Podcast Episode #21: 7 Key Principles for Video Editing

Today, Ryan Spanger is joined by Nick Hancock as the Web Video Marketing Show discusses their 7 Key Principles for Video Editing.


Some of Dream Engine's editors

Their key points are:

  1. To take people on a ride [02:07]. As Ryan explains, “people want to be taken on an exciting ride.” Editing is not a “linear truth”, and it is the role of the editor to manipulate the viewer in to living and breathing the story. 
  2. Why it is important to build and release tension – and how you can include this in your editing [05:00]. So much of life is about tension and release, and you can incorporate this into your editing. Discover how to engage the viewer with “anticipation and fulfilment”, and what John Landis had to say about this in “The Kentucky Fried Movie”.
  3. The practice of cutting from wide to close [10:58]: why it is an important editing convention – and when it’s important to break it!
  4. The need for “trial and error” [16:03]. Or, as Ryan puts it, “why we’re in the best age of editing ever!” What stops people from moving from being a good editor to being a great editor? Why is editing a lot like childbirth? And why does Ryan encourage editors to “treat themselves like mad scientists in a laboratory?”
  5. The philosophy of “creating meaning through shot selection”. [22:26] Have you heard of Sergei Eisenstein? What is the “Odessa Steps Sequence”, and what does “montage” have to do with it? Ryan explains how “it’s not the shot itself that carries its own inherent meaning, but you get to add that meaning in the edit.”
  6. How editing is just one long series of choices, [26:19] and how can you make those choices better. Why is it important not to stress over the small details? What is “idealised perfection”, and why is “a film is never finished, it’s abandoned”?
  7. Why it’s essential to follow the Three Act Structure. [29:25] What comprises the three act structure, and why does it make Ryan’s life as a documentary filmmaker easier?
  8. And one bonus tip that’ll leave you standing! [32:44]

You can download our podcast directly from this link, or find The Web Video Marketing Show on iTunes.

Episode Transcription

Ryan: Welcome to the Web Video Show episode 21 and today we’re going to talk about how to edit video. This is Ryan and I’m here with Nicko. Video editing has become a lot more popular over the last few years, obviously as video editing software has become more available. All Apple’s stuff comes with iMovie. Does iMovie come free with Apple products?

Nicko: Yeah, it’s part of that suite that you buy when you buy one of their laptops, computers; so on and so forth, and as you’ve said in previous episodes in your marketing show, video is the new norm for advertising online.

Ryan:  It’s available to everyone and everyone’s doing it, but they don’t necessarily know the rules behind it, or what works, what makes editing successful or not and this is a topic we’ve been talking a lot about lately.

Nicko: Well, last week Ryan, we were putting together a major edit for a client and I ran into a lot of problems and obstacles during that video edit and through working with you we’ve created a way to managed to deliver a way to overcome those obstacles.

Ryan:  It sparked a great conversation about the obstacles of editing and it really got me thinking about all the years of editing that I’d done and all the things I’ve learnt r through trial and error or by reading, and it struck me that we could share these ideas and kind of share our process and what we talked about on the podcast today. That’s exactly what I want to talk about. I’ve identified 7 key principles for video editing and I want to take the listener through that 1 by 1.

Nicko: Ryan, one of the things that you were telling me about was the idea of taking people on a ride through an edit. Can you explain to me what you mean by that?

Ryan:  People in our society, naturally want to, for want of a better phrase, go for a ride. People love escape. They love adventure. Go down to somewhere like a fun-fair or Lunar Park and you’ll see people lining up to go have an experience of excitement and escapism and this is why movies are so popular.  People like to escape their normal reality and go maybe experience some sort of heightened reality through something like a film. Your videos shouldn’t be any different, so think about taking people on a ride, taking them on a journey, because that’s what they want.

They want to experience ups and downs, highs and lows; they want to experience excitement and heightened reality, entertainment, a more distilled form of reality. When you’re editing think to yourself, ‘How can I make this big? How can I make it epic or hyper-real? What can I do to play with people’s senses to manipulate their emotions?’ Now the word, ‘manipulation’ has negative connotations but let’s not kid ourselves, film is a highly manipulative medium; we’re actually playing with reality and the most important thing is that it’s done with integrity and with truth.

