Cutting Room Editing Challenge (Stock Footage)

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/21211359]

– Looking for a Light in the Dark – *note: I had a change of heart while writing this post, and decided “Seeking a Light Within the Dark” was better!

I decided to enter a purely editing video contest, as did several other people I know. When I saw the subject material, theme, + stock footage all together, I really wanted to sit on my idea for a night or so. The stock footage was honestly shot quite nicely. I felt the excitement coursing through my veins looking at nice pans and racking focus and interesting angles (can we say Dr. Who diagonals? Yess, we can!) I went through all the clips individually, piecing together a temporary story for these two ‘homeless’ men. First, I let myself go through all the contrived terrible ideas, like adding text as a ‘voiceover’ or making it just over the top. Then, you have to let the idea sift through, develop, process, and ‘bake’. haha Okay, wait, am I talking about baking or editing now?

Ah yes, rules. There were some. I attempted to follow them all, as well, because let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than putting out a great video but disqualification because you didn’t use royalty free/public domain sounds or music, or you add the dreaded star/heart wipe they specifically are against, etc. Everyone should ‘lrn2read’ very well for these types of contests. However, can I just add it kind of spooks me out that they even need to warn people against a heart or star wipe? FEHHH! Even in parodies, use them sparingly I say!

I just love this framing...

I must say there were quite a number of great shots in the footage, but there was specifically two shots that I knew I wanted to open with. There is man sitting on a green chair, and the framing is done so in a way that you may not precisely realize where he is or what is going on. I chose that shot on purpose to sort of introduce him, and just as his eyes look over to the right – then I cut to a wider angle that instantly or hopefully shocks the viewer just slightly even, to show him and his little cart of trash and treasures, and that he is clearly homeless now. I want to bring up an important point about visual cues now. For simple fact that he looks over to the right, and in the next shot the cart is placed directly right of him. Also, if one looks closely, he is brooding in the first shot, and at least with me, I as a viewer might look at that shot and wonder to myself ‘I wonder what he’s looking at or what happened’. Remember how in English classes you were taught to open with a thought-provoker or shocking statistic or tidbit…well, I would like to think that my first two shots invoke a great introduction to what my piece was about.

Illustrating the beauty of tight to wide shot...

Now, you may be wondering yourself, what is this video trying to say? What angle did I take? Documentary, short film, PSA, commercial, music video, etc? Kylee Wall, who does not even NEED an introduction as she’s awesome (but for the sake of familiarity, she’s a wonderful friend, cohort, editor, colleague etc. of mine), had the presence of mind to describe to me what she thought about my video. I quote, “an overture for those in need, an orchestral arrangement of visuals…” Can I just say how brilliant that remark is? I think that describes exactly what my video is. Will it also translate that way to the other viewers, well, I can only hope!

And isn’t that what we all want, as editors, is to hope and understand that our viewers might see a bit of insight into how we arranged cuts, added fades, even chose the music. It’s no secret that my piece relied heavily on pacing and the music especially. I wanted to test and experiment with myself, to learn to hold back and slow the pacing to match the cues in the music. As much as I enjoy fast and furious cuts, I found a new calm in the storm of editing by allowing myself to just let the music dictate my cuts, even if I felt the pause made me ansy, I knew it was essential.

Get intimate with your footage. He drops his head in defeat shortly after this moment.

Which brings me to another point. Visual cues, effects, and the addition of motion graphics. Can anybody please explain to me why so many feel it necessary to douse their effort of editing with oodles of overtly fancy fonts, motion text or graphics, and just overall UNNECESSARY additions? To me, that screams ‘Hey! I can’t edit footage and let it speak for itself, I have to dress it up like a wolf in sheep’s clothing in hopes you won’t notice the barely existent storyline’, etc. Perhaps this may come across harsh, and I actually do mean it to. Don’t get me wrong. I am not proud of my first or second or even subsequent edits back when I started even becoming interested in video production or post-production. However, you must understand that one does not simply take footage, toss it together, then laden it full of effects and motion graphics and then export. In your hands, quite plainly, is ENDLESS possibilities.

You can tell ANY story you would have wanted to with this stock footage. I was feeling hopeful that I would see other neat angles people took, and while a few interested me, I have to say I was also absolutely sickened, shocked, and completely turned off by some of them. One video probably earned the most distasteful video I have ever seen in a very long time. 12 years old, or not, who’s to say being on the internet anybody can be “anybody”. Besides that point, I won’t even touch it with a ten foot pole without bearing the grunt of the people who want to pat someone on the back for a job well done without much else thought involved.

