It’s getting better all the time…

A J-cut in action - the audio for the second shot starts before the cut

A J-cut in action – the audio for the second shot starts before the cut

One of the most interesting – and heartening – lessons I’ve learned in making No Evil is that every stage of the process seems to improve the quality.

As director, DP and editor I’ve been privileged to contribute to many parts of the film. But that also means I’ve had the opportunity to make mistakes and (in the words of teachers everywhere) fail to ‘do my best work’ in many aspects of the production.

When I put together the first montage it was a humbling and annoying process. There were so many shots that just didn’t work the way I’d hoped. The cuts jarred. The atmosphere wasn’t there. Nothing flowed. It was a mess.

(For the sake of balance, there were shots I thought – and still think – were great, but then I would.)

Then I started down the long road of editing – and magic started to happen.

Adding sound has the ability to bring a shot or a sequence to life. It not only adds an extra dimension, as you’d expect, but also ties things together. Sound is not just information or ear-candy – it’s a key part of the narrative. And it can help direct the viewer in the same way as a focus pull or shallow depth of field.

Just last night, I added a sound effect to a shot. It’s a wide shot, right at the beginning of the film, with two characters in the foreground. A door opens in the background and a figure appears. But the door and figure are small and out of focus. You’d probably notice the action because it’s the only movement in the frame, but adding the sound of a door opening (albeit faded down low) just brought that moment alive.

The use of L-cuts and J-cuts has also had the effect of tying together shots and smoothing cuts in a way that helps the narrative flow. Cuts that, before, jarred and make the scene seem stilted suddenly became almost invisible. Cuts always need to be motivated, and the J-cut, in particular, provides a reason to switch to another viewpoint.

Now I’m grading and am finding out how that, too, pulls each scene together, creating consistency and making the scenes invisible. It helps to push cuts and camera angles into the background, so that you stop watching the film-making and concentrate on the story.

We’re nearly there. A little more grading and then fine-tuning of the audio. Oh, and adding music for the start and end titles … that’s another story.

One thought on “It’s getting better all the time…

  1. Clare Le May

    I remember we talked about (and looked at) that moment when Luke comes out of the house – a subtle moment, his figure indistinct and small. Even though it was intended this way, I wanted just a tad more acknowledgment of who this person is, that he’s there, (whilst still keeping it a bit mysterious…) So a sound effect – of course! The sound of the door opening will focus our attention on that moment, flagging it up as important. So the viewer is registering it, but on an unconscious level – that tantalising glimpse of something out of the corner of your eye. Walter Murch would be proud!


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