Lecture in 162MC – What makes a good editor?

The new term started with an inspiring lecture by Pete Woodbridge about editing.

The full lecture notes from the 162MC blog (PPT)

The lecture started off with a Requiem for a Dream trailer:

To be honest, I think the editing in this trailer was a bit too much. Just a little, but too much. It reminded me of how I felt after watching Inception – an interesting idea, but executed with too much machinery, focusing more on the technique than the actual story.
Hm… The trailer did make me think about editing, so point taken.

Pete asked us to list three things about:

What makes a good editor?

  • being analytical
  • understanding people’s psychology and emotions
  • having good technical skills and being experimental

…or at least, that’s what I listed.

He emphasised on:

  • having patience
  • being a good story teller
  • being creative
  • a problem solver
  • good listener
  • a diplomat
  • good project management and organisational skills (all this footage must be kept organised…)
  • geek (too many technical terms and rules to follow – you’d better be one)
  • lateral thinker

If you do want to be an editor, read stories.

From all that the editor’s work involves, three things stand out:

  • the story line
  • the message
  • the argument

If editing is good, we don’t notice it.

One way editing helps tell a story or creates a new point of view is by juxtaposition.

The close placement of two ideas to imply a link that may not exist.

We were then shown scenes from the 2004 film The Cutting Edge. One quote got my attention:

Great editing can protect the director from suicide.
(Sean Penn)

In the beginning, cinema was believed to be ‘an invention without a future’ (Thomas Edison). People used to point the camera at something and just shoot, until they lose interest or until the film ran off. Which doesn’t sound particularly interesting. No one wants to spend their time watching something mundane. But the invention of editing allowed cinema to take off.

Editing became a new art in itself. As such, it introduced a new language.

Today, we are far more media literate than the people 50 or 100 years ago. We understand film language. As Pete Woodbridge pointed out, stories that took a feature film to be told, can today be condensed in the length of a TV ad.

Questions it’s good to consider when analysing the editing of a piece:

  1. What is the narrative function of the sequence?
  2. What emotional response is it trying to achieve?
  3. How does it do this?
  4. What role has the edit played in this?
  5. Could it have been done differently?

An important aspect of editing, amongst all, is rhythm.

In a rhythmic piece, a way to enduce anticipation, is to have complete silence for a few seconds. It can make miracles.

Useful terminology:

  • Cutaways – shots that are relevant (ie showing reactions, or messages in the dialogue)
  • Continuity editing – creating action that flows between shots without jarring.
    Antonym- ‘Errors of Continuity’
  • The cross-cut (cross cutting between scenes). Parrallel Action
  • Jump-cut – a cut that breaks the continuity of time, or the traditional continuity of the edit
  • Montage – seemingly unrelated shots that when combined produce meaning or a series of shots that lead the viewer to a desired meaning)
  • Relational editing – editing shots together to suggest a relation between their ideas
  • Sequence shot – where a whole sequence occupies a single shot
  • Eyeline-match/shot-reverse-shot – Match-Cut. Match on Action

The single most important thing we shouldn’t forget:


Creating suspence; telling/showing the audience something before the character finds it out.

Don’t forget the music.

Workflow for editing:

It’s good to think about the editing WHILE in pre-production and production; editing ideas, other notes, best takes etc.

EDL – Edit Decision List

  • Scene/Shot/Take
  • Tape No./Timecode in/Timecode Out
  • Comments
  • Decisions made

The process of the edit:

  1. Logging Rushes and Deciding on Shots – EDL
  2. Capturing and Digitizing
  3. The Assembly (based on storyboard/script)
  4. The rough cut (reconsideration of the narrative approach/experimentation)
  5. The final cut
  6. Mastering

Cool tip:

Imagine making the piece for someone else (particular person, for example a friend). How will they see / understand / react to it?

Editing is like poetry/music; The editor’s role can often be seen as the one of a composer:

  • flows
  • rhythm
  • beats

Any thoughts?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s