How 2 Edit Your Movie

There are loads of textbooks on everything we cover in How 2 Make A Movie and editing is no exception. There is a great skill in pacing a movie and timing good edits. Laurel and Hardy films owe a lot to editing because while Oliver Hardy was out on the golf course enjoying his passion, Stan Laurel was in the editing suite fine tuning the edit of each of their films.

Timing is the key and you need to have decided what sort of film you're making because that could change in the editing suite. Watch the Matrix and see how each shot lasts just a few seconds. Then watch David Lean's masterpiece 'Lawrence of Arabia' and see how long shots in the desert are swapped for fast cuts in the battles.

Each shot needs to be long enough for the audience to assimilate the information it contains to tell the story. It is also short enough that it doesn't affect the following shot and maintains the pace of the sequence.

In a dialogue sequence, do you stay on the speaker or cut early to a reaction shot from the listener? It depends what tells the story best. If the reaction is important or comical, include it.

Ideally, you'll be working with someone who is experienced at editing but you might not so when editing, some of the key things to consider are:

  • Pace sequences similarly - fast for action, medium for story-telling, slow for atmosphere and landscapes etc
  • Cut to the important thing if it helps tell the story or adds humor etc.
  • Cut away from the important thing if it adds suspense not to see it
  • Editing helps the audience keep track of where everyone and everything is in the scene so try to avoid introducing problems like crossing the line in the edit
  • Remember you're editing the sound as well
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