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15.1: Rough Cuts

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    Rough Cuts or Beginning the Actual Edit

    In the previous Chapters, we talked about organizing for the edit, importing files into the editing project, and playing around with the assembly of clips to find their best order within the edit. Once this is generally established, (basically "knowing where you’re going and more or less, how to get there,") the serious, and nitty gritty job of editing begins. This initial "Rough Cut" still has a lot of work ahead of it, where you’ll need to spend a lot of time "tweaking" all your clips as you try and re-try, to find the best frame for them to begin and end with, as each clip follows the other, in the timeline of your story.

    But even before you actually think of this fine tuning, for this initial assembly, ask yourself, "How do I choose the best shot to use?"

    It is the shot that answers our questions about the "who, what, when, where, how" in the story you’re trying to tell. These answers have to be revealed to the viewer in a timely manner, when they’re expecting that information. Actually, every shot used, should be advancing the story in this revealing way. If you’re very new to the world of editing, this is a good time to go back to the camera section on different types of shots and review what they tell you, before you seriously begin to unfold your sequences/projects.

    For example, a wide or long shot, sometimes referred to as a Master shot, tells the audience where a story is taking place. A close up (CU) shot tells us who the story is about, and an over the shoulder shot sets up the relationships between the characters.

    Remember that your ultimate goal is to focus the viewer’s attention on the story, and away from any artifice of production, making the edit invisible to your audience. The most important choice an editor can make, is to only use the shots that enhance and advance the story, and to throw away the shots that do not, no matter how pretty these are, or how much time and money was spent on getting them!

    There are many ways to tell an effective story, but the successful editor must first master the software available, and also be fluent in how to focus attention to the story. Many films begin with a Master shot, that sets the scene for the story, then zoom in to reveal the characters and conflict. Try to choose those takes with best actor performances. Another invisible way of changing a shot is to make the cut in the middle of an action.

    Most importantly, keep in mind that every new shot used should add new information, answering the questions referred to earlier.

    Types of Edit Trimming Operations

    All apps will have a set of Editing Tools which will allow you to manipulate your media repository and timeline clips. There will be tools for selection of clips or ranges within, trimming, positioning, slicing into smaller portions, and zooming in and out. These will usually be found singly in the main menu, in some kind of tool browser, or even have individual icons. They will also have many keyboard shortcuts, which I suggest you learn as soon as possible, since these are the quickest way to perform an editing operation. Knowing the many different ways of doing any one single step will enable you to edit most quickly and efficiently. You’ll have to become thoroughly familiar with all of these, in whichever application you’re working.

    Menu including the trim tool inside of Apple Final Cut
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Illustration of the Final Cut Pro Tool Browser, which is located just under the Library Browser, and is accessed by clicking on the small, downward-pointing arrow to the right of the larger arrow icon (screenshot of Final Cut Pro Tool Browser by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines).

    From the tool browser, you can choose various editing tools, like the selection tool, the trimming tool, positioning and range selecting tools, etc. Notice also the keyboard shortcuts for these, on the right side of the list. Most of the shortcuts are easy to remember, since they take the first letter of the beginning name of the tool. For example, the Position tool shortcut is the letter 'P', and the Zoom tool is the letter 'Z.' The only exception is the selection tool, with the shortcut of "A." However this is also easy to remember because it has the shape of an Arrow, and is often called the arrow tool.

    Once in your timeline, clips will need to be fine-tuned to the exact edit points (ins and outs) that help propel your story theme. Regardless of what different applications name them, they fall into the following general categories:


    Trimming one side of a clip (either the in or the out point). Usually, with the proper tool, you hover over one of the edit points, then drag in either direction (right or left), to make the clip longer or shorter. There will be some kind of indicator/s to see the actual amount of your trim as you work it. There are also operations to allow you to move automatically in one or more increments at a time. Most applications will have two or more ways of affecting this trim. A great deal of your editing time will be spent on rippling and rolling (which we’ll cover next). You should also keep in mind the fact that the rippling process always affects the duration/length of your project – an important point when you are tied into a specific duration or time deadline for any program.

