By Paul Werner
New Orleans Center for Creative Arts|Riverfront
I have read many system specific books that cover editing techniques for a particular program, Avid, Final Cut, Premiere, etc. Editing Digital Video by Robert M. Goodman and Patrick McGrath has a different goal. It aims to teach editing as a general tool and gives tips for all applications. I like this approach from the get go. The authors do an excellent job of clearly explaining both the technical and aesthetic role of the editor. They include many tips like editing with the right hand on the mouse and the left on the keyboard. They also paint a broader picture by explaining different approaches to editing using a bricklayer (building a story) or a sculptor (cutting away) as models.
This book would be an excellent textbook or resource for an editing class. Most chapters include a Summary and an Important Facts to Remember section. Every term is clearly defined from the simplest shot description to more specific editing terms like a “J” or “L cut. The book examines the basics of the hardware and software used for nonlinear editing. Then it discusses how to edit and includes a basic exercise with video footage and a script on the included cdrom. The exercise creates a rough cut which the authors then use for a second exercise where they demonstrate how you can polish this by trimming and by overlapping edits. (I would like to have seen their edited version included on the cdrom.) Next is an extensive section on developing a workflow for various types of projects from commercials to feature lengths. This is followed by a chapter on organization and storage of media, and chapters on identifying shots, using effects and titles, and inputs and outputs. The book closes with a cross reference of editing terms and keyboard shortcuts used in different software applications. (I wish this was in an Excel or Word file on the cdrom!)
I would definitely recommend this book for the beginning or intermediate editor. There may be too much basic information for an experienced editor, but if you have interns you will want this for your reference shelf.
The book could use more illustrations since the authors are continually describing visual techniques with few graphics and no additional images on the cdrom. There is an excellent appendix of Films To Watch that lists scenes from movies with particular aspects of editing that are showcased. For example: The Birds, edited by George Tomasino. Watch the gas station attack for an example of rhythm in editing.
I would give this book four and a half Cows for its unique approach and comprehensive coverage of editing.
[Publisher's note: 5 cows is the max.]
A "complete creative and technical guide" for editing digital video seems like an overly ambitious concept. It is surprising how well the authors manage to accomplish it. The goal of the book, stated in the 2nd paragraph is "to teach anyone, amateurs or professionals, how to edit on any digital video editing system and achieve results." As a first primer -- not superficial but focused on the introductory basics, this book makes a very good attempt in achieving that goal. While I filled the margins with notes on what I thought was left out, or opinions I did not necessarily agree with, I was surprised at the concepts I could not stop thinking about when I finished this book. It will now have a prominent, handy place on my bookshelf -- a treatment that most professional editing books do not get. I know this will make a handy reference and will be re-read more than once.
The book comes with a CD-ROM that is compatible with most editing systems, and offers step-by-step instructions using the source material when teaching basic concepts. The first chapter deals with basic concepts and defines editing, describes the hardware and software basics, and the concept of workflow. Oddly, the concept of offlining is not mentioned in describing workflows. This chapter describes why the term "Digital Video Editing" is used throughout the book instead of "Nonlinear Editing" (a distinction which I personally do not agree with) and offers six universal principles of "digital video editing" as part of the definition.
The next chapter follows with the basics of today's digital video editing system and examines the GUI desktop design aspects. The authors do a very good job balancing the amount of content and detail for the beginner. Small things I was troubled about was that they left out a reference to SDTI connections while they included SDI and HD-SDI in their discussion on connectivity standards. They also left out pen & tablet when discussing the human interface tools, although I was pleased that they discussed the ergonomics as it related to left-handed editors. Overall, it was a complete and effective lesson.
Chapter 3, "Beginnings, Middles and Ends" is my favorite chapter. Not only does it start with teaching editing, but it makes a very good introductory effort to communicate the aesthetic concepts involved with the craft of editing. It starts appropriately with the tradition of storytelling and goes on to discuss different editing workflows (bricklayer vs. sculptor), the concept of the montage, techniques for continuity editing, Pace and Rhythm, and offers "Five Guidelines of Editing". Then the book continues with a focus on polishing the program (trimming and audio -- Chapter 4) and goes on to Chapter 5 "Styles and Workflows" -- another excellent chapter.
"Styles and Workflows" starts with the question "What's Technique?", goes on to a training component, and then analyzes different styles and workflows including Music Videos, Commercials (analyzing different types), Documentary and Nonfiction (scripted and non-scripted), and Fiction. I found myself going back and reading this chapter several times.
The next chapter focused on media asset management, including ingesting, logging and both project and bin management. This is followed by another lesson in visual grammar (compositional issues, types of shots, point of view, etc.) and goes into aspect ratios and the creation of subclips. Chapter 8 discusses clip effects, color issues, rendering, and timeline effects. Chapter 9 continues by discussing graphics, titling and compositing including the various key types and DVE effects creation issues such as perspective and keyframing.
Chapter 10, "Getting It In and Out "is the most technical chapter in the book, and the most uneven. It goes into various ways to set up a picture monitor and yet it never discusses a waveform monitor and uses the word vectorscope just once without explaining it. It does a good job with audio and defining codecs, and does an excellent job with EDLs and its evolution to the AAF metadata standard.
The last chapter, Chapter 11, is an excellent cross-reference of editing terminology as used by the various manufacturers and also offers a keyboard shortcut cross reference. This could be worth the cost of the book for freelancers that need to go from system to system and for instructors that have students asking how to do something on their home editor.
The book finishes off with a valuable set of appendixes. The first, is "Films to Watch" listing not only the films but scenes to watch for to learn editing techniques, including advanced editing, comedy editing, sound editing and documentary editing. It also lists Eddie Award nominees from 1934 to 2001. Appendix B is a list of "Resources" including magazines, books, and internet resources. (There is no mention of Bob Turner's THE CUT, so it is obviously an incomplete reference!) It ends with an extensive list of manufacturers with descriptions and contact information. Appendix C is a script for the CD-ROM exercise.
There were small points I disagreed with and some sections that were not as strong as others, but overall I was amazed at not only how much was covered in a single book, but at how valuable the information was that was provided.
With these reservations stated, I recommend this book. I can see it as a text source for video editing instructors, and for anyone that wants to get started in the craft of editing.