Editing

Filmmaker's Dictionary Mar 15, 2021

What is editing?

Editing is the post-production process of selecting and compiling raw footage into sequences that form a consistent final product, a movie. In simpler words, it is editing that makes the story come together.

In this process, scenes are often re-ordered, shortened, or fully removed. The footage needs to be coherent and without any plot holes. To ensure this, most feature films use continuity editing.

While editors don’t often get the same praise and recognition that the director or actors receive, they’re a crucial part in making a vision become reality. They possess both creative and technical skills and work side by side with the rest of the cast and crew to produce movies that fascinate, move, and entertain audiences.

Common editing techniques

How do editors make the magic happen?

Editing is a process that needs to be carefully planned for at every stage of making a movie. Having a creative vision while writing the screenplay, and ensuring adequate coverage might sound like a no-brainer, but they’re easy tasks to put aside while a million other decisions need to be made. However, considering how the final product will look in advance can save you lots of valuable time later.

To ensure coverage, consider using some master shots. They provide a great overview and are a great option to cut to.

Editors have a wide range of transitions available to them. Using these consciously can really elevate your storytelling. Lap dissolves can signal time passing, for example. Well-placed cuts can keep the action flowing without distractions. Cross-cutting might make for some thrilling revelations.

Pacing is also extremely important. The length of each cut or scene has a great impact on the viewer’s emotions and involvement. You must leave them enough time to understand what’s happening onscreen, but not too much, or else they get bored. This is often a delicate balance.

If something doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to cut out some footage. Picking the right shots is just as important as knowing which ones you need to let go of.

Read more about how to edit a movie in this Guide to Film and Video Editing on Masterclass.

Process

The editor often starts working on the initial rough cut, or editor’s cut even while the production is still ongoing.

After the shooting is finished, the director turns their attention to the post-production process as well. They provide further input and requests changes where they deem them necessary.

After the director’s cut, the producers get their turn to provide feedback and it’s with their approval that a final cut is ready to hit the movie theatres.

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