Editing is a unique language. Similar to a carefully crafted piece of music, editing tells a story that is universally understood. At its most basic core, editing is all about which shots you choose to put together. Think of it like a sandwich: If you put turkey and cheese together, you’ve got the start of something wonderful. Put turkey and strawberry jam together, and, not so much. Each shot affects the other—meaning that changing just one tiny shot in a long series of shots can drastically alter the message you are trying to convey. This effect is called the “Kuleshov Effect” and is named for the early-20th-century Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov.
Kuleshov, a pioneer during the early days of film, wanted to explore the idea of juxtaposition. He took a shot of a man looking toward the camera. He then followed this shot with a shot of food, a coffin, or a woman. He found that each of these subjects altered how viewers perceived the man. In one instance, the man seemed hungry, and in another he was sad—even though the man’s expression never changed (watch here). This ability to manipulate the viewer’s emotions simply by shot choice demonstrates the power of editing.
Early filmmakers like Thomas Edison were known to create film series that favored one subject in front of the camera with virtually no editing involved. These films were meant to exhibit the “astonishing” new technology of motion pictures and weren’t concerned with telling complex stories. The realization that such juxtapositions could enhance and assist in telling richer, more intricate stories is what helped bring cinema from the realm of hobbyists and tinkerers to the mainstream.
From images we derive meaning, and when we string meanings together, we create a story.
We use these stories to attempt to explain the human experience, connect with others, and explore our own emotions. Images are like words—on their own they convey something very singular and specific. Editing is how we make sentences with our visual vocabulary. Editing doesn’t just help us tell a story, it is the story.
And all of this matters, because creating videos that deftly tell your business’s story is a great way to make your audience feel more connected with your brand.
So, before you set out to tell your company's story with a video, think of how you want the audience to feel when they watch it. Should they feel sad? Happy? Excited? Energized? Then, think about how those emotions will affect the editing. Every edit should tell the audience something about the character and the plot. If it doesn’t achieve this, then the edit really isn’t needed.
So why should any of this matter to you? Let’s explore a few examples:
Take a minute and check out this scene from Taken 3. Notice how the editing keeps jumping to a shot outside of the briefing room? This shot really isn’t needed and actually distracts us from the drama happening in the room. It stalls the tension and gives us nothing in terms of character development. Now take a look at this scene from Inside Llewyn Davis. Sure, the editing is more simple, but it achieves exactly what it needs to. We’re given a film about a down-and-out folk musician and the editing here captures that perfectly. As he plays the song in the car, the editing jumps back and forth between two other people who couldn’t be less interested in his music. Even stuck in a car on a long trip, Llewyn still can’t find a good audience.
The differences in these examples may seem minor, but they make all the difference when it comes down to an audience connecting to one film over the other. Likewise, a keen sense for editing is what makes having a post-production professional key. A dedicated branding agency and audio/visual team will help your personal story and message garner the attention it deserves.