Tips from an experienced shooter/editor

DMJ Studios’ David Jasse is an editorial and production veteran with over 20 years in the industry. Jasse opened DMJ in 1992, after gaining experience at CNN, MTV, CBS and Fox. Among his company’s most recent work was editing and designing graphics for Emmy Award-winning Born to Explore With Richard Weise as seen on ABC.

We asked him to share some tips for shooting and editing, and he obliged….

Shooting
1. Don’t blame the gear — you have to position yourself. Don’t worry about having a zoom lens.

2. “Dirty the lens,” as the pro’s call it. Don’t be afraid to frame your shot with tree branches obscuring or framing the shot. The same goes for fences, backs of chairs, poles. It’s great, especially if you can do a side-to-side dolly and reveal your subject, with our without a slider.

3. Be sure to change focal lengths. The normal 50mm DSLR lens is what your eye sees, but your videos may not look exceptional although, and while it’s not about the gear, the gear helps. Try a 200mm to really blur out backgrounds. Try a 14mm extreme wide, just before distortion for a different look. The 14mm is great for a cheap man’s steadicam for dolly shots. Be sure to get in very close to your subject and fill the lens.

4. Think like an editor. Cover yourself with cutaways. It’s fundamental, but folks forget. Get a wide, establishing, move in for the two shot, then singles, then reversals. Don’t forget that extreme close-up and, of course, the over the shoulder.

5. Don’t center your shot… it’s blah. Amateurs typically see the focus cross hairs in the center and think they’re aiming at their subject. You’re not aiming for a bulls-eye — you’re composing. Divide the frame into thirds, put talking heads way off to the side, leaving lead room.

6. Once you know the rules then you can break them. Know them first before you try a shaky-cam, a hand-held look or swish pans.

7. Spend time editing your own material. Until you try cutting it yourself, you’ll never know if the speed of your pans is good, or if you’re holding your static shots long enough.

David Jasse editing.

Editing
1. I learned by editing by number. This is coloring by numbers, but for editing. I’ll explain: Find a video with editing you respect, then cover it with your own materials replacing their shots to the frame. Edit within the editor’s cuts. You’ll learn about two-frame edits, editing to the beat, and you’ll get some great ideas.

2. Be organized. It’s good for you and it’s a must for people who are going to work at a company. People are going to need to retrace  your steps and find what you do. Date your edited sequences and don’t name it “final,” because there are likely to be five “final” cuts.

3. Take an editing class; learn the software. Many programs are very intuitive today, and folks think they are professional editors because they have cut a lot of nice work. A real editor, one who is marketable, knows the shortcuts and the software, not just how to come up with a nice cut. Professionals who know the software are much faster and come in to save the day when the film has to get out and you need that person who can find that bug that won’t let you output your sequence.

4. Basic color correction. Pretty much all software today has the automatic white balance. Find white in the shot — could be the eyes, the teeth, the wall, the shirt — and, at least, white balance. For a pro, there’s no excuse for green images, and I see a lot of them.

5. Templates. Everything has been done today for the most part, so why reinvent the wheel? Most of us don’t have network budgets for graphics; even networks don’t always have them. Find a Motion or After Effects template you and your client like, then modify it. Any average editor can use Motion, for example, but, once again, learn the software on your own using YouTube videos for help, and then go take a class. Your value will increase out there in the market.

6. Cut first, think later. Some of my best edits over the years happened by mistake, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

7. Tell stories with your cuts. Your film should look good without sound. Remember a video is worth a thousand words. Instead of having someone explain the matter at hand, show it with nice visuals that make sense… that tell the story. Too often you see videos with very random B-roll, not telling a visual story.

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