We Can Fix That in Post! 5 Phrases an Editor Lives By

With the ease and commonality of high-quality cell phone cameras, more companies are shooting their own videos for social media. While it’s easier than ever to shoot the footage you need without hiring a videographer, the convenience can come at a cost.

After sending your fresh shots along, how many times have you heard from the post-production house, “We can’t work with this”? Often, the fault lies in an innocent mistake you’ve made while shooting. An editor’s least favorite phrase is, “We can fix that in post.” Luckily, we’re here today to tell you 5 favorite phrases of an editor, phrases an editor lives by. Follow the tips below to avoid being the bane of the post-production house and to ensure you have an excellent looking finished project.

1. "Garbage In, Garbage Out”

Non-production folks tend to think that video editors are all wizards, capable of taking something awful and making it incredible with a wave of our wands. But the number one thing to remember when shooting is: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

This is a phrase production people use to remind themselves to get things done right the first time. If your video is shaky, poorly lit, or has noisy audio, you can bet your finished product will be shaky, poorly lit, with noisy audio. There’s only so much correcting that can be done to shots. So, before you call “Action!” look at how your shot is framed; can you see the subject’s eyes clearly? Can you hear them well? If the answer is no, try adjusting your set-up to maximize these factors. The production house will thank you, and your final product won’t look like you hired your nephew in middle school to do it.

2. “Less Isn’t More”

We would much rather sort through tons of footage than not have enough to work with. Make sure you shoot multiple takes of the same lines, better yet at multiple angles. This may seem like a lot of added work on yours and the talent’s parts, but you won’t be kicking yourself the next day after reading a message saying the talent flubbed a line or that a car drove past and the talent couldn’t be heard. If you shoot everything at least twice, you’re doubling your chances that you will have workable footage. If you shoot everything wide, and then do a close-up as well. That way you’re ensuring that the editor has something they can cut to if the first shot isn’t working out. Your talent would much rather spend an extra fifteen minutes in front of the camera than to have to come back a day or two later and do reshoots.

3. "Cutaways Save the Day"

Always shoot more than just the onscreen talent. This goes hand-in-hand with the shoot more rule. If you take the time to get extra footage (called b-roll), it can make a world of difference to your editor and to your finished product. After you’ve shot all your dialogue, get some detail shots of whatever your talent is talking about. Shoot it from multiple angles. Most importantly record each shot for at least 10 seconds without moving the camera so the editor has plenty to work with. Having these extra shots is useful when you need to make a cut that won’t look good on screen. It also makes your video look more dynamic by giving the viewer something else to look at. It’s much better to have too much b-roll than too little. This is also a great time to flex your artistic side a bit; don’t be afraid to try things out!

4. “Shoot for the Edit”

This rule can be a hard one to remember; we’re not all Stanley Kubricks or Alfred Hitchcocks. We don’t always think of things in terms of the visual. When you’re shooting your video, you’re probably more concerned with getting the lines right, but the devil is in the details. You need to shoot for the edit. That means hitting record ten seconds before saying “action”, your talent waiting three seconds before beginning their lines, and holding their composure for at least three seconds after finishing their lines. If you’re making a video with more than one location, you need to shoot your talent walking out of one shot and into the next. You need to sit back and think, “Okay, if I just mushed these two clips together, would it look natural?”

This also goes back to #2. You might think you have everything you need, but there’s always a chance your talent is holding their hands one way in a shot and differently in the next. We call this continuity. You want there to be a continual flow between shots so things don’t look jumpy or stilted. Take a few seconds to review your last clip before shooting your next clip.

5. “Don’t Write More Than You Can Chew”

Even if your talent is capable of delivering your lines perfectly, you don’t want to put long and complex material in front of them for a number of reasons. It’s always best to break the material down into smaller chunks and change the shot between each section. Doing so gives the talent more flexibility with their delivery, and by changing your angle in between lines you make your final edit more dynamic. No one wants to be lectured, and your viewers are more likely to maintain interest if they’re visually stimulated. Think about any movie or TV show you’ve seen in the last five years. It’s very rare that a shot sits on screen for more than fifteen seconds. You can lose your audience if you’re not making a cut every 5-10 seconds. Multiple angles (#2), b-roll (#3), and a more dynamic edit (#4) will keep your audiences’ attention. Save the rolling soliloquies for Shakespeare; instead opt for bite sized sentences with movement along the way.

Remember: we can maybe fix it in post, but we’d rather not. Since we just clued you in on the 5 phrases we editors live by, you can start living by these, too. Now the video footage you shoot will be great, so the final product we come up with will be even better.

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