Norman: So we know that we can control the audience's eye through changing something on the screen, size, color, movement can all pull your viewer's eye to a very specific part of the frame. Now we are going to go to the next step in learning about how we can shape an audience's reaction to your material. How to control the mind's eye. This is really the key to all of our story telling. Along the way, I'm going to introduce you to that new term that I've been promising, the rule of three's.
And this is going to help you understand just how changing something on screen, can help your audience pay attention. And then I'm going to start talking about how this all applies to be art of editing. What I'd like to do is invent a very simple scene that we're going to edit in several different ways. We're going to make the super short and super low-budget, but the concepts here apply to any type of video. So in this scene Brian walks into a room. Looks down and finds a briefcase brimming full of cash and passports.
This surprises him. It's a very straight-forward scene and we've shot it with only two setups. That is only two camera positions. In the first setup, Brian walks into the room Looks down at a frame and reacts to the money that we can't see. That's one set up. It's okay, but it won't feel very dramatic for us, the audience, because we're missing something. We're missing what Brian sees. So we need to shoot another set up. That other set up will be Brian's point of view the briefcase full of cash.
Okay, that's all the time and money we have to shoot. Two setups. But the main question for us is: can they tell the story that we need to tell? And in order to answer that question, we need to answer another one: what is the story? At its core, our story is that Brian doesn't expect the briefcase to be there. And seeing it makes him worried. Let's look at a ground plan of those two shots. Here's the panning shot of Brian entering the room and seeing the money.
And here's the close-up of the briefcase. If we had more time, we might also shoot a wide shot of Brian for all the action which would show the briefcase. We'd also want a close-up of his reaction. Finally we might also shoot an additional size of Brian's point of view of the briefcase. That could help us gradually build up emotion in the scene. But like I said this is guerrilla film making, and that means that we didn't have time to get all of those additional shots. But as countless filmmakers have found, you don't need a big budget to tell a good story.
So, we're going to edit three different versions of these two shots and compare our reactions. There are probably dozens of ways to cut these shots together, but for the purpose of this movie, let's just focus on three. In the first version, we see Brian open the door, cross the room. Look down at a frame and react. Then after a beat or two, we cut to what he sees, the briefcase of money. This is going to make us feel a certain way.
Depending on how long it takes to cut from Brian to the money, there's going to be a short amount of time when we, the audience, are going to be wondering, what does he see? We won't know what Brian is seeing. And we're going to have a definative feeling about that. How strong that feeling is will depend on the actor's performance, as well as how long it takes to cut from Brian to the briefcase. For a moment in time we're going to have the feeling of, oh my God, oh my God, what is Brian looking at? And we're going to feel that way because, for a little bit, the character on the screen knows something that we, the audience, do not.
There is a moment in time here where the audience is kept is suspense. Okay, great. Now let's try a second way. In this version, Brian opens the door. Walks into the room and before he has his reaction, we cut to the briefcase and then back up to Brian as he reacts. Now your reactions to this version are going to be different than your reactions to the first one. That's because in version two there is no point in this cut where Brian knows something that we don't.
Depending upon on how fast we cut back and forth to the money, and we can vary that tremendously in the editing process, we are going to know the information more or less at the same time as Brian. And that, I bet, is going to feel different than the first version. Okay, great. Let's do a third version. In this one, before Brian even opens up the door we see the briefcase full of money. Then maybe we hear the sound of the door open, and then and only then do we see Brian already walking through the room.
Now every single step that Brian takes is going to be informed by the fact that we the audience knows something that he doesn't. That there's a briefcase full of money lying in the room. And that is going to make you feel different, right? So the real question is, which is the correct version? And since this course is all about storytelling through editing, it's going to come as no surprise to any of you that the correct answer to that question is, it depends on the story you want to tell.
Now before we figure that out, we need to know what Brian is going through and what we want the audience to experience. In our script, Brian is supposed to be scared about seeing the money because he didn't expect to see it there. he has enemies, sure, but he didn't know that they had come to his work. When he sees the money he is going to worry if this is a trap. If we want the audience to be scared from the moment he walks in the room, then we might choose the version where we see the briefcase first. If we want the audience to be surprised like Brian, then, the first version is perhaps the best choice.
The most important thing to understand, is that we had three different reactions, depending upon only one thing. How we arrange the footage. And that's editing. That's what editing is all about. So this leads to one of the basic ideas in this course, and to my first made up term. I like to call this The Rule of Threes. Simply, put, the Rule of Threes means that the impact of a shot. Is completely dependent upon the shot that came before it and will indelibly affect the shot that comes right after it.
This concept is also known as the Kuleshov effect after the early film making Russian pioneer Lev Kuleshov, who experimented with cutting an impassive actor's face. Next to a person in a coffin, a bowl of soup, and an attractive woman. When he showed each of the three versions, he got three different reactions to what the actor must have been thinking. Of course the footage of the actor was the same each time, just like we did in our scene with Brian. It is the relationship of the shots that created the meaning.
The impact of a shot is completely changed when coupled with other shots. By the way this rule of three also applies to scenes and sequences so the emotional impact of a scene is going to be affected by the emotion you have at the end of the scene that came before it and it's going to impact how we feel about the scene that comes right after it. And the same goes for sequences of scenes. Now, this sounds pretty obvious, but it's amazing how easy is to forget this when you're in the middle of shooting a scene or putting together a scene in the editing room.
Start with an overview of concepts like the rule of threes, review a sampling of footage from films past and present, and then dive into script analysis. Find out when and when not to make cuts, how to collaborate with clients and directors during recutting, and how to ground the emotional backdrop for your piece with music and sound. Norman closes with a look at adapting to different genres and filmic styles.
- Exploring the history of video editing
- Controlling what the audience sees
- Identifying the logline
- Performing script and scene analysis
- Coming up with an editing plan
- Cutting from on-camera to off-camera action
- Understanding the value of recutting
- Shaping moments with music
- Working in a specific genre
- Mixing editing styles together