Grahame N's Web Pages
THE CELLULOID IMAGE
EDITING THE FAMILY FILM
Your unscripted shots of the family have now, on one spool or several, come back from processing. Two things have to be done before you start rearranging them into a properly shaped family film. These are: first, to make a list of the scenes in the order in which they were shot; second, to devise some means of filing them as you cut them off so that they can be easily identified - otherwise you will find yourself surrounded by dozens of short lengths which cannot be recognised without the aid of a magnifying glass.
This is where it helps to have an editing viewer, for with it you can examine thc scenes as slowly as you like and make notes of things that will influence you in deciding how to place them. You may feel, for example, that a certain scene will look better if the first two seconds are cut out; that another scene, which is slightly over-exposed, should not be spliced next to a scene that is rather too dark because of under-exposure; or that a scene with a slight overall cast of blue will look wrong if you use it to continue the action of a scene that has a warm tone (thc kind of problem which an interpolated cut-away can often solve); that other scenes are faulty (wrong framing, unsteady, poor facial expression, and so on) and should be scrapped.
Describing Your Shots
An audio recorder can be used to simplify the listing of scenes if you haven't got a viewer. As you run the film through the projector, you briefly describe the scenes into the microphone. If you tap the side of the mike with a finger each time they change, the clicks on playback will indicate their duration. But don't hold the mike too close to the projector or the noise of the machine may drown your commentary.
There may be a shorthand writer in your family. If so, he or she could write down your dictated descriptions of the scenes as they are being projected, though you may have to run through twice to get both adequate notes and the timings of each shot.
Some cine projectors, with which projection can be slowed, give more time for describing and can be to some extent a substitute for an editor, for at 5 f.p.s. it is fairly easy to decide what needs to be trimmed off at the beginning or end of a lengthy scene.
From your notes of all the scenes you have shot, prepare a fair copy, giving each scene a separate line, with a generous margin. Then number them in the order in which you want them to appear on the screen. Of course, if several shots are to remain in their original shooting order, they can be bracketed together on the list and the sequence given only a single number; you may want to shorten some of them, or cut out a troublesome flash frame (that is, the first frame of a scene that was over-exposed because the motor did not gather speed quickly enough) but this can be done later.
The aim now is to give the film a good shape, with a beginning and end and a smooth and logical flow of action in between. Ideally, each separate scene should carry the action of the preceding scene a stage further and lead on to the scene that follows. This classical continuity is not likely to be achieved in a family or holiday record (unless you did your shooting with such a plan in mind). What you can do, however, is to separate the action into a number of sequences, each more or less complete in that it records happenings on one day or is centred about a particular person or place. If a pair of sequences will not link up naturally, think of a suitable sub-title to put in between. One way to edit a year's filming is to divide it according to months.
Even with a simplified structure like this it may not be easy to get a satisfactory flow of action at the first attempt; you will probably change your mind about the best arrangement of some scenes and renumber them, perhaps more than once. Don't be too fussy or too drastic. Regard this first editing as a rough cut and if in doubt leave scenes rather longer than they need be. And at this stage, if you're not sure whether to keep a scene or reject it, leave it in.
When the pieces selected have been spliced together in your chosen order and you project them, it will be a lot easier to decide just how long each scene should be, and to discard anything that isn't good. You can then be really critical and follow the experienced editor's maxim: When in doubt, leave it out.
Filing By Number
But this is running far ahead. Your next job, after listing the scenes and numbering them in the order in which they are to be spliced, is to cut the film and file the pieces ready for joining. At this stage, throw away any portions that are obviously fogged or badly over- or under-exposed, and those spoiled by the numbers punched in at the processing station for identification purposes.
One way to file the cut pieces is to drive a row of pins in the edge of a shelf, numbering every fifth pin, and hang up each piece by means of a sprocket hole. Alternatively, small clips or wire hooks or clothes pegs may be strung on a line across the room, or attached to a batten. If you use any of these methods do every-thing you can to keep dust out of the room.
A third filing method is to take -or make - a box of wood or cardboard, about l0 x 8 x 2 inches, and fit in it trays of thin card (two trays for l6mm. film, three for 8mm. or 9.5mm.), each divided into twenty compartments measuring 2 inch square. The 8mm. or 9.5mm. box will thus hold sixty pieces of film. Each compartment should be numbered, and the cut pieces can then be filed according to the numbers you have allocated in the list of scenes; that is, in the order in which they are to be joined.
It is useful to have two or more such boxes and to keep one for storing scenes you don't know what to do with at the moment but which may be useful in the future. Some compartments might contain also odd bits of THE END, or spare pieces of leader or trailer (blank film). But if you keep a box for this purpose, always keep it with a list identifying the bits in each compartment.
When cutting film - whenever you handle it, in fact - remember to touch it by the edges; this is easy even with Std/Super 8mm when you get the knack. Careless handling is liable to leave finger marks which may be difficult or impossible to remove. That is why some workers always use thin cotton gloves when handling film.
The Final Product
Once you have asembled your film in your intended order, it can be run through on the screen for full apraisal. Maybe this is the time to involve another member of the family or a friend. Again, maybe using an audio recorder, note any comments - shots out of focus, in the wrong place or too long for example - this can be rectified at your final editing session. Then your finished product should be ready for proper screening to family and friends.
First published March 2004 ........ Last updated: 18 February 2014 ........ cel05.htm .......... İMM1X-G.L. Newnham