Watch: Why It's Important to Let Your Edit 'Breathe'

There are many facets to editing, but here's one that you'll definitely want to master.

Editing is so much more than cutting. I mean, yeah, that's literally what you're doing—you're cutting digital video clips into smaller sizes in order to tell a story—but there's a whole lot more than that, or rather, a whole lot more to that than you may realize.

In this video, Sven Pape of This Guy Edits discusses "the single most important thing that you can do to make your editing better," and no, it's not using the "best" NLE available, buying a superpowered computer, or doing a bunch of fancy editing tricks. It's something subtle, delicate, and easily missed by beginners: pauses.

So, what does Pape mean by "pauses" and "breaths?" Formally called "decompressions," they are moments of suspension in which your audience is shown a certain shot for a little while longer. Usually, these moments occur during highly emotional scenes, like when a character is feeling sad, worried, tense, or apprehensive.

But why? Why are these "pauses" and "breaths" important? Well, they allow the audience to marinate in the scene, giving themselves enough time to understand the emotions of each character, and then empathize. Essentially, these moments give your audience the chance to feel what your characters are feeling.

Now, while Pape provided a great introduction to the subject of decompressions, the video was a little lacking in terms of application. If you want to go a little bit further, I'd recommend this video from Inside the Edit, which details not only what decompressions are and how they work, but also a few practical ways you can create them in your own projects.

Video is no longer available:

What are your favorite examples of decompressions in a film? Let us know down in the comments.     

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Your Comment


Many European and Asian films does breath a lot more than US films. You can see these mostly at film festivals. I think US Films tend to be faster paced is due to the society we lived in. The fast paced / cut commercials to tv shows to try to grab your attention.

December 11, 2017 at 1:19AM, Edited December 11, 1:19AM

Johnny Wu
Director, Producer, Editor


December 11, 2017 at 1:59AM


The other reason for this is that when editors are learning in film schools, oftentimes their work is poorly edited in that it is too long. It has a lot of shoe leather and fat in the cut. One of my students the other day turned in a 9 minute cut that was so fatty, she eventually trimmed it to 5 minutes without losing anything.

So a lot of editors are taught to trim the fat and make their edits as lean as possible. But then what they are not taught is how to put some of that stuff back in and make the scene breathe according to the emotion of what's going on.

December 11, 2017 at 1:12PM

Marcelo Teson
Filmmaking Instructor/Sound Editor