Digital Editing

What is Adobe After Effects?

If you are interested in pursuing a career as a motion graphic designer, you’ll quickly find Adobe After Effects to be essential software. After Effects artists are split between motion graphic designers and visual effects artists.

Adobe After Effects is a digital visual effects, motion graphics, and compositing application and is used in the post-production process of both filmmaking and television production, in live action and animation alike, with a wide variety of different uses.

Artists who create title sequence designs that begin almost every movie or television show you’ve ever seen, as well as animators will need to know After Effects. Similarly, artists who create informational graphics that explain complex circumstances visually can utilize the program. In the commercial world, motion graphic designers are tasked with animating logos for companies or creating stylistic lower thirds to introduce speakers in interviews.

Adobe After Effects

In contrast, visual effects artists use After Effects to mix computer generated elements with live action footage. This is known as compositing. Artists use After Effects to track, rotoscope, and key footage to create otherworldly environments that one might see in fantasy and science fiction films such as Star Wars: The Force Awakens or Captain Marvel. After Effects can also be used to create stunning visual effects seen in films such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as Avengers: Infinity War

After Effects has dramatically affected the digital editing industry by increasing the quality and frequency of visual effects in entertainment. What used to require expensive and dangerous practical effects such as puppetry and pyrotechnics is now typically done by visual effects artists. 

Digital visual effects can be done cheaper and safer and can be integrated into any scale of project. There’s nothing that can’t be visualized on screen now–the only limitation is one’s imagination and knowledge of software such as After Effects. 

Examples of television shows and movies that have utilized skills that will be taught in the After Effects workshop at New York Film Academy (NYFA) include the title sequences for Stranger Things, The Leftovers, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and American Horror Story. Similarly, we will explore and mimic the compositing seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the visual effects seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as well as the visual effects seen in Captain Marvel.

New York Film Academy’s Digital Editing school offers workshops that provide students with hands-on instruction in editing theory, techniques, and the fundamentals of digital editing, as well as hands-on experience by editing various projects with footage provided to them in class. Apply today to upcoming workshops in 2020 to learn and strengthen your digital editing skills!
Our 4-Week After Effects Workshop is a full-time, intensive workshop that teaches students how to animate in 2D and 3D and gain an understanding of post-production visual effects. Visit our 4-Week After Effects Workshop page to learn more and apply.

Written by Nate Garcia
Digital Editing, NYFA After Effects Instructor

2019 Academy Awards: The Best Editing Nominees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have announced the nominees for the 91st annual Academy Awards, to be given out during ABC’s televised ceremony on Sunday, February 24. The Oscars will cap off a months-long awards season featuring industry veterans, newcomers, and as always, endless debates about who deserves to go home with the golden statue.

New York Film Academy (NYFA) takes a closer look at this year’s Academy Award nominees for Best Film Editing:

BlacKkKlansman, Barry Alexander Brown

This is the second Academy Award nomination for Barry Alexander Brown, with his first dating back nearly forty years ago for the 1979 documentary feature The War at Home. Since then, Brown has edited several of Spike Lee’s films, including Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X, He Got Game, 25th Hour, and Inside Man. He’s also edited The Giver, and directed the rock documentary, The Who’s Tommy, the Amazing Journey.

Bohemian Rhapsody, John Ottman

John Ottman has edited several major motion pictures, but has also been the film composer for dozens more. He has edited several of Bohemian Rhapsody director Bryan Singer’s films, including The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil, Superman Returns, Valkyrie and three X-Men films. Some of the films Ottman has scored include The Cable Guy, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Astro Boy, Orphan, and Fantastic Four. This is his first Oscar nomination.

The Favourite, Yorgos Mavropsaridis

Yorgos Mavropsaridis has edited nearly eighty films, including those of Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos — Dogtooth, The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and The Favourite, which has earned him his first Oscar nomination. He will also work in post-production on Suicide Tourist, currently filming, starring Game of Thrones actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.

Green Book, Patrick J. Don Vito

Green Book editor Patrick J. Don Vito has edited over a dozen films, including Another House on Mercy Street and My Life in Ruins, and has worked in the editing department of several more, including Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Welcome to Mooseport, and Semi-Pro. Don Vito also edited the visual effects on the first Austin Powers sequel. This is his first Oscar nomination.

Vice, Hank Corwin

Hank Corwin was first Oscar-nominated for his work on Adam McKay’s previous film, The Big Short. Corwin has also edited for other prestige directors such as Terence Malick, Robert Redford, Barry Levinson, and Oliver Stone. Some of his credits include Natural Born Killers, Nixon, The Horse Whisperer, The Legend of Bagger Vance, The New World, and The Tree of Life.

