Eric May – Media Consultant




Editing for pacing and rhythm

Principle: Editing can capture the sense of the scene rhythmically. Recognize your final edited story is musical in shape. 

To tell stories rhythmically, understand how editing (montage) alters and compresses time. For example, cutaways compress what may have taken hours into two seconds. 

Your personal approach to montage (the compression and alteration of time) is correct and valid. Recognize that everyone else’s perception of time is different than yours.

Find a rhythm that convinces your viewers your sense of time honestly reflects the theme of your story.


Edit your piece to show viewers what it was like to be at the location. Quick edits for a city scene, longer edits for a country setting.

Use contrasts and juxtapositions: go for the unexpected. 
Start with quick edits for the city scene, followed by a long shot. 
Longer shots in the country, followed by a series of quick cuts.

Use natural sound in transitions and after sound bites to achieve a rhythmic effect.

Use music sparingly. Music can be used to punctuate certain points in your story, but not as a soundtrack.

Know the rules before you break them. Use logical sequences (wide/medium/tight).


Remember your audience. Your edit decisions have to resonate with them, not confuse or distract.

There is only one reason for choosing a particular edit technique: to advance the story. Special effects that don’t move the story forward are just wallpaper. 

Don’t force a great editing idea into a story if it isn’t working. You’ll always find a way to use it later, in another piece.