Tips On Film & Television Editing

Film making is a multi-faceted and collaborative effort. Sure it begins with a great story and is largely dependent on a visionary Director to realize that story appropriately on screen. But there are many more people and functions that determine the end result. And one of the most crucial aspects in that scheme of things is the Editing.


It is the Editing and the Editor, albeit with guidance from the Director, that ultimately determines what goes on to the screen to become a part of the final cut and what the viewers watch. Not only is it a position of extreme power and responsibility, it is also a task that requires an immense story sense, a sense of pacing and a sense of visuals. So what are the tips to keep in mind to edit for Film & TV?

  1. Story: All that matters is the story. An Editor must know and feel the story completely. Only then will he or she be able to express what needs to go on to screen, justifiably.

  2. Pace: When editing a Film, the pace must also be kept in mind. For example, if one is watching a James Bond Film, it can not be slow and linger on indefinitely. By that same logic, a drama can not be paced and cut like an action thriller. It will simply not work.

  3. Cut On Motion: A basic rule of Editing is to avoid a jarring & noticeable jump. A good Editor must always cut on an action that one of the characters on screen is doing. This will make the cut smooth and unnoticeable.

  4. Awareness: An Editor must be aware of the important characters and the plot points to give them their due importance and time on screen. For example, if a character is experiencing a moment where he realizes something, it needs to be played out fully on screen and not snipped midway. By that same token, unnecessary scenes, that Directors understandably become attached to, but don’t help move the story along or serve any character purpose, need to be omitted or shortened.

  5. Read/Watch/Observe: The best way for an aspiring Editor to learn more is by reading books written by great Editors. For example, In The Blink Of An Eye by legendary Editor Walter Murch, is a great resource. Similarly, watching more & more Cinema will always teach invaluable lessons.

But ultimately, because Editing is one function that needs an equal combination & dexterity of the right brain and left brain functions, ie. technical Sound Editing as well as a creative sensitivity, especially modern day digital editing, the only sure way of truly grasping it is by taking a thorough Editing course. Institutes such as Digital Academy – The Film School, now have world-class programmes in India that are tailor-made to each Film-making discipline, including Editing.

One course and you have all the knowledge, tools and skill set to be effective and great Editors. So why try anything else?

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