Week 8 Reading

Week 8 Reading Log

These last three reading logs, weeks 7, 8 and 9, all cover editing. I am currently in the process of editing my film so will hopefully update these posts with screenshots where relevant, of the actual edit of my documentary film.


  • Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. Ch.32 Editing: The Process of Refinement

The problem of achieving a flow

Before even reading the chapter I reckon this will be the most useful section for me. Making the paper edit after wrapping shooting when I knew all the questions and answers to my interviews and knowing all the cutaways I had too, the process was probably the hardest bit of the entire documentary making.

Paper edit
Rough Paper edit

This is the final decided order of my documentary film. It should follow the dramatic curve, discussed in week 4 Ch.16: Research Leading Up to the Shoot on page 236. This obviously is just the flow and the answer order in my film not including all the related cutaway footage which goes with each question.

As Rabiger discusses in this section, “it will increasingly strike you as chunky blocks of material having a dreadful lack of flow” pp.434, upon the first edit. This could not be truer.

The next section named ‘How editing mimics consciousness’ confuses me. Rabiger talks about observing characters in a scene and how an audience’s perspective shifts from each person to the other. This seems an odd point to put in the section on editing and refinement thereof.

Looking at and looking through

This section I disagreed with from the offset. I know, who am I to say Rabiger is wrong, but for my film, I feel this technique would turn my expository documentary into a performative or participatory documentary, with a guide. I think this as the opening to this section discusses three observational positions. One point of view (POV) from each participant and a long shot including both participants. Rabiger does say, “the audience can identify with either one of the characters” pp.435, which I require in my film, but the idea of a second perspective from another character just feels like it would not be in place in my documentary film. It is never the less an interesting idea, perhaps for another documentary film in the future I desire to make, but not for this particular film.

Editing rhythms: An analogy in music

In this section, Rabiger uses music as an analogy to relate the flow an edit should follow. The flow of conversation is similar to music. A conversation that has an “ebb and flow” speeding up, fading, slowing down, restarting and so on. This is important for my edit as I want to retain the flow of video in the interview sections. I also have music in my film, as it is about buskers performing, so I am having to think about that too. Fading in and out of music playing and interviewees talking is so far the most challenging part of my film editing so far.

Unifying material into a flow

This idea of flow is pushed in every section by Rabiger as it is the key to a good film. Keeping audience engagement should be the goal of any filmmaker and maintaining a films flow is the method to achieve this.

“you will want to combine sound and action in a form that takes advantage of counterpoint techniques” pp. 436. Basically bringing audio from one clip with the visuals from another clip. Rabiger also comes on to the point of integration of clips, “Instead of alternating the two sets of materials, it would be better to integrate them” pp.437.

I feel as if a lot of this section is rather simplistic for me. Perhaps it is because I have spent a lot of time in the past editing and have studied film flow before. This section may be more suited for a person new to film as a whole who would not know about cinema’s flow because, for me, these techniques are second nature. This gives me quite a lot of hope for the editing of my film. Rabiger goes on to discuss L and J-Cuts later so I shan’t go into those here, but he does voice the plus side to this style of editing, “The total sequence is shorter and sprightlier.” pp.437.

The audience as active participants

This style of editing “Encourages [an] active rather than passive participation” by the audience. This should be the goal of any documentary film in my opinion. If one’s film bores an audience, it is a bad film. The aim of my editing is always to keep the flow up and to maintain audience engagement as much as possible. This is something to consider when filming also, for instance, the first interview I did with the GAK (Guitars, Amps & Keyboards) employee had a bright label in the shot which drew attention away from the shot’s subject, the interviewee. Luckily in editing, I was able to zoom in on my subject and so the label was no longer in the shot as this would have disturbed my audience’s attention and broken the flow of my documentary film.

Rabiger does discuss something in this section I find myself objecting to. He talks of purposeful ironic juxtapositions using this technique of counterpoint. This, he describes, is to have conflicting audio and visuals. For my film is shall attempt the exact opposite to have b-roll and cutaways at times where my interviewees are discussing these topics, to relate the interview subject to the real world. For example, if an interviewee is discussing how hard it is to make money busking, I will use a clip of a busker being ignored for his work and not making money. To use this technique of juxtaposition in my film would be to undermine the interviewee who is supposed to be a voice of authority and knowledge.

The overlap cut: Dialogue sequences & Sequence transitions

The ‘overlap cut’ is the best way to present a documentary film. To show this I have made a quick visual representation of the L and J-cut’s.


These are from a brief period piece I made recently. The L-cut to let the audio from the clip run over the next clip. The J-cut is to have the audio a clip begin over a previous clip, then to go to the clip the audio is from. I will utilise the L-cut when showing b-roll related to an interviewee’s answer to ground what they say in actual life and I will use the J-cut when establishing a new question, a new character, or coming from b-roll back to my interviewee.

Rabiger also says these editing techniques can be used over sequences, not just dialogue.

In Conclusion

I feel for my own personal learning, this weeks reading was not best suited. As I have edited before and have experience in this field, topics such as pace, style, flow and audience intrigue are all not new to me. Editing rhythm is one of the hardest aspects to nail as a first-time editor as I feel I have learned this skill over time and experience in editing.

This chapter does not cover more of the practical sides to editing such as personal workflow and the methods editors use to edit efficiently. I suppose this is for a few reasons. Editing workflow is a very personal side to editing and it also depends on which programme an editor uses. For my film, I shall be using Adobe’s Premiere Pro as I know it well, I have used it before and it is the software I am required to use for my course. However, perhaps at the time of Rabiger writing this book, the 1980s, editing would have been a totally different affair.

At this stage in my creative process, I have almost completed editing the film, as the member of my group with the most editing experience I am doing a large portion of it whilst consulting my group members for their opinions on my work. I was also present for every filming day and shot a lot my self so I am aware of the footage that I have to work with. This gives me the ability to know what footage is best suited where but like I said I am consulting with my group throughout this process. I have about three minutes of the film together, and an extra minute and 30 seconds of footage edited together which just needs to be fitted in with the rest of the film. At this stage I am concerned my film may go over the four-minute mark, but I’d rather have too much footage than not enough. Hopefully, the final edit should be complete either tomorrow or the day after and then I get a chance to show the film to an audience! Very exciting. I shall do the next reading log after I have finished the edit so the post can be self-reflexive over the editing process.

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