Cut and paste

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March 9, 2009 by falcon7204

So, you’ve shot your video, you’ve organized (hopefully), and now you’re ready to put it together. But before you start throwing video onto the timeline, think about the story you want to tell.

What, a story? What do you mean? Isn’t this all about just cutting footage together and putting it onto a DVD? A well-edited video is that and much more, and you can rivet your audience by giving some forethought to your “story.”

Let’s say you have shot footage of your kids playing with your dog. Let’s further assume that you shot this video in some sort of public place, like a park or public garden. What kind of footage do you have? Mostly the kids and the dog, no doubt. But what about the shots that go in between those shots? Those are called “cutaways,” and they can help keep your story flowing smoothly.

Oh, you didn’t get any cutaways? Well, that’s okay, because chances are you’ll have an opportunity to go back. You see, cutaways are what editors use to keep the action from being too “jumpy” or disorganized. If you watch any TV show, many times you’ll see a shot of a character walking down the street, then a cut to a store window with a “sale” sign in it, then a reverse angle from inside the store showing the character approaching the window and stopping to look at the sign. The brief story told in that sequence is that the character decided to check out a sale on his/her way somewhere else. But the shots were not necessarily shot in sequence – in fact, chances are very good that they were shot out of sequence. Your video can use the same techniques to tell the story of kids frolicking with the dog in the park.

If you didn’t get them while you were there, you can go back to the park at about the same time of day and get shots like close-ups of flowers or trees, signs like “Keep Off The Grass,” birds flying among the branches of trees, or even other folks sitting in the park (but be sure if you get close-ups of these people, get their permission first). You probably don’t need shots of other people anyway.

You can even take a couple of props with you if you want. Let’s say the kids were playing frisbee with the dog, or having the dog chase a tennis ball. Bring the frisbee and ball with you, and take some time getting shots of them landing on the grass, underneath a bush, rolling across a sidewalk, etc. See where we’re headed?

Now, when you get back and you’re ready to edit, you can use those cutaways to tell a more compelling story without saying a word. Here’s a sample sequence: The kids throw the ball toward a bush, and the dog runs to fetch it. Cut to the ball rolling under the hedge. Then cut to the same first shot of the dog retrieving the ball and dropping it at a child’s feet. If you want, then cut to a close-up of the ball hitting the ground and rolling out of frame.

Instead of just footage of kids playing with a dog, you’ve put together a short story of playtime in the park between children and their beloved pet. And it didn’t take a whole lot of effort, with the exception of going back to the park.

The best thing to do, obviously, would be to shoot those cutaways while you’re there the first time. And if you’re thinking about cutaways, you’ll be on the lookout for shots that will work, and you won’t have to return. And you’ll have a more compelling video to show the grandparents.

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