The biggest challenge of a video editor is to make the editing unnoticeable. cutting on the action is one way to do that. That is why it’s the first thing they will teach you in each video editing course out there. In this post, I will teach you everything you need to know about cutting on action from the shooting stage and to the editing.
Cutting on the action definition
Cutting on the action is a cut that is done in the middle of an action. The shot changes to a different angle when the character that the viewer has most focus on is in a middle of an action.
The advantages of cutting on action
As a video editor, your first job when cutting is to look for the action. This is a great technique to create an unnoticeable cut because the audience is too distracted by the action to notice the cut. Cutting on the action also helps to draw the audience into the story. For example, you can have a character typing on the computer and while he types, we cut to his fingers. Another advantage to the Cut on action is that it’s the perfect seamless continuity technique. Even if you’ll shoot each angle in a different location, it is most likely that the audience won’t notice that.
Planning the cut on action in shooting
It is the director and the cinematographer’s job to make sure the two shots are shot in a way that will be easy to connect the shots. On our typing example, the actor will have to do the action twice at each angle and at both times, he’ll have to type the same way. The most important element to pay attention to is that the two shots will be shot with a direction distance of at least 30 – degree from each other. Sometimes you can do cut on the action without changing direction, but it requires the right plannings.
The most important element to pay attention to is that the two shots will be shot with a direction distance of at least 30 – degree from each other. Sometimes you can do cut on the action without changing direction, but it requires the right planning.
When to do the cut
Some video editors like to debate about when it’s the right time to cut- at the beginning of an action, the middle or towards the end. Some claim that if you cut in the beginning of a cut, then you leave the viewer with a long shot until the next cut. Others will claim that cutting towards the end of the action will be too late and the viewer will already be bored.
I wouldn’t suggest to limit yourself with any rules about it. Simply try different cuts and see when it work best. With time, you’ll develop the sense that will help you understand the right timing for the cut, but basically, you should find a spot where the action looks the same at both shots.
Finding a system to organised your video editing files should be the first thing you do after opening your video editor software. It doesn’t matter what video editing software you are using – movie maker, Avid or Premier, every video editor knows that organising video and footage should be done even before capturing or importing the material.
Finding the strategy to organised your clips will make you work a lot better and faster. If you are working on very small projects right now, you might not see the need for organized files, but you should build the habit of organized work, so you won’t be in shock when big projects will come along.
Here are some organizing tips to get started:
Working With Tapes & SD cards
If you are working with tapes, you should start by giving them names (actually, it was the cinematographer’s job, but it’s your job to make sure he did it and that the names are clear enough for you). These tapes (or SD cards) are what you are getting from the field, so it’s very important to give them the attention they need. When you will start capturing the tapes, you will write the name of each tape you are recording on, so later on when you will need to re-capture everything (maybe to capture again in better quality or maybe just because the media files got lost), you will not have a problem.
Managing & organizing the clips
The clips will be named after the scene’s number, the shot’s number and the take’s number, so it can be something like 05-06-03, which means scene 5 – shot 6 – take 3. Keep the names short.
If you already know the material, most video editing software (like Avid) will give you the option to color the clips in a different color like green for good takes and red color for bad takes. Now I’m going to make a folder called RAW MATERIALS and to put all the bins inside it.
Now you need to decide how you want to capture/Import the materials into the bins. Personally, I like to organize the bins first by the days of shooting. For example, If I have 3 tapes on shooting day 1, they will all be placed in the “Day 1” bin. All the tapes of the next shooting day will be placed on the “Day 2” bin and etc.
After I will finish all the capturing/importing, I’ll usually make another folder called “Editor” or “Work” and then I’ll copy all of the clips to new bins which will be organized by scenes. Later on, you’ll also have to make a bin for graphics, audio and everything else that is not your video files. If you want, you can also make a bin for bloopers or behind the scenes shots.
Another tip is to give numbers to your folders, for example, 01_Media, 02_Audio,03_GFX and etc. That way the video editing software will organize the folders in the order you want them to be. It is also recommended to have a bin called Master or Current Edit, and to put in it the last version of the edited sequence.
No matter what strategy, you choose, you must be consistent with it. If something doesn’t work for you, you can change it, but make sure you are changing all the material. I would love to hear how you are managing you video & footage in your video editing software, so you can answer me in the comment section.
The art of editing is divided into 2 schools – those who claim video editing should be noticed and those who claim the complete opposite. Most film today try their best to keep continuity going and to draw less attention to the editing as possible.
