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I just finished a course on the basics of film editing and production, and I'm wondering who else here thinks it's important to grasp certain concepts of film editing to perform better at sound editing? I ask because I've heard it said over and over that a good picture editor should know a bit about sound, so does this work in the reverse?

Did you take a class? Or did you learn it as you went?

What are your thoughts?

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7 Answers

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I've read maybe half a dozen books on film editing, as much for theory as technical, as it is a fundamental part of filmic story telling. I'll edit this when I'm at home with some book suggestions but Walter Murchs In the Blink of an Eye is a very good starting point.

Working as a sound editor you cannot help but learn about picture editing, as you spend all day reacting to it. Same goes for cinematography, focus & lighting, acting, art direction etc...

Your relationship with the picture editor on each film is also very, very important.

A few book suggestions:

  • In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch (excellent)
  • First Cut, Conversations with Film editors by Gabriella Oldham (excellent)
  • The Conversations, Walter Murch & the Art of editing Film by Michael Ondaatje
  • Moviemakers' Master Class by Laurent Tirard (excellent)
  • Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Sijll
  • Setting Up Your Shots by Jeremy Vineyard
  • Behind the Seen - How Walter Murch edited Cold Mountain using Final Cut Pro by Charles Koppelam
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My very first - second, actually - professional job was doing offline editing, whereby I'd basically make the crash edit/rough cut and the online editor would polish. It embedded in me the same principles I intuitively suspected in music, but never formally studied: tension, sustain, release, transition, context, technical coverage, point of view, rhythm, and narrative. I didn't embark on picture editing as a career, but to this day, almost anything I have done professionally, in interactive media and sound, relies on these principles.

In no way do I think it's necessary, but in my experience, it absolutely helps, primarily in one sense: Building further context around the art of the narrative, linear or interactive, and how emotional reactions can be achieved via media over time. Which is, I'd hazard to guess, what most of us here care the most about at the end of the day.

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Walter Murch...

Film editing has definitely become an area of interest for me, and quite organically, over the course of a few years of just watching; even though I'd consider a class to be overkill.

Visual cut and sound perspective go hand in hand.. until they don't, for a number of reasons. I think to understand why the editor made the cut decisions can give many ideas about the sound, in terms of storytelling.

Music goes even further by sometimes necessitating alterations in the edit (I'd love to read from people who experience this, as well as from composers who easily overcome it).

It might be a good idea to know in advance if the editor is going to hate you for doing something that would bring the pic back to them...

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Totallydefinitely105%!

Picture editors agonise over things like rhythm, tempo and pacing. If the sound design doesn't pay any attention to these things, then it can work against them and ruin the flow. Scenes that were tight can seem to become more drawn out, and vice versa.

Having said that, i don't care about the technical aspects any further than exporting omfs and embedding burnt in TC. The creative parts however, translate almost directly to what we do. I went to a small film school, and a lot of my good friends are picture editors, so i'm lucky enough to know a little bit about picture editing concepts from that.

There seems to be a bit of a divide, in my experience, between picture editors and sound editors, but i've had some fantastic spotting sessions with editors. I strongly recommend inviting your picture editor to your spotting sessions; to check out your rough tracklay before you go to mix; and to your final mix.

Also, is it just my friends, or do all picture editors love arguing?

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This would be helpful. Again: Murch. He is a master of editing (both film and sound).

http://designingsound.tv/tag/the-art-of-the-guillotine/

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I think that to become a master of film sound you need to understand many, many other art forms. Not just picture editing, though I totally agree that this is extremely beneficial, but also to understand the workflow and process of design, art, music, storytelling. We can take inspiration from theatre, dance, books etc. As a general rule, I really try to learn from other disciplines and apply their methods to my work.

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If you want to do sound to accompany video, then it would be very helpful. If you want to do sound for music, then not so much. Video requires knowledge of sound because it always has a sound component that you need to be able to work with. Sound doesn't always have a visual component, but when it does, the same level of coordination is needed.

The technical skills of a video editor, a cinematographer and an audio technician are all very different. The language used and even the workflows are very dissimilar. That said, there are some aspects that are useful across disciplines, such as general understanding of signals and processing.

There are also two main schools of thought, you have the Hollywood breed who specialize in their art and their art alone, depending on others to fill the other roles. You then have the independent film makers who have to know a little bit of everything, but don't necessarily master any of it.

I'm personally in the latter category and while I can do my choice of audio, video or lighting at a professional level, the amount of cross benefit is not substantial. My advice would be that unless you have a need to work with video guys or have an interest in it for yourself, you probably don't need to bother.

If you do want to learn, I recommend starting out just playing around with some basic footage and trying to tell a story with it. Once you start getting some of the basics, hop over to Video Production and read some of the beginner questions or ask your own. If you have any contacts with any local film makers, perhaps volunteer your audio services in exchange for them showing you some of their side of the art.

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