The edit of ‘Busking’

This post will conclude my blog by discussing the final editing touches to my documentary film busking. This post will cover:

  • The timeline
  • Editing techniques
  • Colour grading
  • And necessary shots


The timeline

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.10.29

This is the final timeline for my documentary film, all four minutes 30 seconds of it. As an editor, I can understand a lot from that, but for those less acquainted with editing it may be difficult to understand. I will cover the specific techniques I have used in the next section of this post.

Editing techniques

On the timeline, there are clear techniques used to cover over cuts with b-roll, to maintain flow with L and J-cuts, as discussed in week 8’s readings, and the addition of text to add information without stating it.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.10.43

This opening section shows a lot of these techniques.

Firstly, I have used an opening title to introduce the title of my film, but also to introduce my main interviewee, ‘Adam Wilkens’. This is only a feature of the film I could add in editing. To have Adam state his own name would seem weird and clunky, and the title of the film can be shown no other way.

Secondly, it is clear to see the audio mixing I have used to give the piece a more consistent flow. The lowest track is ambient sound that I have gone out to record specifically, as it adds a sense of realness to the shots on the street. It dips and rises in accordance with the opening track, of a busker playing guitar, and to what shot is being shown at the time. This technique was achieved using the ‘pen tool’ in Premiere and is used throughout the edit.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.11.22

Next, this section shows the use of b-roll over the top and an interview. The middle track is the audio from the interview, with the thin line of footage according to it above. The topmost video track is the b-roll. This shows related clips in correspondence to what Adam Wilkens and the GAK store owner are saying. For instance, the first shot is a clip of a homeless man who is ‘absent-mindedly strumming a guitar’ as the store owner says, with nobody giving him any money. Related b-roll is seminal to a documentary film as it contextualises the film’s narrative and confirms what the interviewees are saying is legitimate, therefore an audience believe them more.

The final clip in this montage of b-roll is of a homeless man begging for change. This is not just an important shot in the narrative of the film, but also patches over the rapid cuts in Wilkens’ interview. There is dead air, pauses and random waffle here but I was able to cut that out and only keep the information. This maintains the film’s flow, keeps the important information and has relevant b-roll to ground the film in reality.

After this montage can be seen a J-Cut of a man playing the piano. The audio of him playing slowly rises, coming in full volume only when he appears on the screen. This creates an audio bridge between sequences and again, keeps the flow of the film in full. The use of J and L-cuts is used throughout for this exact reason, to create audio bridges.

Finally, I have used key-frames to gradually add or take away effects on a clip. For instance, the title card for Adam Wilkens, stating his name, fades in and out so the information is seen to come in gradually and not flash on screen.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.11.48

The effect looks like this.

The initial keyframe has the title card at 0% opacity, obviously so the title card is not seen. The second keyframe is at 100% opacity, the title card is on screen. The space inbetween the 1st and second keyframe is the time given for the title card to ‘fade up’ to be fully visible, the wider apart these keyframes, the longer the opacity would take to get from 0% to 100% opacity. The third and fourth keyframes are the same as the first and second but in reverse. As seen on the left side of this screenshot, the play head is a little over half way between these keyframes and thus the opacity of the title card is at 47.6% opacity. The space in between the second and third keyframe is the time allowed for the audience to read the title card at full visibility. This time should give the audience the ability to read the text through twice all the way through.

Colour grading

This technique should, in an ideal world, not be used. It is reserved, in my opinion, for only two occasions.

  1. You are purposefully attempting to give your film a certain look not achievable by only filming
  2. The conditions of filming did not allow for the correct colour of your film and the footage stands out in the film

In my case, the latter is why I utilised the colour grading abilities of Premiere. I will show what I have done to three shots, and why I did so.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.13.45

Firstly, this establishing shot of the outside of the GAK building to establish the location. The building was sickeningly yellow on the recorded footage. Obviously I did not want to change the colour of the building, but merely attempt to mute the vibrancy of the yellows.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 14.41.21

As seen by this effects window, I have altered the whites, the exposure and crucially the temperature. I did not want to wash out my image, but make the building not have such an effect on the audience. If an edit is noticeable in a film, the audience may be taken out of the narrative. This cannot happen.

Next, I have a shot of a homeless man, sleeping in the streets.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.15.05

For this shot, I have again altered the temperature to give the shot a blueish overtone. This connotes the feelings of cold the man must be feeling, and conveys his plight onto the audience through only visual cues. This is also a vital tool, as this shots white balance was not actually set correctly. I was not the person who filmed this shot, and only saw the footage upon returning to an edit suite where I had to process the footage. Without the colour grading, this shot would have stood out in my film and looked unusual, again pulling the audience out of the film’s narrative.

The final clip I colour graded was the main interview with Adam Wilkens. The original clip of Adam made him look grey and almost dead (sorry Adam). Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.12.00

By boosting the saturation, adding some warmth to the image and tinting it slightly towards magenta I was able to make Adam fit with the rest of the surrounding b-roll and other interviews.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 14.04.57

These adjustments were only slight but made his interview clips fit better in my film. However, as I only knew this after editing the film together, I did not edit his whole interview with this style. I was saved though, as I was able to save the effect as a preset.

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 14.05.32

This meant I could simply apply the technique to whatever clip I needed to. Making the clip look like this.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.12.00 edit

Necessary shots

This section is not specifically editing related, the placement of the shots in the final film are, but the shots themselves are not.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.12.56

This is a long shot of a busker tuning his guitar in the foreground, whilst in the background the public walk past. This establishes the location of the documentary film, in Brighton, and shows the films subject matter. The shots colour is vibrant and the movement in the shot reminds the audience of the true nature of the film, that these buskers are in the ‘real world’ and the film is entirely based in truth.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.12.42

This symmetrical long shot shows a homeless man dropping little change and picking it up. His body language in the mise-en-scène is weak and shows his personality as passive. This coding in the shot conveys a sense of pity from the audience and again reminds the audience of the reality of the film they are watching. This was an incredibly important shot for me to get as it relates directly to what my interviewees were saying about homelessness in Brighton.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 19.12.00 lines

Obviously, this was an important shot to get as it is the backbone of my film, this interview is what busking is about. I have framed the shot so his face is on a focal point of the screen, using the rule of thirds.

In Conclusion

The editing process was longer than I expected. To get every shot looking exactly how I wanted through colour grading was an extra step I did not expect to take as long as it did. The editing process of adding ambient sound, making L and J-cuts, having b-roll over the top of clips and creating visual effects using keyframes were all techniques I had done before, but not in a project of this size. I feel I have not used an effect without a valid reason as to doing so, all of my editing techniques were to give the films a better flow, to fix cutting interviews up or correct incorrect filming.

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