The Editor: Crash Course Film Production #12

The Editor: Crash Course Film Production #12

A movie, as you know, is basically a sequence
of shots. The shots themselves may be beautiful or strange,
kinetic or still, bright or dark. And, viewed individually, they might carry
some meaning. But the real power of narrative cinema comes
when you put those shots together. Suddenly they have context. They react to one another, surprising us or
putting us at ease. Cut together, these shots can create whole
new levels of meaning and evoke emotions in ways only cinema can. And the person whose job it is to make those
cuts, to discover that emotional and narrative alchemy, is… the editor. [Intro Music Plays] Like cinematographers, production designers,
costumers, and makeup artists, editors must be part technician, part craftsperson, and
part creative artist. They are responsible for understanding the
technology of post-production, from editing software to integrating sound design, music,
and special effects. But they also need to have a deep understanding
of film grammar, a gut instinct for character, and a powerful sense of timing. They are the final guardians of the story
and the emotional landscape of the film. A narrative film is a very fragile thing,
and one misplaced cut can drastically change its meaning and impact. But as crucial as it is, the editor’s job
is also to hide their work. Usually, their goal is to make the cuts appear
so seamless that the audience doesn’t even notice them at all. Like so many great artists, the best editors
make their work look effortless. But trust me, it’s not! Among their duties, editors must be able to
sort through hours and hours of raw footage to find the story. They must train their visual memories to remember
tiny differences between takes and shots, and imagine how they might be cut together. They must help the director separate the movie
they wanted to make, from the movie they actually shot. They are fresh eyes, unencumbered by the challenges
of getting a shot or the heartbreak of a performance that didn’t turn out. Editors must also have the taste to recognize
when the story isn’t working, and the skills and experience to offer some solutions. Another way to think of this is that editors
are the first audience for a film. An audience with the power to change it and
make it even better. So how do they do it? In the beginning, editors worked with razor
blades and tape to physically slice the film into shots and then join those shots together. It was painstaking work. One cut could take several minutes, as opposed
to the seconds it takes today using editing software. It was also more difficult to experiment with
various cuts. There was no easy, quick way to go back and
undo a particular edit. Just more razor blades, tape, and time. An editing machine called a Moviola became
standard equipment for editors in the 1920s, and not a moment too soon! In addition to streamlining the process, the
Movila allowed editors to watch the film as they were making their cuts. Then in the 1970s, flatbed editing systems
like the Steenbeck and the KEM arrived. Now editors could move the film backward and
forward to examine their edits, and listen to the recorded soundtrack as they went. Flatbeds would remain the industry standard
until the 1990s, when digital editing systems like the Avid emerged. We refer to physical film editing as linear
editing, because the process involves editing your way through the scene or the film in
sequence, shot by shot, and choosing cut points as you go. It’s also called destructive editing, since
the editor is literally cutting the film, irreparably altering it with each transition
between shots. When you edit digitally using computer software,
that process is called non-linear editing. Here, you can scroll to any point in the scene,
or in the film, with the touch of a button, joining and re-joining shots in any order,
as many times as you want. It’s also called non-destructive editing. The main non-linear editing systems include
the Avid, Apple’s Final Cut Pro, and Adobe Premiere. Each system has its benefits and drawbacks,
and each editor must figure out what works best for each project in terms of budget,
workflow, and ease of use. Now, when the footage comes in from the set,
the editor’s first step is to create an assembly cut. This is a very rough version of the movie
that cuts each scene together in its most basic form. They’re often very long and sometimes contain
multiple takes of a given shot. The goal of the assembly cut is for the director
and editor to see if they’ve captured the story. Are there any major plot points missing? Can the desired tone be achieved with the
footage that they have? Are there any technical problems with the
footage? Do the characters make sense? Where are the plot holes? Watching an assembly cut for the first time
is often both a joyful and painful experience. There’s your film, all put together, coming
alive for the first time before your eyes. But it’s also usually a Frankenstein’s
monster of dead-ends, missed shots, and performances that haven’t been properly paced yet! But don’t panic! Because there’s more work to do! The next step in the process is to make a
rough cut, or several of them. This is the time for experimentation, for
re-thinking the structure of the film. What if this scene goes here? What if we move this line to the next scene? Do we even need this this subplot, or this
moment, or this shot? How can we build the tension, liven a flat
scene, or make a joke funnier? The editor uses rough cuts to focus on the
bigger parts of the movie that aren’t working. It’s also where the filmmakers can begin
to get a sense of what the ultimate run time of the movie will be. Once those issues have been solved, the editor
moves on to the fine cut. At this point, the issues are smaller, but
no less significant. It’s time to fine tune performances, maximize
