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Chapter 5. Getting Ready to Edit > Choosing What to Edit

Choosing What to Edit

As I said before, not everything you shoot will be edited. When you are shooting, you usually won't know when you have enough good coverage to give you something editable. When I review and log my material, I look for a few hallmarks that will drive me to edit one project over another.

  • Is the content compelling? It doesn't have to be footage of a train wreck or an alien landing to be compelling to my family, but it should have some intrinsic merit—something that entices me to cut it together and that others may want to see. (If I'm interested enough to spend a few hours editing a video, I can usually find a willing audience to view it.)

  • Do I have the structure? I want to know that some of my material lends itself to being a beginning, middle, and end. I can fudge a little here; it is not uncommon simply to fade up and call some random shot “the beginning.” But it's best if the material supports a little natural structure and if there is actually something driving the video forward—say, a joke or a moment that could serve as the climax or punchline.

  • Do I have the coverage? It doesn't take much—a simple shot/reverse shot, maybe a good master shot with a few nice inserts—to give you the kind of material you need to make smooth edits.

  • Does it fit within my limits? Do I have 10 to 20 minutes of footage that could nicely go together as a single project? Sometimes I will shoot something, maybe 5 minutes of bits, and not really have enough to merit an edit session. Then something else happens later—another scene, really, but one that sort of goes with the other, and it's perhaps 15 minutes long—and I realize that I could put these two short bits together and make an even better video. As long as the sum total of raw material you intend to capture is less than 20 minutes, you can get away with a lot of odd bits strung together to make a neat final video. For instance, I shot about 10 minutes of footage for my birthday party last year—only enough for a tiny finished video. But I noticed that, on the same tape a day earlier, I had shot another 10 minutes as I moved around the house, cleaning and preparing and playing with my son. Although these bits were quite different from my birthday footage, they all went together well for a little video project.


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