In-camera editing is a method used to shoot sequences that requires the least amount of money, but also the largest amount of precision. Here’s how it works.
How In-Camera Editing Works
Even the most basic, low-level editing programs are pretty easy to come by these days; you can use Windows Movie Maker if you have a PC or iMovie if you’re a Mac user. But if the only means you have of putting your shots together is inside your camera, you will need to organize and film each shot in sequential order, so that the final scene makes sense when you play the footage back.
One of the ways to make your films look really amateurish and tourist-y is to simply hit record and grab your entire scene in one shot. This is what we call an Amateur Alert – it can be a good thing if that’s the style you’re going for, but in general it looks really bad unless you know what you’re doing. Complete with shaky camera work, quick jolts, bobs and flash pans, this style of filmmaking is sure to induce nausea in even your most hardy viewers.
Right now, you may be thinking about a scene from a major motion picture that looks exactly the way I’ve just told you not to film – an action sequence from a war movie, horror flick, or thriller,complete with quick action, blurry / shaky camera work, and fast-paced movement. But watch a scene like this closely and you’ll notice that there are often several quick cuts between each instant of the action.
Extreme, vibration-tastic close-ups of our intrepid hero’s face are interspersed with wide shots of his expensive, red, soon-to-be-ruined sports car sliding into a handbrake turn as it narrowly slips under a careening tractor trailer. So while they might be more shaky than a one-legged trapeze artist, these scenes aren’t filmed in a single shot, as you would if you were using in-camera editing.
Remember how often multiple shots are used the next time you’re tempted to press record and lean out the passenger side of your friend’s car while he does donuts through a muddy field. Not because it’s ridiculously unsafe; because you shouldn’t forget to take wide shots of the vehicle from a distance, too.
In-camera editing goes like this: you press record, something happens, you stop film. Move to the next shot, press record, capture the action, stop film, etc. In your in-camera videos, you need to practice both keeping a steady hand and framing your shots accordingly as you start and stop recording.
Timing is of utmost importance here, as every second captured on film ends up in the final product. In-camera editing is quite an antiquated method, and it usually doesn’t produce very satisfying results, so if at all possible you should try to get yourself a digital workstation. That way you can spend less time worrying about starting and stopping abruptly, and more time framing your shots appropriately.
Oh and by the way, if you have a computer, you’re not too far off from having a digital workstation, so don’t worry. You may not even need to use in-camera editing if that’s the case. But I’m not trying to throw out confusing buzzwords that deal with equipment that’s totally out of your grasp, so I’ve created another page on the topic of assembling a digital workstation. In fact if you’re interested right now, you can read more about digital workstations.
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