In film and animation, the editor is the person who deletes or adds scenes to a film under the explicit instructions of the director. At times, an editor may be derided for removing too much background information or sequencing the film incorrectly, but it is the director who provides this information to the editor. An additional job for the editor is to keep the sound tracks in sync with the visuals.

Most of the time, the editors save all of the footage with the final production film. This excess footage can be added later, such as added scenes on DVDs.

An editor is someone who brutally and mercilessly tears apart your prose so that you can reshape and re-attach its remnants into something of infinitely superior value.

Due to the incredible value of their service, editors are among the most highly prized people by writers. Note the popularity of authors marrying their editors, or alternately using their spouses to edit.
An editor is someone who transforms the writer’s raw prose into something other people want to read.

It is so easy for new writers. The sheet of paper or phosphor screen becomes the archetypal good listener, who never interrupts and always nods in the right places. We sit at the keyboard, tapping away, filling the screen with our thoughts, letting them rise in our subconscious, tumble down our nerves, flow into our fingertips and finally, gush out onto the screen in front of us. We look at them, and read them, and tell ourselves, “Yeah, that really says something to me.” And the screen nods in silent approval, reaffirming our skill at telling our stories.

The editor takes a look at this river of words, this stream of consciousness, and builds a dam here, constructs some lock gates there. She cuts this bit and changes that. The stream is channelled and directed. The flow is varied. Here rushing past as the tension builds. And there, where we have more time to spend, the rhythm changes to a soporific, calming flow, reminding us of long summer evenings and time to spare.

She finds the source, the idea, the kernel, and decides where to place it. At the beginning? Is this hard news? Do we want our readers to discover the secret and then move on, knowing a mere fish pool, but thinking they have learned everything our watercourse has to offer? Or perhaps she puts it in the middle, as a hook, tempting the readers in with excitement, and suddenly catching them on the barb, before drawing them on to the end as if by force. Or does she set up a conflict, arguing first for death, and then for life, keeping the reader on tenterhooks, desperate to find resolution, only at the end choosing one. Or simply leave the story unfinished? A puzzle with no solution except that which slowly finds a fragile existence in the reader’s mind.

A film and/or video editor is the artist on the creative team who is tasked with molding all the production elements (raw footage and sound, specifically) into something coherent, watchable and hopefully entertaining.

Editing is the essence of cinema. It is what sets filmmaking apart from all other visual arts. Without editing, the content of all films would be limited to what can be done in a single take before the film magazine runs out. Editing allows the story of an entire lifetime or the events of a single second to be played out in two hours. Editing will fool you, the viewer, into believing that two people are in the same room at the same time talking to each other when, in reality, the Leading Man is on a soundstage in Hollywood and his Love Interest was shot on location in Prague six weeks earlier.

On an ideal job the editor is hired during pre-production. This is somewhat common in the world of feature film production, but exceedingly rare for anything related to television such as commercials or music videos. The earlier in the process the editor is brought on, the more opportunities he or she has to provide creative input about what can be done during production to help achieve the director's vision during post-production.

The editor is given the dailies (the footage as shot) and the production sound (sound recorded at the shoot). He or she must sift through all the takes of all the angles of all the cameras used and find the gold; the best moments judged by many criteria. Is the acting here great or crap? Can we use this reaction shot against that other line? Do the eyelines match? Nuances and subtleties are just as important as the big stuff: what's the coolest angle on that explosion?

The process of editing is making choices. When do you cut to a different shot, what shot do you cut to and why? How long should we see this close up? How long should that dissolve be, or should we do a wipe instead?

The editor and the director work together to mold the best film possible out of the available material. Once you're in the editing room, what you wanted to shoot is irrelevant. What's important is what you actually have. On some features the editor has the luxury of ordering (requesting) reshoots, or that another angle be covered, or that a cutaway be shot. This happens very rarely on smaller-budgeted projects. As such, seeing the possibilities is one of an editor's greatest skills.

It is the editor's job to create and maintain an entertaining pace for the overall film. A film should ebb and flow, pull the viewer along for a while and let them breathe at other times. The climax should feel, to the viewer, as if it has arrived at exactly the right moment. It is in the pacing of a film that entire scenes may often be removed, added, or significantly altered. The primary reason all those deleted scenes exist to be packaged on DVDs is that they knocked the film off pace when included originally.

The editor is a huge part of making all the decisions which finish a film, from the tiniest details (this shot is two frames too short) to the largest problems (our film is half an hour too long). A movie, or television show, or commerical, or music video comes togther underneath the editor's fingers. It's creation magic, and that's why I love being an editor.

Ed"i*tor (?), n. [L., that which produces, from edere to publish: cf. F. 'editeur.]

One who edits; esp., a person who prepares, superintends, revises, and corrects a book, magazine, or newspaper, etc., for publication.


© Webster 1913.

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