Here’s a couple of great tips I’ve picked up in recent months that have really improved my video editing. I’ve found these much more handy beyond the typical “5 shortcuts to make your editing faster” posts that I read when I first started out.
How to Avoid the “Video” Look While Color Grading
I’ve still got a lot the learn when it comes to colour grading, but I like to think that I’m improving with every video that I edit. As a filmmaker, naturally I’m aiming to get closer and closer to that “cinematic” or “film” look.
One of the key pieces of a beautiful cinematic image is all about contrast. But no, this doesn’t just mean cranking that contrast slider up. That’s like using a sledgehammer to sculpt a statue. It’s actually about creating separation between different areas in the image. This article explains how to take a more refined approach, so that you can replace that sledgehammer with a chisel.
The first method is to use the Tone Curve alongside Masks (or Power Windows in Davinci Resolve) to isolate different tonal areas in the image and adjust them separately. This means targeting specific areas to make darker and others to make lighter. For example, you can draw a mask around your subject and make it ‘pop’ out from the background by making it slightly brighter.
The second method is to use the Colour Curves in a similar way. Instead of increasing contrast between light and dark areas, the idea here is to increase the separation of colours.
The above shot is from Mad Max: Fury Road. Although there are only two main colours, the saturation and tone in both areas are so clearly separated from each other that it makes the landscape come to life. This gives the image a cinematic feel.
How to stay focused as an editor
This has been a major help to me. The struggle with editing isn’t all of the little productivity hacks you can do to squeeze out an extra 1% speed – although that can help too. It’s about staying focused for long periods of time. It’s more of a marathon than a sprint. It can take a while to really get into the zone and stay there. Sometimes the thought of sitting down to edit a big project can seem so daunting that the probability of procrastinating is almost 100%.
Blocks and slowdowns are inevitable whenever you’re editing. But the main takeaway from this video for me is, surprisingly, not to clamp down and white-knuckle your way through blocks. You need to actually to know when to quit. You should anticipate a slow down, and quit just before you lose your flow. He likens this to a wave – you get into the wave, ride it and then exit just before it crashes. Then take a short break, ready to ride another wave again.