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Trimming the Fat

Andrea Allen
April 29, 2011 by Andrea Allen PRO

If you’re shooting a scene for a film or maybe just taking footage of someone performing a simple action, it’s always a good practice to shoot more than you think you’ll need. This method gives you plenty of footage to pick from when it comes time to editing your video and putting it all together. However, with so much footage to choose from, you have to learn what shots are the most important to convey the action of the scene. In essence, you need to learn how to trim the fat.

Take a look at this exercise we did to illustrate the effects of cutting extra shots while still creating the same result — and actually a more-succinct scene.

Here’s a video of me getting coffee. Not the most cinematic of scenes, I know, but it’s a good mundane action that allows us to prove a few points. First, we overshot the scene and came away with WAY too much footage. Then, we made two edits: one overly long, drawn out and completely ridiculous scene, and one short, sweet, and succinct scene. Here’s the first. Pay attention to the pace and flow. Do you see anything that seems superflous? Are all these shots necessary? Does the viewer need to see all this stuff?

Now, let’s take a look at our second edit of the same scene. This time, we remove tons of shots that weren’t necessary for the scene and got straight to the point! Notice how the story doesn’t suffer because of the cuts, but in fact feels more driven because of them.

Now isn’t that better?

Ready for a challenge?

Make a two minute video showing someone completing a task. Then edit that same video but keep it to one minute by cutting shots that you may not need. Put both videos together to see the difference!

Accept this challenge


Richard Wood

I thought the long form told more of a story: the impatience waiting for the coffee machine perhaps showed the frustrations of the working day, although it was a little bit long. The edited version was just a bit too short.

Michael Hannigan

Did the lady in the second one also find the exact coffee she was looking for?

Jugtown Studios

The first one just makes me laugh. hee hee.. "Ah! This is the one!"

Jason Kinsley

I would of taken some other things out and left others in but thats the beauty of being the editor, you make the choices.

Christopher R. Bernal Plus

I agree Jason, many ways to deal with the content just by shuffling and trimming. Add sound & music to the mix and you've got a plethora of choices.

Visual Re-invention PRO

Hmm, it really depends on the focus of the story. I'm assuming the focus of this story is her 'getting a coffee'....

The long one is good for showing the entire process she took. It held on to the attention of the viewer a little longer as the story unfolded. It showed the viewer more of the surrounding the character was in.

Yes, the second one may be shorter and more pacey but it's definitely less interesting if again, the focus of the story was about her 'getting a coffee'.

The second cut should be transitory of a bigger story which focus isn't about her 'getting the coffee'.

So yeah, it depends on what the focus is on.

Katica Pecigoš-Kljuković

Prvi videozapis govori o njenim emocijama vezanih uz kavu ( ima dušu!),a drugi videozapis mi djeluje kao reklama za kavu (bezdušan je!) samo nedostaje ime kave.

Pesca Náutica & Cia

O foco: " Vamos tomar café?" - o segundo eu Edna, considero como o certo, pois ataca o foco principal, os outros detalhes não interessa, o foco era sim se servir um café gostoso.

Whitedog Videography

Great example and for sure the editor way of seeing the story is of most importatnte. Thanks!!!

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