Archive for April, 2012

Guest blog from Grovo

April 30th, 2012

Time for a change of voice! This is my first guest blog. Please welcome PJ Bruno, a producer at Grovo Learning Inc. It’s an internet company which provides a field guide in the form of two-minute videos for learning everything from how to use Twitter to netiquette training.

A Passion for Video

by PJ Bruno

PJ Bruno I’ve had a love for video editing as long as I can remember.

Thanks to my parents, I had a well-documented childhood from birth all the way through high school.  Before they could afford a video camera they would rent one for a week at a time and capture as much footage as possible.

I grew up watching VHS tapes of my brother, my sister, and myself; by the time I was 14, I was shooting on my own. By age 16, I was editing video.

It was the complete control of narrative that inspired me; any small variation of timing or shot sequence would put forth a different motive, attributing to the filmmaker’s vision. But although I started early and worked often, I didn’t get an editing job until I was 25 (almost 2 years ago).

I was half way through my master’s degree in Media Studies at The New School in New York when I came across an editing job on Craigslist. The description read, “Unpaid Video Editing Internship with possibility for full-time employment.”

I told myself that all I had to do was get the internship and the full-time position would be in the bag.

The job was editing short video tutorials for an online education startup called Grovo. I won’t tell you how long I had to intern before I was made a full-time employee, but I will tell you that I learned more in 6 months editing at an Internet startup than I did throughout grad school. There really is nothing like working 50-60 hour weeks for a start-up with 20 other people working just as hard. The Internet’s permeation into pretty much all occupations has opened the doors of possibility wide. Not only do I get to edit video, but I get to be innovative with the format of our education. I toy with live action, animation, Camtasia video grabs, and more.

And on top of that, my co-workers have become my best friends.  I’ve never loved the art of editing more, and this is likely to be the most satisfying work experience of my life.

Grovo sample

Here’s a sample video PJ created:

Editing & life, Jobs

Book years

April 24th, 2012

Ken Lee, VP and my book editor at Michael Wiese Productions, informed that as of April 1, my first book, Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video, will cease being printed. Published in December 2004, it had 7.5 years of active printing and will be available online, as most things new, old, and outdated are! It makes me think of dog years. Is 7.5 years a long time for a non-fiction book that could be classified as technical?  Should I feel sad, glad, or proud? All three seem appropriate.

The drive to write the book was to pass on my knowledge of editing gained in the cutting rooms of Hollywood and the LA area. The book has helped people, I believe, (some have even told me directly.) And, frankly, it’s made me realize one of my biggest life goals: to be a published writer. I have (by choice) not birthed a child but I have labored to deliver 2.5 books to the world. What do I mean by 2.5? Read on. Or skip to the end.

Publisher’s words

“Write your book for where you want to take you,” Michael Wiese urged a group of his authors in 2010 at publisher MWP’s annual gathering in LA.

Cut by Cut has helped me get work, meeting new people and taken me a few places, including the annual UVFA (University of Video & Film Association) conference in Chicago in 2005 where professors meet and deliver their papers. This baffling ritual consists of the prof standing in front of a group of other profs (and other conference attendees) and reading the paper verbatim making little attempt to communicate with the audience and taking few questions before stepping aside for the audience to disperse and be replaced by a new audience and the next professor to appear to toss of their paper and check that box on their job “to do” list.

Gael with Nimet Tuna

With editor Nimet Tuna (left) at Onk Agency in Istanbul.

More importantly, Cut by Cut has led to Michael proposing my second book, Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know which took me to Onk, a literary agency in Istanbul where I got a tour and spent an interesting evening drinking wine and having dinner with Onk’s head editor.

Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video

Equally important, Cut by Cut has begat Cut by Cut: Editing Your Film or Video, 2nd Edition, which is being printed as you read this and will be available May 13 at Amazon and June 1 everywhere. You can pre-order it online now from or your favorite online bookstore. Long may it live!

Yes, the second edition, while a third book, is an offshoot of the first, so it makes the total 2.5.

Announcements, Editing & life

Continuing with the 180° Rule: How to Cross the Line

April 18th, 2012

My last post explained the 180° rule. It also stated that crossing the line can disorient an audience and that directors film shots from both sides of the line. How does the editor cut from one side of the line to another and use the director’s angles to tell the story without disorienting the audience? There are three main ways editors and directors routinely manage this.

1. Editors cuts to a close-up or other cutaway shot, then cut to the other side of the line

By cutting to another shot, the editor diminishes the disorientation before cutting to the line-breaking angle. Here are two examples of this frequently used ploy.

Example 1

From Finding Neverland ©2006 Miramax, All Rights Reserved.

Neverland Frame1
Neverland Frame2
Neverland Frame3
Explanation of Example 1

Cut 1: A family audience watches a play with two actresses playing Peter Pan (L) and Wendy (R).

