When to change shot?

The eternal question – when do you go to another shot when mixing live video? …

At last we get to the ART of mixing. All the technical stuff counts for nothing, if your mixing ends up distracting the audience from what is going on, rather than enhancing.

Chop and change too quickly and everyone will get dizzy. Stay on the same shot too long and they will all think something has gone wrong (unless you only have ONE camera, but that’s a different problem)
So it’s getting the balance that matters.

Some tips from video editing apply here:

– less is more. resist the temptation to cut (or fade) too often. There is a huge
temptation, especially with an individual giving a talk or similar, to cut just
because you can.

– cut on action, rather than on nothing. Make your cuts motivated by something in the shot. This gives a
reason for the cut, so it makes sense to those watching why you changed shot at that point and makes the cutting ‘disappear’. So if someone moves you can cut, or if they look in a different direction, or if they do something different with their arms, or they turn away. You can cut to a different person when they speak or sing, or start playing or stop playing etc.etc.

– another rule of thumb is to cut when you blink (really!) The argument goes that if you are intently focused on something, you hold off your blink until your brain has had enough and can cope
with losing a few frames.

– If there is music, the cutting should reflect the timing of the music. Faster music needs
faster cutting, slower music might cut less often and more gently. Notice I saidREFLECT the timing not MATCH the timing. The temptation is to cut on the beat, but this is generally considered a big cliche now, and should be avoided if possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t ever cut on a beat, but don’t time your
cuts to ALWAYS match the beat of the music or it will start to look like an 80’s sound-to-light system.

There are other factors that are unique to live video:
– cut away from a shot that you can see is about to become irrelevant
– cut away before the end of a moving shot
– try to anticipate and cut to something JUST before it happens, e.g. cut to the soloist just before they start
singing, not just after (You did know there was a soloist, right?)

– always cut away from a dead shot as soon as possible – prolonged shots of peoples feet or the back of their heads or the stage are not recommended.

I am sure there are millions of other rules that could apply, but ultimately it is a subjective thing and you have to do what feels right to you, but remember to think from the audience’s perspective – if you were sitting there, what would YOU want to see next.


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