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Old October 3rd, 2006, 06:52 PM   #1
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How to Learn what is a "Good Cut"

Greetings. Sorry if this has been asked before, its not a super searchable topic.

How does one learn what is a good cut vs. a bad cut? I know what a "Jump Cut" is, but how do you evaluate a cut, say, between say a wide shot and a medium shot of the same action?

I saw a video once showing someone describing how to edit together a ski sequence. The skier disappears behind a rock and then we cut to another camera on the other side of the hill. In order to make the cut smoot, the editor left out a few frames of absolute time. He explained that this made the cut appear smoother because our eyes need a few milliseconds to adjust to the new shot. Sure enough, taking out those few frames made the shot seem smoother, but this is completely counter-intuitive: It seems that if eyes need a couple of frames to adjust, that you would want to back up a little bit. I tried this with a couple of shots and doing so *really* makes the cut jump.

Why does this work? And how can I learn more about editing at this level?

Thanks All!!
Cameron

P.S. I have some sample footage of something I'm trying to cut together if anyone wants to play with it.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 03:06 AM   #2
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I’m a director/editor for my own movies. I have yet to have any schooling on this subject yet have made MANY MANY successful shorts. All I have done to learn is watch movies. I find it best to watch without sound and actually watch what is going on. Watch when they cut and watch their shots. Jump cuts are actually okay and if used correctly can make a scene seem longer or shorter. My favorite writer/director/editor is Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Sin City…) and he uses jump cuts all the time and perfectly. There is no “right” way of cutting, its all about the message you want to convey. Most people will say that slow scenes in movies have less cuts and fast scenes will have faster cuts. But you CAN stick a camera on steadicam with a high shutter speed (like in band of brothers) and never have to cut because the action is enough to move the scene. Like I said there is no way to learn other then doing but if I had to suggest something to learn from watching, I would suggest El Mariachi’s 10 minute film school (on the DVD). It will teach a lot about editing. Have fun and be creative.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 05:56 AM   #3
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10 Minute Film School

What DVD are you referring to? Where do I find it?

Thanks
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Old October 4th, 2006, 06:42 AM   #4
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Cameron,

I would highly suggest a book called "In the Blink of an Eye" by Walter Murch (3 x Academy Award winner). He talks very eloquently about the philosophy and psychology of making good cuts.

Paul,

It's on the extra features of El Mariachi, by Robert Rodriguez. It's fun.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 07:20 AM   #5
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Hey Cam,
This is an entire art unto itself. :)

Two books I'd encourage you too look into are:
In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
The Technique of Film and Video Editing, History,Theory, and Practice by Ken Dancyger

The first is cheap and a quick read. Interesting inside look into the thinking of an Academy Award winning editor. I wouldn't say that it is directly applicable, like, say, a tutorial on how to apply transitions, but it can spark ideas and thought processes for yourself.

The second is a much more in-depth textbook on film editing. Very good read for nights when you can't fall asleep. This will have you snoozing very quickly :p
Read in small bites from time-to-time, though, and you will find that it is LOADED with useful, applicable information.
In particular, there is a chapter on Sergei Eisenstein's Montage theories, originally formed in the early 1900's and still very much in use today. Another chapter covering various editing techniques and ploy's used by Alfred Hitchcock can also be of great value.


OK, enough about books .... how about some real info.....

1) If you are editing your own material, try to do everything you can to separate yourself from your memories of the shoot. Sentiments like "It took us forever to get this take." or "This shot cost us $,$$$ to put together." have no place in the editing room. The only measure of a shot in the editing room is how effective it is to moving the story or message forward.

2) Keep a close eye on continuity. Not just things like props (pen in pocket for one take, but out during another) but continuity in position and motion of the characters. Cutting away from a shot as someone turns to look in a different direction and next showing them already looking can be jarring. It's generally better to cut into the second shot as the character is still moving.

Another trick is to cut away from a character before switching to a new angle or framing of that same character. In a two person dialog, for example, it can be jarring for an over the shoulder shot showing a person talking to be cut to an extreme closeup of the same person. This blends more easily if a reaction shot showing the person listing is insert between the two shots of the same person.

Editor Dody Dorn has some great commentary on the Insomnia DVD about choosing cuts on action to give the feeling that things are happening at once.

3) Pacing and intesity are intertwined with your editing. Lots of fast cuts between many shots can enhance the intesity of action while longer shots allow the viewer to think more about what is happening at a given moment.

4) Be very very careful with sound!
Make sure that the audio levels of the dialog are consistant from shot to shot, character to character.
One of the most common mistakes is to have background music turned up too high ... like at 50% volume of the dialog. Background music is typically most effective when it's WAY in the background. Just barely audible.