We are trying to make something that’s going to effect people. We’re not trying to make some grey thing that people can look at walk away from; we want to evoke an emotion in people. We want to affect their thinking. We want to change the way they’re thinking and in its harshest form that is our reality.  My old documentary teacher called it, ‘lying with integrity’ and that’s quite a cool concept when we think about that editing is essentially a form of lying because you’re taking reality and you are manipulating it.

You are reconstituting it. You might be moving something that was shot later on and bringing it earlier. It’s not a linear truth, but the idea behind editing is that by manipulating all this footage and adding music, and heightening people’s emotions and getting to a deeper form of truth.

Nicko: That’s right. You’re not using manipulating in terms of, say, screwing someone over, you’re just really trying to get them into the story, get them investing into that story and suck it into that story’s form. Ryan, something that you brought to my attention when we were editing was the concept of tension and release as a method to get people invested in the story and to bring them along for the story’s ride. Can you explain the method of tension and release and how it helped us with that edit we were doing last week?

Ryan:  That’s my second principle of editing: tension and release. The idea is that a story has ups and downs. There is tension, built up, suspense and a release of that suspense. If you think about it, we were talking about a fun-fair before and a roller-coaster. Think about the journey of a roller-coaster. It might start slowly climbing up and the energy and the tension is building and building and that at some point it just shoots down and that’s the release. That’s how a lot of things in life work, when you think about it

Think about music, look at the way a pop song is structured; it may start out slow and build up and then the chorus kicks in. Food is the same way; you start to get a little bit hungry, you sit down in a restaurant, and you start to experience a sense of anticipation of the food being prepared and then you might notice the smell and then the waiter brings the food over to you ceremoniously and you eat and there’s that release. Sex is another thing which is built around tension and release; so is shopping. You might order something online and then you feel that anticipation of waiting and then the courier comes and there’s that sense of fulfilment.

When you think about it, so much of our lives is based on tension and release and you need to think to yourself, when you’re doing your edit, ‘Where can I build suspense? Where can I build up the energy? What’s going to happen when that energy is actually released?’ You can use music to do that, you can use the lengths of shots in your edit to do that; you might have increasingly shorter and shorter shots to build up the energy. You might a drum kick in and the energy sort of takes off. There’s a quote, I can’t think exactly how it goes, but something like, ‘If someone drops a banana peel in the first act, then someone has to slip on it in the second act.’ You’re setting up, then you’re building anticipation.

Nicko: That is a fantastic quote from John Landis who directed the Blues Brothers films, he did a sketch comedy film called, ‘Kentucky Fried Movie’ and in one of the sketches a waiter was carrying a tray of glasses and during the comedic twist in the sketch the waiter dropped the glasses and his explanation of that scene was, ‘It’s what happens when you have a waiter holding glasses.’ Its cause and release, its part A and part B and the wonderful conclusion of that.

Ryan, when we’re talking about tension and release, and ups and downs we’re not necessarily talking about the one form of tension, perhaps a lot of our listeners are familiar with, which is the use of CSI building tension when you know there’s a killer in the house and someone gets home, opens the front door, locks themselves in, puts their keys down and starts to relax and you know that they’re being lulled towards being killed by the burglar, or whatever. It’s not necessarily that kind of tension. We, during this video cart used a form of release that was quite cathartic. We built up tension for a jump that our subject in this video is doing as an aerial skier…

Ryan:  Aerial skiing, that’s right.

Nicko: … That’s correct and you actually ramped up the tension in the edit using a combination of music and fast cuts of this skier approaching this jump…

Ryan:  The sound effect of a heartbeat…

Nicko: … of a heartbeat! That’s right, and a quote from her about how her heart is beating every time she approaches this jump and when she actually hit the jump we cut to a couple of seconds of silence and she just gloriously soared through the air; it’s tension but it’s not the buildup of tension in a negative way; it’s kind of cathartic.

Ryan:  Yeah, it’s a good point, like a thriller, like you were talking about is a very obvious form of building up tension and suspense but it can be done in a much more subtle way, for instance, in a case study video. You might have someone starting off by saying, ‘Before I started using this product I found that I just wasn’t getting my work done on time and that was causing me stress.’ Or, ‘I wasn’t making enough money to get by.’ They’re in their scenario, they are setting up a level of tension.

