Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Post-Production Process Editing… “Invisible Art”

Editing is an art of structuring (at times re-structuring, i.e. re-directing) a narrative for the purpose of seemless flow of a convincing story. Editing is executed by connecting two or more shots together to form a sequence, and the subsequent connecting of sequences to form an entire movie / television program. This process is the only art that is unique to cinema / television, and which separates film & Television making from all other art forms that preceded it (such as photography, theatre, dance, writing, and directing. However there exists close parallels to the editing process in other art forms such as poetry or novel writing. It is often referred to as the "invisible art," since the idea, under most cicumstances, is to have the viewer engaged with the narrative that he or she becomes unaware of the work of the editor.
Since, almost every motion picture, television show, and TV commercial is a single camera shoot (per take), each single shot is separated from the other by time and space. On its most fundamental level, video editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling these shots into a coherent whole. However, the job of an editor isn’t merely to mechanically put pieces of a film together, nor is it to just cut off the film or video slates, nor is it merely to edit dialogue scenes. A film editor works with the layers of images, the story, the music, the rhythm, the pace, shapes the actors' performances, "re-directing" and often re-writing the film or video during the editing process, honing the infinite possibilities of the juxtaposition of small snippets of clips into a creative, coherent, cohesive whole.

Editing, be it film or video, is an art that can be used in diverse ways. It can create sensually provocative montages. It can be a laboratory for experimental genre. It can bring out the emotional truth in an actor's performance. It can create a point of view on otherwise obtuse events. It can guide the telling and pace of a story. It can create the illusion of danger where there is none, surprise when we least expect it, and a vital subconscious emotional connection to the viewer.

Please note, if anybody is under illusion that this is only true for fiction genre and not applicable to documentary and other features including cutting for news format is wrong.

Television and film use certain common conventions often referred to as the 'grammar' of these audiovisual media. This list includes some of the most important conventions for conveying meaning through particular camera and editing techniques (as well as some of the specialised vocabulary of film production). Conventions aren't rules: expert practitioners break them for deliberate effect, which is one of the rare occasions that we become aware of what the convention is.

1.Cut. Sudden change of shot from one viewpoint or location to another. On television cuts occur on average about every 5 or 6 seconds. Cutting may:
•change the scene;
•compress time;
•vary the point of view; or
•build up an image or idea.

There is always a reason for a cut, and you should ask yourself what the reason is. Less abrupt transitions are achieved with the fade, dissolve, and wipe. In a cut, the first frame of a new shot directly follows the last frame of the previous one. Grammatically, a cut is like the space between two words: a division between units of meaning that signals no change at all.

In classic editing, a cut should be nearly invisible because the action on screen moves across the division between shots in an uninterrupted flow. This enhances the illusion that the viewer is watching a continuous process instead of a bunch of discrete images.

Creating this illusion is easy when the shots show different subjects, such as close-ups of two different actors, because the viewer expects the image to change completely from shot to shot. But when two shots cover successive views of the same subject you must spackle the seam with two crucial editing techniques: matching action and changing camera angle.

In matching action you set the edit points so that the incoming shot picks up precisely where the outgoing shot leaves off. There are three ways to do this: continue movement, cut between movements, and start or end off-screen.

Cutting in the middle of an ongoing movement is the hardest method but it delivers the most convincing illusion. In the outgoing shot of Figure 1a, the cup descends part-way to its saucer. Then the incoming shot starts with the cup on-screen and continues on its path toward the table. With precision matching, the two arcs seem like different views of the same continuous action. You can match continuous action with consumer-level editing decks if you're willing to practice with the deck's accuracy.

An easier way is to make the cut during a pause in the action, as shown in Figure 1b. Here, the performer completes the whole set-down in medium shot and the close-up starts with the hand and the cup at rest. With no movement to match, the edit is easier.

Simpler yet is the old off screen ploy (Figure 1c). The incoming shot starts before the cup enters the frame, so the viewer cannot compare its end position with its start position. With this method, you don't have to match action at all.

The method works equally well if you reverse it so that the outgoing cup ends on-screen and the incoming cup starts off-screen. And when you have a really difficult edit, try both at once: finish the outgoing and start the incoming shots with empty screens.

