Shooting for editing
The nineteenth-century painter Whistler suggested that a work of art can be said to be ﬁnished when all traces of its construction are eliminated. Film and television productions are often much more of a craft than an art but editing is one skill where this observation seems most apt. The skills and craft employed by the ﬁlm/video editor to stitch
together a sequence of separate shots persuades the audience that they are watching a continuous event. They are unaware of the hundreds of subtle decisions that have been made during the course of the production. The action ﬂows from shot to shot and appears natural and obvious. The editing skills and techniques that have achieved this are rendered invisible to the audience, and therefore the unenlightened may ask, ‘but what has the editor done? What is the editor’s contribution to the production?’. This invisible visual manipulation can only be achieved by the direc-
tor/cameraman providing the appropriate shots for the production. An essential requirement for the editing process is a supply of appropriate visual and audio material. The cameraman, director or journalist need to shoot with editing in mind. Unless the necessary shots are available for an item, an editor cannot cut a cohesive and structured story. A random collection of shots is not a story, and although an editor may be able to salvage a usable item from a series of ‘snapshots’, essentially editing is exactly like the well known computer equation which states that ‘garbage in equals garbage out’. It is part of broadcasting folklore that the best place to start to learn
about camerawork is in the edit booth. Here, the shots that have been provided by the cameraman have to be previewed, selected and then knitted together by the editor into a coherent structure to explain the story and ﬁt the designated running time of the item in the programme. Clear storytelling, running time and structure are the key points of editing and a cameraman who simply provides an endless
number of unrelated shots will pose problems for the editor. A cameraman returning from a diﬃcult news/magazine shoot may have a diﬀerent version of the edit process. A vital shot may be missing, but then the editor was not there to see the diﬃculties encountered by the news cameraman. And how about all the wonderful material that was at the end of the second cassette that was never used? With one hour to transmission there was no time to view or to cut it, claims the editor. In some areas of news and magazine coverage this perennial
exchange is being eliminated by the gradual introduction of portable ﬁeld editing. It is no longer a case of handing over material for someone else ‘to sort out’. Now the cameraman is the editor or the editor is the cameraman. This focuses under ‘one hat’ the priorities of camerawork and the priorities of editing. The cameraman can keep his favourite shot if he can convince himself, as the editor, that the shot is pertinent and works in the ﬁnal cut.