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Seeing Outside the Frame

There’s a term that is very familiar to veteran editors. And if it’s not, then it should be. It’s called ‘seeing outside the frame’ and it’s why the editing position is so important.

Producers, directors and camera people all have the challenge of putting together a shoot on location. They are the ones dealing with the pre-production and actual production. Any issues with budgets, weather, performance, or anything else will always settle with at least one of these three people. Editors have the unique perspective of not having to deal with these problems, giving them invaluable insight into any footage they receive.

When a producer or someone else comes back to the edit suite, they bring the baggage of the whole shoot with them. The editor doesn’t have this baggage, they are the only ones able to give a completely unbiased opinion as to which shots work and which don’t. A good editor doesn’t care if the crane shot angle cost $25,000 or if someone had to work really hard to get access somewhere for a specific kind of shot. They only care if the shot works. That’s not to say there’s no room for compromise, the industry is built on collaboration, but it does mean the editor should have an opinion with some weight behind it.

This is why it’s so important, as an editor, to watch all your footage. Many producers/directors will come to you with their notes from the shoot. Depending on what the project is, these notes will include changes, timecodes, good takes and/or other bits of info from on location. These notes are a great help an can speed up the entire editing process. Go through them and use them, but always remember they are not written in stone. By watching all your footage you become the best resource as to which takes are the best, and those takes may not always be the ones listed in the script.

It is your job as an editor to know your footage inside and out, and to stand up for decisions you’ve made in editing. If you don’t know your footage or why you made an edit, then you can’t defend it to a producer. In the end, someone will make a less informed decision and the product will suffer. All the pre-production and production items end up in the editors lap, and you need to know what you’re dealing with, so be sure to take the time to watch the footage and go through the notes, always keeping your eyes inside the frame.

Categories: Editing
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