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Grammar of editing

  1. Pictures should tell a story just like words do, so that even with no audio you could more or less tell what is going on. Would the story make sense if the sound was turned down? There should be a logic to the sequence of the pictures.
  2. Continuity editing is still the dominant style in the UK TV including news. This comes from the film tradition and involves creating edits that are as seamless as possible, giving the illusion of more than one camera filming at any time.
  3. Keep the editing simple. We shouldn’t ‘see’ the editing. The editing is there to help make the story clear.
  4. Start with your best shot. Look for action. Avoid static shots. A picture that establishes what the story is about. Usually not a pan or a zoom unless for a special reason.
  5. Avoid cutting on a move. Let a pan start and finish. They same with a zoom. Avid two moves one after the other, especially two zooms, or two pans together.
  6. Use a variety of shots. Wides, followed by close ups, followed by a move – that sort of thing.
  7. Use ‘cutaways’ to shorten action to the length you want. You’re not showing everything, but giving a sense of a particular activity.
  8. Try and let movements/actions finish. Have people walking out of shot, especially in a ‘set-up’ before an interview. Avoid ‘jump cuts’.
  9. Just as you start well, you should leave the viewer with a strong shot too, preferably one that sums up the story. It may be the reporter summing up on location in a piece to camera.
  10. If it’s not a good shot, don’t use it. That’s the point of editing. Only use your best material. So, wobbly camera work, the shot where someone does something distracting in the background should be left on the cutting room floor. No one ever sees what you left out. Sometimes you may have to leave good material on the cutting room floor because you shouldn’t cram in everything, only what you need.
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