There’s a problem there, a challenge that needs to be overcome and they are sufficiently engaging then you’re going to want o go on that story; you’re going to want to go on that journey with them to get to the resolution. I think that humans have this natural inbuilt desire for completion and resolution. Are you familiar with email auto-responders? We’ve spoken a little bit about them on the show a bit ago.

Nicko: Yeah, I’ve been getting acquainted with them on the show, in the past few months, you could say.

Ryan:  In an auto-responder there’s a concept called an open-loop. Where you might say something that you’re going to be just flagging the fact that you’re going to talk about something later on and that creates an open loop in the reader or viewer’s mind where, they want that fulfillment, they want completion and they’re going to hang around on the journey until they get that completion or closure. This is the way humans work. You can use curiosity to arouse something or you can use a sense of fear of missing out.

There’s many mechanisms that make people want to hang in there for that completion and that’s you’re duty as an editor is to be aware of the fact that humans are driven by tension and release and how you can amplify that. Once again, it’s not about manipulating people in a negative way, it’s about understanding how people work and amping this up for their own enjoyment and the more you use these things the more people are going to relish going on this video journey with you.

Nicko: We’ve spoken a lot about timing and editing and editing beats and so on, so forth. Let’s move onto some of the more standard shot selection philosophies because number 3 of the things on your list of important things to consider for editing, or assets to bring to your editing is the concept of going from one wide, to close up. We’re going to be focusing more now, real sort of filming content right. Could you explain the philosophy from going wide to close up and how sometimes breaking that can sometimes make a more interesting edit?

Ryan:  This is basically the fact that there are rules associated with editing. They’re similar to grammar, there are ways of constructing sentences and it’s important to understand what the conventions of editing are. Typically, in a scene you’re going to want to start with a wide shot which is going to give people a picture of the context of where the action is taking place and what the environment is like. Once you’ve had a wide establishing shot you might move into something like a mid-shot where you’re moving closer to the people in the video so you’re starting to see what’s going on with them and more of a focus of then, and then less focus on the actual context or the room that they’re in.

From there, you might move to a close-up of one person and then a reverse of the other person listening and talking, so you’re moving from wide to close up. The closer up you get the more the focus is on the people, their emotion, you can see their expression more. It’s important to understand this is the natural convention for editing. Now, once you understand how the rules work you can start to break them and you can have some fun with this and you’ll notice this all the time in films and it can often set off humor, or suspense, or something like that.

You might see in a film, the very first shot of a scene will be just a close-up of someone’s face. I can’t think of one, but I’ve probably seen it a few different times in films, and then the camera will zoom up and turn upside down and you realize that they’re being held over a ledge, hung over a ledge by some gangsters or something like that.

The pleasure in that is that you’re breaking the rules, but you’re surprising the audience. You’re giving them no context and then you’re giving them context and there’s a surprise there which they’re half expecting but half not. Understand how the grammar of film editing works and then you can start to play with these conventions for a reason to get particular results.

Nicko: We’ve found in of these edits, for instance, recently that we couldn’t follow the start wide, push in closer philosophy because the emotion of this piece was so important that you had to start close. You really want to see the person’s pained expression. You want to see the tears in their eyes and you’re doing your duty as a video editor to start off close to your subject so you can best convey that emotion, physically.

Ryan:  So instead of just punching straight in and hitting people with emotion, that can also set off that tension and release sort of set off thing where people become immediately involved and they’re thinking, ‘Who is this person? Why are they telling me these things? Why is this affecting me emotionally?” You don’t need to set up things in that sort of step by step wide, middle, and close up when you’re breaking the rules and that’s going to make your edit a lot more powerful.

Nicko: You can see that in another video edit that we did recently where we started off with a wide variety, 5 in this case, of the subjects in this video and what we thought we could do was take 30 seconds right in the beginning to make the video as entertaining and full on and quick cutting to the viewer as possible to make the entire video unfold. In that situation you start in close because it’s just quick grabs from each individual, interviewee and then once the video starts you can almost take and editing exhale.

