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Length of cuts when editing a conference

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Jonathan Vincent
Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 7, 2012 at 10:34:10 pm

I am editing a conference and there are two cameras. I do not know how long I should linger on one camera. I was always taught to cut every 5 seconds but this just does not seem the case for a simple conference. I was thinking maybe over 30 sec or every 5 min even. what does creative COW think?


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Shane Ross
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 8, 2012 at 12:52:05 am

Go by instinct. Does it seem long to you? If so, switch angles. Does the speaker change thoughts? change the angle. All cuts, even on conferences, need to be motivated by something. A change in thought, going in for a CU because the speaking is saying something important. Or even just "I think I've been on this shot too long...I'm getting bored, I'll change the angle."

A good editor has good instincts.

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Bill Davis
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 8, 2012 at 3:51:10 am

I couldn't agree with Shane more.

In the early part of my career, I spent a few years as the house videographers for the National Speakers Association - taping literally hundreds of professional speakers, including many of the finest in the land.

A true quality professional speaker typically needs minimal editing since their cadence, their command of their subjects and the constant practice and refinement they undergo leaves them understanding really well how to captivate and hold a crowds attention. So for one of those folks, I could simply keep the camera on them and let their polish and content do the work with hardly any edits.

If the presenter is less polished, the editor has to work harder to cut out digressions, lost trains of thought, and reiterations.

One trick I used way back when I was learning how to edit spoken content (back when I had the luxury of time!) was to turn off the picture and simply MARK your edits on the content as a sound track. That tends to reveal any structural problems without the distraction of judging video. Then watch those same edit points with the video - noting what you marked in the soundtrack. Often the visual content will remove the need for the audio edit. If not, you've revealed something with both weak audio and without redeeming video.

That's a kind of obsessive approach a well seasoned editor usually doesn't really need, but if you're learning how to do this kind of work, it can sometimes be a useful exercise in both watching and listening.

FWIW.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Shane Ross
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 8, 2012 at 4:02:18 am

[Bill Davis] "I couldn't agree with Shane more."

Holy cow, common ground! If we stick to the art of the edit, and less on the tech...I think we will get along grand.

:^)

Shane
Little Frog Post
Read my blog, Little Frog in High Def


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Mark Suszko
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 8, 2012 at 3:45:42 pm

"I was trained to cut every five seconds"

You need a new trainer. That's a stupid rule if applied without any context.


Shooting conferences is something I do almost every week. Like Shane says, you need to listen to the rythms. But more obviously, presentes have a paragraph-like structure: they tell you what they are about to tell you, then they tell it, then they summarize what was just told, and it goes chapter by chapter thru their talk, if they are well-organized.

So, decide in your head that if every "chapter" has three parts, you're going to consistently frame and cut on those "beats".

Introductory sentence (cut to powerpoint slide with the thesis)

Body of the argument: (the bulk of the paragaph or idea) Medium or closeup of the presenter.

(summary statement for this block)
Wider shot, or 2-shot that has the powerpoint and the speaker together.

The cycle repeats for the next idea. You can add a little variation from time to time by cutting away to an audience reaction shot, but try to stay with the block format, and your audience will soon pick up the same visual rythm.

Try not to park on a graphic. The human brain is always going to be more interested in seeing a human face talking than a graphic that's already been up long enough to read three times. (my rule of thumb). If the speaker is dull, you can fake some focal length chanegs to pop between tighter and wider, in post. But it's never about just cutting as if you had an egg timer. You are punctuating what's being said by where you cut, to either enforce and dramatize, or minimize, what's being said.



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Jonathan Vincent
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 11, 2012 at 2:19:57 am

There have been so many great posts. I like yours the best. First i want to defend my training. My post production training was about 1.5 months and my over all training was 5 years worth. post production training was not "cut at least every 5 seconds" but it was the huge generation i received as my instruction was on scripted TV and Motion Pictures. and even then that was a bad generalization the professors didn't support.

Anyway thanks to you and shane and the other I was able to impress my producer by "feeling" the rhythm of the speech. I felt the quicker speaker needed less cutting as it was distracting to his overall charismatics and the dull speaker needed to be jazzed up a bit.

