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Montage editing

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Neil Weaver
Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 2:44:21 pm

Hey all,

Need some advice for a promo I'm editing. It's for a school and the brief is, no surprises, making it look like a brilliant, vibrant, well resourced place to study.

I've got all the elements. 2 days worth of nicely shot rushes, an uplifting soundtrack, some nice title graphics... and yet... It's weird, inspiration just isn't striking on this edit at all.

I think I've worked out why, or at least part of the reason anyway: There's no script for this video, just a message, and the message is quite subliminal. The video has to inspire in the way it's cut - it has to make an emotional connection with the viewer. In a way, it feels as if I'm working without a safety net. If there was a script, voiceover, presentation etc, you'd go 'great, it's talking about x, show pictures of x. It's talking about y, show pictures of y' and so on.

At the moment, my approach is to cut the rushes into sequences - eg, the media students making a TV show, (they've got unbelievable facilities!), or the choir singing. I was then planning on interweaving these sequences with soundbites from the students to tell the story. But I dunno, it just doesn't feel like it's happening yet.

What would you guys do?






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Stephen Smith
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 2:51:26 pm

Can you post what you have so far so we can see it?





Stephen Smith
Lone Peak Productions

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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Neil Weaver
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 3:15:33 pm

Sadly not. I'd be in breach of numerous laws on protection of children and privacy if I put clips online without permission. Plus, I don't really want the school to know I'm having trouble with their edit!

I wanted a big focus during the shoot on the joy of learning, discovery and achievement. As I said in the original post, shotwise, I've got the elements - it's putting them together that's giving me grief!




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Mark Suszko
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 3:49:01 pm

Maybe not helpful... when I was younger, my editing was much more "on the nose". I worked very hard to make cuts hit on a particular beat, with metronomic precision. I find as I age and hopefully get more sophisticated, I don't feel the need to always be so literal anymore, now it is too obvious and predictable = boring. I like to throw a little ambiguity in there, multiple layers of meaning, because it rewards repeat viewing.

As far as more practical suggestions, have you considered working some big-#ss text elements into this, and using text and key phrases on screen in type, either as a repeating element, or as a dividing element? Flying full-screen type with a luma-key thru it to reveal layers underneath, or to wipe between subjects, is one common trick. This works better if you keep the words short and big. What I like about it is you can start with type and text, asking a question or making a statement, then end with a conclusion line and use the video in between and behind this to make your points. The text and video synergize against each other, creating another layer of montage.


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Mike Smith
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 4:22:43 pm

No (plodding) narration to cut to - what a lucky thrill. Don't waste it!

What from your stuff is your "can't miss" footage and story material?
Who says or does anything memorable, even unforgettable? Can you thread those gems into a necklace, a storyline or message full or sparkling best moments ..? What are your very best pieces, for the front and maybe the ending ..?

And of course who is your audience? Prospective kids, their families? What would they want to know, that's true to the spirit of the school? How can you convey that?

Alongside, of course, variety and diversity - can you show a good social racial cultural gender mix, in significant roles, at the school?

Personal preference - make sure there really is something emotional, engaging, moving, some story worth following to hold the piece together. And keep the audio and music track as busy and varied as the visuals. Relying on a single bed rarely has big subject impact - you can end up looking like a budget promo video for the song or music, rather than a luxury promo for the subject. Though of course Night Mail brilliantly contradicts all that with its threaded, poetic voice track ...


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cowcowcowcowcow
Jason Diebler
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 4:45:37 pm

I worked on a very similar "inspirational" video about teaching and learning while I was working at a university not so long ago. Same dilemma, we had images but not much else to work with. We decided to incorporate famous quotes from brilliant minds like Plato, Einstein, etc... the quotes themselves were so inspirational that they carried the piece as much as the imagery.... it also allowed the pacing to be slower and have a nice musical melody to match it. Everything was done in AE and Motion so it wasn't just a slide show, it was motion graphics head-to-toe... I agree with Mike - text or VO could help your piece quite a bit.

"The deepest blues are black" - Foo Fighters
(this doesn't help me when I'm chroma keying!)


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Neil Weaver
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 6:41:22 pm

Hi guys, always good to hear a variety of views on something like this.

There will be some text elements - certainly over the intro that will feed nicely into the school's motto. Mark, I like the sound of your suggestion, although I'm not sure how to achieve it - is there a tutorial or an example you can point me in the direction of? One idea I had was to use Andrew Kramer's streaks tutorial as a 'wipe on' for the text.

The audience is mainly gonna be prospective students - why should they choose this school - and to that end as well, their parents. I find voiceover a bit of a turn off at the best of times, so I'm keeping adult voices out of this completely. Luckily the kids were surprisingly articulate and passionate about the school, so I've got some pretty good stuff from them. Another slight issue though is that the school wants a version that will run mute that they can play on a loop on a screen in their lobby, which means having to find a way to make it cool and interesting with no audio!





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Tim Kolb
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 6:47:17 pm

In these cases, it often helps me to find a piece of music that has the aesthetic and forward motion I'm looking for...and start laying clips on the timeline.

You'd be surprised when you start to see things tied to music cues and movement in the footage...camera movement that would've normally been trimmed, etc.