Then you can start to pull back for those shots not in the context but later. It’s one of those things that when it depends on each individual edit, where it’s never the same for any two edits unless you planned it. Most of the time you’ve got to leave yourself open to making that decision in the edit bay, or sitting down with your boss like I was with you in both cases and making that decision then and there.

Ryan:  I like that idea of an editing exhale when you just come in all guns blazing and just gradually build tension and just bring the story down when you sort of rebuild it and there’s times when you actually to the opposite when you really, just start settling in subtly and drip-feed in the information and that can really draw people in because they want to know what else is coming so there’s a number of different tactics that you can use depending on material you’ve got available.

Nicko: I’m going to say that I totally, unequivocally agree with you Ryan, not just because I’m on your pay-packet but I do really agree with what you said. Now there’s one aspect of editing that we’re going to touch on now and it’s your 4th point that’s close to my heart and I know it’s close to yours. It’s the idea of trial and error and Ryan, you can explain this far better than I can but it’s a really simple but important part of the edit.

Ryan:  Yeah, trial and error…  We live in the most exciting time to be an editor ever. Think about the history of film. Originally everything was shot on film and so for an editor to make a cut it was quite complicated. They would need to put the actual film into a viewer of hold the strip up to the light to see what’s actually there and physically slice the film with a blade and then use tape to put that film back together, and then play that film back and see the effect on their edit. It was quite a laborious process. When I first started studying film at university…

Nicko: Careful now!

Ryan:  Which was over 20 years ago. We were working on the Super8 film and the video did exist but we were actually shooting Super8 film and physically cutting the film. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, this is such a laborious process to physically cut and stick the film back together and then just test and see how it looks and then go, oh I don’t actually like this. I want to put it back the way it was.’ Each time you’re doing that, you’re actually cutting into the film so you’re losing a frame.

Contrast this by what editing is today, it’s called, ‘non-linear editing’ or ‘non-destructive editing’ which basically means that you can very easily make as many edits as you want without damaging your video. You can create as many sequences as you want and just have another go. With editing programs like iMovie or Premier, like what we use, or Lightproof so it’s extremely easy and quick to attempt multiple version of your edit. I think, what stops people from moving from being a good to a great editor is they’re not willing to go on that journey and test out multiple forms and strike on just the right ones.

I encourage editors to treat themselves like mad scientists in the laboratory. Get in there and test things and see how it feels. Test it on an audience and then, maybe try something else and you’ll hit on something really powerful. Editing is a bit like a birth, it’s a challenging and painful process and you need to push it through yourself. I’ve had editing days where it’s harder, and maybe it’s certain films, but just painful it’s like being lost in a maze where I’ve tried something and

I know what I want to say but I’m just not quite getting there. Then you walk away, you go and grab a coffee and come back and something just clicks so you can want to create something really memorable it really does involve a lot of trial and error. There’s another mentor and film teacher of mine who I remember he said something that really struck me, ‘Play the what-if game daringly.’ I love that! Just think about that, ‘Play the what-if game, daringly.’ I’ll leave that with you to make of it what you will.

The important thing is that editing is not just an itch to scratch, it’s not just a problem to solve, it’s a call to adventure and a chance to experiment so really get in there and work with your material. Manipulate it because you can, it’s so easy to try new things. The more that you do that, the more that you really dig into the content, the better the chance is of you creating something magical.

Nicko: I think, in terms of this, before we started doing this podcast. I had a bad editing day; I suppose would be a good way to look at it, and you can get kind of stuck on those bad editing days, but my point is what I was trying to do was edit in a very specific way and I did have the opportunity to show a couple of people and I was probably a little bit too nervous to try new things and it was a real problem. It needed to be me to do something different. They way that we solved that was very quick and effective; trial and error… A new set of eyes, two new sets of eyes had a look at it, that was immediately valuable.

Secondly, I got snapped out of my routine from trying to stick to a rigid structure and instead began to experiment and of all the things we talked about earlier in this episode are different uses of tension and release, different cutting in terms of use of timing, just different mix you’ve got to use in forms of stuff. It immediately clicked and once that was in place that was the easiest thing to fix the edit.