emotional impact, trim some shots, and extend others. This is where you ask: When do we cut from
one character or another? Is it better to extend this shot by one frame? Two frames? Five? How can we hide our crappy, animatronic shark? Two frames can make the difference between Jaws and Sharknado. Then we come to the final cut. At this point we are achieving a “locked
cut,” meaning no more changes to the duration or order of any shot in the film. Color correction is happening. Visual and sound effects are coming in. Music is being composed, recorded, and selected. ADR, or automated dialogue replacement, is
being recorded and added to the film. And it’s all being mixed so that every image
and sound in the film exists in proper balance, fulfilling the vision of the director, who’s
now working through the editor and the post-production team. Each step in this process is specific and
important, but not necessarily distinct. Every film is different, so often these stages
blend into one another. The editor might have a brilliant re-structuring
idea in the fine cut stage, and open the film back up to re-arrange some scenes. Or the director might have a sudden desire
to extend a pivotal emotional beat just as the film is locking picture. However it happens, once all these steps are
complete, so is the movie. And at every step in this process, the editor
makes an indelible mark on the project … even if it’s not always obvious. One of the most powerful effects of the editor’s
work is the ability to shift a film’s perspective. Who the film cuts to, at what moment, and
how long it remains on a character can influence the audience’s identification with a character
and their experience. Editors spend a lot of time asking questions
like, “Whose scene is this?” and “Why?” Usually followed by, “Does it have to
be that way?” and “What if we tried it from another point of view?” Very often the director is in the room for
these conversations, and if they can be open to it, an editor’s ideas can sometimes change
the way they think of the film, opening up new and exciting possibilities. The more films you make, the more you realize
that you can’t separate shooting and editing. They’re bound together. The shots inform the editing and allow for
all the experimentation that is to come. Cinematographers spend a lot of their own
prep time thinking and talking about how their shots might get cut together. It’s all designed to tell the story and
evoke the desired emotions. And so much of it comes down to when to
cut. And how the rhythm of those cuts contributes
to the emotional and narrative experience of the story. The best editors collaborate very closely
with directors and bring out the best in their work. The great Thelma Schoonmaker has been editing
Martin Scorsese films since the earliest days of his career, from the split-second cuts
of Raging Bull to the contemplative stillness of Silence. Stephen Spielberg has worked with editor Michael
Kahn ever since Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Quentin Tarantino has long praised the late
Sally Menke for corralling his impulses and bringing order to his films, from Reservoir
Dogs to Inglorious Basterds. Walter Murch is one of the editing greats. He’s cut everything from Apocalypse Now
and The Godfather to The English Patient. He was among the first old-guard editors to
switch to a non-linear editing system, and he wrote the book on film editing, called
In the Blink of an Eye. In it, he lays out his six priorities for
cutting away from one shot to another. The first is emotion. How does the shot affect the audience emotionally? What do you want them to feel? And does a cut add to that emotion, or take
away from it? The second is story. Does the cut move the story forward? Each cut needs to advance the story, not bog
it down. Murch’s third priority is rhythm. Just like music, he believes editing must
have a beat, a rhythm, a sense of phrasing. Is a cut interesting here, or dull? What does it do to the pacing of a scene? Shake it up? Or flatten it? Fourth is something he calls eye trace. How does the cut affect where the audience
focuses in the frame? The editor should be aware of where they want
the audience to be looking, and then use that to surprise or confirm their instincts, depending
on what the scene is trying to accomplish. The last two priorities charge the editor
with being aware of both the two dimensional place of the screen as well as three dimensional
space. These are fancy ways of saying the cut has
the power to maintain or disorient the audience as to the physical space within the scene. All told, the editor should be conscious of
how the cut affects the audience’s understanding of the world of the film. Editors are as vital to the filmmaking process
as they are low profile. By the time the film is screening in a theater,
no one knows the footage, the emotional beats, the pacing, and the performances better than
the editor. Without them, we’d just have a pile of random
footage. With them, we have magic. Today we talked about the job of the editor,
as both a technician and an artist. We learned about the history of film editing,
from hand-cutting film to using digital editing software. And we explored the impact of the choices
an editor makes in collaboration with the director, and how those cuts can bring a film
to life. Next time we’ll explore marketing, the surprisingly
creative work done after the film is edited, as distributors try to pitch the film to its
intended audience. Crash Course Film Production is produced in
association with PBS Digital Studios. You can head over to their channel to check
out a playlist of their latest shows, like PBS Infinite Series, PBS Space Time, and It’s
Okay to be Smart. This episode of Crash Course was filmed in
the Doctor Cheryl C. Kinney Crash Course Studio with the help of these nice people and our
amazing graphics team is Thought Cafe.