Making the continuity possible is, first of all, the production’s job, but if they failed to do so, it is the editor that will have to fix it. In this article, I will introduce you to some awesome continuity editing techniques.
continuity editing the definition
Films are rarely shot in the order of the script. Even inside the scene the order of the shooting is determent by locations limitations, actor’s schedule etc. (you can read about the factors of production schedule here) continuity is a system the filmmakers use to keep things consistent between two shots that will be edited together. The elements that usually can break continuity are such as lighting, character’s movements, sounds, backgrounds and object placements, It’s something that is very hard to pay attention to and even in blockbuster films you can see mistakes like that.
Continuity in lighting means that the colors in the frames are the same in every shot. Sometimes the director might shoot a dialog where the close-ups in it were shot in two different places. I mean each character were shot in a different place. The element that can break our continuity here is most likely to be exposure and lighting of the shots – They should be the same. The editor’s job is to do whatever it takes, to help them look as if they are talking to each other. In this case, the editor might need to do some color correction to fix the continuity problem. That is usually done by the extremely skilled colorist.
Continuity in objects
Here is an example of a very common mistake, when one of the characters is smoking a cigar and the size of the cigar changes on the different take (first it’s long, then it’s short and then long again).
Or let’s say an actor is holding a glass on the right hand and on the next take he is holding it in the left hand. In this case, there isn’t much the editor can do to fix it but simply choosing a different shot, but if the best take is the one that the actor is holding the glass on the different hand, I would say – use that. If the actorr performance is good enough, the discontinuity would not be noticed. In the movie Pulp fiction, there is a scene where John Travolta needs to stick a needle in Uma Thurman’s chest. On the close up of the chest, there is a red mark, but when she gets up with the needle in her chest, the red mark is gone. The scene is so full of energy and actors give such a great performance that it is not noticeable.
continuity editing techniques
The first thing you need to do before editing a scene is to go through all of the material and see if there are shot that might cause a problem. See also if there is are a solution you can give them. For example, if a character is facing right and on the next shot it is facing left, you can fix it with a flop effect (an effect that changes a direction of the frame). If there is a discontinuity in the action of the actor or in an object in the scene, a good solution can also be putting the third shot in between the problematic two if it’s possible.
Make it a ritual before starting to edit a scene to look for discontinuity possibilities and when you finish editing the scene, look for it again.
After all of that, I recommend watching Jean-Luc Goddard’s film, Band -a- part, Where he introduce to the world of cinema a new kind of editing possibilities by creating obvious jump cuts and discontinuity. He did that for political reasons to claim, that when you watch a movie, you should be aware that it is just a movie, so you won’t be manipulated so easy. Today jump cuts can appear in the mainstream films, but only if it serves the premise of the film.
The digital video editing process is divided into several stages. Many people considered this part as a very simple one (simply plug shots together like Lego), but this is a mistake that hurts lots of beginners filmmakers. Digital video editing is one of the most important steps in the film production. It is basically writing the final script of the film.
so here are all the stages, you need to go through when getting into the editing room:
Watching the raw material
All of the digital video editing processes starts with watching the materials from beginning to the end. This is usually done by the director, and the video editor and sometimes the producer too. While watching they will decide what the video editor should and shouldn’t sample and they will also start to have an idea as for how the film should look like. Many productions have a thing called “Dailies” which is a meeting of all the lead production members to watch the raw material of what they shot that day. Some video editor like to participate on that, so they won’t have to watch all of it together at once. Sometimes you might get notes about the shootings.
It is advisable to watch the material by the order it was shot since it can help you to see how the scenes were developed and to understand the director mindset. At this point, you should start to have an idea as for how the film should look like. Pay attention to the shots and performances that are really doing something for you and write them down.
The next digital video editing step will be a sampling all of the selected materials. Which means capturing the material into the editing software. If you still live in the 90’s and your materials were taken from Mini DV tapes, it is customary to capture the materials with a special video for this kind of tapes. You can also capture from a mini-DV camera, but is not recommended for the camera to agree with that ;-). The sampling operation is made simpler when working with files, although sometimes your editing program will ask you to convert the files before starting.
Organize your material
The video editor has to deal with a large amount of raw material. Usually, he will make one minute of film from every few hours of material, so it’s very important to work in an orderly and organized manner. The sampling stage is the stage to organize your material. The organization of the material is very important and will help you to analyze your material and to work more effective. You can read more about it at my post on Organizing Video & Footage in Your Video Editing Software
Connecting the best raw material segments together into one very long movie without any real editing. The video editor can work with a shooting script or a storyboard as a guideline. It is also possible to insert clips that you are unsure about them. The aim is mainly to arrange the raw materials in the chronicle order of the film while reducing them as much as possible. When you’ll finish the assembly, you might find that the pace of every scene is very different from each other. At this point it’s OK.
In most cases, you will want to start from the beginning of the film, but sometimes it might work best to start from the middle and then connect all the scenes together.
