Why cutting on the beat is KILLING your edit

Hey, it's corn. Fascinating stuff.
Look, it’s a cornfield! More on this in a bit.

Years ago, I edited a music video containing shots of the artists walking down various sidewalks and alleys until they ran into each other.  The song was a hipster-ish, minimally produced track, and I started experimenting with jump cuts of the artists walking on specific beats of the music track.  It worked pretty well, and both the director and I were happy.

Unfortunately, for a while after cutting that video, I relied too heavily on idea of putting the edits right on the beats of the music.  What worked well for a hipster music video looked downright clunky in other contexts.

And time after time, amateur and professional editors alike try to “give the piece more energy” and “add some flash” by doing edits – usually a bunch of them – right on the beats of the music.  Sometimes it works, often it doesn’t.

Here’s why:

Choosing an edit point exactly on a noticeable music beat calls attention to the edit.

Which of course raises a question that goes far beyond just editing of music:

Do you want your audience to notice the edit?

Now like many questions in life, it’s difficult to answer this question with a simple “yes” or “no”.  Personally, speaking in broad strokes, I strive for my editing to be invisible, for nothing to call attention away from whatever message I want to communicate.  So in most cases, I’d say “no, I don’t want the edit to be noticeable.”

Having said that, there are times when my job as an editor is to present something in an engaging, energetic way, but the subject matter just kind of sits there and does nothing exciting.  Like a cornfield in Iowa.  In that case, I may very well want to add extra edits to the beats of the music to say “Hey, check out this cornfield.  Isn’t it cool?!”

Trust me. Cornfields are anything but riveting. I have permission to say this because I spent a good chunk of my younger years growing up in Iowa.

So yes, there will be times when you do want to call attention to your edit point by putting it directly on a music beat.  More often than not, though, you will want to keep the edit point OFF the beat… and let the ACTION in the shot do the talking.

This is just one of my Top 5 Tips For Picking The Perfect Edit Point Every Single Time that I’ve used over and over again throughout my career editing TV here in Hollywood for some of the biggest media outlets in the world.

These ideas work on literally any project, whether you’ve been cutting for decades or mere days, no matter your editing tools.

See the instant improvement in your editing when you check them out here.

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