How to master film editing: Guide to film editing techniques

Editors determine how the audience receives information. Editing is both a technical and creative skill and editors make choices that can make or break the film’s narrative. Creative film editing can also intensify emotions around the storyline. Here are a few video editing techniques that can refine the pace, emotion and continuity of your movie.

A montage combines a series of shots or clips to communicate a large amount of information over a short span of time. This is done by juxtaposing shots, compressing time through editing or combining different storylines. Montages are usually done over music, sometimes with no or little dialogue, using supers or a voiceover narration. Examples of a montage include showing a character growing up, the training of an athlete or the morning routine of a character.

Note: Cut out footage that slows down the pace. For example, consider if it is necessary to show a character taking an entire flight of stairs or two characters having a full-length conversation that doesn’t have relevance to the narrative’s theme.

Motivated cut
Motivated editing is cutting a scene to another scene or subject which was previously not in the frame. For instance, in the first shot, we see a character’s eyes widening at a subject that is off-screen or not yet in the frame. In the next shot, we see the unexpected guest. This is how we get the impression that the character was surprised to see the guest.

Note: Hide the cuts with regular movements of your characters or objects to ease the transitions between two shots.

Parallel editing
Also called cross-cutting, parallel editing is used to show a relationship or comparison between two or more related actions or narratives that are occurring at the same time in two different locations or two different periods. You can cut back and forth between different scenarios, especially during tense or climactic moments, this is a highly effective technique.

J and L cuts
A J cut is using the audio from the next scene while the video of an on-going shot is still playing.
While an L cut is when the audio from the present scene continues in the next scene/shot. The name J and L cut come from the format in which clips line up in film editing software.
Note: Avoid cutting video and audio at the same time. For example, if a character finishes a dialogue and you cut the video to the next character, then the audience might notice the cut. For this purpose, make use of the J and L cuts from the types of film cuts.

Jump cut
One of the more exciting visual effects among the quick cuts in film is the jump cut. It is the transition between two shots in a sudden manner without much change in the camera angle. For example, it is used to show a change of location or time in a particular shot. This technique has seen an explosion of popularity on the internet as well (in vlogs and YouTube videos).
Note: Some filmmakers believe jump cuts should be avoided because they draw attention to the constructed and edited nature of a movie.

Cutaway shots
Cutaways are those shots that take the viewers away from the main action or character. The purpose is to maintain the fluidity of the scene, build tension or to give additional information. As a filmmaker, it is always important to shoot such shots because it gives the editor a chance to not just be creative, but also to fix any errors in continuity.

You may want to use cutaway shots to get inside a character’s head (show what they are thinking) or daydreaming of. It can also give a hint into what they are feeling at that point.

Match cut
Among the advanced video editing techniques, match cuts involve a transition between two shots that is matched by using similar actions, subjects, or even dialogue. They are different from regular cuts because they provide a thematic connection between two separate concepts or events. Match cuts can be graphic (shapes, colours, compositions), action cuts (action, movement) or sound bridges (dialogue, sound effects, music). With a little pre-planning and some good execution in post-production, they can be used to elevate your scene to another level.

Fade in or out
Fade in or out is when a shot slowly turns into colour, usually black, while appearing or disappearing on the screen. This is similar to the video editing term – dissolve.
Like fade in/out, dissolve is gradually changing the visibility of the scene. But instead of changing colour, dissolve focuses on progressively changing imagery of a shot to another shot. For example, a shot of a character narrating his story and then dissolving the scene to the visual events of his story.

Invisible cut
An invisible cut is one of the types of video transitions that is made when two or more shots are assembled in a way where the result looks like a single shot altogether. The goal is to hide the cut or transition or to make multiple shots look like one continuous shot.

Consider re-editing scenes from your favourite movies to practise these techniques and sharpen your editing skills. Don’t forget to select the right film editing software for you. The best way to choose a software is to check out its cheat sheet for keyboard shortcuts ⬅ Click Here

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