A visual montage is a very good place to start when learning how to make videos because your main priority should be the composition of all of your shots, followed by your well-written plan on how you’re going to edit it all together. Luckily for me, I have experience with video creation, but it is good to sometimes go back to your roots and restrict yourself to certain means to make a strong video.
In this instance, I was confined to making a visual montage with shots exclusively filmed on a tripod, for stabilization purposes. I was only allowed three movement shots in my final edit, such as pans, tilts, or dollies. Thankfully, I was able to use a wide variety of visual composition guidelines in order to add a ton of variety to my shots.
I have more about my montage at the bottom of this post, but as per usual, I will give you a summary of a few readings from this week as well as some clips that have inspired me to make the best possible edit of my piece.
The final chapter of Tom Schroeppel’s book, The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video, he discusses editing basics. First off, when you edit, you are in control of what your audience sees, and can thus manipulate their perception of the world you’re creating. You want them to know where they are, so keep the camera still and give your viewers time to accept new information. Of course, you can break these rules as long as you know what you’re doing and want to send a different message to your viewers.
You should also judge your shots as if you’ve never seen them before. Your viewers are not as attached to the clips are you are because they did not have to go through the pain to get that shot, so if your clip does not work, then get rid of it. You should also definitely log your footage (label each clip with scene #, take #, and a short description) to help make editing go by so much faster. When you don’t have a script to work with a paper edit is your best bet, which has all of your scenes on paper slits and you organize them in a story that makes the most sense. This will ensure you get the most out of your footage and you are not scrambling to fill in the last few minutes of a documentary.
When establishing a new world, make sure to cut back to wider shots to give your viewers a chance to breath and not be caught up in close ups all the time. If you have basic sequences to work with (two shots in the same location you can cut back and forth between), use those, and find cutaways to avoid jump cuts between two very similar clips. You want to make sure each new shot is different, as that’s what your viewer expects.
Pacing (the rate you change pictures and sounds) is also very important. Don’t cut too often, unless the cut itself is sending a message. Keep a shot held longer or even cut back to it in order to increase its importance. Use certain cuts to make your editing seem invisible, such as L or J cuts. These allow viewers to expect what’s coming up and not have to be surprised with a new cut, while also associating the two shots as related. Music is also key to editing, especially background music. Library music works best for this, as it is unnoticeable at times. When you cut a track, if it is longer than the picture you’re associating it with, then it might be a good idea to split the track in half, sync the start of the track with he start of the picture, sync the end of the track with the end of the video, and hide a transition to the music somewhere in the middle. When mixing your sound, make sure all of your tracks are on separate layers so you can apply different effects to each one until your sound feels much better.
Some quick notes on pacing and rhythm by Sue Apfelbaum: pacing is totally up to you. You can make the video progress in real time, skip ahead in time to breeze by sequences, or slow down key moments to highlight importance. Rhythm is about the music and sound, and using it to your advantage by either cutting to the song’s beats or cutting on a chain or dialogue to improve the feel of your edit.
Lastly, Ryan McAfee offer 13 editing techniques each editor should know:
- The Standard Cut: the most basic cut of just putting two clips back to back
- Jump Cut: A cuts hat’s usually frowned upon because of how jarring it feels, but it can help increase pacing for something as quick as a montage
- Montage: a sequence of passing time by using quick cuts with music underneath (think the Rocky films)
- Cross Dissolve: two video layers fade in and out of each other to prevent a sharp cut. It can also be used to have two layers playing simultaneously.
- Wipe: A digital animation that transitions from one scene to another by “wiping” the former one away
- Fade In/Out: Fading one clip to black and fading in the next clip from black. Can be jarring if not used well, and should not be used often.
- L or J Cut: Named based on the shape clips take on in editing software. And L cut extends the audio of the first clip into the second clip, while a J cut introduces the audio of the second clip before the end of the first clip. Mainly used in conversation or transitional scenes.
- Cutting on Action: Making the cut from when someone starts an action to a shot of the action being performed.
- Cutaway Shots: Shots that cutaway from the action. Can be used to highlight tension or foreshadow.
- Cross-Cut/Parallel Edit: Cutting between two scenes that are happening at the same time
- Match Cut: Cuts that keep a scene coherent and follows an action. Can be used to cut around a space as someone performs the action.
- Smash Cut: Cutting between two completely different scenes, such as someone waking up from a bad dream or someone doing something they just said they would never do.
- Invisible Cut: Trying to make the shot look like one continuous take. Easiest method is to fill the frame with a black/dark color and then whip-pan to the next scene.
These next series of clips are different but phenomenal examples of some of the editing techniques from above, and some that I found quite inspiring when making my visual montage.
This movie has become one of my favorite films of all time and the cinematography in it is just beautiful. That’s right: to pull off this many invisible cuts does not only requires strong editing skills, but it is simply impossible without the excruciating planning ahead from both the director and the cinematographer. 1917 does such a fantastic job here and I can’t look away.
I would define the scene in Man of Steel starting at 2:55 a montage. Superman takes flight once again after trying to previously and failing. This time, he’s more confident than ever and flies all around the globe, and even above it. There are many cuts that go relatively quickly and numerous environments shown through Superman’s flight. The music also helps keep the rhythm of the scene very strongly.
This is a prime example of cross-cutting, which is when two scenes play out at the exact same time. Here, we have the soldiers lining up to stop a runaway blue car, cross-cut with the sniper camped on the roof of a building, waiting to take his shot to stop the interaction. The blue car is also cross-cut between these clips, as we see it drive towards the soldiers, who go ahead and take their shot.
There are so many examples of cutaway shots in films and videos, but I decide to throw in this one from Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This is a scene of one character (named Emma) who wants to use a device (called Orca) to call out all of the titans from hiding. This will gamble with the lives of billions of people. She is on a video call, and her shots cutaway with stills of the titans in cave paintings, showing what the world was like before people.
Below is my visual montage of a local park near me! Let me know what you think! I have a description of my shooting and editing experience below, so please check that out after you watch the montage!
This is my visual montage of Elm Ridge Park. The actual production was pretty fun. I got up at 9am to head to the park and film everywhere and anything I could for the next three hours. I got a bunch of footage, varying in focal lengths, depth of field areas, and compositions. I showcase a majority of the shots here, but there were definitely a few I had to leave out because they did not live up to my expectations.
I must also say beforehand, I know I broke the “tripod only” and “no zoom” rule a few times in this video, but some of the shots of the animals were so sporadic that I felt I had no choice but to move my camera in some way to capture them. Regardless, a vast majority of the shots are static on a tripod, so I hope you enjoy that!
I was able to find some music, ambient sound, and SFX to use throughout my piece, and I think it compliments it pretty well. I was able to cut to the pacing, which helped my workflow a lot, as I tried to figure out which shots I wanted to present in which order. I also recorded my VoiceOver in Adobe Audition, edited it a tad, and brought it into Premiere to lay under the timeline. Overall, a very fun montage to film and a pretty simple but effective editing process in my eyes. I hope you all enjoy the video and I really hope I was able to make you feel like you were actually at the park.