Video editing is more than just sticking different scenes together – it’s an art. Whether you’re creating a Hollywood masterpiece or a home video, the challenge is to take raw footage and transform it into something compelling and watchable, within the limitations of your equipment and budget that is. Sounds impossible? Well, here are some editing aesthetic tips that should help you tell a better story with your video.

Rules Of Editing

The ultimate goal of editing is to create a final product that not only has continuity and seamless edits which go largely unnoticed by the viewer, but is also dramatically effective. However, there are always exceptions, usually governed by artistic reasons. But before you go breaking them, it is important to first understand these rules.

The Basic Rules:

  • Cuts are seamless, so that one shot transitions to the other smoothly without without drawing any unnecessary attention or distractions;

  • Cuts happen at a logical point in the shot, maintaining continuity;

  • Matching action from one shot to the other also creates the illusion of one continuous motion;

  • The sense of screen direction must be maintained so as not to confuse the viewer’s mental map of the scene (left-to-right, or right-to-left patterns must be maintained);

  • The types of shots (wides, mediums, close-ups) should be varied, to create a dynamic sequence

  • The pacing of the shots should also be varied to create moods or atmospheres;

  • The length of the shot is determined by the amount of information it contains. Once this information is conveyed, it’s no longer necessary to linger on the shot.

Motivation Behind The Cut

Behind every cut and edit lies a motivation, which is most often to advance the story, providing new information as it moves forward. When the current shot no longer adds substance to the story, the editor simply cuts to the next shot to show something different. But keep in mind that you should never cut arbitrarily, as there are times where shots are not necessarily needed to get cut. If you are not sure when are the appropriate times to cut, follow the following guide.

It becomes necessary to cut

  • To advance the story;

  • When the shot no longer carries the action;

  • To impart information that is clearer to the audience than in another shot;

  • To see something different;

  • To show how a person thinks or feels.

  • Cut when the shot slows the story down or doesn’t add any crucial information.

Know Your Transitions

During editing, you’ll come across a set of editing tools known as transitions that help you tell a story with your video. Each transition sends the audience a subconscious message about what is happening on screen and by choosing a particular transition that supports the content of your story, you make the video easier for your viewers to follow. Transitions should only occur when motivated by something in the story, and the secret to making great video is learning when and how to use them.

The cut is the simplest of these transitions. On screen, it appears as an instantaneous change from one scene to another, mimicking the way your mind reacts to eye blinks. Each eye blink clears the current mental image, and prepares your mind to process a new one and the cut edit mimics this behavior to present a story to your viewers. Cuts are commonly used in videos because they’re ‘invisible’. Sure, viewers can tell when one scene cuts to another, but it’s less obvious. As such, it is less intrusive aesthetically than other types of transitions and less likely to distract viewers from the content of your video.

Moving on, the dissolve is the most popular electronic transition. The dissolve transition is a gradual blending of two images as they change from one to the other. Dissolves often mark the passage of time, or a change of location. Longer dissolves slow down the pace of the video, and shorter ones will keep it moving quickly. The choice depends on the mood and pace of your project.

Fades are a type of dissolve that typically mark the beginning or end of a scene. In a video, fading “up” from black to a title or image often marks the beginning of a sequence. Fading “down” to black from a scene commonly signals the end of the sequence.

Another popular transition is wipes, which are animated geometric patterns that work as visual transitions that “pushes” the other image off the screen to get from scene to scene. These patterns may be simple horizontal, vertical or diagonal lines; or more complex like stars, hearts among others. Wipes signify the end of a segment and a complete transition to a new time, place or concept.

Your set of editing tools is not limited to just cuts, dissolves, fades and wipes; but also includes slides, squeezes, zooms, page turns, strobe and mosaic, to name just a few. Each can have a pronounced visual impact on your story. If you choose a transition that rightly fits the mood and pace of your story, it can add just the right amount of spice.

Use Visual Information To Determine Length Of Shots

When putting your shots together, you’ll notice that each shot contains visual information, and this is what determines how long each shot should be held on the screen. For example, wide shots contain more information than close-ups, so wide shots are generally on the screen longer. Thus, the more information there is in the shot, the longer it should be held on the screen, giving viewers the chance to take in all the information before moving on to the next scene. Although there isn’t an absolute guideline to how long each shot should be, here are some guidelines for making this edit decision:

  • The more information in the shot, the longer it should be held on screen;

  • Moving shots are held up longer than static shots;

  • The shot is held longer the first time it is used than when it gets repeated;

  • Shots in a sequence should never be the same length.

It’s no secret that visual effects can help enhance your videos, but keep in mind that all the transitions and other special effects leave a mark on your video, and in the mind of your viewers. So use them sparingly to accent particular moments or events when needed, and you’ll have a video that is not only entertaining and engaging, but also professional looking.

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