    Apple Final Cut's trim tool in ripple trim mode
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): Illustration shows preparation for setting up a Rippling operation on the Clouds clip, to the left of the edit point. Notice the bracket, which is yellow and pointing inwards, towards the Clouds clip, indicating that there are handles (unused portions of the resource clip) available to allow for the procedure. If there were NO handles available, the bracket would be colored red.(Copyright; (screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)


    Trimming two sides of a clip at the same time (both the in and the out points). Here, the end of the outgoing clip is trimmed in tandem with the beginning of the incoming clip. An edit point is chosen, and with the proper tool, you drag to the left or right, affecting frames of the clips on either side of the edit point, as you drag. Indicators of some kind will show you the exact number of frames affected on either side, and automatic trimming moves will also be available. Again, you should learn these operations thoroughly for keeping on your creative roll. The process of rolling does NOT affect the duration/length of your program. The see-saw effect between the two clips (meaning, as you shorten or lengthen the outgoing clip, the incoming clip compensates in the opposite direction) thereby neutralizes any change of the overall length/timing of your project.

    Apple Final Cut's trim tool in rolling edit mode
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): Setting up for a Roll trim. Notice there are now 2 yellow brackets, indicating that both the Clouds clip and the Curtain clip will be affected, and that both clips have handles available for the operation. In the illustration, if the Clouds clip is made longer, the Curtain clip will shorten by the same number of frames (and vice versa), since a "Roll" edit does NOT change the timing/duration of the project. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)


    Trimming within a clip already in the timeline. When a clip in the timeline has the needed placement and duration, but you then decide that you’d like to use a different portion of the larger, imported source clip within this same spot in the timeline. The slipping edit tool allows you to move to the desired part of that clip, without having to first remove the unwanted clip portion, and then replacing it with the newer one. This is not so common an editing procedure, but still very useful and timesaving when needed.

    Apple Final Cut's trim tool in slip edit mode
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): Setting up for a "slipping" operation in Final Cut Pro. Notice that the 2 yellow brackets are now pointing to the same clip in the timeline, meaning that both the In and Out points of that clip will be affected. In this way, a different portion of the Clouds clip can be chosen in the timeline of your project, without having to first take out the original selection, and then replacing it with the newly desired portion. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    There are also many other different types of editing operations, which you’ll learn with the application you’ve chosen to use. These include tools and shortcuts for extending edits to specific lengths, "back timing" (meaning choosing the ending frame in a timed spot in your timeline, which then automatically selects your in point), lining up edits to specific timecodes, jumping between edit points, replacing edits, writing over timeline clips, and many more. The more adept you are at accomplishing what you wish to do within the application, the less time you have to quit your creative impetus to scratch your head and wonder, "Gee, how do I do that?" Needing to stop everything and look up how/what to do in any particular operation is a quick way to fall out of your creative momentum.

    Apple Final Cut's blade tool for make a cut at the playhead point.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): Illustration shows that the Blade cutting tool has been selected (notice the scissors icon at the upper left). In Final Cut Pro, when you click in a timeline clip with the Blade tool, it will make a cut in the clip at that position, cutting the clip into 2 parts. At that point, you can select either clip half and delete it, using the Delete key. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    Special Editing Tools

    Editing applications will also have special tools that aid the operations explained above. These are usually visual tools that help you see what the effect of your editing move will actually look like to your viewing audience. Final Cut names will be used here, but all apps will have a similar type of tool/display.

    Snapping is an operation that, when turned on, the items you are placing into the timeline - including the skimmer and playhead - seem to "snap" or glom on to each other at various editing points in the timeline. Snapping affects the functions of many of the editing tools. In Final Cut Pro, these include the Select tool, the Trim tool, the Position tool, the Range Selection tool, and the Blade tool.

    Snapping is a big help especially when you're first assembling clips into your timeline. You never have to worry about where you're placing the clips so they don't write over each other, or cause a gap.

    However, when you're focusing on fine-tuning your edit points, snapping can become a hindrance, because this snapping procedure begins a few frames at either end of the clip, not allowing you to make very fine adjustments to these points. But, you can disable snapping when frame-by-frame precision editing in these areas is necessary.

    Apple Final Cut's snapping function turned on for the timeline
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): Note the blue-colored icon above the timecode area in the pictured Final Cut Pro timeline. This is the Snapping icon, and looks like 2 clips colliding together. It is to the right of the white headphones icon. Snapping allows clips to snap or align perfectly together, without either overwriting parts of each other, or causing any empty gaps in the timeline. Since this hinders tweaking frames right next to the edit point between the 2 clips, it can be turned off if necessary. Otherwise, it is best to leave the Snapping function on, to facilitate playhead placement. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    Two-Up Display

    This is particularly useful in ripple and roll operations. When trying to decide the best in and out points for these, a divided display comes up in your viewing window, showing you a view of each side of the clips affected, thereby allowing you to see which of the frames provide the best cut for your storytelling.