Standard editing is the hardest process, in my opinion; I don’t know if  you agree, but starting the edit is always the hardest part and once you free yourself just by trying things, don’t die wondering,  be expanded and expressive and try ad many different things as early on as possible and that process can only be helpful especially since you’re using non=destructive editing. You can ‘t lose frames off your edit by redoing things, you can just hit control-z or you can go back or forth in the sequence.

Ryan:  Yeah, I agree. I think starting an edit is a bit scary because you’re starting with a blank canvass and in some ways it’s like going rock climbing. Once you get a grip on something solid, you just put a few clips together that start to make sense, and starting to feel like you’re heading in the right direction that starts to build my confidence. I feel like I’ve got something to hang the rest of the film on and each day is like reaching another level of the mountain and more confidence grows and I can see it’s all coming together.

Nicko: Isn’t that a great feeling? I know we’ve said this all the time so far, but I couldn’t agree more. I know I’ve said it a couple of times earlier in this podcast, but trial and error grows. It’s one of those processes where we’re trying to save new editors from. I will never ever forget that advice and I’m going to bring it into every edit when I do the Dream Engine integrated tasks for you.

Ryan:  So one of the things that I wanted to talk to you about is basically, going back to the history of editing and film making. Have you heard of the film maker Serge Eisenstein?

Nicko: No I haven’t, no.

Ryan:  He’s a Russian film maker who was around in the 1920’s and he, apart from being a filmmaker, was also an editor and he came up with ideas about how editing actually works and what is the psychology of it. Have you seen the film, The Untouchables?

Nicko: No, I wish I had and I know I should and I will one day, but not yet.

Ryan:  It’s a well-known gangster film that was made in America, I think, in the 1980’s and there’s a famous scene in that where there’s a baby in a carriage and the carriage sort of rolls away from the mum and is going down the stairs, step by step, by step and in slow motion. Time slows down, and there’s a shoot out happening at the same time, talk about tension. It’s an amazing scene and it’s actually based on the famous Odessa step sequence from a film that Eisenstein made in the early 1920’s.

He made The Embellishment of the Tent scene and in that film is the Odessa step sequence. This raises another topic, by the way, of editing and that is go to history. Look at the history of film and see what the masters have done and you can use those ideas and make them your own by putting your own little twist on it. The reason I’m talking about Eisenstein is that he was the first one to really articulate what, ‘montage’ means; so that’s a word that you are familiar with, right.

Nicko: Absolutely.

Ryan:  So what does montage mean to you?

Nicko: A series of shots which when put into an order make sense to the viewer.

Ryan:  Exactly, and what Eisenstein was probably the first person to articulate is that meaning in a film is created by putting separate shots together. So the meaning isn’t inherent in the shot itself. The meaning is actually created when you juxtapose or when you stick two different shots or two different ideas together. In some ways this might seem obvious but it’s an important point to think about that when you are editing you are creating meaning and you’re working with raw material; clay essentially.

You’re working with contents like B-roll of whatever and you’re sticking it together and the order that you put It in is what’s going to make meaning.  It’s not the shot itself that carries any inherent meaning. You are the one that creates the meaning if you put one shot at the begging or at the end; if you stick one hot after a previous shot… you might move that shot somewhere else and suddenly its meaning starts to change.

Nicko: A shot of a crib in a house can display a whole different range of emotions depending on whether or not you have shot previous of a young couple buying a house, or it’s followed by the shot of a funeral. It’s one of those things where you create the emotion of the shot by adding things around it and beside.

Ryan:  That’s right. Two different shots juxtaposed together create one new meaning. Eisenstein was one of the first persons to really articulate that so, look back to film history and masters like that and if you’re a real glutton for punishment there’s a book called, ‘Film Form Effect’ and you can see this sitting on our bookshelf Nicko, and it’s pretty heavy stuff. That’s kept me feeling sufficiently inspired looking back to these masters can reveal a lot about the editing process.