The rough cut stage is when you start thinking about the story. The director and the editor are required to make large artistic decisions for the film and to built the foundation of the director’s vision. The rough cut is shown to the producer and everyone that can contribute to the shaping of the overall editing. The cuts are still not perfect, but the general idea of how the film is going to look like is presented.
At this point, the film has been shortened to a final length. The director and the video editor have been tightening all the cuts, the dialogs, the pace of the film and so on. It’s still not the final cut completely, there are still some scenes that might be deleted, but it is the closest you can get to final cut, before sending it to sound design and color correction. After these stages there are several additional steps that the film has to go through in order to reach perfection:
1. sound design– Today video editors can perform many repairs to the film’s sound, but they are still limited, so you should send the film to sound designers for best results. 2. Color-correction -The basic color corrections is increasing the contrast of the black and white colors and highlighting the image or change the dominant colors in the movie. As long as you need basic things, the video editor can help you, but it is a profession by itself and should go to someone who specializes in color correction and also has the right equipment for it.
Personally, I recommend that the video editor should also be at least in one meeting of the pre- production stage. That way he can prevent choices that might make trouble when coming to the editing room, and explain what he needs to create the atmosphere the film director needs.
When you ask experienced video editors, how they know when to cut a shot, they will answer, that they just feel it. There is some truth in that, but here are some tips that will help you to “feel” the right time to cut a shot.
These are very technical and simple tips, that will make your editing a lot better, and will lessen the amount of what is known as “Jump cut” – when 2 shots are not cutting smoothly.
So here we go:
Know your digital video editing software
Become familiar with your video editing software. Know it’s tricks! The goal is not only to know how to cut the shots together but to do it in an easy and fast way and to be able to solve any problem you encounter with the footage you get. Knowledge of the editing software tools will help you do just that.
You can read more about continuity in the article – Continuity editing. but for now, what you need to know is that I’m talking about continuity between the shot and the one after it. For example lets say we connect a shot where the character lit a candle and then on the next shot he is holding the candle when it’s already half melted. This may jump to the eye of the viewer. Now: It may look like something that you can’t fix as an editor. They should have paid more attention in the shooting, right? Well…wrong. As a video editor, you will be expected to fix stuff like that and sometimes there are ways to do that. In our example, if you must connect the whole candle shot with the shot where the candle has been melted, try to push as many shots between them as possible, maybe some extreme close-ups on the faces or the hands so that the-the viewer will forget the size of the original candle. Sometimes it will be the small changes that the viewer will not notice right away, but he will feel something is wrong and won’t know why. take a look at the first clip of this Mistakes In Movies – Pulp Fiction mix uploaded by UnusualVisual.
A great trick in digital video editing to soften the cuts is cut in action, but it should be planned during shooting. Cut in action means to cut a shot in the middle of an action, and to continue the action in a different angle. If a character gets up from the chair, we can shoot him starts to get up from a long shot angle and then continues on another angle maybe a closer one. For this to work the character has to perform the action at any angle in the same manner and the two angles should be at a difference angle of at least 30 degrees in their direction.
The 30 degrees Law
I’ve talked about it in the article Basic camera angles & movements in film, but I’ll repeat it here quick. do not try to connect two different angles If their positions are less than 30 degrees from one another, it will not work. Even if it’s from Close-Up to Longshot. They just look too much alike.
Let The Character in
another nice trick is to start on an empty frame and let the character enter into the frame. Also, if there is a character in the frame that walks out, you should let her out completely until you move to the next shot
Cutting in the middle of camera movement
If for example the camera Tilts UP or turned in a Pan, let her finish the movement and even wait for half a second after she finishes. Do not cut it in the middle of the movement! The same when entering a shot with camera movement. You should start it about half a second before the start of the camera movement.
Finish the action
Let the actor finish the action before cutting to the next shot. Unless you make what is called “cut in action” (we’ll talk about it soon). When we cut in the middle of an operation, we feel that something is wrong with the connection of the shots. That is because usually the actor doesn’t do the action exactly the same way in the two takes taken from the two different shots.
Look at the actor’s eyes
The next tip required some emotion in it. It’s not a law you can follow blinly without feeling it yourself. This is a tip I got from a book called In The Blink Of An Eye, a very recommended book by Walter Murch, an academy award winning film editor. The trick here is simply to look at the actor’s eye to understand when he finished to deliver his emotion. This kinkind of cutting by bits. When you see the actor change his eye direction or maybe even blink, it can be a good time to cut. You’ll be amazed as to how emotions can be expressed by simply blinking.
Now this is the most important rule:
Provide more information
A shot always has to provide more Information. if the next shot will not provide any new information, so why did you cut to it? The video editor should always ask himself, what the audience need to see right now and what will he want to see next?