Whichever method you use, matching action does only half the job of concealing the cut. To perfect the illusion you must also shift the camera position. By moving the point of view, you change the subject's background and deprive the viewer of reference points for matching action.

As we've often noted, you can change three aspects of camera setup: vertical angle (from bird's-eye down to worm's-eye), horizontal angle (from front through 3/4 and profile to rear) and image size (from long shot to close-up). Figure 2 shows why it's tough to conceal a cut without changing at least one of these aspects and preferably two.

Figure 2a shows no angle change between the two shots and the obvious jump cut that results. Figure 2b changes one aspect: image size. If you're a slick editor you can make this cut work, but it's easier if you can change a second aspect as well. In Figure 2c the edit changes vertical angle as well as image size for a smoother transition.

Should you change all three aspects of a camera position? Maybe, but not necessarily. It doesn't add to the illusion and it can actually call attention to the edit because the viewpoint change is so great. On the other hand, an extreme angle change can be effective in building suspense precisely because it produces an effect of uneasiness or even disorientation.

Editing cuts

Match Cut (Description): Combining two shots of differing angle and composition so that the action continues from one to the other in the same time and place.

This shows seamless progression of action, focus on detail of action, provide a different view enhancing three- dimensionality, and add energy and increase pacing. The shot above could be followed by a close up of the hands.

Jump Cut: Combining two shots (see both b&w images) above that are similar so that the subject jumps from one part of the screen to another. It attracts attention and speeds up time.

Cutaway: it shows the subject, close up detail or person observing action (see above). Subject is not seen in shots edited before or after cutaway. This is done to cover jump cuts, provide reaction of others to main action, focus attention on subject.

Editing Transitions & Effects

Fade from and to Black: the image gradually appears from a black screen. Fade to black: image gradually disappears to a black screen.the purpose is to begin and end a video, it could be a transition between segments or scenes, or signify major change in time or location.

Dip to Black: A quick fade to black and then back to video. To go to or from a commercial break, quick transition between segments or scenes, or transition between footage and full screen graphics.

Dissolve: A transition between shots where one image is gradually mixed with another until the second image is full screen. To enhance emotions, soften changes between shots, accentuate rhythm of pacing, enhance artistry of action, and smooth jump cuts.

Wipe: A transition between shots that uses movement across the screen. Traditional wipes include changing the image with a move from right or left, up or down, or diagonally. Effects wipes include spins, flips, and animated moves. To show obvious transition between scenes, segments or graphics; add energy and action and increase pacing.

Super: Mixing two images together to show two views of subject at the same time, suggesting that main subject is thinking about the other.

Freeze: A single frame of video that is frozen on the screen to end action, accentuate moment or character, background for graphics, lengthen short shot.

Editing - Graphics & Titles

Lower Third Title: Text appearing in the bottom third of the screen. It identifies the name and title of interview subject, provide caption for image.

Full Screen Graphicit’s a combination of text, background or artwork that fills the screen. For titles in the beginning of a video or a segment, key points or summations, charts and graphs, transition between segments or to or from commercials.

Some Terms often used by Editors

B-roll: It refers to footage that covers an interview or narration audio. It is done to Illustrate what's discussed in audio, add energy and increase pace, cover audio track edits. For example -someone talks, scenes relating to what the person is saying is shown.

Establishing the scene: It’s a wide shot showing setting, to introduce the location for scene, provide sense of 3D space where action occurs, introduce characters. Example -All the shots are wide showing people doing things

Changing the scene/segment: It is a Visual or audio cue that a new scene or segment has begun. It moves the story along, add variety to story, indicate passage of time or change in location. for example an establishment shot (with people talking). Followed by the main person talking.

Visual Sequence: it features a series of shots showing the subject or a process in action. To focus attention on action or process, show details of, show progression of action, engage viewer with subject and to facilitate comprehension. Example -a person applying make-up

Montage Sequence: A series of images, usually set to music, that quickly show various aspects of the story. It shows passage of time, provide a glimpse of actions or events not covered in detail, capture viewer interest at beginning of video, sum up story at end, provide a change of pace, add energy.

Natural Sound: It includes ambient sounds of subjects overheard during recording. To enhance sense of reality, capture spontaneous speech of subject in the natural situation, establish the setting or situation, show transition between scenes or locations, provide background sound to narration.

Reference: All material is assembled from the following sites.

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