Friday, May 2, 2008

Some Points on Editing

I've been thinking about a certain anonymous friend's video project(s) lately. Particularly, the criticisms I made of it and more importantly, her defenses of it. Having seen varying degrees of mediocrity in video making since my freshman year of high school, I feel it is necessary to begin laying down some personal beliefs about editing, and student video in general.

1. "Style" is not a valid excuse for mediocrity.
I believe one David St. Hubbins put it best: "Such a fine line... between clever and stupid." Simple is a style. Weird is a style. Even sloppy, when done with intention and control, is a form of style. However, making something with no apparent sense of composition, progression, or focus, not to mention hard to watch, is not "going for a style". That is what I call "dicking around with a camera and Final Cut".
2. Music is not a valid substitute for rhythm.
Just because you set a video to a fast song does not necessarily make the video fast-paced. If the action on the video is not similarly paced, and the editing seems to have no sense of rhythm, you're just adding a song. If you're going to add music to a video, one needs to compliment the other. The music needs to emphasize the rhythm of the editing, not try to create it.
3. Just because you can do something, doesn't mean you necessarily should.
Chroma-keying can do amazing things for a video. Split-screen can tell a story in ways that no other technique can. Slow-motion has been a staple of film-making since the invention of film. But these are all things terribly prone to abuse. If there's a simpler, less distracting way to get something across, DO IT. If you can do what you want with cover shots instead of chroma-keying, go for cover shots. Similarly, if you don't need to use a cover shot for the audience to understand something, don't bother. Cover shots should be used for:
a) Covering up cuts in an interview
b) Illustrating a point where words don't suffice
People seem to be under the impression that if they use some cool technique that's somewhat more difficult to do than a cut or dissolve, that makes them a better editor. Being a good editor is knowing when to use certain tools, not how. Which brings me to my last point of the night:
4. Fast editing does not equal good editing.
People think, because music videos and other flashy things use a ton of quick cuts, that the more and faster cuts you use in a video, the better you are at editing. Any asshole with iMovie or Final Cut or Adobe Premiere can cut a lot of short pieces together. This essentially goes back to point 2, which is that "fast" does not equal rhythm. If you're going to have a seizure-inducing series of one-frame long cuts, you better damn well be trying to induce seizures.

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