Learn how digital editing helps bring television, films, documentaries, music videos, and more to life with our variety of digital editing programs. Begin developing an understanding of digital editing tools and techniques by visiting our Digital Editing Programs page.

Editing Like an Oscar Winner: Why Learn Avid Media Composer?

by NYFA Instructor Igor Torgeson

Avid Editing

With a new semester beginning, students at NYFA campuses are starting their first introduction to Avid’s Media Composer system.  Hard drives are being formatted, project directories are being created, and folks everywhere are wondering to themselves “What is YCbCr anyway?”

As Post Production instructors, we often get the asked how Media Composer became the software of choice at the New York Film Academy. I can only assume that question is also asked at the many film schools where Media Composer is the required software.

This uniform approach to editing software comes from three basic facts about Media Composer that have been consistent since the 1990’s and look to continue to be true for at least the next five to ten years.

1. Avid Media Composer is the Used in the Industry.

All of the films nominated the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2018, as well as all the films nominated for Best Editing for 2018, were edited using Avid Media Composer.

2. Proficiency in Avid Media Composer Translates to Proficiency in Other Editing Platforms

Students sometimes find the first few sessions with media composer a bit challenging, as the interface does very little to inform you what everything is and what it does. This is a legacy of the software’s creation by engineers for technically-inclined individuals.

The thing to remember, however, is that all the other Non-Linear Editing software on the market is at least in some part inspired by or reacting to Media Composer. That means the general workflow of every platform is the same.  Media gets into the software. A window allows the editor to view and listen to the media.  The editor chooses the media to include in the show and places it in a timeline, which can be viewed in another window.  This is the same in every platform!

Once an editor becomes comfortable with this process in Avid Media Composer, moving to other platforms becomes easier, as the switch is simply a matter of finding the same tools in the new software, as well as understanding which tools the new platform has automated or eliminated.

3. Avid Editors Earn More Than Editors On Other Platforms

Of course, success as an editor is first and foremost a result of talent, skill, and experience — whatever the platform. Nevertheless, the data shows that there is a positive difference in income for Avid editors.

Once an editor learns Avid, it’s relatively easy to shift to a new platform.  So not only does an editor have an economic advantage by knowing Avid, in the absence of Avid jobs, it’s easy to shift to another software.


So with those three basic facts in mind, Avid Media Composer has been the clear choice for editing software.  


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6 Tips for Working With an Editor

As a director, you may have trouble putting your baby in another’s hands. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about your project for years. But working with an editor will be a vital part of being a professional filmmaker, and learning how an editor works can help your film be its best. Here we offer six tips for establishing a relationship with the person who holds the keys to turning your countless hours of hard-earned footage into a film.

  1. Choose your editor wisely.

You will likely be spending a lot of time with your editor, and there may be tense moments of disagreement, so be sure you choose one you like! It’s important that you get along as well as respect their work. As quoted in this MovieMaker article, Michelle Morgan (L.A. Times) gives this important bit of wisdom: “You should never hire an editor that you don’t want to sit and have a beer with.”

  1. Let your editor do her job.

Perhaps the biggest mistake a director can make is to micromanage the editing process. Besides the fact that you’ll be stepping on the toes of your editor, who is an artist in her own right, you’ll be less likely to allow for the objectivity of a person who has come to the project relatively late, and who can look at it with fresh eyes.

  1. Learn how to edit.

This may sound contradictory to the above, but learning what’s possible in the editing process can help you avoid missteps. “I love working with directors who have an understanding of editing,” editor Joi McMillon told MovieMaker, “because I feel like a lot of times when they ask me to do something, and I say, ‘I would love to do that but you don’t necessarily have the material to make that happen,’ they understand.”

  1. Give your editor a room of her own.

Having a quiet room of one’s own is crucial to the creative process, and this is particularly true for your editor. Perhaps this is your first film and super low budget, but packing your editor into a space with lots of distractions is going to hinder her work.

  1. Remember the editor is there to serve the story too.

If you find yourself constantly doubting your editor and question her decisions, it may help to remember that she is also there to serve the story. You did not bring her on board to be an automaton, but as a skilled artist who can serve your story best if she is allowed to work with some degree of freedom.

  1. Give postproduction room to breathe.

Rushing the postproduction process will likely cause thoughtless decisions to impact your film. As The 6 Stages of Editing as a Film Director hints, “Never be afraid to let the first cut ‘rest’ for a few days so everyone involved can see it with fresh eyes.”

Filmmaking is a stressful, deadline-driven business, but you will do your film a disservice if you do not allow a little breathing room, so that you and your editor are not forced to make snap decisions that you’ll regret when you see the finished product on a big screen, with an audience to witness!

