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Editing analysis of Celtic Festival video

1) I have dozens of animated backgrounds I could have used for the opening and closing titles, but I wanted something more natural. I wanted the type, the music, and the blowing cloth to sync up and create a synergy. So I used the type motion effect that seemed to fit best, and slowed the motion of the cloth to 1/2. Then I synched the fadeout of the type, and then the watermarked cloth background, to the music in the opening title, so that the type fades out on the last word, "sea," and the watermark fades out on the next beat. With the closing title, I again slowed the motion of the cloth to 1/2, and chose a starting scene where the cloth is billowing out in slow motion. I then synched that up with the opening note of the music, "Oh.....", again creating an emotional synergy greater than either element alone. I chose a motion for the type that matched the pace of the music so that it supported rather than detracted from it. Dissolving in from the side as it does adds something interesting to continue watching, rather than having something static hanging there.

2) I had shot several angles of the potter working, and was able to cut wide and close shots together. This is standard shooting and editing technique, except that none of this was staged and repeated for the camera, all were candid shots, which is possible when the person is doing something repetitious. I was working alone and didn't have an audio technician, nor did I have a lavelier mic. So there is a lot of background sound in the interview. What I did was take music from another clip, reduce the volume, and put it behind the interview as though that music was actually in the background. Thus, I made the background consistent and meaningful rather than simply chaotic interference. (The music is actually from the performance you see in video right at the end of the interview.) I liked opening with the close up because her name tag is clearly visible at the same moment that she is saying her name verbally. Any time I can get video and audio to link up and relate to each other, it makes the piece more powerful. This video has multiple purposes--it is designed to solicit funding for the Festival, encourage attendance, and also to draw craftsmen and musicians. Plus, I wanted a representative of the festival organization. This potter fills several roles at once and addresses several of the purposes at once, cutting down the need for multiple interviews and a longer piece.

The "b-roll", or festival scenes, were chosen both for their intrinsic merit, and also for how closely they supported what the interviewee was saying at that moment. This is standard editing practice, but how well it's done can make a big difference in the subliminal impact of a video. I felt that the image supporting the phrase "everybody grins and has a good time," with that phrase timed precisely to the two young ladies grinning, works especially well. In the scene where the festival visitors are asking questions about the bodhran (Irish drum), the lines of attention are all focused on the drum, and I cut the scene just at the instant the man's finger touches the instrument. This creates a subliminal impression of the sense of touch coming into the video. The only clip I slo-moed here is the one of the bubble-blowing. It's not a specifically Celtic activity, but I thought the huge Scottish fellow and the smaller middle-aged lady, both having fun making bubbles, was a nice contrast (contrast always being sought-after in photography), and the trail of bubbles worked best in slow motion. I tried several different clips until I narrowed it down to these, by a process of trial and error, because you don't know how it all works together until you try it. The very last scene, of a band performing, was the visual and emotional high-point of that performance where they launched into the fast portion of a tune. I've timed the girl's motion so that she comes down one beat after the last word in the narration, "it's good." Editing is like composing music in the sense that it's all about timing.

Some might say some of these cuts are too rapid; some might say they are just right or too slow. I'm trying slightly faster cuts, rather than slow dissolves as I've done in the past. I'm always experimenting, and the beauty of non-linear editing is that you can change anything.

3) The second interview is with "typical" Festival visitors. These two had a kind of humorous, sparring dynamic, since one was there for the music and the other for the art. I cut a lot of the interview, but left in enough of this to make it humorous and create a kind of sub-plot. The last comment sets up the music which follows.

4) The music showcases one of the most talented musicians playing at the Festival. Here, he is attempting something so technically difficult that he has a little trouble with it. I debated with myself whether to leave that in, and decided that it's like watching professional ice-skating. Nobody minds if the skater attempts a triple jump and doesn't quite do it perfectly--their mastery of their art is enthralling. It also gives one a feeling of really being at the Festival, because this is what you can expect to see when you attend, and it recreates some of the feeling of rapport with the artist who is playing for you and doing his best for you. This also happens to be a point in the music when the band is really "getting it," where the energy is coming through most strongly.

