Top Tips from your Video Editor

By Ralph Cochrane

I’ll let you into a secret. “Fix it in Post!” is one of our little video editor insider jokes because we get asked to fix things all the time and sometimes they border on the ridiculous. Most of the time I can edit out “erms, aahs, coughs” or strange hand signals (yes people really do that when they talk), but sometimes I can’t fix mistakes without a much bigger budget and a friendly Hollywood special effects guru (yes I’m being a little flippant) so these are my top tips from the edit studio about how you should approach your video shoot.

1. Make time for b-roll

I guarantee the last thing you’ll worry about is b-roll on a shoot. B-roll is the American term, sometimes known as General Video or GV in the UK, that refers to footage where we are not interviewing a subject or filming an actor. Things like the signage at your head office or people at an event talking and smiling. Close ups of people shaking hands or wine being poured into crystal glasses, that kind of thing. Usually I ask for 1-2 hours overall for filming b-roll and for some conferences like Mobile World Congress we can spend a day or two getting all the shots we need. Time-lapses look amazing, but they take time. We need a minimum of 15 minutes to film a time-lapse each time. Creativity is not always quick but wait until you see the results.

2. Good Audio

Bear in mind our little joke about “fix it in post” (keep that one to yourself), audio is really important. In some ways your brain is more tuned to hear the mistakes than on a badly framed visual image. A video editor can take about 30% of the background noise out of the footage if it’s noisy, but beyond that your ear will start to notice. I can push this a bit more if I add backing music but it would be a lot easier if you had a decent microphone, positioned correctly in the first place. Equally, “blown out” audio where the gain on the microphone or mixing desk is too high is almost impossible to correct.

3. Good lighting

This is one of the reasons you should hire a good camera operator. Lighting is not straight forward. You need to light the subject, but not blind them so they are squinting at the camera. Equally we don’t want to make their skin shiny on the final image, but the biggest mistake of all; the absolute rookie error, is when I see footage of a subject in front of a sunny window. They’re in silhouette. If the sky is bright then we won’t see their face. Avoid at all costs. Shadows can also be a problem, although not usually in London where I’m based! (That was a  British weather joke, we love to talk about the weather).

4. Don’t talk over the person you’re interviewing

After two attempts and your perfect open question you got some emotion, a smile, they gave the perfect answer and then you ruined it by saying “oh yes!” or “Ahah” or worse you started to ask the next question. I can’t fix that in post. All I can do is remove you and their answer. It’s frustrating. Just WAIT! In fact wait until it’s almost painful and smile. Sometimes I feel like a simpleton as I stand there smiling after an interviewee has finished talking, but do you know what happens? They fill the gap, they say something even more amazing. Check out the last 20 seconds of the video we made for Plan Day below and you’ll see what I mean. Yes I stood there smiling….. like a simpleton. It works, trust me. This lady makes the whole video. It’s a great way to end.


5. More than one Camera

If you can, use two cameras for your interviews. First of all it’s a great backup if something goes wrong with the equipment, but it also allows us to play with the footage after. I’ve made the most nervous speakers sound amazing by cutting all the “errs, aahs and umms” out using a combination of b-roll and a second camera angle. It also makes the final video look more professional. Finally it’s good as well if there was something going on that your camera operator didn’t spot. Maybe in the distance on the wide shot someone is moving around or perhaps the interviewee’s clothes have a stain on them. Anything that could be awkward afterwards can be avoided with another camera angle. It’s worth paying for.

I hope you don’t think video editors are a grumpy lot. Strange, yes, but we see everything. Shots that work and shots that don’t. Remember the rule of thumb, for every minute of footage we need at least two minutes in edit. We have to sort your footage, often we’ll have to convert it before we can start editing, sync different cameras together and watch everything to find the best bits. We even hear the things you said off-camera when you hadn’t turned the microphone off. For that reason alone, always be nice to your video editor!



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