Timing is a key ingredient in pacing. I think of timing as the exact point where you make a particular edit, relative to the beats of the soundtrack, shot selection, and so on. Pacing and timing work hand-in-hand to enhance your audience's experience.
The inspiration for this column was our Bridal Boot Camp video. The video's opening sets the stage for the pacing. It features a military drum beat, opening credits with quick still photos of the stars, and voice-overs and overlapping dialogue to quicken the pace. (Overlapping dialogue is a technique in which you overlap dialog from one shot onto the visuals of the next. It's an effective method for quickening the pace and giving your editing a more polished feel.)
The other way I maintain the pacing is by keeping the scenes short. Technically, this method depends on the script, but editing can also affect scene length. For instance, do you use cutaways to show items in the room? How long do you linger on a particular shot? How quickly do you cut to the next shot after a line of dialogue? These all influence scene length, and therefore, pacing.
Here are three elements that you can vary to control pacing:
- Length of edit: The shorter the cuts, the faster the pace.
- Pace of music: The faster the music's tempo, the faster the pace.
- Activity in scene: The more going on in each scene or shot, the faster the pace.
Next, consider a question we're often asked in event videography: "Does your video tell a story?" Essentially, this means, "Does your video have a discernible beginning, middle, and end? And does it communicate a clear message?"
A video like Bridal Boot Camp is first written as a story. There are characters, a problem to solve, and a resolution. Even if your concept video isn't a traditional story, it should still tell one.
Perhaps you're doing a spoof on American Idol for a groom who loves to sing . . . badly. The "story" could be his journey from audition to performing live on stage. The antagonist would naturally be a Simon Cowell-type character. Your beginning is an introduction to the groom and his "talent." The middle is his performance in front of and verbal assault by your Simon. The resolution is his farewell video to the tune of Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" (like they used on the show).
Regardless of the concept, by telling some kind of story you will engage your viewers and significantly enhance their enjoyment. When telling a story, remember these three key points:
- Set the stage: Open with an introduction to a problem and/or interesting characters.
- Pay attention to scene order: The juxtaposition and placement of your scenes affect your storytelling. Show something too soon or too late and you could lose your audience.
- End strong: A bad ending can turn an otherwise-great video into a terrible one. Likewise, even a so-so video will leave the audience with a positive response if you end strongly. Whether it's hilarious or touching, make your ending visceral and emotional.
One last thing that makes our work as videographers so powerful is our use of visuals and audio to capture and enhance our clients' most precious memories. While this could be its own article topic, I'll cut to the chase by offering three quick pointers for effective use of aesthetics in editing:
- Remain true to the theme. When selecting music, visual effects, etc., make selections that complement the theme of the piece.
- Audio is as important as visuals. Dialogue, soundtrack, and other audio elements are as crucial to your video as its visuals. Sometimes I'll spend three hours choosing the right music. One helpful strategy is to think of your video as a radio show. How much of the story can you convey with audio alone?
- Less is the new more. Know when to let the rawness of the dialogue and/or unedited visuals do all the work. The power of a good punch line or visual can be lost if drowned in a sea of too much other "stuff."
Finally, I must say that you will be more successful in the editing room if you do more preplanning. From page to production, write and shoot with editing in mind. Even though sometimes you can "fix it in post," you don't want to have to. And of course, don't forget to save those funny outtakes for the gag reel. Your clients will love it!