Turning “yeah cool” into “holy ****!”

corkscrew-roller-coasterRoller coasters are large and in charge. When that shoulder harness locks down, you ain’t going nowhere except forward on those tracks, and there ain’t no steering wheel or brake.

Ever edited a piece like that? One that from the very first frame grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until it says you’re allowed to leave? Here are some ideas to apply to a specific piece that can be applied to your pieces too.

I recently made virtual acquaintance on an online forum with Urs Westermann, a multi-talented young guy from Switzerland. He posted a video featuring Glidecam footage that he shot while visiting Spain and asked for feedback on his edit. Forum members’ comments consistently ended up saying some version of, “Very cool. Nice!” And they’d be right, it’s pretty dang cool.

Take 5 minutes, watch the whole thing, and note your reactions.


When I asked Urs what the purpose and audience of the piece was, he said that it was pretty much just a way to have fun and share it with people who’d like it. So here’s things progressed:


Let me start by saying, Urs, that your overall instincts are absolutely top-notch. The way you synchronize shifts of visual pacing to the music is something that eludes the vast majority of people who attempt it, even experienced, full-time professionals. Not just anybody has figured out how to do what you’re already doing.

From what I see in the edit and from your comments above, it sounds like the video is mainly an experimental piece for no particular audience, just something fun to make people say “Hey, that’s cool.” In which case, you have 100% accomplished that.

The conceptual challenge of the piece is that there’s no obvious journey or message other than “check this out, isn’t this stuff cool?” And it absolutely is – but here’s the thing… in order to keep having your viewer say, “yes, this is cool,” you have to either keep offering them new things, or offer them up in new ways. If you don’t, your viewer loses interest and stops watching.

Three ways to keep the audience even more engaged and take the piece over the top:

1. Echoing comments above, the single best thing you could do is to take the existing edit and cut it in half. Because shots won’t repeat themselves as much, and only the very best ones remain, the overall impact will be even greater. Absolutely guaranteed.

2. Match visual pacing even more closely to musical sections. The nature of this music cue is like riding a roller coaster that shifts up and down in energy. You clearly keyed into that, specifically with the speed-ramping at 0;56 and bumps in pacing at 1;04 and 2;35 (other places too). But then pace of camera movement and editing dropped back down to the previous energy level even though the music was still up in energy. So it’s kind of like teasing the audience to offer them something new, but not following through. If you make the overall piece shorter and blow through crazy amounts of footage during the fast sections, the viewer will literally feel a surge of adrenaline when those “up” sections kick in.

3. End the piece only once. As of now, it ends three times, which makes the viewer wonder what’s going on. You can still have a stopdown or two, just make it clear that the piece isn’t done yet. Continuing with the roller coaster idea: just like a roller coaster is always 100% in charge, this kind of piece should not ever allow the audience to wonder what they’re thinking or feeling. Tell them exactly what and when to think, and they’ll be more than happy to go along for the ride.

rollercoaster-handsupThe current edit is already seriously cool. Taking the above ideas and really ratcheting up the intensity and progression of the piece will change viewer reactions of “yeah, that’s cool” will change to “holy ****!!”

And let me say – throughout my career in Hollywood, it’s been a seriously rare thing to see people who get it like you clearly do – and those who do get it get paid very, very well.  Your instincts show that you are absolutely capable of doing this at the very highest levels, for very high compensation. Keep it up.

EDIT-BETTER-3D-front and back-transparentIf you feel you would benefit from more ideas like the above, and you as a video editor consider yourself anywhere between an advanced hobbyist to an enlightened, growth-minded pro, then you will absolutely love this book, and you need to get a copy right now.

Do it.


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