To the novice, film and video editing sounds like one of those completely technical subjects, only possibly interesting to people with very logical and pragmatic minds, much like engineers. Visions of darkrooms and sterile-looking studios filled with all types of inexplicable mechanical equipment, where rolls of film negatives are poured over and scrutinized by serious-looking people, then diced, sliced and spliced back together, somewhat completes the overall mental picture. Clinical, stark, precise. But in actuality, film and video editing is much more than celluloid or electronic image surgery. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Think of it this way; someone shoots a video of your favorite cousin’s wedding. The end product is a nice, mostly continuous documentation of the event, with abrupt starts and stops here and there when the main activity changes or moves to a different area or location that necessitates a different “shot”. The end result is a compilation of pictures and sound that is considerably better and hopefully more memorable and satisfying than still photographs, but still leaves a lot to be desired.
However, if the same raw video was placed into the hands of a skilled editor, the end result would be quite different. The resulting piece would tell the story of the culmination of your cousin’s three-year romance, as narrated by several key family members. It would capture and convey to the viewing audience the couple’s wedding day emotions of love, and joy and appreciation for one another and family, anticipation of the new life the couple intends to create together, a bit of sadness for the life they are forever leaving behind, and so on. In other words, in the hands of a skilled editor, the video becomes a “story” with a beginning, middle and end; a cohesive synopsis of the couple’s romance. A day in the life…
What most people not in the film or video industry don’t realize is that film and video editing is an art form. Editing is arguably the most important element of film or video production. It is in the editing, the art of arranging pictures and dialog and sounds, that a finished film product is able to communicate a story first envisioned by its writer, and subsequently by a director and producer to its intended audience. Days, weeks even months of shots captured on film or video must be studied, interpreted analyzed and finally distilled into a story lasting a fraction of the time it took to capture it all.
People outside the film making industry have little or no idea about “post production” and the crucial part it plays in the production of a film or video work. It is because of the significant importance of this phase of film and video production that the process takes an extended amount of time to complete.
Much more that cutting and splicing pieces of cellophane together or merely arranging video sequence, editing is a wonderful blend of technical knowledge and skill combined with an artist’s creativity and craftsmanship. It is moving, adding, deleting, juxtaposing, scenes, sounds, and images to develop film shots and video clips into a certain context, create specific imagery and timing, evoke particular emotion, create specific imagery and mold them into a story.
Film editing as a craft began in the late 1890’s in the very earliest days of motion pictures. In the intervening years between then and now, anyone interested in learning about film or video editing, usually attended college courses or one of a number of reputable film schools to learn the craft.
In his book, “The Technique Of Film And Video Editing”, considered one of the best teaching and training tools for directors , Ken Dancyger highlights the history of film editing from its origins. He speaks specifically about the editing of great cinematographers such as Alfred Hitchcock and Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, taking a detailed look at the fundamental principles of film and video editing. He discusses ideas, practices and styles and choices for editors in the context of theory, the history of film and video editing, and practice. He also discusses new technology and the impact it has in terms of the art of editing.
One of the greatest changes to film and video editing occurred with the introduction of computer editing. Hand cutting and splicing of film, as well as the more complicated, mechanical and “linear” process of video editing, became tedious and outdated with the advent of computer editing in the early 1990’s. Editing on computers gave rise to a whole new creativity prized by film editors, as well as lower costs and much more efficiency in terms of video editing.
Whether for film or video, the editing process occurs in three basic steps. These include capture, the editing process itself, and putting the product in a distributable form. During the capture phase, the actual “shots” or picture images are compiled into a format from which they can be edited. During the actual editing process, the collection of shots are organized in a desired sequence and sound is added through “sound mixing” until they form a comprehensive storyline. Once this has been accomplished, the film or video is finalized in the desired format whether film or high-quality video for distribution.
As technology continues to advance, the ways in which film and video are edited will continue to develop and progress. As it stands today, computers and user friend video editing software as well as the Internet have opened the doors to editing so that it is available to not only professional film and video editors. Now students of film and video and film making novices, as well as journalists, writers and the general public have unprecedented access to video editing tools. Several popular video editing programs make film and video editing possible for professionals as well as novice editors, including Avid Express Pro, Adobe Premier Pro, Sony Vegas, Final Cut Pro and Apple Final Cut Studio 2.
With today’s technology and the advantage of personal computers, digital camera equipment and the availability of knowledge from new and increasingly powerful software programs, almost anyone with the desire, can learn film and video editing, produce commercial products and even feature movies from their home or personal studio.
Filmmaking and Film Editing