top of page

Theory: Editing

This post is about the "whens" and "whys" of editing. This post curates the best videos and resources we've found about editing theory. You won't learn "how" to edit from this post... instead, you'll learn how to "feel" your edit. Some of these videos and resources repeat information, but honestly, when learning, redundancy is beneficial sometimes.

Now before we begin, I have to explain something. The word "edit" has three major definitions that you will come across frequently.



Edit, noun

1. The timeline, the physical file it takes up on your hard drive or the video itself:

"I let the client take a look at the edit today, they liked it"

2. A cut. The most basic cut, just down the middle, cut the film in half, add another shot behind it.

"Hey, if you move trim this edit back three frames earlier, the match cut will work better"

Edit, verb

1. The act of editing itself.

"I've got to edit this commercial before the deadline in three days"


6 Rules For Editing

Now that we've got that out of the way, we can begin, starting with the 6 rules for editing, presented by Adam Epstein:

(Adam Epstein also has a paid online editing course for you to take a look at if you so desire)

So as a filmmaker in general, I clash personally with some of these rules. In certain instances, rules 4, 5 and 6 are also definitely the DP's job. Why did I include this video then? Because it's still something you should be aware of as an editor. In a narrative video (feature film, television show, short film), eye trace is something that should be planned in pre-pro, using story boards and animatics. Not only is it the DP's job, but it could also fall on the set designer. Again, this should be thought of in pre-pro not made in post.

As an editor, you're given the footage, it's not like you're filming it as well*, so a lot of these things are out of your control. But when you're editing something like a music video, a commercial, or maybe just using stock footage for something, it's important to still be aware of those rules.

*As a side note, if you are a director who is planning on editing the project you're directing, you should reconsider. Editors need to be the least-attached to the footage. Directors and DPs love all of the footage they shoot (as evidenced by Quentin Tarantino in our Directors Talk About Editing post), they want to include it all (usually a bad idea), they are in love with the work that they did. Editors should still care about the story, but they shouldn't care about the footage or the amount of hours that went into a shot. As an editor, you need to be subjective. To give you a better understanding of what I'm talking about, we'll turn to the post production story of a little indie film (you might have heard of it) called "Star Wars: A New Hope."

Now, going back to the 6 rules of editing, eye tracking, the 4th rule, is actually really f*cking fascinating and is worth taking a deeper look at. Tim Smith and David Boardwell are some of the major pioneers in studying eye trace. Smith has even written a journal paper about the subject. It's fascinating. I've added some of their work below.

Here are some more resources about eye tracing for you to look at if you please:




As well as the link to the DIAM Project's Vimeo page.



The most fundamental part about editing is cutting. Without cutting, there is no editing, it's just a long take. Different cuts can do different things, and so Rocket Jump has compiled lots of examples of them into one video.

To piggyback off of the 6 rules, Rule number 3, Rhythm, involves cutting. Some people call it pacing, they're the same thing. Cutting is a powerful tool when it correlates to rhythm or pacing. Different cuts affect rhythm, a simple edit (the most basic cut, from one shot to the next) is fast, it requires precision. Cross fades are long, they affect the rhythm of the edit by slowing it down.

What about when you don't cut at all? Or what about cutting too early? I'm glad you asked.

For now, that's all we have, feel free to comment other things you want to know about editing theory, We'll update this page as we find more sources. For a better understanding or editing, I suggest taking a trip down to our post about The History of Editing as well as our post about Directors Talk About Editing!

#HowToEdit #Editing #Edit #Filmmaking #Theory