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From Rough Cut to Director's Cut to Final Cut: How a Film Transforms Over Time


There’s a reason why filmmakers don’t just toss together the footage they took and call it a day. This unprepared footage is called rough for a reason — it’s far from what you’d expect to see as the finalized product on the big screen.

While both pre-production and production come with their own challenges, it’s during post-production that all that work is assembled into something high-quality and presentable. Thus, it’s vital that digital editors do their best to turn that rough cut into what will be shown to audiences worldwide.

The following are the four main tasks that an assistant editor and/or digital editor working on a film is responsible for:

1. Logging

Logging is in the domain of the assistant editor. In filmmaking and television production, it’s common for the amount of footage shot to be several times longer than what will actually be used on the final cut. To avoid wasting time searching for specific source shots, the very first stage of post-production involves the assistant editor sorting all the dailies (raw, unedited footage) so that they’re properly labeled, organizing all the footage so that the editor can work more efficiently to make a cut. To help the editor, especially since this is likely the first time they’re looking at the film, directors and cinematographers also will leave notes onto takes to help give context. Remember: films are rarely shot in the order that the movie will actually go.

2. The Editor’s Cut

2017.03.01 Editing workshop075

The editor’s first major task is to start assembling the footage in an order that flows smoothly story-wise. This involves selecting all the best audio and visual material from the dailies and using them to put together each scene. Today’s’ big films usually have an editor doing this even when filming is still taking place. This way, directors and producers can check out the editor’s rough scenes and decide if additional footage needs to be shot. This is also the editor’s opportunity to start trimming off some of the extra footage that’s currently making the film longer than intended.

3. The Director’s Cut

During filming, the director will try finding time to join the editor and offer his suggestions. But once shooting has ended, the director can then focus entirely on working with the editor to refine the cut of the film. This stage, which can last anywhere from 10 weeks to several months, is when the director and editor will reorder, remove, and change every scene and shot with extreme attention to detail. It’s also their chance to discover plot holes and missing shots that require new scenes to be scheduled for filming.

4. The Final Cut


Once the editor, producer, and designer are satisfied with the current cut, the sound, music, and title designers will add to the edit. After music and sound effects are added to the cut and everyone is satisfied, it is sent in for an exact copy to be created. This final cut is what people across the globe will see on their theater and television screens.

Excited about digital editing? Learn more in NYFA’s digital editing programs. <

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The Latest Video Editing Trends to Watch

Video editing has come a long long way. From the beginning of the 20th century, when film as a medium began to develop, editing meant simultaneously two things at once: the joining of shots as well as the manipulation of images. Many of the first films made were realist, documentary films, such as the Lumiere Brothers’ “Arrival of the Train,” which fascinated audiences and allowed them to recognize themselves and the places and events around them. Montage style developed as a counterpoint, where Soviet film makers such as Eisenstein juxtaposed contrasting or even unrelated shots to create new meaning. Rathern than tell a linear story, montage sought to evoke emotion. Montage gave rise to the formalist tendency, which began to see any form of video footage as fodder for creating illusions, magic tricks and fantastic worlds, a style begun by George Melies and continued by the Hollywood superhero 3D blockbuster of today.  


Before the digital revolution, linear video editing was done with expensive video tape recorders (VTR) that did not promise quality and was were cumbersome. Later inventions such as the “flying erase-head” and vision mixers made the process easier. But the switch from celluloid to digital incited a fundamental change in the process. Gone were the days of handling magnetic tapes, and with the arrival of premier software such as Final Cut Pro and Adobe After Effects, digital video editing was here to stay.


This is the age of digital. Consequently, the norms of video editing are undergoing a tremendous change. Here, we give you a lowdown on the latest digital editing trends to watch out for.

1. Video Chapterisation Will Gain Popularity

In other words, we’re entering an age where instead of watching videos, we’ll be reading them — and instead of trial-and-error fast-forwarding to find a particular scene, we’ll only have to check the contents and find the right chapter or bookmark. Although most DVDs come with rudimentary chapter divisions, this will become more sophisticated, with careful allocation of sequences semantically, rather than on duration.

2. Your Smartphone May Become A Video Editing Station

Professional video and photo editing software with a multitude of features may become available on smartphones soon, meaning users can shoot a film, edit it, add special effects and title cards, and release it to YouTube, all from a smartphone. Before you worry that your Avid Media Composer skills are wasted, don’t despair: the entertainment industry, while flexible and able to adapt and absorb new trends like these, will still have need of professional editors able to apply advanced skill and precision. Phones will not replace post-production. Instead, digital editors can see this trend as an interesting opportunity to plug into popular culture and play with emerging new media.