The 6th point that I want to talk about is, all editing is, is one long string of choices and the place where I see people going wrong most often is wasting time over one choice. If you’re editing a video you might have to make thousands of choices in one day and rather than just getting stuck on one thing and going over and over and trying another way. In editing, never stop moving.  My philosophy in editing is, if you get stuck and you feel like you can’t move forward, just skip it and move onto the next choice because what editing is, is basically a process of circling back over your edit again and again. Each time you circle over it you are refining it and refining it so you’re moving closer and closer to an idealized state of perfection but never getting there. There’s another quote, I wish I could remember, who I could attribute these quotes to but, ‘A film is never finished, it’s abandoned.’ I love that because you could just work on a film forever. There is not perfect state the film is going to get to, but by not getting stuck, moving onto the next thing, circling back with new information and new ideas; it’s an ongoing sate of refinement and moving towards an idealized sate of perfection. Basically, at some point you’re just going to step away and you put it out into the world and give it life. That’s when it sort of reaches a state of perfection when it actually exists and people can watch it because until you release it, it doesn’t really exist. It’s that old, ‘If a tree falls in the forest…’

Nicko: (laughs) Yeah, I think it goes hand in hand with our philosophy trial and error being important to editing as well. You see that by the nature of editing, what you’re working with, theoretically, gets better every time you pick up your brush to use a metaphor. Every time you’re getting closer and closer to that state of completion. The idea of it being a long series of choices, and yes, moving on when you get stuck is helpful overall because it only means that when you do go back to the problem you’ve been having you’re looking at it in the context of a more completed piece on a further refined film or video or whatever production you’re putting together and that can only be helpful.

Ryan:  It’s a fluid process, editing and there’s no right or wrong answer so you may agonize over something and then once you cut the rest of the film you may realize back and go, ‘Oh, I thought I had the answer.’ But in the context of the rest of the film it’s no longer appropriate or you just throw it on the cutting room floor.

Be agile and don’t get too wetted to one idea. Sometimes you can get very emotional about your editing and sometimes you might have to take your very best shot and throw it on the cutting room floor. Be prepared for that. Be prepared to just let go and keep on moving.

Nicko: I think that’s very valuable advice.

Ryan:  The final tip that I want to give is to be aware of the 3x structure and be aware of storytelling in general. There’s a great book called, ‘The Hero’s Journey’ by Joseph Campbell who has analyzed stories and myths throughout our culture and other cultures and has identifies that there are some classic storytelling styles and there’s a classic structure to stories and probably the most popular or well-known structure of storytelling is the hero’s journey and you’ll see this repeated over and over. George Lucas really embraced this in his films. A lot kid’s film will follow the story of the hero going off on a journey and going through challenges and returning with knowledge. Be aware of these elements of storytelling and 3x structure, beginning, middle and end, is probably the most well-known structure in storytelling. You’ll see it when people would tell you a joke or they’ll tell you about something that they were doing or an article or a film, you’ll see that repeated over and over. In your edit, think about what is my beginning, what is the middle, and what is the end, and what are the twists that take me to those different points. There’s other books you can read about this stuff just looking over at the shelf at the moment. There’s a famous book called Story by Robert McKay, which is a wonderful book, which goes into the structure of storytelling. There’s another great book that I’d recommend, by Christopher Vogler called the Artist Journey? What’s the book called?

Nicko: I may only stick to Harry Potter so unfortunately, I can’t help you here!

Ryan:  If I got the name wrong, just check out Christopher Vogler. It’s essentially his summary of the hero’s journey, which is a much more easily digestible form. If you’re going to edit video, it’s important for you to study story. When you’re watching films, think about the actual structure of the story. Watch the film actively and start to decode how the story’s put together.

Nicko: I really like that you’ve brought this in as our final point to touch on in this episode of the Web Video Marketing Show because for me, it’s really important to talk about that 3x structure in the context of what we’ve spoken about already on this podcast. Don’t get me wrong, editing is trial and error. It’s making a series of choices. It’s learning how to manipulate, in rabbit-ear quotes, your viewer, but viewer, but also, there’s a reason that you see the 3x structure everywhere you look. That’s because it works. If you can start and edit or if when you’re shooting … for instance, Ryan, your speciality is documentary, and when you shoot your documentaries, you have a vague idea of the three act structure and how that’s going to be relayed in the interviews your conducting and then in the final edits. When you cans tart off your edit by knowing, okay, here is my logical 3x structure, beginning, middle, and end, it makes your entire life easier. It’s an important asset, it’s an important skill to have in the editing process.

Ryan:  It’s essential. By the way, I think that Vougler book is called The Writer’s Journey.

Nicko: Perfect.

