What follows is an excerpt from The Edit chapter in my forthcoming book How to Present on Video. In this chapter, one of the characters, Bebe, is learning about the basic principles of video editing…….
Bebe has just finished a day of filming herself presenting in front of her video camera and has several hours of raw footage and multiple takes of various shots she wants to incorporate in her video.
She has been checking out her competitors’ videos online and notes that most of them seem to be just one long continuous shot of a person speaking to the camera. Bebe thinks that this format is too one-dimensional. She finds it a challenge to watch someone “drone on” in a video, without any visual change. Otherwise, she might as well just be listening to the person talk on an audio podcast! Bebe struggles to pay attention, and her eyes dart around the room searching for more visual stimulation than the video is providing for her as a viewer. She jokes to herself that she would rather scrape her fingernails down a chalkboard than endure having to watch these “bore snores” any longer. Sure enough, she soon clicks away to explore another website.
To be fair, some video presenters do try to visually mix things up a bit, but many end up using visual transitions that look like something straight out of a dull corporate PowerPoint presentation. Having worked in the corporate world, Bebe knows from past experience that most audiences roll their eyes when presented with “cheesy” animations and special effects, and they loathe having to read lines of text on a PowerPoint slide. If audiences loathe reading text on a still PowerPoint slide, you can imagine how much worse it is for them if you subject them to the same punishment on a moving video image! How about if they are viewing your video on a mobile device? #FAIL
Bebe wants to do better than this; she wants to leverage the power of the video medium. She wants to deliver her key messages in the most effective way possible, and create punchy, dynamic short videos that are visually entertaining as well as informative.
Enter the Edit
When you watch the playback of your raw footage, notice the points where you find yourself “zoning out” of the video i.e. your eyes start to look away or you become distracted. This is generally a good “tell” that an edit is required at that point.
At the most basic level, editing can mean chopping out all the boring bits, particularly during parts where there is no dialogue. Most viewers struggle to pay attention when they are forced to look at the same scene for too long. As you have probably experienced, this is a common problem when viewing people’s unedited amateur holiday videos and wedding videos. Yawn!
Even if you plan to record just one continuous shot of yourself presenting on video, and your delivery to camera is word perfect, succinct, well-scripted, with good pacing, zero speech flubs, and perfect diction – a tricky feat for the best of us – you will probably still want to edit your footage before sharing your video with your audience.
Why? Because it is unnatural for humans to focus on the same thing for long periods of time. Evolution equipped our ancestors with the successful survival strategy of constantly scanning the environment for signs of movement and danger. They learned the hard way that if they focused on one thing for too long they might not notice the lion creeping up in the grass behind them. Even in the modern era, our brains are constantly on the alert, and once our brains feel like they have understood what is in front of us, our eyes move on and begin scanning our environment for the next thing to pay attention to.
TV advertisers know this, and that’s why they have become skilled in the use of editing to keep our attention. The next time you watch a big name brand TV commercial, notice how often the video images change from one “shot” to another to another every few seconds in a rapid sequence. You will also notice that they use a variety of different camera angles, as well as changes in the framing and size of the shots, from close-ups to wide angles and everything in-between. They combine it all with various graphics and sound effects to tell a compelling story in 30 seconds.
What is Editing?
Editing is the process of organizing, reviewing, selecting, and assembling the video and audio “footage” you want to include in your video presentation.
Editing helps to get your message across in the most effective manner. It helps you to create a coherent and compelling story that achieves the purpose of your video presentation, i.e. to educate, entertain, create an emotional response, or inspire your viewers to take action.
With the use of some simple video editing software, you are no longer limited by what you can record in a single shot, nor are you limited by what you can record in a chronological order (e.g. record a shot > pause > record the next shot > pause). With editing software, you can film your shots out of sequence and stitch them together in the right sequence afterward.
To cover all the details of video editing would require a full book in itself, so my intention with this chapter is to share with you some of the basic editing practices to help you assemble your shots together into a meaningful story.
An analogy many video professionals use is to compare video editing to written storytelling. When a book author writes a story, they link words together to form sentences and then link sentences together to tell the story. When a video editor tells a story, they link shots together to form sequences and then link sequences together to tell the story.
With some simple editing software, you can combine a series of video shots, still images, and audio samples in a sequence to tell your story in a more visually dynamic way.
Well, folks, that concludes the excerpt. In this chapter I delve further into discussing the key types of video edits and transitions, what they mean, their purpose, and how they can serve you by making your video presentations more visually engaging and dynamic. Plus, I teach you what to avoid doing.
Until then keep creating and having fun with your video creations.