Apps such as Adobe Premiere Clip and WeVideo can be used to make home videos or presentations. For professionals there are paid options, such as the powerful Pinnacle Studio Pro developed by Corel, with more sophisticated features.

3. Live Video Editing

Live videos are already a thing — whether you’re streaming a rock show live on Facebook timeline or showcasing a 30 sec clip on Instagram. And live video editing is going to be the next big thing. While it’s still at a nascent stage, with live editors rushing to apply filters or emoji to recorded content or camera switching in TV, you’ll soon see innovative developments in this space. The app Lumify, for instance (only available on ios), let’s you edit video from the moment you start recording, for example changing the white balance or focus exposure.

We’re entering an age where one records and edits simultaneously. Soon, more complex features will become easily available, particularly designed for seamless video transitions so as to make sure the audience does not notice the cuts between shots.

You can expect the video editing industry to boom, and as a digital editor you’ll be expected to know the fundamentals of editing as well as the new trends. Even beyond editing digital content with film or advertising companies, your skills can apply in many new fields — from marketing strategies to social media promotion.

Hone your storytelling skills and develop an understanding of technical digital editing tools and techniques through our variety of hands-on digital editing programs. Learn more about our program offerings by visiting the Digital Editing Programs page.


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What You Can Learn from Edward Dmytryk’s 7 Rules of Cutting

Edward Dmytryk is arguably one of the most influential directors in movie history, with over 50 films to his credit. He was nominated for an Oscar for his film “Crossfire” (1947) and worked with big name stars like John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor, and Humphrey Bogart. But you may not know that before directing films, Dmytryk was a film editor.

In 1984, Edward Dmytryk wrote “On Film Editing,” which stipulated seven basic rules of cutting. He used his own experience to pave the way for future editors. These rules are an excellent resource for New York Film Academy students in our digital editing programs. The examples below will show how his rules are still used in contemporary films today. While the technology behind film and editing has changed since the mid-1900s, it cannot be denied that Dmytryk’s style is timeless.

Rule 1: Never make a cut without a positive reason.

Long scenes have the potential to be “the boring part” of any movie. Nothing is worse than a section that drags on with meaningless dialogue and no action. However, Dmytryk was never afraid of a long shot, stating “a cut should never be made only because the cutter feels the prevailing cut is too long.” In fact, long shots have become more popular in contemporary films. For example, the entire film of “Birdman,” which won Best Film, Best Director, and Best Cinematography, is designed to look like a single shot. Edits are made to carefully support the illusion of a continuous track shot, and are only made in support of the overall stylistic goal.

Rule 2: When undecided about the exact frame to cut on, cut long rather than short.

In order to maintain fluidity in a film, cuts must be as precise as possible — especially in action films where two shots will be fast-paced and must be perfectly timed. The editor must have plenty of film to work with when deciding where to make that pivotal cut. For this reason, the camera will continue to roll for a few seconds after the action is over and before the director says “cut.” Director Quentin Tarantino (“Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill”) knew this and so did his actors. That is why they often used to say “Hi, Sally” to the camera while filming to say hello to Sally Menke, Tarantino’s long-time film editor, who edited all of his films until her death in 2010. This is why the cast and crew used to greet her after a long take, knowing that she would see these scenes and cut them for the perfect action sequence. They wanted to give her plenty of extra footage to work with, knowing that an editor will often look to cut long rather than short.

Rule 3: Whenever possible cut “in movement.”

While transitions between scenes will sometimes require a few frames of no action, action is always preferred. A film can be pushed along scene-by-scene if there is an action to keep the audience engaged. For example, the urgency of “Apollo 13” (the 1995 Best Editing winner) is heightened in the scene below. After the flight director (Ed Harris) explains the challenge, the scene immediately cuts to the scientists dumping materials on a table. This movement shot is more urgent than a scene of them sitting and discussing the problem.

Also see the scene below from “American Hustle” (nominated for Best Editing in 2013). The sequence of the characters all going to the event is made as a montage, and each cut goes to a scene of action (i.e. Jeremy Renner lighting a cigarette, Jennifer Lawrence exiting the car, and Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams walking through the smoke). This keeps the scene moving a builds tension to the following scenes.

Rule 4: The “fresh” is preferable to the “stale.”

Dmytryk understood that a film must cater to its audience. Regarding his fourth rule, he said “if it is necessary to add a number of frames before the actor enters the scene, the viewer has, at least, a new setting to examine and integrate, which serves to keep his interest alive.” In the clip from “Titanic” (Best Editing winner in 1997) where Rose first calls Brock, there are quite a few seconds of filming before the camera focuses on an actor. Further in the clip, when the movie transitions to a ship, there is a shot of the ship from afar to show the audience where the film has moved.