Cut 2: A cutaway to an audience member – the grandmother (Julie Christie) – creates a smooth transition to:

Cut 3:  A shot of the actresses seen from the audience’s POV with Peter Pan now on the right and Wendy on the left.

Eliminating Cut 2 would cross the line, potentially baffling the audience with the swap of the actresses’ positions.

Example 2

FromMunich ©2005 Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

Munich Frame1
Munich Frame2
Munich Frame3

Explanation of Example 2

Cut 1: A potentially lethal confrontation intensifies as one man draws gun on another.

Cut 2: Cutting to an overhead angle sets the geography of the many players in this scene, keeping the audience oriented and enabling the editor to freely cut to any angle.

Cut 3: The actions and reactions of other plays are revealed.

2. A second way to observe the 180° rule is for the director to tell the actors to move.

This breaks the 180° line and establishes a new line. Here’s an example is The Constant Gardener ©2005 Focus Features/Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

Constant Gardner Frame1 and Frame2
Constant Gardner Frame3

Explanation of Example

In Cut 1 and Cut 2: The husband (Ralph Fiennes) moves from left to right. His movement lines up:

Cut 3: where, in an over the shoulder shot, he faces his wife (Rachel Weisz).

The circling movement of the characters as well as the camera in this scene underscores the underlying tension between the couple.

3. A third way to avoid crossing the line is for the director to have the camera move.
With this method the camera breaks the 180° line and creates a new one once it stops moving.  The roving camera keeps the audience riveted to the action and allows the editor to cut in other shots, as the scene below demonstrates. It’s from Lust, Caution ©2007 Focus Features/Universal Pictures, All Rights Reserved.

Lust, Caution Frame1
Lust, Caution Frame2
Lust, Caution Frame3
Lust, Caution Frame4

Explanation of Example

The top and bottom cuts are cutaways. The middle cuts show the camera circling clockwise around the mahjong table. The stealthily moving camera punctured by cutaways of reactions shots accentuate the deadliness of the real game that beings played between the women.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process

Continuing with Continuity: The 180° Rule and When to Cross the Line

April 10th, 2012

The slide show embedded in my last post that used examples from Hitchcock’s Rear Window to so thoroughly cover continuity, discussed the 180° rule, a.k.a. crossing the line. Here’s a clever, concise explanation in five short cuts (frames) from Paprika, an anime feature named for its red headed heroine, a young girl who is unclear on the concept.

Frames for discussion
Explanation of Paprika cuts:

Cut 4 crosses the line and breaks the 180° rule. Why? Because the girl (Paprika) appears to be on her director friend’s right side when she’s clearly on his left side in cuts 1-2.

Cut 5 correctly observes the 180° rule: Paprika appears to be on his left.

Notice that the characters do not change positions or eyelines: Keeping their geography clear relies on filming according to the 180° rule.


Today’s MTV-style cutting patterns regularly ignore the 180° rule. If you cross the line when you make an edit, you can disorient the audience and risk losing its engagement with your show, especially if you’re working on a 3D flick, which, by its nature, immerses viewers more deeply than 2D movies.. Disorientation is acceptable – and often called for – in war and other chaotic scenes. However, in most directors and crew observe. And they shoot footage from both sides of the 180° line.

So how do editors and directors take the audience from an angle on one side to and angle on the other of the line? Stay tuned for my next post.

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process

Continuing with Continuity: Follow-on to April Fool’s Day post

April 6th, 2012

continuity. Maintaining the physical relationships, performance, action, and narrative flow of the filmed scene from cut to cut (or during filming, from shot to shot).

Maintaining continuity from cut to cut is part of an editor’s job and entails, primarily, matching action (movement), screen direction, eyeline, camera angle and framing. Secondarily, editors match props, sound, weather, wardrobe, hair, make-up, lighting, and color (Lighting and color can and usually are improved during color grading).

I’ve talked about mismatches and continuity so I won’t repeat myself. Here’s a link to a slide show which exposes Hitchcock’s masterful directing and editing in Rear Window to illustrate many principles such as the 180° rule of matching and continuity.

Before I sign off, however, let me repeat one huge principle: Continuity isn’t everything. Driving the story, plot, and them of your show and keeping the audience engaged is the first rule of editing. Director-editor Edward Dymtryk said it best in his book, On Film Editing, published in 1984 and still in print (emphasis added):

“If it is necessary to correct a fault, or if it is possible to improve the dramatic quality of a sequence, and the proper material is not at hand, explore all possibilities or invent a few. The odds that some workable solution can be found are so overwhelming that one should never stop trying, no matter how difficult the problem. Always remember that film is the art of illusion, and the most unlikely things can be made to seem real.”

Editing practices, Editor’s role, Technical & process

Who you Fooling?

April 1st, 2012

Happy April Fool’s Day. Enjoy this video on continuity from “Rob the Editor”, who creates and edits the opening titles for Conan O’Brien on TBS.

Editing practices, Fun & games