Often, as multimedia producers, we are given work to edit that others have created. Some things simply cannot be changed, like an out-of-focus photograph. But there are some things we can do right now to improve the work no matter how challenging the original assets may be.
(Note: This list is not meant to be dogmatic. I’ve broken all these rules. They’re offered as a suggested starting point.)
1. Don’t use dissolves between images. As a general principal, these are unnecessary.
2. Avoid excessive pans and other Ken Burns-style effects. Animation on stills is effective only when done sparingly. These techniques should be a surprise like an exclamation point in literature. And as Elmore Leonard teaches, “You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.” So let’s just say two still animation effects for every 10 minutes of your project. See Finding the Way Home for an example of just how few image moves are actually used.
3. Give your images time to breathe. In multimedia, we have the power to determine how long viewers spend with each photograph. A good rule of thumb is to leave each photograph onscreen for at least two-and-a-half seconds. Three or four seconds is even better. Watch the opening sequence of Rape of a Nation for an example.
4. Show an identifying photograph or video of everyone who talks when they speak for the first time. Identify them with a name and title. It’s a courtesy to your viewers. See Never Coming Home for an example.
5. Use image sequences to transitions between ideas or themes. Think of image sequences as paragraph breaks between two big ideas. Sometimes these sequences need only be two photographs long, or on occasion even one will suffice. See the poaching sequence in Black Market for an example.
6. Work with your music. Allow your images to flow dynamically with the changes in your music. Cut on the beat. Cut against the beat. End your piece with the final sting of the music. Edit the music, cut it up, and make it an integral part of your project, not just background noise. See the funeral section of BLOODLINE.
7. Use music dynamically. Increase the volume during an image sequence; decrease during an interview. Your music should be thematic just as your photographs are. See Kingsley’s Crossing fro an example of how music weaves in an out of an interview.
8. Use one-
second frame dissolves to smooth rough audio. It’s startling to hear how a one- second frame dissolve can save a clip that would otherwise end abruptly.
9. Use room tone between gaps in dialogue, even when using a musical bed. Without room tone, your audio will sound like someone dipping in and out of a cave.
10. Watch your production on speakers with someone who has not yet seen the piece. There’s something about reviewing your work with an audience that makes one more self-conscious and thus open to seeing new things.
Feel free to add your tips and tricks in the comments below.
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