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What Is Film Editing?
Editing one of the most crucial elements of post-production. It’s easy to think of film editing as the mere execution of certain video editing techniques: cutaways, crosscutting, parallel editing, continuity editing, match cuts, and so on. Instead, think of film editing as a time to learn more about the story you’re telling and flex your personal editing style. Editing is a lengthy process that spans many rounds of shaping, refining, and fine-tuning. Today, there is a lot of video editing software that makes the film editing process run smoothly, including Avid, Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, and Magix Movie Edit Pro.
Jodie Foster’s 5 Film Editing Tips
You don't have to be a professional film editor to cut a movie or short film, but if you're not quite sure where to begin, Jodie Foster's video editing tips should help put you on the path to success.
- Start with the characters. A simple film editing technique is to look at the scene from the perspective of the characters. Jodie asks herself, "Who are they? Who are they in this moment? What are they feeling? And how do I want to feel through them and through their bodies?" Then, think about which character's point of view you want to reflect in the edit.
- Treat the editing process as a series of revisions. “The way the editing process works is very similar to the way the rewriting process works,” Jodie says. At the beginning of the editing process, the video editor creates an assembly, followed by a rough cut. The first viewing can feel vulnerable and discouraging, but this is part of the process. As you edit, you’ll break down the footage and chip away at individual scenes. Maybe you need to add a b-roll cutaway to spice up a dialogue scene, remove an awkward jump cut from an action scene, trim unnecessary pauses throughout the film, add additional establishing shots, or include a two shot of the main characters to ensure eyeline match. The first cut is only a starting point, and you'll continue working to make your motion picture more meaningful via addition and subtraction.
- Follow the emotion of the scene. "Start asking yourself questions about why you like that line reading better than the other line reading, or what that performance is telling you that the other performance wasn't telling you,” Jodie says. If you can understand why a certain performance works for you, you’ll be able to tap into the emotional core of the scene. Once you’ve made sense of the scene on an emotional level, you'll be able to choose camera angles and different types of cuts that express that feeling, toggling between close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots.
- Be willing to make sacrifices. “In the best possible world, you end the process feeling like you made exactly the film that you were hoping to make,” Jodie says, but she notes that this can’t always be the case. Finishing the edit can be painful, and you may have to sacrifice parts of your original vision. (Maybe that meticulously planned match cut is too distracting, or cross-cutting between different scenes is more effective than an impressive long take.) Sacrifice is part of filmmaking, and sometimes you'll need to deviate from your original vision to make the film better.
- Screen the rough cut for people you trust. “I've learned that I don't want my friends to be the first screening,” Jodies says. “I prefer it to be a stranger who's in the film business and who's able to quietly take you aside and be supportive and say, I don't know, I think the pacing might be off in this section.” Invite anyone you know who can give you honest feedback. Listen carefully to your writer and your editor friends. They will be the most helpful in telling you where your problems are, how to fix them, and maybe even how to turn them into strengths.
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