Oh...and I always construct the end first...best shots, best rhythm...then I'll find an open...somewhere to start...wide shot of the building...maybe a year book lying on a table...something that either represents the overall view of the place, or the starting point of the prospective customer.

Good luck. Sometimes it takes a while, but I've never had a job where the rhythm of the material didn't hit me at SOME point...




TimK,
Director, Consultant
Kolb Productions,


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Mark Suszko
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 8:36:43 pm

Most editors apparently are also musically inclined, so they are more aware of rythms.

As far as a tutorial for the lettering, I don't know one off hand, but I would suggest you build them in Photoshop in a larger size than you think you need, and save with an alpha channel.

This way, you can layer one way using alpha, then if the lettering is white, you can set up a luminance key in Final Cut using the Modify>compositing modes choices. I did this once or twice in some music videos I edited for the Prarie State Games, (a sort of Illinois high school version of the Olympics, on a statewide level). The song they used was "Put your Heart in It", And I had that phrase and part of the chorus; "keep on Believing" in bold Arial type crawling full-screen over black. I set that up as a reverse key so the white letters cut windows to reveal action video underneath. The action, I ran in DMT slow-mo, partly so it would be easier to read the image(s) being seen thru the keyhole of the moving letters.

You should be able to figure out a keying strategey for yourself pretty quickly if you just throw two tracks up on your timeline and play with the different compositing modes to see the results.



As to the silent version: this is going to have to be a completely separate thing, don't try to cut it from the one with sound. Rely on more text, but keep it short and single-pages of text. I like those projects you see done in AE where the virtual camera seems to glide over a vast field of type that's laid out in various patterns and directions. This, combined with your actual video in PIP panels or cropped boxes alongside the text, could look pretty groovy.

(I can say "groovy"; I was born in the 60's, I'm entitled).

If you saw the opening credits for "Napoleon Dynamite", that style may be something to inspire a look for your silent project.



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Stephen Smith
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 11:48:49 pm

[Mark] If you saw the opening credits for "Napoleon Dynamite", that style may be something to inspire a look for your silent project.

Tater tots anyone? Love that movie.




Stephen Smith
Lone Peak Productions

Check out my DVD Money Making Graphics & Effects for Final Cut Studio 2


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grinner hester
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 24, 2009 at 10:11:09 pm

I start by laying my keepers on a timeline and then looking at how much I really have to work with. I then go back and lay out my bites and music to time. I now know how long my finished piece will be and I have it's story down. Then it's just a matter of following or creating that story with b-rool, grafix and layers of love till done.



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Neil Weaver
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 25, 2009 at 9:18:40 am

Napolean Dynamite credits? Damn, we didn't leave enough in the budget for catering!

Thanks for all the suggestions guys. My new tack today is gonna be to start with the soundbites and the soundtrack. Spread out the student voices til they start forming a nicely paced narrative and that should inform which pictures I use and where.

Honestly, editor's block... That's a new one on me!



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Kai Cheong
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 25, 2009 at 3:12:36 pm

I'm with Mike - Wow, no plodding VO with run-on sentences to cramp your style?! Awesome!

Though that doesn't mean it should be without a structure.

To add to the others' suggestions, as you scrub through your rushes, do keep an eye out for interesting expressions, emotions and interactions of the students that might not be part of the supposedly 'good' takes. Probably unrehearsed, natural 'performances' of genuinely happy and relaxed people. Sprinkling some of these shots into your video might be a nice touch.

Not sure what's the style of the rest of the shots, but if the shots you have are a little 'dirty' [with some foreground, slightly free framing etc], it might lend a bit more realism to the message. Personal preference, perhaps.

Have fun with your shots!


Kai
FCP Editor / Producer with Intuitive Films
http://kai-fcp-editor.blogspot.com
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Now 'LIVE'! Check Out The Intuitive Films Blog @ http://intuitive-films.blogspot.com

At Intuitive Films, We Create: TV Commercials, Documentaries, Corporate Videos and Feature Films
Visit us @ http://www.intuitivefilms.com
--
MacBook Pro 2.4GHz | 4GB RAM | FCP 5.1.4 | Mac OS X 10.5.2


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Craig Hirshberg
Re: Montage editing
on Jun 26, 2009 at 6:30:46 pm

I would try to narrow down a theme. What is this school all about? What makes it special? Diversity? Community? Etc. Do a brainstorm session and write down the big words that pop to mind, then pick the most fitting one. Your client could also be involved in this step if you're comfortable enough with that.

Maybe from that a concept will develop, such as the previous post using famous quotes. The concept will drive the inspiration of the edit, the look, pacing and feel, though all decisions must still back up the overall theme.

Giving credit where credit's due: I've learned a lot about theming and concepting from Hillman Curtis's book MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer. He's brilliant! Highly recommend his book for any artist.

Craig



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Leonora Fishbein
Re: Montage editing
on Sep 2, 2009 at 9:49:21 am

I love montage edits because you can be extremely creative with them, especially if the message is subliminal and what you want to do is evoke emotion. What I would do first with this type of piece is pick the right music that will have a good dynamic. The music should have some sort of a build, whether it be in the percussion or arrangement and then organize the images to complement the music making it harmonize. You need to be clear of the message that you will convey though and what type of emotions you want to evoke from the viewer. I would use the rhythm and timing of the music as a guide with your images and always keep timing in mind.

Leonora Fishbein of Melior Media



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