This is also particularly true of films by Wes Anderson (“Moonrise Kingdom” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), which heavily focus on setting.. See the scene before from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (nominated for Best Editing in 2014). As the two protagonists (Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori) go down to meet the police, there are several seconds of film with no one speaking. This allows the audience to take in the new setting and also shows Edward Norton’s character’s consternation with the arrest.

Rule 5: All scenes should begin and end with continuing action.

The movement of a scene is one of its most important parts. Whether it is a simple transition or a tense action sequence, the actor’s movement must be seamless throughout. For example, if you are showing an actor entering a room, there must be continuous movement from the cut filmed from outside the room to the cut filmed from inside the room. The example below is from “The Matrix” (Best Editing winner in 1999), where the protagonist (Keanu Reeves) must escape his office. The scene is not in one continuous shot, so the editor must create continuity and make the actions look the same throughout each take, editing down the shot so that it looks like the actor never stops moving.

Also see the scene below from “Spotlight” (2015), which was nominated for Best Editing. As Mark Ruffalo’s character goes from the cab to the office, his movements are continuous.

Rule 6: Cut for proper values rather than proper “matches.”

It is important to remember while discussing these rules that Dmytryk was also a director. He understood that the film itself was the most important product. He believed that “the film’s dramatic requirements should always take precedence over the mere aesthetics of editing.” Dmytryk references a scene in his film “Murder, My Sweet” (1944), where a flashing light does not match up between takes. However he understood that the flashing light added to the drama of the scene and decided to leave it in. 

At the end of the day, Dmytryk stressed that the substance of the film was paramount to all of his rules. His techniques are important. However, these rules should be used only to make a film great, not to make a film perfect. In the last line of his book he states, “This book has persistently stressed technique and has urged the pursuit of perfection in its use. But the ‘human situation,’ in all its guises, is what good films are all about, and technical skill counts for nothing if it is used only to manufacture films which have little to do with humanity.”

What have you learned about your own projects after reading Dmytryk’s editing rules? How will you use them in future products to create a brilliant film? Let us know in the comments below.

If you’re ready to learn more about digital editing, check out NYFA’s digital editing programs!

Do the American Cinema Editors (ACE) Eddie Awards Accurately Predict the Oscars?

The Eddie Awards are given out by an honorary society of film editors called “American Cinema Editors” for achievements in editing both in film and in television. Along with acknowledging outstanding work, what makes these awards so special is that they often predict which film will win an Oscar in the same category as well as the much-coveted Best Picture Award! 

So if you’re one of those people who love playing Oscar prediction games and are even willing to bet your money on it, watching the Eddie Awards ceremony is a must. If you’re still not convinced, here we give you examples of 18 years (yes, 18!) when the American Cinema Editors were accurate predictors of the Academy Awards. 

1. 2016: Yes, that’s right. Just last year, the judges of the Eddie Awards awarded “Mad Max: Fury Road” in the Best Edited Feature Film-Dramatic Category. The film not only went on to win an Oscar for film editing, but also five more Academy Awards for sound editing and mixing, costumes, makeup, and production design. So this year, keep an eye out for the film that wins an Eddie in this category, as it’s pretty likely that the same movie will take home some Oscars too!

2. 2003-2011: For almost a decade, the Eddie Awards proved a near-constant string of accurate predictions as to which film will win the award for best editing, and several films won the best picture as well, including “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” in 2004, “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2009, and “The Hurt Locker” in 2010. Even now, the third LOTR film remains the first and only fantasy film to win a Best Picture award and also holds a record for winning 11 Oscars — in every category, it was nominated for (a record shared with “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic”).

Meanwhile, in 2009, there was a fierce debate as to whether “Slumdog Millionaire” or “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” should win. The following year all eyes were set on James Cameron’s 3D extravaganzaAvatar” to sweep the awards against the low-budget war thriller “The Hurt Locker.” So the next time the rivalry gets tough, you know whom to trust: the Eddie Awards.

3.  1991-1995: The early to mid-’90s were also a good time for the Eddies. While “JFK” won the Academy Awards for best editing and cinematography in 1992, all the other films to win an Eddie — “Unforgiven” (1993), “Schlinder’s List” (1994) and “Forrest Gump” (1995) — went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture one after the other.

4.  1964-1966: Even during the early years, the Eddie Awards were known for getting the Oscar predictions quite right. From 1964 to 1966, they correctly predicted that “How the West Was Won,” “Mary Poppins” and “The Sound of Music” would win awards for editing and receive a string of nominations. “The Sound of Music” in particular went on to win 5 Oscars, including Best Picture, and still remains one of the most beloved musicals ever made.