Does an expression like this, even *need* words or any undertones to convince the viewer? I think NOT!

Many of them chose a religious angle. Those that know me, also know I am not a religious person. Just know that I will not bash a video simply because of that angle, however, I found that it became more centered around the religion and not the people. I think that is a mistake on the behalf of the person editing the video. While you need your emotions and your own angle and thoughts involved to make this story yours, you also need to consider the overall intended message. A story about homeless people could have taken many avenues, so I don’t understand why when upon viewing a couple of them, I felt the editor wanted the viewer to seek out the nearest church, instead. Hmmm, that is only my perspective and certainly not the ‘end-all’ of what everyone should think.

I must say that I am a fan of matching cuts. If you know me, you know I have learned over time to really really despise unnecessary transitions. You may see a few matching cuts within mine purely for a selfish reason. And yes, for once, you will see many fades, a couple cross-fades, and one fade to white. I enjoy testing myself to see what I’m capable of making realistic. It is no easy task to match most shots, unless it was planned ahead of time, which normally it is, but it doesn’t always work out. I also decided to use more fades and even crossfades, and one shot distinctly has fade to white! Yes, I know!! But I had a meaning behind every fade and every effect. The cross-fades were used to indicate that passage of time. The fades thrust the homeless people back into the dark that they probably must live in day in, and day out. Also, I specifically sought out shots where the person’s eyes are searching out something, somewhere, that we cannot see. I felt that was a vital part of my initial title and message, “Looking for a Light in the Dark”. I almost wish I had made it “Seeking a Light Within the Dark” Hmmm…hahah.

absolutely loved the way this shot panned to out of focus lights on the tree.

It also helps the viewers to perchance feel like they are closing and opening their eyes. Like really seeing these guys for who they are, everytime it fades back out and back in, maybe the viewer will feel just a little more for each of them. The fade to white I felt was necessary on the brink of the new day. The homeless man with the bottle, the sunlight directly in his eyes, like he’s waking up from a very long spaced-out period of time. I’m hoping that it helps snap the viewer back into reality and the timeline of my pacing.

At one point during the edit, I let it sit overnight. I was probably about halfway through, maybe a bit longer. I had a feeling I was going to hit about 3 minutes by the end of it. I so enjoyed the ‘Dark Times’ musical piece I found, so I thank Kylee for reminding me about this royalty free site. My usual favourite is Freeplay music, but I just couldn’t justify buying music for a fun side project. (or not yet?) I also couldn’t justify spending 50$ to add any cool timelapse or other artsy fun clips to this footage. For once in my life, I think I took the most straightforward approach I ever could have, allowing the footage and people within to speak for themselves, with the help of the music choice. No text, No voiceover, just a visual story ready to ensnare whomever watches.

This shot says more than you know without any words. The framing, shadows, the fence, his face. Dig deep into yourself to feel what they are feeling.

Overall, I am happy to have had this experience in editing. I learned a few new things about myself, and about editing, and why I chose what I chose to do. The prize was an engraved Ipad, which hey, totally cool! I wish the best of luck to those I knew who entered, and even more luck to those I may have judged harshly, but I think the key point here is that while everyone may be able to pick up a camera and make a video, or load up an editing program afterward, not everyone is cut out to tell a GOOD story.

OH! And a big fat PS: Yes, it is possible to be homeless and own a cell phone. How is this possible you think to yourself? Isn’t that indicating they have money, etc? While that is a good first thought, I have actually known people who have been homeless. People who love them may pay to keep on a no-contract pay as you go type phone, or the person themselves will try to at least turn one on from time to time to keep in touch. Sometimes, bad things happen in life. It doesn’t mean you lose every form of contact. I specifically chose to highlight this, and I noticed most everyone shied away from it because they thought it indicated the person wasn’t homeless. This just isn’t the case. I suppose I was thinking specifically about people who might be alcoholics and lose their friends, home, but still keep in contact with their family or loved ones because while they have no where to live, and may not get along or be allowed to live within someone’s home, there’s still someone out there that cares about this person. I think that message is even deeper, perhaps. Gone are the days of only the rich owning a cellphone. It’s safe to say in these days, the minority is those who do -not-.

/end thoughts on cellphone shot.

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