Elle Stanion

Video Editing

corporate marketing / commercials / films / arts videos & much more

I’ve always believed that video editing and film editing are deceptively simple processes – while actually being incredibly sophisticated and complex creatively and technically. At it’s best it can be compared to a Haiku, a Japanese poem based on a personal observation, comprising of just three lines, and only five, seven and five syllables in total.  So simple but so incredibly difficult to create one that is memorable. Editing is a very different beast to the public’s belief, as are the professional editors who make great productions happen.

It starts with the things that we have in common.  Good editing is based on being able to understand and see a story through the eyes of both a viewer and a director, to build a program from hundreds of small pieces like a wildly complicated puzzle, to combine both image and sound to tell it authentically, to transition between images with the artistic sensibility of a painter, to feel a soundtrack like a musician, and have a perfect sense of theatrical timing to make the ideal cut at the precise frame where it needs to sit to invisibly become part of the dialog or to propel the story forward.

offline editing, content edit, or just editing is as easy or difficult as your story. Getting the pieces in order is the key, especially for corporate or documentary work, which CLAi, film and video production company based in San Francisco and San Jose, can help with

So how do Chris Layhe, and CLAi Post, fit into this picture?</h3

The answer is primarily about content and style vs. time and budget, and where you choose to position your project on this balance scale…

I usually edit in 2 1/2 stages, following the tradition of film editing – with an offline assembly edit, a rough content edit and then an online finished edit.

An offline assembly edit is essentially getting the best takes of your program on to a timeline following your script or treatment. It’s often a relatively slow process in many cases as, say, a documentary might have 50 or 60 hours of footage that has to be reduced to maybe 3 hours. This stage is not about getting a perfect edit, or even selecting the best content for the program, it is about getting a first draft which kind of works that contains all of the ingredients in some order.

This is often a mechanical process that can be done by a producer, the director or a PA from the shoot who has taken notes on each take or follows a script and shot list. As it can be a painfully slow slog, this part of the offline edit is somewhere that you can use the ease of modern edit software and save “real” money by doing it yourself – although the real cost of the hours spent by your team is often way higher than bringing in your professional editor for the whole project.

The next stage is to reduce this initial edit down to a rough cut of the best story that you have in the can. On any film or video project, documentary, narrative or commercial, what you would ideally like to have shot and what you actually have on digital film are rarely the same – people don’t turn up, are awful on camera, say something very different to the plan, others turn out to be better, or the story just changes as you learn more.

So this part of the edit process starts with going back over what you really have and finding the best story that you can tell with what has been shot while still meeting your goals. This might mean slicing and dicing the narrative, changing the players around, amending the plot – and then seeing how you can fill the holes that are left.

Here is where you need to bring in an outside storytelling editor to run with the project who can see the big picture, someone who has not been on the shoots and isn’t highly involved in the production – they can only see what you actually have. Often the question comes up “well, if the PA/Director has done the first part okay then why not this part, saving money and the time bringing in an editor?” My answer is always very simple – a big part of the job of an experienced editor is to be able to take the role of the audience and cut from the perspective of their reactions and understanding rather than the production company’s perspective. An example, as a Producer you’ve spent 5% of your shoot budget on one complicated and difficult scene – so you want that rascal in the video whatever, but if the Editor doesn’t think that it works or adds to the story then, as the representative of the audience, he has to suggest it should be cut and explain why, then offer an alternative. Different perspectives… and you’ll hopefully thank him in the end.

Personally I’d always suggest that this activity should be physically done away from the production base, where you can let the editor do their thing without well meaning questions and suggestions at the wrong time (which translates into budget, an edit with the producer or director in attendance might possibly give a better end product but generally it doubles the hours taken and budget used).

This is a faster edit than the first stage, and is much more story and content critical – so you don’t want to have the search for technical perfection get in the way.  It’s about making the story work optimally, and then starting to add b-roll cutaway shots to cover visual holes, add interest and entertainment bling, and provide context and detail.

This is the rough content edit, and it is the piece that you send around for approvals and notes.  If you goal is for a 90 minute film this cut is probably 120-160 minutes long, a 7 minute corporate short is running at 10-12 minutes.

"The Circle" is a documentary series about dealing with Cancer, featuring Stephanie Layhe, shot on 3 RED cameras in 5k, directed, edited and color grading by Chris Layhe at CLAi film and video production company.

This is a really difficult process, often done by the producer/director or handed off to a junior as the hours would be expensive to give to an experienced editor.

The last stage is the finished edit, or online edit.  Up until this point the fine tuning of the video or film hasn’t been touched, the choice of best b-roll shot to match the rest of the timeline hasn’t been made, final audio hasn’t been chosen – music probably hasn’t even been added, and you may be working at a much lower resolution than the actual footage shot to be easily able to throw around smaller files.

The finished edit is where you take the rough cut, along with most of the notes and comments, and rebuild the program at the highest quality possible, adding in all of the little tweaks and refinements that give it storyline pacing and emotional highs and lows.  At the same time you start to take out anything that isn’t necessary and fine tune tops and tails of clips to get the running time to match your goal.

Then the editor adds the final titles, fine tunes all of the edit points, mixes the soundtrack and voice, adds visual effects and wipes/dissolves, and generally builds the program in a finished form before handing it over to the colorist and audio sweetening team to finish the beast off, prior to mastering.

When I do an online edit I kind of do the same thing, but usually handle the color grading and the sound sweetening, as well as the mastering, at the same time myself, or with one of the CLAi Post team. If I also handle the offline editing on one of my very powerful systems I’m able to take the original footage at full size and the original codec so that nothing has to be rendered out to proxy videos or downsized in other ways, then work with this throughout the process.

Taking this to the final color grading step means that finishing the work on the footage is almost always done in DaVinci Resolve.  With the latest version the video and audio editing, as well as compositing of titles and effects, in Resolve has become as good as any of the other edit, audio or effects systems, so I’ll probably do all of the editing in this software.  If you do the editing on another software then I’ll do the editing part of the project in that same software, and have to take the time to move the project across to DaVinci before grading… but more about this on the grading page.


Offline edit, online edit, finished edit (the same as online but including grading, audio sweetening and mastering) I, and CLAi Post, can provide whatever you need for editing any type of project, and do so quickly, accurately and economically… and I’m more than happy to consult on your project when it can do the most good and save you budget and time – before you start to shoot!

In my post studio in Santa Cruz I have five Mac Pro edit systems to play on, with every major editing software, effects software and grading software on board, as well as two audio creation and editing systems… which makes working on multiple versions of programs at once and attacking long renders no problem at all. This is key as editors rarely have as much time as they would like to play with ideas and cuts, and so speed, efficiency and accuracy are vital in working fast and keeping a project on time and budget.

With the right edit systems and software options you can be extremely flexible, and with the right experience you can make the cuts and see the story development in your mind before a key is even touched. As a musician and artist I’ve been creating stories in audio and images since I was 10 years old, and editing film and then video since I was 20 – which gives a few decades of experience to fall back on… perhaps one of the reasons why so many top film editors are 70 year old ladies!