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Video Communications: The Editor

July 20, 2015  |  Jason Wright
Welcome back to Public Information and our final installment of the series on video communications. This month, I want to talk about the silent partner of all great pieces of filmed entertainment: the editor.

Great movies are made, and bad movies ruined, with editing. This is the advantage video has over virtually any other medium – the ability to play shots and sounds with or against each other to create tension, mood, action and comedy.

There are plenty of different types of editing software out there. Use whichever one you can get and feel comfortable with. I use Adobe’s Premiere Pro.

What editing software will do is allow you to cut your footage and separate the images from the sounds. You can then rearrange everything into a nice, neat little package.

Here’s an example of using editing to tell our story. I’m choosing this piece because I shot almost none of it. Instead, I worked with local students to shoot the footage, and I edited the piece into a story.

What I want you to pay attention to is the length of the shots, the ways we cut between the images (for example, fades vs. jump cuts, or just placing two images next to each other) and how we build a complete story without having to be told by the interviewees exactly what is happening.

First, notice I don’t start with a proper introduction. Instead, I let the image speak for itself. I fade into it from darkness (fades in editing language are almost like a nice deep breath), then let the shot change focus, setting the place, time and intent of the video.

Next comes the voiceover. It’s not always necessary to start all interviews with a shot of the subject. Instead, why not get creative and let the interview push the narrative? We eventually get to the interviewee (after a white flash – a modern technique used to introduce new places or people), but quickly move to sped up footage of students working to place the flags. This suggests the sheer amount of time involved in placed thousands of flags.

You’ll notice by the time we get to the second interview subject, we let her introduce herself on camera. What’s important to note here is that you don’t want to overdo the “artistic” approach. Keep things interesting, but always produce something functional.

After a look at the work being done, we quickly jump to the next morning. Here, what stuck out to me was the beauty of the chorale’s performance. It really sets the mood for a Sept. 11 ceremony – the patriotism, the solemnity, and the joy of hearing young people perform. I really didn’t need anything else.

So let that song breathe. Let them perform it, in its entirety, while we move the camera through the thousands of flags representing the lives lost. Here, we approach the power of cinema – combining sounds and images in new and exciting ways to evoke emotion.

Isn’t this simple technique much more effective than speeches, or interviews, or personal stories? And really, it’s just an image and a song that aren’t connected until we edit them together.

There’s really so much more I can go over with editing, but I have limited space. Thank you for joining us this month. I’ll see you again next time. 
Jason Wright is Communications Manager for the Georgia Tech Research Library. Up until November 2015, he was the Director of Innovation and Engagement for the City of Milton where he oversaw all aspects of the city's branding and communications efforts, including transparency, automation, design, photography, printing, web services and social media and public outreach.

Prior to Milton, Wright spent seven years working in the magazine and newspaper business. Most recently he was editor of both the Milton Herald and Alpharetta–Roswell Revue and News, where he wrote, edited, photographed for and oversaw design of the weekly papers. Prior to that, he worked as a writer, editor, designer and photographer for local, regional and national publication.