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The Joys of Editing

Graham Stark | 9 Aug 2012 16:00
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I hope you like editing, because this week's Loading Time is all about editing. Editing!

I'm a self-taught editor. I started it in high-school making some terrible videos that are thoroughly embarrassing, but that I'm actually quite proud of, all things considered. They were far longer than they had any right to be, because it turns out that editing for time is a tough thing to learn. Not to say that I'm perfect in this regard even now, but it's probably the most important lesson in editing: keep it short. If you're happy with your project, you can probably cut it by 25% and it will be just as good, if not better. This is especially helpful online, where people's attention spans are-squirrel!

I guess the video goes into specifics rather than general info, so here's some common FAQs I get about editing.

How long does it take to edit a video?

The most common question I get, receives the least satisfying reply, "It varies." An 8-minute episode of commodoreHUSTLE can take many hours, with all the scene changes and conversation jump cuts. A simple "two guys talking" sketch still takes me an hour or two, even though (tooting my own horn) I've gotten really fast at it. CheckPoint can takes a couple hours or more, mostly because it's fiddly, whereas Feed Dump is much more straightforward. A video with crazy post-production like "GearsGear" or "Pocket Planes" obviously takes much, much longer. So I have no good answer!

What about editing do you hate?

The kind of "grunt work" before the "real" editing begins. Importing the files, synchronizing the audio, and laying out all the shots roughly in the timeline. Once I get to actually futz around with stuff, arrange the clips, finesse the cuts, and style the colors... that's the best stuff. I love the creativity it offers.

Oh, and editing for time sucks, see above.

How much footage do you have to sift through for a video?

Oh goodness, a lot. Thankfully, we've gotten much better about only shooting what we need to over the years. As a director/editor, I subscribe to the Robert Rodriguez school of "editing as we shoot", so we don't end up with footage that I know for a fact will never get used. With our production cycle, it's the only way we can do it. Having said that, there's usually 30-60 minutes of footage for a standard 5-minute video.

What the biggest mistake novice editors should avoid?

Have a reason for a cut. A lot of this hinges of shooting the right footage, but don't do things like cut from a shot of two people, to a slightly wider, almost identical shot. Why did that cut happen? It just looks weird. Cut because someone is talking, or because there is movement, or because you need to show new information. Never cut because, "Well, we have all this wide footage, I guess we should use some to validate us shooting it." Do what's best for the final product.

Those are the ones I remember off the top of my head. Any others questions? Ask in the comments or hit me up on Twitter: @Graham_LRR

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