Editing is an unobtrusive skill. If it is done well, the audience does not notice it, but is absorbed in its effect.

During an exciting scene, for example, when the duration of shots is made shorter and shorter as the tension grows, the audience is only conscious of growing agitation, and fast-moving action.

There are certain established principles in the way one edits, and although like all “rules,” they may be occasionally disregarded, they have been created out of experience. Here are a few of the most common:

* Avoid cutting between shots of extremely different size of the same subject (close-up to long shot). It is jolting for the audience.

* Do not cut between shots that are similar or even matching (frontal close-up of one person to a frontal close-up of a second person); it will look as though they transformed from one to the other.

* Do not cut between two shots of the same size (close-up to close-up) of the same subject. It produces a jump cut.

* If two subjects are going in the same direction (chasing, following), have them both going across the screen in the same direction. If their screen directions are opposite, it suggests that they are meeting or parting.

* Avoid cutting between still (static) shots and moving images (panning, tilting, zooming, etc.), except for a specific purpose.

* If you have to break the continuity of action (deliberately or unavoidably), introduce a cutaway shot. But try to ensure that this relates meaningfully to the main action. During a boxing bout, a cutaway to an excited spectator helps the tension. A cutaway to a bored attendant (just because you happen to have the unused shot) would be meaningless, although it can be used as a comment on the main action.

* Avoid cutting to shots that make a person or object jump from one side of the screen to the other.
When cutting between images of people, avoid the following distracting effects:

* Mismatched camera angles.

* Changes in headroom.

* Jump cuts. Avoid cutting between shots that are only slightly different in size. The subject will suddenly appear to jump, shrink, or grow.

Anticipating Editing

It does not matter how good the video images are; if they have not been shot with editing in mind, you may not be able to use them. Here are some of the issues to think about when shooting:

* Include cover shots (long shots) of action wherever possible to show the overall view of the action.

* Always leave several seconds of run-in and run-out at the start and finish of each shot. Do not begin recording just as the action is beginning or the talent is about to speak, and do not stop immediately action/speech finishes. Spare footage at the beginning and end of each shot will allow more flexible editing.

* Include potential cutaway shots that can be used to cover edits when any sequence is shortened or lengthened. This could include crowd shots, longs shots, and people walking by.

* Avoid reverse-angle shots unless you need them for a specific reason (such as slow-motion shots of a sports event). If it is unavoidable (such as when crossing the road to shoot a parade from the other side), include head-on (frontal) shots of the same action. These shots can work as transitional shots.

* Remember that a dissolve, slow-motion, wipe, or digital video effect (DVE) usually indicates a change in location or time.

Try to anticipate continuity. If only a few shots were taken in daylight and the rest were taken at night, it may not be practical to edit them together to provide a continuous sequence.

* Where there is going to be commentary over the video (voiceover), allow for this in the length and pace of takes. For example, avoid inappropriately choppy editing that results from shots being too brief. (Editors sometimes have to slow-motion or still-frame a very short shot to make it usable).

* Plan to include long shots and close-up shots of action to provide additional editing options. For example, where the action shows people crossing a bridge, a variety of angles can make a mundane subject visually interesting: a long shot (in which the subject is walking away from camera towards the bridge), a medium shot (the subject is walking on the bridge, looking over), a very long shot (the camera is shooting up at the bridge from the river below), a long shot (the subject is walking from the bridge to the camera on the far side), and so on.

* Remember that environmental noises can provide valuable bridging sound between shots when editing. They can be recorded as a wild track (nonsync sound).

* Where possible, include features in shots that will provide the audience with the context of the event. This helps viewers to identify the specific location (landmarks, street names). Too often, the walls and bushes behind closer shots could be anywhere.

* Wherever possible, use an identifying board or slate at the start of each shot. Otherwise, the talent or camera operator can state the shot number so that the editor knows where it goes in the final production.

* Always check what is happening in the background behind the talent or subject. Distractions, such as people waving, trash cans, and signs, can take the audience’s attention away from the main subject. When shooting multiple takes of a scene, watch for significant changes in the background that will make it difficult to edit the takes together.

Always keep in mind that edits should be motivated. There should be a reason for each edit you make.