    This is some type of display that shows the amount and status of any rendering. Rendering is the process of creating new editing materials, such as transitions, various effects. This allows the editor to know if/when such an operation has been completed. Most editing applications will allow you to see a realistic view of the procedure immediately, before the render is complete, though not at full resolution. This monitor will tell you when the rendering is done, and you are looking at the final view. You can also make choices in the Preferences section of your editing application, as to when the rendering process will take place - either in the background, or by manual choice.

    Apple Final Cut's background task monitor
    Figure \(\PageIndex{7}\): The Background Task Monitor in Final Cut Pro is the small circle with the checkmark inside, found in the top, left-hand corner of the interface. When a complicated editing procedure is requested, that must first be rendered before it can be displayed at full resolution, the icon will wind clockwise - one full circle during rendering. Once a full circle is made, the rendering process is complete. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)


    Preferences refer to setting up your editing interface and operations to accommodate your personal working style. You’ll find a preferences browser in each app, with a myriad of ways to make the app work with and for you.

    Apple Final Cut's preferences in the application
    Figure \(\PageIndex{8}\): The Final Cut Pro Preferences setup. Preferences in any application allow the user to set up the workspaces and operations within the app, to match the user’s specific workflow style. Notice that in Final Cut Pro, you’ll find setups for general editing, specific editing, playback and import styles, and distribution/destinations. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)
    Apple Final Cut's preference options for rendering
    Figure \(\PageIndex{9}\): The Playback tab selected in the Final Cut Pro Preferences, showing that the editor has chosen to have the application render in the Background, and to start the rendering process automatically after 0.3 seconds, when the application is not actively being used. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)


    Help for editing questions is always available in each application. Usually this is in two forms:

    1. One from the website of the company that makes the app, containing all the information in the application manual. This is always accessed with a very prominent help button in the main menu
    Apple Final Cut's help option inside the application.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{10}\): The Help Menu in Final Cut Pro. When this button (at the top of the Interface) is pressed, a search field comes up where you input the operation you wish to find out about. The application will come up with a list of selections pertinent to your query, that you can examine for the answer to your request. These are very easy to use, with helpful, step-by-step wording and illustrations. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    Apple Final Cut's help and user guide that is available on the web.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{11}\): Opening page of the FCP Help section from Apple. You start by clicking in one of the general contents list in the left-hand column. This opens to a list of specific operations in that category, which will help you with your request. This Help section gives information from the entire Final Cut Pro Manual. Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    2 And one from within the application itself, such as the Command Editor in Final Cut Pro:

    Apple Final Cut's command edit, allowing users to customize keyboard shortcuts
    Figure \(\PageIndex{12}\) The Command Editor in Final Cut Pro. Notice the search field in the upper, right-hand corner, the one with a magnifying glass, where you can type in a query for the editing operation you’re looking for. It also displays a full keyboard with all the various keyboard combinations, and is color-cued as well, grouping similar types of moves. Three columns on the bottom divide the information into the color-cued editing commands, actual editing commands with their keyboard shortcuts, and use of the special Macintosh modifier keys (Shift, Control, Option and Command). In Final Cut Pro’s case, in the upper left-hand corner, it also allows you to switch between the "Default, application" system, to one of your own devising. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    Application Specific Tools

    Precision Editor in Final Cut Pro

    An editing device which allows the editor to see what handles are available in your resource clips, that have not yet been used, and also allows the editor to perform the ripple/roll functions from therein. A very handy gadget.

    Apple Final Cut's precision editing tool
    Figure \(\PageIndex{13}\): The Precision Editor in Final Cut Pro. This tool allows you to see the actual handles you have in your resource or browser clips. In this illustration, the bright clips show the portions actually edited to the timeline. The duller portions show the remaining handles (or remaining portions not yet used) on either side of the timeline. This tool allows you to make a ripple or roll edit into the timeline, without having to guess just how much unused footage you have, and also, what it looks like. When you need to make a change to one of these edits in your timeline, this is a very handy gadget to work with. (Copyright; screenshot of Final Cut Pro by Vina Cera used under fair use guidelines)

    15.1: Rough Cuts is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Vina Cera.

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