June 20, 2019

Avoid These 8 Common Editing Mistakes [Video]

Editing is one of the most important steps of the filmmaking process, and you want to avoid these mistakes.

Film editing is both technical and creative. It dictates how a film is arranged and whether it makes sense to the viewer. It influences tone, perspective, and pace. With so many cinematic elements depending on good editing, it's clear that when it's is bad, the entire project suffers.

But how do you avoid bad editing? What do you look for? What are some best practices?

In a recent video, Creative North's Jonny von Wallström runs through eight common editing mistakes that editors should avoid and how to avoid them. Watch it below.

Cutting too soon

This is a common editing mistake I tend to notice. A character might deliver an important line, and the scene will suddenly cut less than a second after the delivery, almost chopping into the performance. It's jarring and annoying when scenes aren't given "air" or time to breathe.

Wallström says this is because editors "don't trust the story that they're telling." He points out that this mistake prevents an audience from living fully in your characters' world, and stops them from staying with characters in emotional moments.

Not understanding frame rate

Know the difference between frame rates before you ever get started. It will save a lot of time in the end.

"A lot might start a project and then they realize that, 'Oh, this was supposed to be another format,'" Wallström says. "And then it might be too late to change everything."

Bad workflow

Organization is a huge part of editing. Before you even start, you should organize, name, and tag all your footage. Don't toss everything into your editing program first. Wallström suggests using templates and folders to keep everything neat and tidy.

We have tips on becoming a workflow master.

Overusing transitions

Flashy transitions might be cool and popular, but they can also be a problem.

Star Wars famously uses a lot of wipes to move between scenes, but Wallström urges editors to stop overusing similar transitions. They can easily go out of style, dating the project, or be distracting to the story you're trying to tell.

Too many jump cuts

Jump cuts are abrupt transitions which often take a character through time and sometimes to a different location.

Wallström says that sometimes jump cuts are used without intention and can be thrown in when footage is missing or when the editor just doesn't have any other ideas for linking scenes. Avoid this as a shortcut.

Waiting too long to build the scene with audio

"You should build scenes with the sound design as you edit," Wallström says. Even if it's just a rough version, it's better to consider early.

If you wait, your edit will be locked before you even get to the sound mixing stage. Sound and visuals should be working together to build a scene.

Using too much music

Music can help editors find the tempo of a scene, but Wallström says the scene shouldn't be drowned in music. It can take away from the story, even in cinematic projects. Music should be used for impact, and not be distracting.

"If [scenes] are boring, it's probably because it's badly edited," Wallström says.

Technically poor editing

Editors should know basic cuts and where to put them. For instance, J- and L-cuts will create natural movement in a scene. Atmosphere and movement can be used to mask your cuts.

Editing should be dynamic and follow the rhythm of a storyit shouldn't be super noticeable. Make sure you are familiar with essential edits before you tackle a project.

What's next? Continue learning about the art of editing.

If you're interested in learning more, Wallström offers an editing class through Skillshare.

We also have some helpful pieces on editing. Here are five techniques for knowing when to cut, tips from Walter Murch, and a different take on Murch's famous "Rule of Six."     

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