Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Editing Preplanning

I'm still in the stage of reviewing footage and formulating a basic plan for editing. I'm doing a lot of pen markup in a copy of the script. I have yet to toss footage into an editing software since doing so now would be like drinking from a firehose. I'm about 1/2 way through my 'preplanning' stage.

Organizing Raw Footage

7 days of shooting produced 57gigs, 766 files. I dropped my file naming scheme about the time I got to clip 300, it was too verbose and surprisingly unhelpful. Organized into folders by scene.

As it turns out all I really needed to do was ensure that each clips had a unique number. When I played back the footage to see which lines/actions were covered I simply marked with a pen in a copy of the script the footage numbers. This provided a quicker way to later answer my own editing questions like 'which clips have line 144'. This also made apparent that some lines were only covered in one take, providing constraints in editing.

Cheating The Angles

Throughout filming I used what is called 'cheating the angle'. In real life when two character talk to each other they face each other directly. This doesn't look as good on camera than it does in real life because shots from the side will only capture the sides of faces. So instead the actors turn 15 degrees or so when delivering their lines (this is of course unnatural and I had to instruct the actors several times to "cheat a bit more, it looks better on camera"). Oftentimes it's useful to have a prop give the actors an excuse to cheat their angles toward the camera.

Looking at the phone helps cheat the angles.

What about using a third character as an excuse for actors to cheat their angles? No - This is usually avoided because you end up with characters standing in a triangle facing each other requiring more cross cutting or other camera movements. In scenes with 2+ actors the angle cheating gets more drastic.

All actors sit on the same side of the table. Dumb in real life, cool on camera.


Looking back I wish I could apply a lot of these principles to the restaurant scene. If I could redo it I would have them sit on the same side to and utilize the folder be an excuse to cheat angles. Or have them sit at a bar or on a bench.

Restaurant scene comes off as being removed from the conversation.

Crosscut Matching

When characters talk to each other in back to back cuts you need to reinforce the illusion that they are actually looking at each other. This is called 'matching the angles'. Simply put if character A faces left then character B needs to face right.

In our minds we superimpose the back to back footage to form a coherent sense of space. When the cut occurs if there is any small discrepancy is size, angles, position in frame, etc. our brains notice it immediately and thus become conscious of the artificial nature of the editing.

Bad editing example: Both characters looking right, at different angles, and different horizontal head centering.

Here's a bad example, both characters face right, so it looks like they're both talking to the same wall. In editing I have encountered a few scenes that don't have a proper crosscut match. To salvage the scene I'll need to get more creative. If there wasn't lettering in the scene I might be tempted to horizontally flip the footage, another hollywood trick.

Lesson of the day: When filming always do multiple takes from the opposite angles. It gives the editor more flexibility. Also on set it's impossible to fully picture the final edits so better safe than sorry.

Lengthy Lines

In the simplest, plainest form of editing you cut to each character when they say their line; more specifically you cut to them just before they say their first word in the line and cut away just after they say the last word in their line. During filming this is how I pictured most of my editing would end up, and for the most part it acted as a template for the scene.

As I was refining the script I tried to avoid lengthy lines as much as possible for many reasons: easier for actors to memorize lines (especially on a zero rehearsal shoot). Nonetheless I still have some lengthy lines in the movie and they require deviation from the main crosscut template. Holding a cut on a character for 3+ sentences or 10+ seconds feels boring so I sound it natural to cut to character's listening reactions and cut back.

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