Our Camcorder Classroom - Post Production Edit

Over this series of articles, I’ve talked about getting ready to shoot, shooting, lighting, audio, and now we’re ready to have everything come together in the process of post production.

“Post” as it’s called in the industry, is where you bring your raw materials together—the video, audio, text and titles—and create a cohesive program. Post also covers taking your program and preparing it for distribution electronically, either on disc or over the web.

But as important as mastering, encoding, and preparation for distribution might be, most people are interested in the critical stage of the post production process, editing - gathering your digital assets together in the edit suite to make your master program.

Well, it used to be done in the edit suite.

Today your “edit suite” might be a laptop in your kitchen! This is another great example of how far the digital era has taken us, providing wonderful video editing tools that everyone can use.

Just as I mentioned in part three of this series that owning a camera is NOT the same as knowing how to use one, owning editing software has nothing to do with whether or not you can edit.

In this era of inexpensive hardware and free software (most modern computers come with free editing software pre-installed such as Windows Movie Maker or iMovie) there is no barrier to trying your hand at editing to see how you like it.

Post Production editing is essentially taking all the raw footage you shot in the field and doing two things with it.

First, you will be SELECTING the footage you want or need to use in your final program. Second in the editing process, is ARRANGING the order and timing of those scenes into a cohesive whole.

There are volumes written about the art of editing, but the basic process is just that: selecting and arranging.

But what about all those fancy effects and whiz bang gizmos that modern editing software comes with? Aren’t those an important part of editing? Well, not really. They’re a part of editing, but certainly not the most important part.

Here’s a challenge. In the next few movies you see, count the fancy between-scenes transitions. Judge more than one movie because you can certainly find a few today that use fancy transitions as a part of the visual style such as the Austin Powers franchise. In most cases, the total you will find after viewing a string of popular movies will be a big, fat ZERO.

You’ll discover that editing isn’t about fancy transitions, it’s all about telling a story well.

And, you know what makes a story good? Clear concise story structure, and clear concise story telling. That’s it.

Editing is, at its most fundamental, cutting out the boring stuff.

If you tape someone giving a speech and he or she coughs in the middle of the speech, cut out the cough! Coughing doesn’t help the audience understand the subject (well, it might in an anti-smoking PSA!) but it’s typically just a distraction. So edit it OUT.

The same goes for long boring scenes. For example, consider the script direction: The camera opens with a shot of the sign in the front of the school. How long does it take to read the sign and identify the school? A few seconds? So unless the scene has something else, like great music to listen to, scrolling titles, or kids walking by, we GET IT in a few seconds. There is no excuse for a 20-second static shot of the school sign. That’s BORING.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that when you edit, the very act of editing can mess up your story. For example, cutting out parts out of scenes can leave jumps in time.

There are ways to fix this, using techniques like cutaway shots or scene changes, but those complexities are beyond the scope of this simple series. (If you want to learn the skills of editing, may I humbly suggest my own StartEditingNow series of instructional DVDs, or head for the internet or the library and start reading up on the subject.)

All of your work up to this point was careful planning and creating the raw materials of a good video program. Editing is where it all comes together.

And when it does, the results are like nothing else.

I hope this series has given you some ideas about how to improve the use of video in your own classrooms. Because I truly believe that today’s students MUST be as “video literate” as possible. If not, we may short-change them in a world where citizens need a video critical eye to judge and assess the news, political messages, web content, and all the other video-centric elements of our information-saturated society. Our classrooms today are the first generation that won’t be constrained to just watching TV, but involved in CREATING it as a part of their daily lives.

Keep learning, and you find ever-increasing ways to use these skills to inspire the students of tomorrow.

As the title of this series indicates…

It’s time to shoot, edit, and inspire!

Bill Davis is a video professional with more than two decades experience producing, writing, shooting, and editing video. He spent 10 years as Contributing Editor at Videomaker Magazine and conducts seminars and lectures nationwide on the art and craft of videomaking. He is the author and producer of the Videocraft Workshop series of video editing training programs, including the START EDITING NOW! Classroom Workshop Edition.