So do you think “Arrival” and “La La Land” are likely to win big at the Oscars? And what about animation movies as well? Will it “Moana” or ”Zootopia” that takes home an Academy Award? If you can’t wait to find out, then don’t miss the Eddie Awards on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017!

What films do you think were the best-edited this year? Let us know in the comments below!

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Movie Trailer Editing: How Much Should You Reveal?

“So they’ve basically just shown us the full movie, then.”

It’s a common charge against many movie trailers, particularly in recent years. For whatever reason, it’s becoming common to show so much in the trailer that audiences wonder whether there’s any point in seeing the full cut.

It goes without saying that this is the exact opposite reaction that you want to elicit from your potential audience. Today, we’re going to look at the arguments for and against baring all during your movie trailer.

Warning: potential movie spoilers ahead!

Setting Out the Market Stall

A classic example of this would be the trailer to 2011’s “The Double,” which relies on a central plot twist that Richard Gere is the killer he claims to be hunting…

… something which is completely given away in the theatrical trailer:

Didn’t see the movie? Neither did anybody else. Commercially, it completely tanked (grossing $3m against a $17m budget), and we can’t help but suspect that the tell-all trailer was a deciding factor in the movie’s failure to garner interest.

But there is a case to be made for showing all your cards. Director Robert Zemeckis opines: “We know from studying the marketing of movies, people really want to know exactly everything that they are going to see before they go see the movie. It’s just one of those things. To me, being a movie lover and film student and a film scholar and a director, I don’t. What I relate it to is McDonald’s. The reason McDonald’s is a tremendous success is that you don’t have any surprises. You know exactly what it is going to taste like. Everybody knows the menu.”

Who is Dead?!

A compelling argument for sure, but a counter-point would be that this all applies only to specific types of movies; if you’re dealing in a formulaic genre, it’s generally good to reassure audiences that you’re hitting all the beats they’ve come to expect. Take the “Golden Eye” trailer, for instance — a lot of spoilers in there, but this was a Bond movie. There’s almost an unwritten contract of things a Bond movie needs to deliver, and the trailer is the best opportunity to advertise the fact that all of the boxes are ticked.

The same goes for remakes. The 2013 adaption of the Stephen King classic “Carrie” also had a spoiler-laden trailer, but for good reason; fans of the original needed assurance that all of the iconic scenes (such as the “prom reveal”) would be faithfully featured in the remake.

While Zemeckis makes a good point, unfortunately his movie “What Lies Beneath” probably wasn’t the best type of flick in which to pour every single plot reveal into the theatrical trailer:

It’s okay if you let slip that Tom Cruise will survive a big explosion in a “Mission Impossible” trailer. After all, nobody assumes for one moment that his fictional life is in any real jeopardy, and audiences already know he’ll live to survive for at least another movie for as long as the franchise remains profitable.

But a Hitchcockian-thriller relies heavily on a slow and suspenseful layering of reveals, and is entirely undermined when these reveals are telegraphed ahead of time.

Finding the Balance

Trailer editors working in comedy and horror also need to tread carefully. Viewers are remarkably good at spotting whether you’ve included all of your best gags and jump-scares within the trailer, which can be as much of a turn-off as a “Sixth Sense” trailer that reveals Bruce is already dead.

Ultimately, whether a movie trailer should hold its cards to the chest or bare all really depends on the individual movie itself. Balancing audience expectation and creating intrigue (as well as succinctly communicating what the film is about) is the recipe behind an effective movie trailer.

Gut intuition as an editor will get you most of the way, but consider extensive test screening of your trailer with different audiences to get an indication of whether you’ve struck the right balance.

And we cannot understate how important that balance is. After all, those three minutes of trailer can make or break your 90 minutes of feature.

Using Adobe After Effects, students in our 12-Week Evening Workshop program will develop an understanding of the principles of visual effects, motion graphics, and animation. Visit our 12-Week Adobe After Effects Workshop page to learn more about the program.

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A Beginner's Guide to Film Editing Vocabulary


It was Francis Ford Coppola who said, “The essence of cinema is editing.” If you’re an aspiring film  editor, you know your craft matters — and you know it also matters how you speak and think about your craft. We’ve compiled a guide to help you beef up your terminology and learn to communicate about editing like a pro. The following are some fundamental digital editing terms  that editors should know: your concise guide to an editing vocabulary.


A transition where one shot is instantly followed by another.

Continuity Editing

Visual editing where shots are cut together in a clear and linear flow of uninterrupted action. This type of cutting seeks to maintain a continuous sense of time and space.

Continuity Error

When the action or elements of a scene don’t match across shots. For example, when a character breaks a glass window but in a later shot the window is shown undamaged.