Well, those are a few ideas anyway.
I'd be interested in playing with those shots you mentioned.
Have fun.
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Last edited by Nick Jushchyshyn; October 4th, 2006 at 01:10 PM.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 07:34 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron O'Rourke
I saw a video once showing someone describing how to edit together a ski sequence. The skier disappears behind a rock and then we cut to another camera on the other side of the hill. In order to make the cut smoot, the editor left out a few frames of absolute time. He explained that this made the cut appear smoother because our eyes need a few milliseconds to adjust to the new shot. Sure enough, taking out those few frames made the shot seem smoother, but this is completely counter-intuitive: It seems that if eyes need a couple of frames to adjust, that you would want to back up a little bit. I tried this with a couple of shots and doing so *really* makes the cut jump.

Why does this work? And how can I learn more about editing at this level?
That works because it takes time for the mind to realize the break in continuity. If you had left in those extra frames, the viewer would have enough time to figure out a cut has taken place.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 08:40 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron O'Rourke
I saw a video once showing someone describing how to edit together a ski sequence. The skier disappears behind a rock and then we cut to another camera on the other side of the hill. In order to make the cut smoot, the editor left out a few frames of absolute time. He explained that this made the cut appear smoother because our eyes need a few milliseconds to adjust to the new shot. Sure enough, taking out those few frames made the shot seem smoother, but this is completely counter-intuitive: It seems that if eyes need a couple of frames to adjust, that you would want to back up a little bit. I tried this with a couple of shots and doing so *really* makes the cut jump.
Some of what is behind this is actually explained in Walter Murch's book.

The concept lies in the idea that real world "editing" happens when we turn our heads to look at something in a different direction, and typically blink during the turn. We don't generally "remember" the blink, just the two different views. Between these views, there is a split second where our eyes are closed.

Picking up the next shot a 2-3 frames "late" simulates this "natural" edit more smoothly than a frame-for-frame time accurate cut to a new angle.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 08:52 AM   #8
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I also found the DVD "The Cutting Edge" valuable (not the ice skating one...the editing one).

http://video.barnesandnoble.com/sear...69714298&itm=3
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Old October 4th, 2006, 09:59 AM   #9
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"The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques" by Joseph Mascelli was recommended to me, and now I'm recommending it to you. It's dated in certain ways, but it's very solid.
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Old October 4th, 2006, 12:18 PM   #10
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Wow. Thanks Alan, Barry, Nick, Emre, Cole and Jeff. Great information. I'll check all of these books/videos out!

Thanks,
Cameron
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Old October 4th, 2006, 12:32 PM   #11
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Good information, folks. I'm going to move this thread to the "Read All About It" forum because I feel these resource references need to be found easily and that's where folks would be looking.

By all means, if anyone has any additional references, don't hesitate to add them.

regards,

-gb-
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Old October 10th, 2006, 04:47 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan James
I would suggest El Mariachi’s 10 minute film school (on the DVD). It will teach a lot about editing. Have fun and be creative.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Cascio
What DVD are you referring to? Where do I find it?
El Mariachi You could just order it from Amazon or rent it from your local Video Store.
If you enjoy that, check out Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel Without a Crew which can be found in most film related bookstores.

As for editing, here are a few recommend books and dvds.

First Cut: Conversations with Film Editors

In the Blink of an Eye Revised 2nd Edition

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

On Film Editing

The Ultimate Filmmaking Bundle

The Basics of Filmmaking

Cutting Edge - The Magic of Movie Editing

Behind the Seen: How Walter Murch Edited Cold Mountain
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Old October 24th, 2006, 05:29 PM   #13
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My favorite editing craft book so far is

Transitions: Voices on the Craft of Digital Editing

http://www.amazon.com/Transitions-Vo...e=UTF8&s=books
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Old October 24th, 2006, 08:49 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron O'Rourke
How does one learn what is a good cut vs. a bad cut? I know what a "Jump Cut" is, but how do you evaluate a cut, say, between say a wide shot and a medium shot of the same action?
Cameron,

A quick, before the books arrive, suggestion it to cut on action or movement if possible. For example, when cutting between your wide and medium shots cut on a movement of the character or the object. Say the person is raising a hammer, maybe half way through the movement or so make the cut to the other shot of the same action and finish the movement. It seems very natural that way. Turning of heads and bodies, hand movements, the lighting of a cigarette, opening a book, picking something up or putting it down etc..

I just did a little freeby short for a friend with some kids that Nichelodian is looking at and they wanted a quick little movie with them in it. All I did was shoot and edit. The story, script and directing and all were someone else. There were a lot of continuity issues I had to work around but it came out fairly well. I'll post a link here and you can look at where the cuts were made. Like I said, on some movement is a good place to start. Check this one for movement on the cuts---book, tools, arms, card playing, etc. It is no masterpiece because I'm not that good, but may help while you wait for those books to arrive.

Good luck----Mike

http://www.treasurecoastvideo.com/Ho...20Dentists.wmv
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Old November 2nd, 2006, 11:35 PM   #15
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books wont make u a good editor, practise will. So Id recomend editing someones elses footage if you can get it/volunteer for it, or even shooting your own stuff. Of course, books will help, but only if they are read in combination with actual editing.
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