Breakfast at Tiffany’s Desk – The Art of Editing.

The Art of Editing: is new technology hindering quality as it enhances our ability to deliver more, faster?

When I started out in the Film and Video industry almost 15 years ago, I had a wonderful video producer, who patiently guided me on how to edit video…properly.  She would simply say, “That’s a good start, now tighten up your shots.”  The last half of that statement usually got repeated 1-3 times before I’d get approval on my project.  At the time, I was a little frustrated, mainly because I wasn’t totally sure what was expected of me…until the final edit and then I would see how the video flowed SO much better than my rough cut.  She didn’t tell me how to edit, she just kept nudging me in the right direction until I figured it out.

With the onset of the Internet, Flip cameras, iPhones, iPads, iMovie, etc…it seems like EVERYONE is uploading video for public viewing these days.  But that doesn’t mean everything out there is worth your precious time. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should… just sayin’.  Even I am guilty of throwing out poorly edited videos, knowing the grandparents don’t really care about the quality of my edits, they just want to see their grandson’s face and have the opportunity to be a part of his active life.  And frankly, with a toddler in the house, I don’t have the time to make a masterpiece out of everything I shoot.

All of this has led me to the question: Has the art of editing been as corrupted by new technologies as it has been enhanced by them?  Are we being desensitized by the plethora of bad editing on the Internet that we don’t know good editing when we see it?  I think, deep down, we all know better.

Recently, my husband saw The Green Lantern.  He commented that he thought the editing was horrible.  I didn’t see the movie, so I cannot comment on whether I agree with his opinion, but he does represent the general public, at least where superhero movies are concerned and he noticed something was “off”.  My experience through the years is that the sign of a well-edited piece is that you don’t notice the editing at all.

Good editing impresses the intended emotion in the audience.  Think about the scene in An Affair to Remember (1957) (one of my all time favorite movies), where Deborah Kerr is running to theEmpireStateBuildingto meet up with Cary Grant.  You don’t actually SEE her get hit, but you know something tragic happened and your heart sinks.  And don’t tell me that you can watch Braveheart orPearl Harborwithout experiencing the entire gamut of human emotion.

So, what does all of this have to do with Classic movies?  If you want to study some of the greatest editing, watch the Classics.  Some of my personal favorites include The Godfather (1972), The Untouchables (1987) (watch the scene in the train station…and notice how the use of silence/limited sound enhances the visual edits), and A Christmas Carol (1951) starring Alastair Sim (too many scenes to list).

A lot of what we call “The Classics” are from an era when the Hays Code didn’t allow them to show so much of the gore and sex that we see (almost as the “norm”) in today’s films.  The editing had to speak for that which couldn’t be visually portrayed.  Hitchcock movies were incredibly effective at implying violence without actually showing it.  Every time I see a black bird, I think of The Birds (1963)  In some ways, allowing the imagination to fill in the blanks is WAY more impressionable than showing an axe in a guy’s skull!  Maybe that’s why I love Classic Movies so much.

To Carol (Spann) Mathews: Thank you for your investment in my career.  I will forever be grateful for the time you spent teaching me excellence.

A great resource for more information on some of the great film editing sequences through the years:

You can purchase A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim on our website:


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One Response to Breakfast at Tiffany’s Desk – The Art of Editing.

  1. shar47 says:

    Great job, Tiffany. Very interesting and informational.

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