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Mastering the Art of Feeling Your Edit: A Comprehensive Guide to Editing Theory

This post delves into the essence of editing, curating the best videos and resources on editing theory. Rather than focusing on the "how," the goal is to help you understand how to "feel" your edit. While some redundancy exists in the presented information, it can be beneficial for learning.

Before delving into the content, it's essential to clarify the three major definitions of "edit" as a noun and verb, encompassing the timeline, physical file, video itself, and the act of editing.



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)

As a filmmaker, I personally find myself at odds with some of these rules, particularly in instances where rules 4, 5, and 6 might be considered part of the Director of Photography's (DP) responsibilities. Why include this video then? It's crucial for editors to be aware of these rules. In narrative videos such as feature films, television shows, or short films, eye trace is a critical element that should be planned during pre-production, involving storyboards and animatics. While it's typically the DP's job, it could also fall on the set designer. This planning should occur in pre-production, not as an afterthought in post-production.

As an editor, you're provided with the footage—you're not the one behind the camera. Many factors are beyond your control. However, when editing projects like music videos, commercials, or those utilizing stock footage, it becomes essential to be mindful of these rules.

Directors planning to edit their projects should reconsider. Editors need to maintain objectivity and detachment from the footage. Directors and DPs often have strong attachments to all the footage they shoot, as Quentin Tarantino emphasized in our Directors Talk About Editing post. Directors want to include everything, which can be a counterproductive idea. Editors should prioritize caring about the story while maintaining objectivity toward the footage and the hours invested in each shot. To better understand the editor's need for objectivity and detachment from the footage, let's delve into the post-production story of a seemingly obscure indie film (you may or may not have heard of it), "Star Wars: A New Hope."

Now, circling back to the 6 rules of editing, let's shine a spotlight on the 4th rule—eye tracking. It's actually really f*cking fascinating and deserves a closer inspection. Tim Smith and David Boardwell stand out as major pioneers in studying eye trace, with Smith even putting his insights into a journal paper. Trust me, it's a riveting read. Below, I've tossed in some of their work for your perusal:

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.



Let's dive into the heart of editing—cutting. Without it, there's no editing; it's just an unbroken, continuous shot. Different cuts wield different effects, and Rocket Jump has generously compiled numerous examples into a single video.

Piggybacking on the 6 rules, Rule number 3, Rhythm, centers around cutting. Some might call it pacing—it's essentially the same thing. Cutting becomes a potent tool when intertwined with rhythm or pacing. Various cuts influence the rhythm; a basic cut from one shot to the next is swift, demanding precision. On the flip side, cross fades extend, deliberately slowing down the rhythm of the edit.

And what about scenarios where you abstain from cutting altogether? Or conversely, what about instances of cutting too early? Excellent questions, and we're ready to explore.

For now, this wraps up our exploration. Feel free to drop comments about other aspects of editing theory you're curious about. We'll keep this page updated as we uncover 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!



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