Ryan:  We’ll put a link to it in the show notes.

Nicko: We’re going to edit this podcast. Nobody’s going to know that you didn’t know it at the time!

Ryan:  Unless, of course, we leave it in. I’ll leave that up to you because you’re going to edit this. Because we’re so generous, I’m actually going to throw in a bonus tip, no extra charge. That is, buy a good chair. You had an experience with this?

Nicko: Yeah, I did have an experience with this, Ryan. I think, when we’re talking about the trials and pressures of editing … not actually talking about the physical well-being of the editor, which is really important! For instance, every good editor needs coffee. Every good editor needs a pad to jot down ideas on. Every good editor needs to actually support their body in a way that is conducive to editing. To explain to our Web Video Marketing Show listeners, I edit a lot at Dream engine. One aspect that I neglected was my chair. I actually got myself into a position where I was doing what I would call, probably, medium term damage to myself by not supporting my upper neck properly and not being in the position from which to edit.

Ryan:  You were getting headaches …

Nicko: Headaches. Migraines, more accurately. Stiffness at the top of my neck, the base of my skull, so on and so forth. Investing in a good chair … it’s just a layup that you can hit for your editors to make the overall process smoother.

Ryan:  The thing with the chair is one man’s meat is another man’s poison. The best thing is to just do what we did which was go and try out a bunch of chairs until we found the one that just worked.

Nicko: Absolutely. It’s important to spend half an hour doing that and of course, be greeted with the eye rolling from the Officeworks staff, when you jump from chair to chair to chair! It’s a really simple thing that editor can do to make their entire editing life easier, better and healthier.

Ryan:  The other thing that you can do is try a stand up desk. This is something that I’ve watched my friend, James Shramko, do and he’s inspired me to try out the same thing. Some people say that by standing, your brain is actually working better. It increases your metabolism. It’s more healthy for you. A combination of sitting and standing might actually be quite cool. That’s something that we’re going to be testing out here at Dream Engine. We can talk about the results of what’s it’s like, editing standing up.

Nicko: I heard a science report on Triple J’s hack about a prominent Australian doctor, whose name I’ve embarrassingly forgotten, who was speaking about a paper he was writing he was writing at the time, which was about the merits of standing versus sitting, because as he, rightfully, I feel, pointed out, the human body is not created to be sitting. Certainly not nine hours a day. Back in the day, it was for standing and lying. In this weird half and half, sitting down at the computer … it’s in your best interest to make that as pleasurable as possible, I suppose.

Ryan:  Absolutely. One of the other things you were telling about is that this classic idea of having to forward is not necessarily the way to go with some of new researches coming out.

Nicko: You want to be supporting your neck. It’s supposed to be a state of reclining. Not your big, luscious lazy boy reclining, having a beer, watching the game on TV. You’ve got to be in that position where your entire back is arched and supporting yourself and your neck is resting against something to support it as well. There’s a million and one different YouTube videos on this. There’s a million and one different articles on the internet on this.  You can read your own articles and come to your own idea or conclusion, but I got mine from my physiotherapist. Since doing that, haven’t had a problem.

Ryan:  Excellent, so …

Nicko: You’d be amazed how much money you can save.

Ryan:  Very good. Happy editing, listener. Hopefully some of these tips have inspired you and have given you some new insights into editing. We’d love to see the stuff that you edit. Please share it with us. We’d also love to know if you have questions about editing. Ask us and we’ll tell you what we think.

Nicko: We want to hear how these tips went for you and your unique examples of how you could bring these tips into your own edits.

Ryan:  Your feedback is always welcome. We’re always keen to hear from you. Let us know if there’s some other things that you’d like to hear about on the show.

Nicko: Thank you for this timely podcast, Ryan. Viewers at home, I’m now going to head back to the edit suite and get involved in some more editing.

Ryan:  Awesome. Thank you, Nicko. I really enjoyed it.

Nicko: See you next time on the Web Video Marketing Show.

Ryan:  See you.



 Ryan Spanger


Ryan Spanger is one of Melbourne’s most respected and sought-after video production professionals. Ryan founded Dream Engine in 2001, and specializes in helping medium to large corporates, government departments, and the non-profit sector to connect with their audience by using video.

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