Editing Tips and Ideas from Video Essays


When we here at this site see a movie that doesn’t quite live up to our expectations, we naturally start brainstorming ways to improve it through fan editing. Perhaps too often our ideas for changes boil down to “I didn’t really like this scene so I think I’ll cut it out.” But with fixes like these we’re only really scratching the surface of what’s possible, as the new video essays by the Youtube channel Every Frame a Painting reminds us.

This week, the channel released a detailed takedown of the musical scores for recent Marvel movies. Here’s the video (made by the team of Tony Zhou, Taylor Ramos, and Brian Satterwhite), in case you missed it:


In the essay the team argues that not just Marvel movies but in fact most modern blockbusters have all begun to sound the same (primarily due to the use of temp-tracking during post-production, a further expose of which can be seen here). They all, according to Every Frame a Painting, “play it safe” – using music that’s just “hearing what you see,” unmoving background “noise,” or good compositions covered up by unnecessary narration or other sound effects. If these arguments aren’t enough to get fan editors’ gears turning, the team shows a few interesting examples of how things could be improved.

Yet another aspect that many have pointed out about the “bland” and “unmemorable” quality of these Marvel movie scores is the lack of thematic continuity between the different films in the franchise. In a response video, Youtuber iSJS96 breaks down how Marvel films have continually shifted composers and have missed out on the chance for some musical consistency by doing so. As with Every Frame a Painting’s video, this should get fan editors anxious to right this wrong that has plagued Marvel films for years:



On a different, yet equally relevant note, fan editors should take great interest in Every Frame a Painting’s previous video essay, in which the channel turns its sights on our favorite part of the cinematic process: editing:


Though they’re not talking about specifically fan editing, much of his insight can be applied to our hobby. Editing plays a large role in how we react to a movie, from the basic scene level to a larger holistic level. Depending on where you place the cuts in a scene you can change the feeling of that scene entirely, as the video shows. If you’re fan editing a movie and a scene isn’t working or doesn’t feel right, maybe the way to fix it isn’t to simply cut it out completely, maybe the pacing within scene itself can be altered to better fit the emotion of the moment and of the story as a whole.

If you’re interested in more editing philosophy, I’d highly recommend Walter Murch’s excellent book In the Blink of an Eye. Film editing is such a mysterious and instinctual craft that it can sometimes be hard to explain what makes for good editing but, if you check out the book, you’ll be pleased to see Murch (a veteran editor of such films as Apocalypse Now and The Godfather) nails it.

Finally, and this is an older one, but Every Frame a Painting has yet another video that may be of some interest to us:


Though it’s called “How to Structure a Video Essay” (based on insight gleaned from Orson Welles’s 1973 documentary, F for Fake), Every Frame a Painting’s advice – thinking of plot progression in terms of “but,” “therefore,” or “meanwhile, back on the ranch” instead of “and then” – is invaluable for structuring all kinds of stories including, yes of course, fan edits.

Hopefully, with these video essays in mind, when we all plan our next edits we’ll be thinking more carefully about things like rescoring, restructuring, pacing, and editing within scenes. Happy fan editing everyone!