Editing for motion pictures is the process of organizing, reviewing, selecting, and assembling the picture and sound “ footage ” captured during production. The result of these editing efforts should be a coherent and meaningful story or visual presentation that comes as close as possible to achieving the goals behind the original intent of the work — to entertain, to inform, to inspire, etc.
Let us begin our discussion of editing with the edit point itself. There are four basic ways one can transition from one shot or visual element into another:
- Cut: An instantaneous change from one shot to the next. The last full frame of picture for one shot is immediately followed by the first full frame of picture for the next shot.
- Dissolve: A gradual change from the ending pictures of one-shot into the beginning pictures of the next shot. This is traditionally achieved via the superimposition of both shots with a simultaneous downward and upward ramping of opacity over a particular period of time. As the end of the first shot “ dissolves ” away, the beginning of the next shot “ resolves ” onto the screen at the same time.
- Wipe: A-line, progressing at some angle, or a shape, moves across the screen removing the image of the shot just ending while simultaneously revealing the next shot behind the line or the shape. The wiping shot replaces the previous shot on the screen.
- Fade : (1) A gradual change from a solid black screen into a fully visible image (fade from black or fade-in). (2) A gradual change from a fully visible image into a solid black screen (fade to black or fade-out).
What is Video Editing: Editing Stages
The editing process, more generally referred to as post-production or sometimes just post can range from being rather simple to extremely complex. The post-production period really encompasses any and all work on the project that comes after the shooting (the production ) is completed. Picture and soundtracks are edited together to show and tell the story, special visual effects are generated, titles/graphics/credits are added, sound effects are created, and music is scored during post-production. On smaller projects, one person can do all of this work, but on larger productions, several teams of women and men work in various departments to complete each element and join each phase of the post-production workflow. The following is a low-level listing of the major steps involved in a post-production workflow that stresses the editing process for the visual elements of a project.
- Acquisition: Simply put, you must acquire the footage shot by the production team. Motion picture and sound elements, whether on emulsion film, analogue tape, digital tape, or digital files, must be gathered together for the duration of the post-production editing process. The medium of choice depends on the method of editing and the physical devices used to perform the edits. If you are using a computer-aided digital non-linear editing system to perform the edit, then you will have to import, capture, or “ digitize ” all materials as media on your storage drives. These media files must remain accessible by your editing software for the life of the project for you to complete the work.
- Organization: All of the minutes, hours, feet, reels or gigabytes of picture and sound elements should be organized in some way. If you do not have a clear system of labelling, grouping, or sorting all of the material needed for your project, you will eventually have a difficult time finding that good shot or that good sound effect, etc. Organization of source materials is not the most glamorous part of the editing process, but it can certainly make the difference between a smooth post-production workflow and a slower and more frustrating one. Many of the better editors and assistant editors are highly prized for their organizational skills. Tame the chaos into order and craft the order into a motion picture.
- Review and selection: Once you have acquired and organized all of your elements, it will be necessary to review all of this material and pick out the best pieces that will work for your project. You will “ pull the selects ” and set aside the good stuff while weeding out the junk that you hope you will not have to use. You would be wise to not actually throw anything away, however, because you will never know what might come in handy a day or a few weeks into the editing process. That one scrap of footage of the flag waving in the breeze may just save the entire edit, so keep it readily available even though you know it is not one of your original selections.
- Assembly: This process calls for assembling all of the major pieces of the project into a logical sequence of picture and sound elements. If you are editing a scripted story, you would follow that script as a blueprint for assembling the best selections of the various shots of the scenes that make up the motion picture. If you are creating a documentary or even a music video, there is always some story that is trying to be shown to an audience — assemble those raw parts into this skeleton version. No matter what genre the project, the story, in its longest and most rough-hewn form, takes shape now.
- Rough cut: This is a stage of the project’s development where the majority of the “ fat ” has been trimmed and you are left with a presentation that is complete in its narrative flow but has many rough edges. Perhaps not every cut is perfectly timed yet, there are no finalized titles or graphics, simple or more elaborate effects have not been created, and the audio mix certainly has not been completed. You do have the timing of the main elements down to a good pace, however, and you and others to whom you show the developing work, like how the story unfolds, although restructuring of scenes may still occur.
- Fine cut: You have worked and re-worked and massaged the material of your project into a tight and finely tuned presentation. There will be no major renovations from this point forward. You, and the majority of the people to whom you show the piece, all agree that no further tweaks are required. This cut is fine.
- Picture lock: You have reached picture lock when you are absolutely certain that you will not make any more changes to the picture track(s) of your edited piece. The timing of all picture elements (shots, titles, black pauses, etc.) is set. Once you have locked the picture tracks (sometimes literally but mostly figuratively), you are then free to address your audio mixing needs. Once the audio tweaks are finalized and your music is in place, then you are ready for the last stage.
- Mastering and delivery: All of your efforts in creating a well-edited piece will mean very little if you cannot deliver the show to the audience that needs to see it. These days this process may mean recording your final cut onto videotape, creating an optical film print for projection in a movie theatre, converting your story into a computer video file, or authoring the piece onto a DVD. Each medium would require a unique process, but the end result is that you have a fully mastered version of your show and an audience gets to view all of your hard editing work. So we now have a pretty good idea of what the basic editing or post-production workflow is for any project large or small. You certainly may encounter projects that do not call for all the stages of editing to be executed in a clearly delineated manner, but, for, For the most part, you will touch upon some combination of each of these stages as you work toward your finished piece.