Again, some might say this music segment is too long; to others it may be just right. It depends largely, I suspect, on whether the music "grabs" you or not, and as a result, whether you immerse yourself in it--in which case the time flies--or whether you remain apart from it, waiting for it to be over with. If I have to go one way or the other, I'm banking on the targeted viewer, the ones we are primarily concerned with impressing, who like this kind of music and will want to see a bit more of it.

I shot this stage performance hand-held with a small three-chip digital camera. In order to get relatively good audio off the camera microphone, and also to get good position, I stood near the front of the stage directly in front of a speaker, and adjusted my recording levels so they didn't distort. I was able to hold the camera pretty steady, but there is one slight bit of sideways movement in the zoom out that wouldn't be there if I had been shooting on a tripod. Had I used a tripod, however, I would have been more intrusive for the audience, and I was really just roving around the festival rather than setting up for the performance itself, so one has to live with certain small imperfections. It's probably not noticeable to the casual viewer, but it detracts ever-so-slightly on the subliminal level.

5) The next section is just vignettes, unchanged except for very carefully choosing the in and out points and the length and rapidity of the fades to white in-between them. I've tightened up the length of the fades a bit per feedback on the most recent draft, though it's a matter of taste. I'm not trying to create a "flash" to white here, but rather something a little gentler, and I decided on white rather than black to tie in with the technique used in the opening. I scoured my raw footage for these little gems, and worked carefully with the order, deciding to put the humorous one at the end to close the section, and making sure they flowed from one to another. I had to be careful that this section moved along nicely and didn't drag. "Less is more" was the guiding principle for this small series of vignettes. Several of these had to be visually corrected for brightness, contrast, saturation, etc. so they match more closely.

6) In the closing section, I wanted to give the viewer a taste of all the arts and crafts that a visitor to the Festival might encounter in a stroll around the grounds. I had footage of two hammered dulcimer players--a very nice middle-aged man who sold dulcimers, and who was the better musician of the two, and this attractive young lady. In the ambient sound of the footage for the man, there are a few distracting loud sounds. I was unable to remove them or edit around them, which took this footage out of the running for consideration. The young lady was not as accomplished a musician, but there was a portion of her performance where she started feeling confident and got into the music. Not too long after that, a bagpiper started up and could be heard faintly in the background. So there was a "window of opportunity" in her footage just long enough for this closing montage. I opted to start on the closeup not only for a change of pace, but because this was where the good audio started! Sometimes one has to work within the constraints handed one by circumstances. If it works, it's okay, and sometimes fate surprises you. I chose several of my best still images of crafts, and after some experimentation, decided to dissolve up and down from semi-transparent images as you see here. I had to tweak this quite a bit to get the timing and degree of transparency to where it flowed naturally. In the soundtrack toward the beginning, you can hear a man laughing in the background. I decided to use this to my advantage by pairing it with the image of the puzzle face, and then for comic relief I contasted it with the bear face immediately afterwards, which seemed to work. Thus, what would have been a liability became an asset. Once again, you may or may not notice it consciously but it adds something.

I closed this segment by coming back to the hammered dulcimer player just when she was starting to really get into the music and feel confident in her playing, and the very last note you hear in black is at the completion of a musical phrase. These kinds of touches are mostly subliminal, but they add to the emotional impact of the piece by giving the viewer a sense of satisfaction rather than vague frustration. In editing, what you end on, and hence the last impression you leave the viewer with, is very important, both as regards individual clips, and as regards the piece as a whole.

7) This video might be revised with additional interviews or a narration, but until then, this was all the footage I had that I wanted to work with, and I felt the piece was doing what it needed to do, giving a sense of what it's like to visit the Festival, and leaving the viewer with a "warm glow" about it in general. So, all that remained was to come up on some contact information. But I chose, again, some of the best music from the Festival (same band as the fiddler previously, but featuring their singer). I let it hang for a few seconds, choosing a strong section of the song, and closed the piece out at just about three minutes total length--short enough that the viewer doesn't get restless, and is left with a good impression of the Festival as an event he or she might like to visit, participate in or help fund.


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Last Revised 1/2006
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