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We all know the language of film and TV when we see it done right (and wrong!). In this podcast, veteran e-learning producer Jenelle Boucher interviews video editor Denise Moustafah about editing techniques that can make e-learning and serious games more effective and engaging.

shot depthsScreenshots from “Reinventing Michael Banks” (Will Interactive) illustrate three standard shot depths. The wide/full shot (left) is used early in the simulation to orient users to the office environment. The close-up shot (right) is used for personal dialogue or when we hear the character thinking.

  1. Using your shots effectively — Traditionally, editors start each new scene with a wide (or “establishing”) shot, so viewers can see the characters in relation to each other and the setting. Shots get tighter (closer to the characters) as the scene becomes more intimate. The closer we are to a character’s face, the more emotion we see and, therefore, the more we empathize with them.
  2. Juxtaposing shots — If two shots are very similar, cutting between them can make the characters appear to slightly “jump,” which looks like a mistake. Make sure there is enough difference between two shots (e.g., differences in angle and/or depth) before you use them back-to-back. (As long as you don’t break the 180 rule!)
  3. Storytelling — Subtly support the story you’re telling through your shot choices. For example, a wider shot of one character in a conversation, juxtaposed with a closer shot of another character, furthers the idea that one is more engaged than the other.
  4. Cutting on movement — Changing shots when a character is moving can distract viewers from “noticing” the editing. Even cutting on a character’s blink can create a subconscious transition between two shots. (This Radiolab clip explains how blinking is “a hidden punctuation to thought and storytelling” and how people watching video tend to naturally blink “at the conclusion of action”)
  5. Using L cuts — When two characters are talking to each other, it’s nice to have a very small delay between hearing one person speak and cutting to that person. This is called an “L cut” (due to how the resulting audio/video appears in the editing software timeline). You can also use L cuts when transitioning from one scene to another–for example, hearing the noise of a busy street a second before transitioning to the video of that street. This makes your transitions feel more fluid and mimics the way a person might hear a new action before they turn their head and see it. Here’s a great video that illustrates the technique.

If you have questions about video/animation editing, want your e-learning or serious game analyzed by our other-industry experts, or have a suggestion for another podcast topic, email jenelle@notmyniche.com.

JENELLE BOUCHER has produced games, simulations, and interactive training for 12 years. She has a BA in documentary journalism from LSU and an MS in e-learning from University of Waterloo.

DENISE MOUSTAFAH edits documentaries, independent films, music videos, and commercials for clients such as CNN, PBS, AMC Network, and A&E.

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