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  • Writer's pictureDorsa Sajedi

Editing Class 1: Cutting Dialogue

Specialism classes! Very exciting.

Today we touched upon how one would go about cutting dialogue in the edit, and some of the important 'key moments' an editor must focus on.

Important questions to ask yourself when editing a scene:

Who is the scene about?

What are their desires/intentions?

What are the obstacles?

Who has the 'power' in the scene?

The editor must understand the answers to these questions prior to editing the scene, and even prior to shooting. When given access to the script, one can look through and try and identify these questions, alongside the 'turning points' within each scene.These key moments will guide the structure and movement of the edit.

How do we find/identify these key moments?

Reactions in actor's performances and answers to the questions audiences are hungry for. Speaking of reactions, the editor must look out for the strengths in the actor's performances as well as the other aspects that feed into the strengths of the footage. In class we were given a scene and we were tasked with watching the footage all the way through, while taking notes on important key moments. After doing so, we would begin to cut the dialogue while paying mind to the significance these key moments carry within the scene. In doing so, we would have to ensure that we are allowing enough room in frames (breathing space/space to understand the cinematic messages being put across in each shot) prior to each turning point. This is important as it allows the audiences to digest the power of the action.

How does one go about cutting dialogue?

We began to learn about how to cut dialogue in this class by looking at the different ways it can be done. Such as:

  • J-CUTS: Where the audio from the coming scene begins to play before that scene starts (thus overlapping the preceding footage).

  • L-CUTS: Vice versa, so the audio from the previous scene overlaps onto the beginning of the next scene.

  • Overlapping dialogue: In post-production, you can change the speed and rhythm of the performance's speech by manipulating each individual's dialogue - when they say it, whether they are interrupted by the other, etc. If their dialogue is fast-paced and interruptive of one another, this can achieve a hectic/exciting tone, on that is often desired when wanting to build up energy (whether that be excitement or anxiousness) within a scene.

Other editing tips (especially if you're going to be script supervising/keeping an eye on continuity):

  • After digesting the script, make sure to line it up, and if you find the time, make an 'editors shopping list' of shots you feel the edit would benefit from - if they aren't already included - and bring this up when shooting if any extra time/room allows you to do so.

  • Understand the effects of 'reaction' and play with it - the edit will encourage audiences to 'think with' the character this way. Show, don't tell! The first steps must be to seek out these reactions within the footage.

Reminder of recommended AVID shortcuts/ones you should add or change on the keyboard:

  • Command + 3: Command palette

  • F1: Match Frame - matches L monitor to the frame on the R monitor, but on the actual transcoded individual clip/footage.

  • F2: Reverse Match Frame - matches L monitor to the frame on the R monitor, but on the sequence that you are inserting the clips from (after assembling them in a separate sequence).

  • Shift + Esc: Toggle source/record in timeline.

  • A: Go to previous event.

  • S: Go to next event.

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