Cross Cutting

Technique used to give the illusion that two story lines of action are happening at the same time by rapidly cutting back and forth between them.


The interruption of a continuously filmed action with a shot that’s peripherally related to the principal action.


When the end of one shot overlaps the start of the next one to create a gradual scene transition.


The process of taking raw footage to select and combine shots to create a complete motion picture.

Establishing Shot

A shot that gives viewers an idea of where the scene is taking place. These usually involve a shot from a long distance, such as a bird’s eye view.

Eyeline Match

A technique based on the idea that viewers want to see what on-screen characters are seeing. For example, if a character is looking intently at an off-screen object, the following shot will be of that object.


A visual effect used to indicate a change in place and time. This involves a gradual brightening as a shot opens or a gradual darkening as the shot goes black or to another color. Sound also fades in and out to convey the change.


A wipe that takes the shape of a shrinking or growing circle, depending on if the scene is opening or ending. Rarely used today but very common during the silent era.

J Cuts

An editing technique that allows the audience to first hear audio from a shot, and then see it.

Jump Cut

An abrupt cut that creates a lack of continuity between shots by leaving out parts of the action.

L Cut

An editing changeover between one shot and another in film, where the visual and audio shift at different times. Also called a split edit.

Matched Cut

A cut joining two shots with matching compositional elements. This helps to establish strong continuity of action. One of the more notable examples of this technique is from a famous scene in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”


A sequence of shots assembled in juxtaposition of one another to create an emotional impact, condense a story,  or convey an idea. A famous example is “Psycho’s” shower scene. WARNING: This scene contains graphic violent content and may be disturbing. hereView the scene .


Graphics or text that moves up or down the screen. This technique is typically used for credits by having text move from bottom to top.

Rough Cut

The first editing pass done for a film. (The former sentence is not entirely accurate as an Assembly Cut is the first editing pass done for a film, but it depends on how one defines editing, so I think this is o.k.).  A rough cut receives further polishing and editing before making its way out to audiences.

Sequence Shot

A long take composed of one shot that extends for an entire scene or sequence. Usually requires complex camera movements and action. Here is a notable example from GoodFellas. (This isn’t a term that is particularly important for an editor to know.)

Shot Reverse Shot

The alternating of over-the-shoulder-shots, usually used during a conversation between two characters.


The process of adding sound effects and music and/or enhancing the existing audio with effects.


The transition from one shot to another with a visible pattern or element. No longer used in today’s films but very common in early cinema.

Immerse yourself in the world of digital editing with our full-time, intensive editing workshop. Students will learn the fundamentals of storytelling and gain an understanding of the technical editing skills. Visit the 4-Week Digital Editing Workshop page to learn more.

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Interview With Editor Leander Sales

Leander SalesNYFA: Hi Leander, would you mind telling us a bit about your background and what drew you to filmmaking and editing in particular?

Leander Sales: I was born in Winston-Salem, NC. I attended University of North Carolina School of the Arts for a year then decided to move to New York City. I was very restless and desperate to see the world. After living in NYC for almost two years, I moved to Florence, Italy for two years. While in Florence, I attended an Italian language school, Centro per Stranieri. We had to watch a lot of Italian films as a way to constantly train our ears to the language and appreciate some of the Italian cinematic classics. These movies were very fascinating to me. Being in another country, having to deal with another culture, taught me so much about myself. I met many Italians who had many questions about America, about me, about slavery, American racism, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Jazz music. It was very rare for them to have an African-American living in Florence for two years. In fact, there was one other African-American living there for so long, about four years by the time I met her, Charlitta. She was an artist living there with her African boyfriend and we got together often to talk about everything under the moon. At some point, I came across a book, This Life, an autobiography about Sidney Poitier. I remember he wrote the best place to learn filmmaking is in the editing room. I had no idea of what an editing room was. I thought the director just went out and shot exactly what we saw on the screen. This made me very curious because I think Sidney Poitier is pretty smart and talented and if he said the best place to learn filmmaking is in the editing room then it must be true. I had not decided to become a filmmaker at this point but that phrase set off an insatiable curiosity. What is this editing room that Mr. Poitier says is so important?

NYFA: You started as an apprentice sound editor on Spike Lee’s School Daze. How did you land that job?

