02 Editing

1. Content before form. If a sequence makes sense as regards content, you can basically cut any shot to any other. Never cut two pictures together just because the transition fits well if it doesn´t work on the content side.

2. Kill your darlings. No matter how nice a shot seems to be and how much trouble it took you to get it, if it doesn´t fit with the story it has to go. Do a „paper-edit“: You need to know the sequence of shots before you start editing.

3. Don’t be hopeful. If a shot looks trivial or ugly at the first glance, it will not get better by looking at it five times. The viewer can look only once.

4. Don’t cut. As long a shot conveys the desired information, let it run. The only reason to change a shot is a better view of the scenario, a new information or to get a different psychological angle.

5. Cut on action, if possible. Every movement in the picture conceals the cut, and edits are best when invisible. You should always try to distract the viewer’s attention from the transition.

6. Rhythm before cutting point. Adapt the cutting to the rhythm of the actions. Even if the connection between two pictures doesn´t work perfectly, a good flow eliminates transition problems.

7. Start and finish on action. Cut in when a scene has already started, cut out when it is still “alive”: A door that is half open, a person who has half entered the frame, a car that hasn´t left the frame entirely.

8. Avoid picture jumps. The change of frame size, perspective and picture outline avoids picture jumps and keeps the visual tension. Follow movements beyond the cutting point: Out-going und in-coming shots need the same focal centre.

9. Distinguishing sequences consciously

  • classic: wide-shot for establishing orientation, then getting closer to the centre of attention
  • TV sequence: close-up to create tension, then getting wider
  • descriptive edit: dissecting a building or a person into different individual shots that add up to a whole picture of the motive
  • associative editing: two or more shots together create a new meaning
  • montage / collage: single impressions to music
  • mood-edit: a series of close-ups, often with symbolic meaning, with one wider overview, or a sequence of wider shots (landscapes, buildings) for “epic” storytelling.


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