The Power of Editing

by Paddy Bird on
June 25, 2020

This art form of ours is truly remarkable in the way it can direct the emotional state of our audience. As editors we can bend and shape the blocks on our timelines in so many different ways and each one takes our viewers on a exciting visual experience.

If we’re trained in the black arts of editing, if we master the hundreds of creative techniques, skills and mindsets, we can take the same raw footage and cut it in completely different ways. Pacing, structure, camera movement and cutting patterns are just some of the elements we craft to produce wildly different outcomes for any project.

To illustrate how powerful this art form can be take a look at these two rough cuts I constructed. They are built from the exact same raw footage but I’ve edited them in two completely different ways. And as you can easily notice, this has created two completely different emotional states for the viewer.

Cinematic Documentary Cut

In this fist version I imagined that I was cutting in a high end documentary style. My pretend director would want a considered, artistic and cinematic feel to the sequence. With that in mind I kept the pacing slow, left out any observational style camerawork, chose symmetrical shots and scored it all with an emotional and artistic music track.

Entertainment Show Cut

In this second version I pretended that my client was an entertainment or reality TV show. They would want a quicker and lighter cutting style that gave a more playful emotional feeling for the audience. I therefore included much more of the observational camerawork, a tongue in cheek music track and used simple cutting techniques like cutting the B roll, character action and camera movement on the beat.

Same raw footage, two different outcomes

Of course we could go on forever in choosing different moods, structures and cutting patterns depending on what the client wanted, who the audience was and what we wanted to make them feel. But these two rough cuts really highlight the fact that how we decide to make the audience feel can change no matter what raw footage were given. And that is power.

An editor trained in creative skills like these can take any genre, from online content and corporate promos to reality TV and documentary, and make them many times more effective and powerful for their viewers.

This Week's Competition Question

This Week's Competition Question

Thanks to our friends at Adobe we’re giving away a 12 month subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud.

All you have to do is email us your name, location and answer to this question...
What is the greatest edited film and why?

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Saturday, December 5th

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Tracks Featured in This Episode from Universal Production Music


Track 1
Time: 0:02
Track Title: Bloom
Composer: Max Reud
Album: Spheres
View Track

Track 2
Time: 18:54
Track Title: Arrival
Composer: Max Reud
Album: Spheres
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Track 3
Time: 33:05
Track Title: Cinematic Journey
Composer: Stephanie Joly & Pierre-Alain Lecroart
Album: Cinematic Journey
View Track

Cinematic Documentary Cut

Track Title: Never Far Away
Composers: Jonathan Elias & Sarah Trevino
Album: Beautiful Inventions
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Entertainment Show Cut

Track Title: Easy Does It
Composer: Daniel Alexis Pemberton
Album: GrooveBox 3: Organic Beats
View Track


Essential Picture Cutting Theory

Saturday, February 20, 3PM GMT

The way we design the shots on our timeline is a huge indicator of our skill level. Elite level editors obey a vast range of visual grammar and pacing principles when crafting any sequence. But film schools, online courses and training manuals focus on the software and none of these essential creative principles.

This month's live webinar will teach you everything you need to know about pro level shot cutting. You’ll learn: Shot Flow, Visual Grammar, Pictorial arcs, Tone and pacing, and Stylisation.

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5 April - 16 April 2021

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