The Inconspicuous Art of Editing

When you think of art, your mind typically wanders to a painting, a sculpture, a poem, or a song. Sometimes, you’ll even consider a building, a dress, a hairstyle or a movie as art. And when you think of this “art”, you realize that it is created to be expressed. A painting is painted to be seen. A song is composed to be heard. A movie is produced to be experienced.

But when it comes to editing, the more inconspicuous you are, the more excellent the edit.

I think about my favorite movies, and the editing is the last thing you think about. You may think about the acting, the score, the coloring, the sound design, the story—you think about all of those things, and say to yourself, “Wow, what a great movie.” Rarely, do you say, “Wow, that was some incredible editing!” But, watch a poorly edited film and immediately you are pulled out of the “suspension of disbelief” and experience what is referred to as a “mental hiccup”.

Editing is a transparent art form.

I remember seeing a movie last year called The Sentinel with Michael Douglas and Keifer Sutherland. The story was okay, but the editing was pretty bad. More than a handful of times, I saw either the boom mic dip down into frame or the camera flag at the top of the screen. Immediately, I was pulled out of the story. I experienced a mental hiccup that was hard to recover from.

Just recently, I experienced this again while watching The Departed. Personally, I didn’t like the show. The performances were good, but the story just wasn’t that great for me. And, the editing was really off. The continuity was pretty bad. In one scene where Leonardo DiCaprio was sitting in a café talking to this lady, and the edit would cut from her Over-the-Shoulder (OTS) angle to his OTS angle. As it would cut, it was very discontinuous. For example, he would be leaning forward in one shot and then immediately cut to the OTS and his leaning back with his arms crossed, and then back again. My mind kept hiccupping.

As I start editing, it’s amazing to me this balancing act with editing. Editing is very mechanical and technical, but at the same time, it’s very artistic and emotional.

Take a look at this out this picture:

Left Brain Right Brain
This is my brain. Literally. Do you see that green dot smack dab in the middle? When I take these mental tests to determine how you think, I always fall right in the middle. It seems to balance in the middle of creative/artistic (right-brained) and logical/analytical (left-brained). And, so I was thinking to myself, “This will be great for editing! Because it’s both creative and mechanical.”I was wrong.

What I’m learning is that I need to be extremely “out there” creative. Not balanced creative. Not analytically creative. But wildly, stare-at-a-flower, emotionally creative. That requires a green dot outside the brain to the right.

And, there are times I need to be mechanically process oriented, extremely left-brained. If not, I won’t have redundant back-ups or technically accurate deliverables needed for distribution.

So when I edit, I have both a creative hat and a mechanical hat. My goal is to never wear them at the same time. When I need to be technical, I am technical and not artistic. When I’m ready to tell a story, then I get all emotional and a bit touchy-feely.

I experienced this while cutting a scene this week. I noticed how some cuts just felt right and others did not, even though they were technically correct. There were times I would catch a glance or nod or an expression, and it was just right, and I would get giddy with emotion. “That’s the cut! That’s it!” Other times, I would tweak and work and still couldn’t get the emotion I wanted.

Most of the technical stuff is behind me now. The editing foundation has been laid, and the back ups are being made. Now, I get to be creative–wildly, out there, watch-the-clouds, creative. And what I have experienced so far has been a blast!

Wow, I never knew purple could be so pretty.

And now, I press on. My creative hat leaning slightly to the right.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007 at 10:02 am and is filed under general.
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