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  1. This is what I aspire to be! Thanks for this series. It's been very useful, and I've used it to show other people at my level what the job they're wanting to do entails. I look forward to the marketing installment!

  2. Writing novels works the same way, but the author is the editor through most of the first draft and the next few drafts before it is sent to a professional editor for publication. I enjoy the editing process very much. It's nice to see how this process is done for movies. Thank you.

  3. Good shoutout to the soviet montage video, man!! I miss those times…like..early this year.

    I still like this new videos

  4. Fantastic video. You managed to cover all the key editing concepts in a short amount of time, without making it seem like an overload of info.

  5. Even after all this time I am in sheer wonder watching the classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the 40's and 50's. Because of the limitations of time and money nearly all the editing was done before a single cell was drawn.

  6. If you're looking for a good (free/inexpensive) video editing package, check out VSDC. No time limits on free version, and pay version is cheap for the advanced functionality.

  7. FYI: "In the early years of film, editing was considered a technical job; editors were expected to "cut out the bad bits" and string the film together. Indeed, when the Motion Picture Editors Guild was formed, they chose to be "below the line", that is, not a creative guild, but a technical one. This was very helpful to women. Women were not usually able to break into the "creative" positions; directors, cinematographers, producers, and executives were almost always men. Editing afforded creative women a place to assert their mark on the film making process." — Wikipedia

  8. I, and probably other people, sometimes see the “Director’s Cut” as the ultimate version of a film. How does that make editors feel?

  9. Can anyone think of a film besides "Grosse Pointe Blank" that used two takes of the same scene instead of picking just one?

  10. wait, so whats an editor? i went to the bathroom. whose that chick? is that the editor? dont shush me! whats a cinematographer then?

  11. I’ve never understood why these people don’t get more credit, publicly. I’m sure they get a lot of respect and admiration in the industry but they’re practically unknown to the outside world. The only editor i know by name is thelma schoonmaker.

    A good musical analogy is the mix engineer of an album. He takes all the stuff that the producers, artist and engineers laid down and with absolute mountains of musical knowledge and experience, turns it into the product you hear. Yet how many listeners know the name chris lord alge, bob clearmountain or brendan obrien? These men are geniuses through and through. There’s no other word for it…but no one knows who they are. It’s quite a career.

  12. I'm taking an editing class right now, and you did a really good job of summing-up what I think the professor's been trying to say all semester, but hasn't quite made clear!

  13. I've been an editor for decades. Started on Flatbed and was the first gen Avid User back in '93. This is a great job of explaining the critical role of editing. You should add something about the very critical sound editing process bc THAT is so overlooked by the public but so significant. Also the role of editor in documentary films is more like a director/writer as well. but great job.

  14. For vloggers though being the editor and the director of your movie its a fun collaboration to make it exciting at all times!

  15. Editors don't integrate special effects. Special effects are done ON SET. What you're looking to say is VISUAL effects, which is done in the computer, after production. (ie. Real explosion with pyro, firetrucks, and people protecting their eyebrows vs. Houdini, Maya, or other Dynamics software).

  16. Ahhh!! How did I miss this episode? I've been waiting for it for sooo long. I want to become an editor some day 💙 Thank you so much CrashCourse! I've learned so much throughout this whole course

  17. Eisenstein often did everything, directing, editing, filming and went out in the streets to recruits random people as he didn't like to employ professional actors.

  18. I do this 5 days a week in my mass media class for our news show. No matter how much I get taken for granted, I love editing!! It's more work than outsiders think, but you do what you enjoy.

  19. I’ve been a professional editor for about 12 years, working mostly in TV, and I have to say that this is a really great and well explained video about what this kind of work is like. It’s a fun job, and I consider myself very lucky!

    Something worth adding is that when I tell people about what I do, people are often surprised about how much an editor also does the sound design, sound mixing, and chooses music (if the music isn’t being scored, the editor often cuts with temp music). Not to mention basic graphic design, color correction, and working with and understanding visual effects workflows.

    Another thing worth adding is that even though the director is a major creative force during the edit, the editor also has to deal with lots of other cooks in the kitchen. This includes producers and execs who work for the studio or network (or whoever is paying for the production). These notes can often work against a lot of the creative choices that have already been carried out in the rough/fine cut stages. It can be a very frustrating process. So another major task for an editor is to find creative ways to carry out network/studio notes while maintaining the integrity of the film/show.

  20. I feel like this series needs an episode on score, soundtrack, sound effects and foley. This course is awesome though.

  21. it's funny watching an educational video and a company my dad used to work for pops up, avid sports was his division, same concept just for sports film editing so he was dealing with NBA and NFL teams and they would use their technology for film sessions during practice and such. We would get tickets from his work a few times a year and once I got to go to the NBA finals the year the Celtics won so that was pretty amazing

  22. thank you very much my sister I like it how to suggest this lesson your honest person so thank you a lot my sister and i will commitment in your lessons

  23. Ok so if I was looking for colleges for editing (movies) bc that’s what I want to do what would the career job be called so that I’m not applying for a different job in film making

  24. All of those points on the chart are the same thing…… Emotion is rhythm is 3d space is eye trace and 2d plane and is the story.

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