Here Are Some Tips & Techniques for Cutting a Compelling Video Montage

Video Editing Workstation
Credit: Dollar Photo Club

Video montages set to music are ubiquitous. From people's vacation videos to personal/corporate reels and broadcast highlight packages, music montages dominate a sizable portion of online video content. One of the primary practices in this type of editing has always been to cut with the beat of the underlying music. Unfortunately, cutting a good montage, where the editing flows from shot to shot without distracting the viewer in any way, requires quite a bit more than simply aligning cuts to the beat.

Here's Larry Jordan, a dude who needs no introduction, to explain and demonstrate some tips for building a great music montage.:

Even though a musical montage of sea creatures interacting isn't wildly exciting, there are some extremely valuable tips in Jordan's video. First and foremost, when you create a predictable rhythm with your edits by making each clip the exact same length, viewers will begin to anticipate cuts, which inherently distracts them from the content of the video. Of course, cutting with the rhythm of the song still makes the cuts feel more natural, but it's important to vary shot length to keep the viewers on their toes. Instead of cutting every two seconds exactly (or at the beginning of each bar of the song), play with cutting to the secondary beats of the music.

Another excellent tip from Jordan is to pay attention to the actions and movement within your shots. Oftentimes, a dynamic movement within the frame, when synced with the music, can have a tremendous impact on the feel of the piece, and it can make the edit feel more polished and professional. Lastly, even though your shots might seem disparate and lacking in story (as was the case with Jordan's sea creature footage), there is almost always a way to string them together to create a narrative of some kind. That's not to say that every video needs a definitive narrative -- especially if it's all landscapes or something like that -- but putting thought into the relationship between various shots can help to engage the audience in ways that strung-together shots with no commonalities simply can't.     

Your Comment


Love how this is probably the first editing article where I've seen "montage" being used.

If you guys think this video was helpful and eye-opening be sure to read at least the first chapter of this 1930's book that explores how the brain works when it deals with montage:

The Film Sense by by Sergei Eisenstein, $15... what, 3 beers at a happy hour?


September 24, 2014 at 6:02PM


Sergei Eisenstein and his classic movie, Battleship Potemkin, are well known to true movie buffs and editing students.

September 24, 2014 at 6:22PM

Cat Herder

For most people, I am preaching to the choir but this is useful

See how the montage switches between the proud military officer and the peacock, backwards and forwards to link the two together.

An even batter example is

Where the slaughter of a crowdis montaged with the slaughtering of a cow. If that looks familiar then you have watched Apocalypse Now. Eisenstein said that talkies were the ruin of cinema (in the same way that Tarrantino talks about digital) and you can see how the ability to say something rather than show it leads to this old school montage falling out of favour.

March 9, 2015 at 10:05AM, Edited March 9, 10:05AM

Julian Richards
Film Warlord

The montage it's more than "advance editing". It's the lenguaje you "imagine, project your ideas" it's lick a thought... the advice are good but there is more with 5 tips of montages...

September 24, 2014 at 11:24PM, Edited September 24, 11:24PM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

"When editing a montage, the video provides the detail, music provides the emotion"

hmm… I like that.

September 25, 2014 at 6:51AM

Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff

Definately!!! This is the most valuable sentence of this article!...... The one i´ll keep in my mind.... probably forever :)

November 25, 2014 at 2:44AM

Moritz Erich

Beautifully done and I appreciate that he explains his every decision. The use of FCPX was also something that really made the video more appealing to me.

September 26, 2014 at 10:16AM

GianCarlo Fernandez

Great video, and clear explanation. I hate (suck at) editing, especially montage geared footage. This was a huge help in formulating a solid workflow.

September 27, 2014 at 2:55PM


Video started good, then I felt it kind of boring and slow...

September 29, 2014 at 9:04AM

Tommy Plesky
Director / D.P / Editor