- Written by a high-level, working editor
- Offers insightful advice to improve aspiring and seasoned editors’ techniques
- Gives practical and real-world editing tips, not subjective nonsense
When I realized that I wanted to change college majors from Computer Science to Multimedia in the early 2000s, I went on a Barnes and Noble tear. I went directly to the TV/Film/Radio section and searched for every book on video editing I could find. Not surprisingly, I found what many consider to be the Bible for video editors: “In the Blink of an Eye,” by Walter Murch, which is definitely a book every aspiring and working editor should have read, whether you agree with it or not.
I also purchased “The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film” and “Creating Motion Graphics with After Effects: Essential and Advanced Techniques” by Chris and Trish Meyer. “The Conversations” has been on the top of my recommendations for people asking on what books to read about editing and it is even written in a Q&A style that I found pleasing. Besides, I love Apocalypse Now, so any chance to read about the techniques Walter used when editing that masterpiece were like gold nuggets to me.
If you are at all interested in creating motion graphics in Adobe After Effects, Chris and Trish Meyer’s “Creating Motion Graphics” continues to be on my bookshelf. While it is a few After Effects versions old, the pillars of setting up camera rigs and many other basic After Effects functions still hold true. It’s a great reference.
I found that there really aren’t many editing books that give real-world advice; instead they usually regurgitate highfalutin, grandiose editing concepts. However, recently I was asked to read and review a new book on editing titled, “Edit Better” by Jeff Bartsch and this is the book all aspiring editors need to purchase. In full disclosure, I have worked with Jeff throughout my television career on shows such as On Air with Ryan Seacrest, which I was an intern on. Jeff was in his mid-twenties at the time, and was an editor on a nationally-televised talk show. My mind was blown. He was one of the first editors to ever let me sit and just watch what he did. He would explain things when he didn’t have to and would spend extra time with me showing his techniques. Most importantly, I learned that I didn’t have to be cold and bitter like some other editors I had seen around, I could be thoughtful and proactive like Jeff.
Fast-forward to today. I was asked to review his book and jumped at the opportunity. Not only because I had a lot of respect for him, but because it was a book that I knew would have great information and would fit great on my bookshelf next to “In the Blink of an Eye.”
“Edit Better” is not your average editing book that describes how to mark an in and out point, rendering, outputting, or even proper frame rate conversions. It is a book that takes real-world experience and lays it out for the reader in a concise and easily-digestible style. I read this book over a few weeks on my lunch break (at Woodley Park in beautiful Van Nuys, CA, for the record). It’s a quick and informational read. It’s broken up into two parts: The Telescope and The Microscope, with pseudo-chapters containing numbered rules. I really like the organization of this book because you can easily reference specific “rules” later.
The “rules” aren’t hard and fast rules though. They are more of here is how it’s worked for Jeff and most likely it’s a great way to go about it. For instance one of my favorite rules is Rule #66: Take responsibility for details. I love this rule because as I have become an editor, I see how lazy other editors are. Maybe they don’t know any better than to let a lower third dissolve out right before a cut. It really reminds me to always do my best and never do a mediocre job if you can help it. Personally, I remember who does and doesn’t pay attention to details and I want to be remembered as the editor who pays attention to details (mainly to get more work, but also for personal satisfaction).
In the first half — The Telescope — Jeff writes a general overview of the role of an editor and what many editors are expected to do these days. This is a great section for students or new editors to start with because he aptly discusses what outside perspectives are towards an editor’s role and also gives a true account of what is expected of editors these days. In addition, he lists five very important questions to ask yourself when editing a project: what is your desired outcome, what is your message, who is your market, what type of media will it be displayed on, and what is your method to achieve your desired outcome.
The second half is The Microscope. In “under the microscope” (pun intended), Jeff discusses specific rules for editing, such as directing viewers’ attention using attention magnets and treating music as its own character. He even covers a personal pet peeve of mine: never label anything “new.” While it doesn’t dive under the technical hood, Jeff walks us through the theoretical side of editing while touching on techniques that are very important and often times overlooked by even the most advanced editors today.
One of the most polarizing topics in “Edit Better” is the idea of editors being asked to do more than just edit. Personally, I love working in graphics and knowing all the latest plug-ins and techniques to create motion graphics. In fact, I think it is one thing that sets me apart from many other editors. But not every editor thinks this way; in fact a majority feel like it is diminishing the actual craft of editing by clogging the process up with other requirements.
We are at an odd (yet very important) tipping point in editing as a craft. Old-school editors feel like they are being forced into becoming a jack-of-all-trades more than ever before, and whether that is good or bad is up for discussion, but I think Jeff’s overall sentiment is correct in this book: Rule #72 “Adapt or Die, Because Tools and Processes Change.”
Don’t be the person that is constantly on Facebook forums touting how you need a million dollars, you are only an editor - nothing else, you only use Avid or Adobe Premiere Pro, and you don’t do graphics (in the snootiest voice possible). Jeff, in fact, references a very wise post production visionary — Michael Cioni — when discussing this very important topic of adapting and evolving. Michael is the CEO of post house Light Iron in Hollywood and is constantly at the forefront of change in the ever-evolving post production world. Jeff referencing Michael in “Edit Better” is proof enough to me that he has done his research.
If there is one thing that seasoned editors can learn from reading this book is to always be evolving. Look for the best and often times new solutions to old problems. Michael Cioni is known for this. If you don’t know about what Michael is doing for the current state of post production you should Google him.
In the end, “Edit Better” is just as important a book to me as “In the Blink of an Eye.” It comes from a colleague that is in the trenches with me. He’s had to learn to record voiceover, create multiple layered graphics, and even deal with crazy personalities. We can all learn from one another and I’m sure every aspiring or seasoned editor reading “Edit Better” will pick up at least one career-enhancing tip.