Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ted's List of Five Annoying Editing "Ideas"

I see a lot of student edits. A lot. A whole lot.

If I had to guess the exact number ... well, last year I taught at least 10 online courses that required at least two edited projects, and I taught two face-to-face courses that required at least five edited projects.... Figure twenty students per class, and that's in the range of 600 edited videos I graded by watching at full speed and then frame-by-frame. More, if you count rough drafts.

So I'm aware of the usual editing mistakes, and the traditional gimmicks. I'm somewhat forgiving of those, at least in student work. Lately, though, I'm seeing that some of the bad ideas expected of first-time editors are working their way into "professional" work.

Here's my list of five crap ideas that I'm noticing more and more, as if they've escaped from jail...

5. The Martial Arts Whoosh Sound Cut
Adding swooshy sounds to give a reason for a cut doesn't actually give a motivation to a cut -- it just adds swooshy sounds. Every time I see this -- and it's on the increase -- I think of someone doing fake martial arts moves and making woosh sounds with their mouth. Whoom! Fshhhh! Bam! Just add the sounds, then cut on them, as if there's a reason for it.

4. The Record Scratch Effect "Joke"
This is a dumb joke with no actual humor in it. Start a list of anything, throw in an item that doesn't belong, add a record scratch sound on it and cut back to it. Dumb, and ever-increasingly-popular.

3. The Overemphasized Freeze Frame
Used well, a freeze frame can make sense. It emphasizes a moment. Combined with a graphic, it can introduce a character. I think it can be thought of like punctuation, though, and if you need exclamation points in every sentence, something's wrong.

2. The Unnecessary Flashback
Sure, the character certainly is motivated by that thing that happened a while back. But we were there, watching it with you. Do you really need to show it to us again? I didn't hear any Teletubbies say "again, again" -- and I really did pay attention when you showed it to me before. Why torment me?

1. Flashy Flashy Syndrome
Every once in a while, I get the sense that an editor thinks I'm a baby and that they need to flash shiny stuff at me or my attention may wander. Or maybe they're afraid I'll notice that not much is really happening? In any case, tossing in tons of unnecessary flashy transitional stuff isn't style, but its opposite.

So, where does this stuff come from? Is it simply that everyone has a computer and teachers are no longer able to say that certain things are lame? Is it a combination of access and too much self-esteem?

Maybe. Maybe the roots of this are in a few key films, though, that have influenced a lot of young editors. Maybe we're just seeing the diluted, low-quality version of a genuine attempt to stretch the practice of editing.

I can think of at least one film that abuses all five of these rules and is still really watchable. Embedded above, find Beat the Devil.


Mark Schoneveld said...

Oh man, I could add so many things to this list! We get so much of this stuff at for commercials people make. One thing right off the top of my head - using crappy royalty-free music. I hear the same loops again and again in video.

Ted Fisher said...

Yep -- seems like all parodies are now set to "O Fortuna."