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Editing DSLR Video?

Okay, this has nothing to do with the technology of 1080p in a timeline or any of that. It’s just a clear explanation and example of the power of editing from a master film maker.

To me, the importance of this interview is not so much about editing. It’s about the director shooting for the edit. And that only comes with experience of going through the process from concept to distribution many times.

When he says there are 78 pieces of film in about 45 seconds, you’ve got to know that didn’t happen by accident. It was planned and shot that way deliberately.

I’m sure there were clips that weren’t planned that made it into the final scene but all of the key angles were known before the film was loaded in the camera.

Most successful directors say they can see the entire movie in their head before they shoot it. I believe that’s the job of the director.

The opposite approach is something I call the ‘shoe-box’ production method.

You have some idea of a movie and go shoot a bunch of stuff that looks cool. When you get to edit, you find a piece of music that fits your idea of the movie then start looking in your ‘shoe box’ of clips.

You find something visually interesting, drop it in the timeline and keep going until you’ve used all the clips or the music ends.

If you’re doing commercial work, you might have a narration that you’re covering with B-roll but the same thing applies.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone. It’s the visual version of cotton candy, sweet but no substance.

Run-n-gun is fun. But it’s not the way great art is created. After watching this clip of a great master, I feel more dedicated to doing the work it takes to create art.

Leave your comments and let me know what you think.

BTW – there are several other clips from Hitchcock around this one on youtube worth watching if you’re interested in being a student of film making.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • POWSKII July 28, 2010, 9:55 am

    Brilliantly interesting ! To go a step further, as this master of art began to talk about, I think that a lot of edits have proportions problem from one clip to another. In my opinion, this is something that is often forgotten and what contributes to make a smoother (or shocking as Hitchcock sayed) transition.

  • adriel July 28, 2010, 10:04 am

    Yes, I was talking with someone the other day about the “language of cinema” and how important it is to learn to use it to tell stories.

    It’s not just one nice picture after another, right?


  • POWSKII July 28, 2010, 10:18 am

    Sure !
    As in human conversations, every transitions give indications and make the story.

  • adriel July 28, 2010, 10:21 am

    I like the idea of a conversation – not filming a conversation between two characters – rather a conversation between the film maker and the audience.

    That’s interesting…


  • Chuck July 28, 2010, 12:06 pm

    Hitchcock obviously understood the early works of Russian filmmaker’s like Eisenstein (Ptomekin) and Kuleshov as they crafted the art of film editing.

  • Chuck July 28, 2010, 12:08 pm

    P.S. Referencing my previous post: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuleshov_Effect

  • Gerry Loew July 28, 2010, 2:28 pm

    Inadvertently, DSLR with its lack of auto-focus (at least on some models) and limited clip duration, has forced photographers to return to a more film-like approach to shooting. This means planning shots more carefully, pre-focusing, thinking about exposure, etc. It has been a blessing for me, and really reminds me of my old Super 8 camera in some ways.

    Interestingly, Hitchcock mentions 78 pieces of film in 45 seconds. Remember, cutting on a flat bed editor was much more time consuming than digital non-linear editing today. 78 cuts in 45 seconds by todays standards isn’t that much. The rapidity of the “assembly” has sped up exponentially because we CAN have 5 frame shots if we want. That said, maybe this rapid fire style has been overused because today’s audience has “unlearned” how to watch a film with slower pacing, and so, part of the repertoire in the filmmakers bag has all but died. Thankfully, foreign films seem to have maintained some of the classic montage style from pre-digital days. I hope the “video game” editing style doesn’t dominate Hollywood films from here on out.

  • Jeff July 28, 2010, 3:33 pm

    It is however one of the reasons I do appreciate Scorsese’s (et al.) approach so much. Especially in Goodfellas, he didn’t shy away from the longer, unedited takes. Even swish pans/tilts. You rarely see that these days. I perceive it as adding a slight subliminal tension to the scene.

    Just goes to show you how much structure can really influence a film. It’s also a testament to the old saying of knowing all the rules so you can break them effectively to make it work.

  • carlos July 28, 2010, 4:33 pm

    i’ve seen some horrible editing done by dslr shooters. It’s common to think that just because you have a camera that it doesn’t make you a cinematographer. More people need to admit that they suck at editing. -cd

  • adriel July 28, 2010, 4:36 pm

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Jeff. There are rules about the language of cinema. They are not rules because someone said so, they work because of how we perceive.

    And I agree, Gerry, that the pace of edits in today’s films is much faster in general. Some of that comes from using NLE’s for edit but it’s also the general pace of life seems faster. I find myself slowing things down deliberately in response.

    Chuck, your reference to Eisenstein is perfect. You know Hitchcock studied these guys. I don’t know if they still teach Eisenstein in film schools but it’s a good place to start.

    Great discussion – what else comes to mind about this?

  • adriel July 28, 2010, 4:45 pm

    You’re right Carlos.

    I was talking with some photographers and mentioned that their difficulties around recording audio was small compared to the learning curve of editorial.

    I want everyone to have the experience of making films yet I know that the specialized knowledge and experience it takes to excel at every part of the process are not easy to come by.

    I’ve been at it for years and I’m still learning with every project.

  • James Frederick Bland August 18, 2010, 12:50 pm

    This is exactly why I will call you or someone like you if I ever get asked to shoot video. I’m not buying a camera with video [if that’s still possible], sound equipment, steady cams rigs, eye pieces, purpose built lenses, and a “gi-hugic” computer with final cut pro either. The capture does have to have a plan and the editing and sound have to sparkle, and you have to like to spend hours over the key board.

    I’m pretty sure that there will be a lot of Spanky and our gang let’s make a movie efforts, glad to know you won’t be one of them. 🙂 Thanks for the posting.

    • adriel August 18, 2010, 2:47 pm

      Thanks, James – I like the Spanky reference – “Hey, I know… let’s all get together and make a movie!!!”

      What it takes to make a movie is not a secret and it’s not difficult. But the same could be said for taking pictures and how many photos are really remarkable? How many GarageBand songs are great?

      At the same time, there’s something to be said for the pioneering spirit. And I always appreciate people who follow their passion.

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