You’ll have to remember that these rules are for smooth classic video editing. sometimes that is not what the scene needs, but even when you want to to bring a jumpy atmosphere to the scene, You should know these rules so you can break them:
Please watch what we’ve talked about in this fight scene from Raging Bull:
There is is no shortage today in video editing software that are free, cheap or expensive and While in the past video editing was reserved only for professionals, today the possibility to become a video editor is actually open to everyone.
I would like to review some of the important features that your video editing software should have. When you start looking for your video editing software, you should go through these options, so you can make a better and faster editing.
“When I started editing on my home computer, I said to myself, ‘Well, I could be at home studying for a class or I could be at home editing a video”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt quotes
Free or paid video editing software
Well, the first thing you need to consider is if you want to get a free software or to pay for one. Of course, every body will prefer a free software, but you have to remember that free software is coming with a price. The free video editing software, usually, comes with a limited set of features and are used mainly for home videos. You have to understand your needs. If you are working on a very small production, this software might be great for you.
The features you should check while choosing video editing software
video editing software must no. 1: Re-size picture to feet your needs
The most basic tool in any video editing software. The intention is the possibility to change the size and proportions of the image. Most programs allow you to do it quite easily. The problem is usually when making the picture bigger. In most of the amateur software, making the picture bigger will hurt the quality of the video. You should check how your editing software deals with that challenge.
video editing software must no. 2: Volume Control
Every basic video editing software will give you the option to increase or decrease the volume. And the more complex ones will give you… well, more complex options like distorted the sound or to control the sound with the equalizer.
video editing software must no. 3: Work with layers
The ability to combine two or more audio channels or several channels of video in the film. This is also a basic feature that should be in every video editing software. When you work on your video, you might want to add titles, effects, alpha graphics and more. On a big project, you can easily find your self with 5 doe layers and at least 6 audio tracks, so you should want to be able as much lat=yers as you need.
video editing software must no. 4: Work with Key Frames to make complex effects (and not so complex ones)
This is a very important concept in editing. It allows you to play with the effects and create properties that change along the shot. You can put several keyframes on the effect and every keyframe will have its own properties and that’s how the effect will change during the shot.
video editing software must no. 5: Fix picture with color corrections
The basic software will let you highlight a picture, play with the contrast and adjust the color controls in the picture. In the more complex ones you will have the option to choose the areas, you want to color in the picture. You have to remember that no matter how high quality the material is, it is most likely that you will need at least a basic color correction, so it’s an important element. There are software programs (such as Avid and After Effects) that measure the amount of color in an image and they can tell you if the picture has too much of one color and not enough of the other.
video editing software must no. 6: Find out what kind of formats does the software accepts
One of the frustrating things about working in the digital age is the multitude of files. The problem is that any editing system absorbs different kinds of files. The video editing system should communicate with as many files as possible – You should also check what kind of files it exports and their quality. If you need to work with HD files, make sure your video editing software is working well with them.
Here some more things to consider when buying a video editing software:
What kind of computer you have?
How much Ram and CPU does your editing software needs? This will determine how fast the software will work. You have to remember that you can always add RAM to your computer. So you should pay attention that your computer meets the conditions required.
How professional do you need to get
As I said there are a lot of video editing programs. If your goal is to make something small or simple editing from time to time, you can use software like IMovie (Mac) or Windows Movie Maker (Windows). This software is good for editing trips and holiday videos. For these who want to become most professional- Premiere, Final Cut, and Avid. If you’re serious about becoming a professional editor, you may want to take classes in the software you are learning. There are plenty of tutorials on YouTube, but nothing replaces a tutor or courses.
Big Tip: Good editing is built on your habits
and if you’ll learn by yourself, you can create yourself a bad work habits
right from the start.
Take a look at the professional video editing software
The three most professional video editing software in the market right now are: Avid, Premier, and Final cut. A final cut is a great software for beginners. Its only disadvantage is that it works only on Apple’s Mac computers. If you are planning to become a professional video editor, I also recommend starting with Avid. Why Avid? For the same reason that when I wanted to learn guitar, they told me to start with a classic guitar: If you master the Avid, you can learn fast to control any other software, but here is more: Most broadcast work with that software, mostly because it can handle very large and complicated projects. It is a very stable software and I think she manages the media files in the best way than the other two. It is also the best software to work if you are sharing the same project with other editors.
It will probably take you some time to learn it and to get the hang of it, but once you do, it will be worthwhile it. Another disadvantage is that it is an expensive software. The thing I like most about Avid is that it forces you to work in an orderly manner and to know what you want to plan ahead.
On the other, hand if you are planning to use lots of graphics then Premier or Final Cut are more recommended. Premier’s clear advantage is the perfect orientation with other Adobe software like After effects and Photo Shop. Eventually, all the video editors have the software, So I do recommend playing with all of them and see what works best for you.