Also I learned a ton about adult stem cell therapy.


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Scott Cumbo
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 9, 2012 at 12:45:29 am

1st rule of editing... there are no rules.

Scott Cumbo
Editor
Broadway Video, NYC


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Mark Suszko
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 9, 2012 at 1:36:23 am

...but I think you'll agree, Scott, there IS a "vocabulary". A shared understanding of certain techniques and how they are applied. For example that a dissolve implies a change in time. Sure, you can do an entire program using only dissolves... and I did that, back in college TV class (found out why people don't tend to do that)... the audience won't like it. maybe you don't call that a"rule", but certainly a "standard practice".

As far as lecture videos, while nobody's stopping anyone from avant-garde cutting technique, really, we're just kidding ourselves if we stray too far from basic techniques for clearly communicating a narrative flow in something like a lecture video. It's not what the lecturer wants. It's not what the audience expects. And if it is so quirky that it makes it *harder* to understand the point of the lecture, what good was it? What use was it to anyone?

"no rules"? But there are. Just as in life.


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Scott Cumbo
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 11, 2012 at 11:46:53 pm

I think my point was "whatever feels right and works" is the right way to cut it. That's what i ment by no rules.

Scott Cumbo
Editor
Broadway Video, NYC


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Mark Suszko
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 12, 2012 at 2:22:05 am

Okay, I'll give you that, but then how do you know when and how it "works"? What's the definition of "works" here?

Not trying to be argumentative or pedantic. But my point is that, we have some kind of model in our head for what constitutes good visual storytelling, and even if you don't formally codify it, even if it's just something you "feel", you're still making your edit decisions based on the model. And the model comes from...where?

I would say, it comes from everything you've seen projected or broadcast before; from patterns of cutting you've seen other people do, from things you tried and either liked or hated. Don't call it a rulebook, but it IS a model, or a template you consult, at least subconsciously, I think.

I think that the more great stuff by others that one sees, and the more different things one tries out as experiments, the more it refines each editor's own internal "model", his or her "eye", and they develop this subconscious sense of what's "right". We often reference certain cuts by where we first saw them used by others. Look at how many times in films the Odessa Steps sequence of "Battleship Potempkin" has been referenced by various directors and editors, as just one example. Over time, we build up these mental models, as editors and as audiences, we build them up to the point that we can reliably match them up, deliberately, and make them convey a subtext.

If you cut in such a way to avoid that, you're not breaking a "law", but you are breaking a pattern or model and going against the audience's unconscious expectations. After 100-plus years of film making, yes, there are repeating patterns we expect to see in cutting. If you break away from the expected pattern, it should be for a good reason, a meaningful reason. I think if you defy the traditional, logical pattern, without any point to it, you make the audience unhappy.

If you think I'm over-thinking this, yeah, well, maybe. Then again, I practically go catatonic in the grocery store, each time I see and contemplate a display of fresh ripe imported bananas on sale in the coldest part of a midwestern winter. I am stunned by everything that display of fruit implies, from history, economics and geopolitics to agricultural technology and genetics. There are books and PhD dissertations galore, wrapped up in how that bunch of bananas got there.

That's just how I roll.


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Scott Cumbo
Re: Length of cuts when editing a conference
on May 12, 2012 at 7:12:19 pm

no, i hear you. I just take that as a given. Everything is influenced by something else. I was a musician for 18 or so years and i look at cutting being similar to writing a song.... of course you can find others ideas in the structure or in a certain riff or whatever. but i don't deconstruct things like why a tempo change in this certain place. It's just feels right. I'm all about feel and emotion. the "why" aspect makes things cold and lifeless to me.

In my mind their isn't a "why" it dosen't matter why. The only thing that matters is the client being happy and that the edit works. Sorry man, I don't look at editing as "art" or anything. I love film, I own over 700 movies... many times I deconstruct the "How" they did that, but was never interested in the "why" aspect. I guess in the same respect, that's why I'm not into art work. I'll see something and say "that's cool" than i'll move on.

Scott Cumbo
Editor
Broadway Video, NYC


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