Visual storytelling is a true art. The way a videographer, or any person for that matter, records something and manipulates the video graphic elements to portray a certain message requires some practice and technique. In Chapter 8 of the book Visual Storytelling by Ronald J. Osgood and M. Joseph Hinshaw, the aesthetics of editing are discussed and their value in the video creation process is noted. All the phases of videography are important: preproduction, production, and postproduction. Postproduction is particularly crucial because this is when the editing comes in to create the final, polished product. At this point, the story is defined and brought to life. The video footage is compiled, reviewed, tweaked, and arranged properly. Sound and visual effects can be added to enhance the video and its message as well. Osgood and Hinshaw state, “Understanding and using the psychology of the edit is central in telling the story in a logical, compelling, entertaining, or persuasive manner (Osgood & Hinshaw, 227).”
There are several different editing techniques that can enhance the video product.
B-roll: footage that visually portrays the story. This is a very common technique in news reporting. Visualize a news caster speaking of the events of a house fire and then the video being cut to actual footage of the fire while the report is still going.
Image and sound: The powerful combination of image and sound adds a lot to a video’s message. The message is not as striking without one or the other and therefore, there is a symbiotic relationship.
Shot Order: It is just what it sounds like. The order in which a photograph is taken can reveal a lot about the image taken.
Shot Relationship: An editor can alter believability by focusing on detail in the edit. For example, if one were to take a shot of an office building and then cut to a small shot of a person sitting at an office desk, the viewer would assume that person is in the building. However, the image of the building could have been taken in a completely different place than the image of the businessman or woman. It’s the edit that joins these two, separate photos together and convinces viewers of their “relationship.”
Time: Controlling time is one of the primary reasons for editing footage. Time can either be compressed or expanded. With the constraints of a time limit, an editor must decide what is best to cut out or expand in keeping with the message of the story and retaining credibility with the audience.
Rhythm and Pacing: Deciding the length of each shot is also very important. Programs that are too slow often lose the attention and interest of the audience; meanwhile, ones that are too fast are difficult to comprehend and grasp the meaning of. So how do you determine the right amount of timing? Osgood and Hinshaw assert, “The easy answer is than an image should be on-screen as long as necessary to transfer the information to the viewer. The hard part is deciding how long that time is (234).” Pacing of a video product can set us a defined rhythm for the audience. Determining the pace of the video allows for a videographer to figure out where to cut content out. It’s all about using the eyes and ears and good judgement on what visual and audio combination hits the message home most as a viewer.
Continuity: This allows for “maintaining story consistency from shot to shot and within scenes.” Continuity adds believability and realism to the scenes. A jump cut, or two shots that lack continuity, is not something video producers and editors want. Therefore, in the production process, physical and technical continuity must be accounted for. Physical continuity refers to all the items used in the production (wardrobe, for example). Technical continuity refers to the technical inconsistencies from shot to shot. For example, if the lighting or audio levels are different from shot to shot, this won’t reflect well on producers or editors. Consistency and continuity reflect the hard work of and care for the video product.
The Montage: A grouping of unrelated image to produce a new meaning. This may be a sequence of shots relating to the same topic or they may only be related because an editor chose to put them in succession. In simplest form, a montage is “a series of images cut to the beat or lyrics of a song or voice-over script (239).” Think of the opening of a TV show with a theme song; that’s typically a good example of a montage. Here’s one of my favorites!
Transitions: A change from one shot to another. “It’s the fundamental action that advances a story line from shot to shot and scene to scene (240).” Many times the transition is a cut, or instant change, from one image to another. Knowing when and where to cut can be difficult to master, as the cut can both advance a story line or make it choppy, confusing, and unappealing. For an editor, they must understand the techniques of cutting on dialogue, cutting on action, and cutting on the beat. These three techniques together are able to create great consistency and meaningfulness in a video.
When It’s All Said And Done
“Editing is the third and final time a story is told during the production process and before screening (247).”
The footage, the graphics, the music, the sound design, and of course, the story. With the right technique and patience, all of these elements combined can create a product that is visually appealing, moving, and striking.
We all know that video editing is a process and oftentimes, it is not an easy one. But when all the work to create the best possible video is done, the results are worth it. Editors upload original footage and other elements, then compile and manipulate the shots to form a certain meaning and takeaway. Though the cut is the most common transition, there are several other transitions and effects that can be used successfully. Overall, a talented editor must have experience and pay attention to fine details in order to convey emotion and lucidity in his or her visual storytelling. Now, go create a visual story and or record something that peaks your curiosity and channel the videographer in you!