that could be used for effect. They did so many takes and they gave me so many chances to grab the lighting flares and they varied the speed of the pans and tilts and created rack-focus shots. These are wonderful in-camera effects, and I won't let these go to waste. I'll zoom back out so you can see my entire series of selects. While I was choosing my selects, I came across this bit of the child playing.
This is really important; I want to point this out. This was not part of what the director shot for the scene. If I press F to match frame back to this shot and play it from the beginning, watch this. (video playing) (Director: Ok. Oh, oh. I'll call action, all right?) You can hear that the director hadn't called action yet. This shot was a happy accident that occurred before the scene even began. I'm so glad that the camera was rolling because children don't always behave naturally during filming, so moments like this are little gems.
Don't miss an opportunity to capture a smile like this, and also the child is running through the frame. Watch all of the footage so you don't miss an opportunity to really use a special shot like this. I intend to continue to interleave the shots of young Joseph at the beach and grown-up Joseph in the office. The sequencing of my favorite selects allows me to continue to build this by grabbing a piece from one time frame-- young Joseph--and then a piece from the next time frame and cross cut between the two. I'd like to show you a few shots that I chose not to use and explain why.
(video playing) I could have chosen to insert this between shots number two and three, here, where he picks up the frame. (video playing) But the reason I chose not to, in addition to the fact that I liked the camera movement and his body movement between those two cuts, is that I couldn't find a shot where he picks up the frame or reaches for it in a way that felt real to me. In other words, he is moving so slowly I'd never pick up a picture frame like this in real life.
It just feels like he is reaching so slowly and then the way he ended up holding it, that's not a natural position. I would never hold a picture like that when I was looking at it. It just didn't feel correct to me. So I looked for shots where he picked up the frame in a way that felt really natural. Likely the director was instructing this actor to hold the frame so that you could see a bit of the photograph. Nevertheless, I was looking for shots were his motion and his body language felt natural and real to me.
Unlike a montage, a flashback typically moves more languorously and with intent. I want it to be really deliberate while crafting this scene. I want to be careful so that this memory isn't interpreted as cheesy-- well, unless that's what I am going for, but that's not the case here. This is the moment that catalyzes Joseph getting his creative mojo back. It has to mean something. To give it meaning, I'll really take my time and I'll try to stay in the moment and in the mood of a memory that means something to me. One of the ways I help myself with that is to start laying in a little bit of sound design.
I am not sound designing this sequence yet; I am simply bringing in a little piece of the voiceover and a little piece of the background audio, and I've set aside some here to show you. Just a little bit of seagull sounds and the beginning of the voice over. I'll cut that into the beginning. I am just copy-pasting with Command+C and Command+V, or Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V if you are on a PC. And I'll just play that back for you so you understand what I am doing to put myself in the right mood.
(video playing) (seagulls chirping) (Male speaker: All right, Joseph. Let's get this castle started.) As you can probably hear, I'll begin now to lay in the flashbacks to Joseph's childhood. Some fine editors would begin this sequence by actually laying in all of this voiceover. (Joseph's father: There you go, nice and slow.) I actually prefer to begin making my visual selects so that I do not miss any visual lyricism that I might otherwise skip over in favor of just painting to audio.
So I actually begin by making my selects visually and then move into building neat voiceover later. Paying special attention to the speed and direction of camera movements while editing can add elegance to your cuts and turn a good scene into a great one. Look for moments of serendipity or accidental shots and make use of in-camera lighting effects to lend a special feel to your edits.
- Preparing your workflow
- Adding and editing clip markers
- Evaluating performances, shot framing, and supporting elements in takes
- Adding reaction shots
- Cutting on action
- Building montages
- Compressing time with jump cuts
- Working with audio
- Supporting theme with color effects
- Altering playback speed