Putting The Non Into Nonlinear Editing

nonlinear editing

When I first started writing this blog about editing, I mentioned that I’ve learned from a number of different editors. I remember one under whom I studied many years ago. I had been working for a while on a scene and I paused, waiting for advice. He just said, “Walk away.”

I looked at him, puzzled, and he just smiled. He then explained that I could spend more and more time on the scene and get it just right, or I could just wait and see what would come before it and what would come after it.

His perspective was that until you know where a scene fits into the whole scheme of things, it can be a waste of time and energy to tweak it until you get it where you want it. It might be that the scene is coming from a powerful and important dramatic sequence. Or, it might be coming from a simple transitional scene that takes us from one point in the story or location to another. Maybe the scene transitions to a very fast-paced or frenetic sequence, so it’s important that the previous scene—the one you’re working on—be straightforward and slow paced. So you decide to cut it differently.

In essence, this mentor helped me keep the nonlinear aspect of editing front and center. Rather than working linearly, going from one scene to the next, I learned to jump around.

Working this way helps ensure that I don’t spend too much time recutting a scene when I don’t know where it fits into a storyline. Once I get scenes before and after, then I can start finessing. Even then, I might step back to see the big picture.

Working this way—moving on to another part of the story—has another benefit. It allows me to “take a break” and not get burned out on a scene.

It was just a simple comment, “walk away,” but I always remember it.

Michael Guncheon is an accomplished editor who has cut a wide range of projects, including music videos for Prince, a documentary on Genesis, and numerous commercials and corporate pieces. A partner at HDMG, a Minneapolis video production and post-production company, Guncheon has written several books on DSLRs and is the author of the Kodak Digital Photo Guide. He has presented his talk on shooting with HDSLRs at Twin Cities Public Television, WGBH in Boston, PBS in New York, the Hollywood Post Alliance and at the annual SMPTE conference in Hollywood.