11 Feb 2024

Piecing Your Story Together: The Important Role of Editing

Day One Hāpai te Haeata

In filmmaking, editing plays an important role in transforming raw footage into powerful storytelling.

Editing can shape the story, pacing, and emotional impact of a film. It can tell you important things about a character. Think of raw footage as the materials you are working with and editing as how those materials are pieced together to present a final product. Often thought about in pre-production, editing is the invisible hand that guides the audience through the intricacies of the storyline that you and your team are trying to convey.

There are a number of considerations when it comes to editing. If you consider editing in the storyboarding stage, there may be less need for editing software. Considering your access to software can be a guideline in and of itself. Once you are aware of the capabilities of editing, you will be able to use it to craft your own stories.

We have put together some tips for filmmakers that would benefit all different levels of filmmaking experience. From file management to understanding basic terms, once you get the hang of it, editing will likely be your new favourite creative tool.

9 Things to know.

1. Learn the terminology

We’ve got a glossary at the end of this guide just for this! Try to watch your favourite film and spot a cutaway or a jump cut! Learn about the different types of shots and how they contribute to your story.

2. Look at Editing Examples

Once you recognise editing in action, whether it be good, bad or anything in-between, you will be able to see what works and what doesn’t, and apply this to your own work.

3. Think about your post-production editing software

Whether you are creating films on your phone or using a professional camera, thinking about where you will be editing the footage may guide you when filming. You can consider elements such as lighting, background sound, hand-held or tripod, there are so many possibilities. You can also utilise voiceovers, sound design and colour correction in post-production.

4. Collaborate and Seek Feedback

Film editing is often a collaborative process. Don’t be afraid to seek feedback from your peers or mentors. Often an extra pair of eyes might be able to pick up on things that you can’t in that moment.

5. Save Your Work

Save your work regularly! Make sure you have a copy of all the footage saved in at least one additional place (a different computer or an external hard drive).

6. Stay Organised

This one is important. If you start doing this early on, you’ll ideally never lose any of your work! Organise the files into different sections in a way that if you are working with anyone else that they will be able to find things easily. Colour-coding parts of the story and using markers can help.

7. Take Notes

When copying the footage into the editing software, make notes as you go! Take notes about each clip while you are filming, so you can easily find the right bits when editing.

8. Let Things Go

Cut out bits that aren’t needed - no matter how much you loved them at the start! (If you’re unsure, save a copy of the previous stage!).

9. Practice Keeping it Short

You want to keep the audience engaged and entertained! Try to make the scenes as short and snappy as possible while still telling the story. Watch how other films manage this and try to mimic their style until you get the hang of it.

The key to mastering film editing is practice. Edit a variety of projects, experiment with different styles, watch how other people use editing as a tool and learn from your mates! Editing is everywhere, in everything from TikTok, Instagram and YouTube to award-winning television shows and films. Once you learn how to master it, you’ll be empowered to create incredibly imaginative works with ease.

Editing Glossary

Match Cut
When something matches from the shot you are cutting from to the shot you are cutting to. The same prop, or action but in a different place.

180 Degree Rule
The imaginary line that passes from side to side through the main actors, defining the space and layout of the scene. The camera is not supposed to cross the line otherwise it looks like people are suddenly facing a different direction.

Jump Cut
Cutting through the same shot to get through the action quicker, for example someone walking down a road, you jump cut through different parts of the walk to get the person from A to B faster.

A shot of something else in the scene that is not the main action, but informs the story in some way.

Insert Shot
A shot, containing visual detail that is inserted into a scene for informational purposes or to provide dramatic emphasis.

Compressing a long amount of time into a short clip by making it go very fast. Usually done by taking a photo every few seconds and then turning that into a video.

That the shots when cut together look like a ‘continuous moment’ for example no jarring changes like the lighting, their costume/hair or where things are in the room.

Eyeline match
When two characters are supposed to be looking at each other in a scene, where they are looking needs to match where the other character's eyes are, this is called an eyeline.

Cutting together lots of different things to quickly show a lot of story. I.e. Someone trying on lots of outfits or getting ready for a mission.

Rough Cut
The first edit where all the shots are placed together in a timeline but hasn’t been refined yet.

Shot Reverse Shot
Cutting from one shot, to what is opposite in space and then back to them e.g. a conversation between two people.

Cutting on Action
Editing between two different takes can be seamless when you cut during an action, when someone stands or moves this also gives the shot a reason to cut.

Transitions are ways to go from one shot to another, the simplest is the straight cut, but you can also fade to black and then fade into the next shot, or cross dissolve and many other transitions. Try playing around with transitions on the iMovie software.

Aspect Ratio
This is the shape of the frame of the finished film, usually a rectangle, this is represented by a ratio of the short length to the long length e.g. 16:9 or 4:3. This is important to know because you might want to consider what you are using to film and how much of the frame (what’s in the camera view) you need to capture.

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