Video Editing


Most video editing software allows you to log your video tapes. This process involves marking in and out points and adding a brief description of every shot on a tape. This information is stored in a file that can be used later to capture the video clips.


Capturing with DV is extremely simple. In fact, it's not really capturing at all. It is more akin to copying a file. You connect the camera to the computer with a FireWire. Start up the video software, tell the software the "In" and "Out" points and let the computer transfer in the requested video data.

Theories & Principles

Continuity Editing

The basic concept is to create an illusion of continuity while leaving out parts of the action that slow the film's pacing. Continuity editing compresses real time to screen time to hide the pieces of time missing from the sequence.

For example, if an action takes five minutes in real time viewers will get bored watching it. Cutting out all the boring stuff and keeping only that which gives the illusion of continuity will keep the viewers attention. Imagination fills in the missing parts.

News Editing

News editing is a basic approach video editors use to create documentaries, instructional videos, advertising, corporate promotions, and other presentations which call for editing footage of spontaneous, unscripted action.

You must try to tell the story visually. Usually there is no specific order to the footage and no control over the situation. Events happened once and without warning. However, with the right shot choices, an editor can re-create the chronological sequence of events, thus giving an illusion of continuity.

Altering Expected Continuity

Creating the "illusion of continuity" means editing based on what the audience expects; a logical, chronological story progression. But good editors are masters at manipulating audience emotions. To do this, they break conventions the audience expects.

Leave the audience hanging with curiosity, fear, frustration and/or anger. Depending on the plot line, the editor can reveal or hide the reason for an action or event. Good editors always remember their audience and what they expect to see next.

Relational Editing

Editing not only controls time but creates relationships between subjects that don't exist in real life. Relational editing techniques work on the human need to see a theme or connection in a series of images even if the images are random. If you show a close up of a face showing emotional anguish, we won't know what it really is until we see the next shot. Viewers mentally project their responses to the images onto the actor and believe they know what he is thinking or feeling. Psychology again.

Thematic Editing

Thematic editing is a rapid, impressionistic sequence or montage of disconnected images to communicate feelings and ideas rather than telling a story. It is used in news features, music videos, feature films, especially action scenes, TV commercials, and promotional productions to create a mood or feeling rather than communicate specific information. The video footage is cut to match the rhythm or lyrics of the music on the sound track.

Parallel Editing

Cutting back and forth between different actions or story lines creates the illusion that all the events are happening at the same time. Parallel editing enhances anticipation or anxiety. Viewers interpret parallel editing as two events happening at the same time, therefore we are able to present more than one story at the same time. The length of the shots from each story line determines how interwoven the events appear to the audience. To make the events appear closer together in time, shortens the shots.

Editing Guidelines

Motivated Cuts

Any edit breaks the illusion of continuity. When there is a reason for a different shot, a motivated cut is the least disruptive. When an actor looks to one side in a dramatic scene, we can cut easily to whatever the actor is supposed to be seeing. When someone is talking about something, viewers expect to see it.

Cut on Subject Movement

When you edit on motion, a bit of the action is included in both shots. If a woman is getting out of a chair, cut when she is halfway standing in the first shot to the same point in the second shot. The action diverts attention from the edit, making the transition smoother. Because the action distracts viewers, they don't notice the subtle differences in detail between the two shots. To create a strong illusion of continuity, the shots must be as identical as possible. The relative position of hands, feet, objects, etc. in both shots must be the same. The rate of movement must also match.

End a shot as an object leaves the frame and cut to the next shot as the object enters, such as when a person walks out of one room and into another. It takes about a fifth of a second for viewers' eyes to switch from one side of the frame to the other. During this time the viewers' eyes are unfocused and whatever is taking place on the screen becomes scrambled and the transition is less visible.

Control Shot Length

Cut away from a shot the moment the visual statement is complete. Viewers lose interest in a shot very quickly once they understand the basic visual information.

You have to consider several things in deciding shot length. First, is the information you want to convey. How important is it for viewers to see all the details of a shot? The simpler or more familiar the object, the shorter the shot.

Use Inserts

Cut-aways and cut-ins adds visual information. They are often used over "talking-head" video to make the moment more interesting or to show what the speaker is discussing. Inserts hide edits in the speaker's audio track, show response to what is being said, stimulate the pace of the show, introduce visual variety, illustrate speaker's comments, graphically present information, and cover jump cuts or other visual problems.

Keep it Simple

If you are doubt about a shot, leave it out. Viewers are used to rapidly moving plots and fast editing. They get bored quickly when a production seems to drag. Slow down the pace for even an instant and you will bore the viewer. If a shot lasts longer than 3-4 seconds, consider using more than one shot to convey the information. Shorter, more dramatic shots are more interesting than a long, dreary shot.


Adding graphics to your video makes it easier for your audience to understand what they are watching. Graphics title the program, list the names of the crew, and identify people or places. Graphics are used to communicate and emphasize detailed information such as prices, sizes, technical specifications, ingredients, and procedures.

In the pre-computer days, television titles were hand-drawn or printed on paper and then shot with a video camera; a technique still used to create visually interesting title sequences. It is also a cheap way to add program titles if you don't have a computer.

In the digital age, commercial and corporate video producers use computing power to design and add titles to video productions. These can range from complex 3-D animation to simple ID supers.

It's easy to get carried away with the computer's power to create complicated, colourful titles. However, fancy lettering and rainbows of colour make it almost impossible for viewers to read and understand the information on the screen.

Television Screens Degrade Computer Images

Titles look sharper, cleaner and more colourful on a computer monitor than on an older TV set. Check titles on a TV monitor before editing them into your video production. New panel TVs (LCD and Plasma) do not have this problem.

Video background can affect readability

Check all super-imposed titles over the intended video image to determine the best combination of font size/style, colour, shadowing, screen placement, etc.

Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS).

Titles MUST communicate clearly. Use only three colours on one screen. Make your type size as large as possible. Select colours that can be read at a distance. Use simple font designs. What looks good in print may be unreadable on a TV screen. Choose plain sans-serif type styles. Move 8-10 feet away from your monitor and see if fonts are readable.

Play it Safe Around The Edges

Every TV set displays its picture differently. Information at the edge of the screen is often lost. To make sure your title isn't cropped, keep it near the center of the frame. Leave at least a one-inch margin on all sides of the title. This is less a problem with panel TVs such as LCD or Plasma.

Avoid Single-Pixel Lines

Video images are drawn across the screen in alternating patterns of 525 horizontal lines. A single pixel wide line flickers on an off every 1/60th of a second. This vibration or visual buzz is distracting. Keep all letters, outlines and shadows at least two pixels wide to avoid this problem.

Video Can't Handle Red Colours

Because of TV's basic design limits, any colour in the red range bleeds; that is, it oozes past the edges of the letters. Solving this problem is easy. Don't use colours in the red family: "hot" pinks, bright orange, etc.

Follow The Light Source

If the background has a light direction, make sure the drop shadows fall the same way as they do on the background. Make sure the drop shadows of all the titles fall the same way.