LS: I told my uncle, Ron Dortch, who’s a wonderful actor, about Sidney Poitier’s book and what he said about the editing room and my uncle told me he knew a sound editor. I bugged him to introduce me to him. His name was Rudy Gaskins. I asked him to let me sweep his editing room or run errands for him just so I could hang around his editing room. That didn’t workout because he was finishing the film he was working on and there was nothing to do, but he would keep me in mind since I was willing to work for free. What I didn’t know is that Rudy had gone to NYU with Spike Lee. A few weeks passed and I got a call from Rudy who was going to be working on School Daze and Spike would be looking for an apprentice sound editor. He gave me Spike’s office number. I called the office immediately and asked to speak with Spike. His office manager, Tracy Willard, told me to hold on and surprisingly, Spike came to the phone. I introduced myself and told him I would like to apply for the apprentice sound editing job. He told me to get in touch with Maurice Schell, the supervising sound editor. Tracy gave me the number and I called Maurice Schell and set up an interview. During the interview, he asked me what I had worked on and the room fell silent. I felt embarrassed. Maybe he noticed me squirming and searching for something to impress him. I said, “I’ve worked on nothing. You see, the last two years I’ve been traveling.” The entire fifteen minute interview, we talked about traveling, places he had traveled and places I had traveled. I think he spoke French because he had spent some time in France. I left his office thinking I wouldn’t get the job because I’d never worked on anything. I had no editing experience. A few days later, he called to tell me I got the job and it was a four month schedule and asked if I was available for the entire time. Hell yeah!!!! I was so excited! I was on time every day and didn’t mind working late. We were working at Sound One which has since gone out of business. I loved going to the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway, 7th floor. This is the building where Miles Davis met Duke Ellington for the first time. I met so many wonderful people in that building. After School Daze ended I worked on Full Moon Blue Water and met the legendary producer David Brown who is now deceased. After that movie, I got a call from Barry Brown, who had edited School Daze. He wanted to know if I was available to work on Do the Right Thing as apprentice picture editor. Hell yeah!!!!

NYFA: With Do the Right Thing recently celebrating its 25th anniversary last year, what opportunities do you see for African-American filmmakers that didn’t exist in 1989?

LS: More people are making digital movies and those directors and producers need editors. Filmmakers are crowd funding to get their movies made. There are reality shows and I know some African-American editors who are getting opportunities there. The are webisodes. There’s Netflix, Hulu and other internet companies producing original content and they all need editors. There are way more opportunities today.

What hurdles still exist for getting black voices on screen?

LS: There are still hurdles getting those stories on the screen. George Lucas couldn’t get a studio to back Red Tails, the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. He financed it himself. Selma is a great movie directed by Ava Duvernay, an African-American female director. Kevin Hart is building his brand. I’m very proud of Shonda Rhimes and what she’s doing on network TV. She’s a very talented writer/producer/showrunner. Lee Daniels’ new show Empire is doing great in the ratings. The Walking Dead has a very diverse cast. Ernest Dickerson, Spike’s former director of photography, directs some of those episodes. The small screens are more diverse than the big screen. Let me go in another direction for a minute. We have our first African-American president and Black people are under attack, especially Black males. For us, the question is bigger than Hollywood. We have to worry about returning home alive. We still have a long way to go.

NYFA: What did you learn working as an associate and assistant editor on such films as Malcolm X and Crooklyn that you found yourself applying as the editor on feature length films like Get on the Bus and the documentary Hookers at the Point?

LS: Working on those movies taught me about process and shaping the story. Each one had its own process. We would spend months editing, then we would do test screenings for the studios. That’s when we would screen for audiences who would fill out a questionnaire and then do a focus group Q and A. I found that part of the process to be very interesting. I loved watching people respond to the movie. I’m always thinking how an audience is going to respond to the movie I’m working on. It’s like sending your child out into the world. I hope they find wonderful friends to love them.

NYFA: You’ve worked extensively as a film editor, but also have directed two of your own films that were well-received, The Life I Meant to Live and Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf. What themes or messages do you seek to get across in your filmmaking?

LS: Don’t Let Your Meat Loaf was about three young comics trying to start a comedy club and failing, but not giving up. I think it’s important to get up after falling down. We’re all going to fall, but we’re not all going to get up. I want to be with the people who get up and keep going. I try to surround myself with people who get up after failure. Those people who stay down sometimes want you down there with them to keep them company. Life is way too short for that kind of pessimism. By nature, I’m a very optimistic person. The Life I Meant to Live is about living your life to the fullest. Most people don’t enjoy what they’re doing. I’ve been lucky enough to have found something that I really love. I’ve been to Africa six times and I know exactly who I am. When I think of our history, I think beyond slavery because I’ve been to Senegal, Ethiopia and Eritrea. I made some great discoveries about myself while traveling in Africa. People would look at me and start speaking to me in their native tongue. That’s a great feeling. To me, it says welcome home. You’ll notice that I have a habit of drifting into very personal stuff that you didn’t ask, but I think filmmaking is very personal. I wouldn’t want to work with a filmmaker who didn’t have a point of view.

NYFA: How do the skillsets required to see a film from pre- through post-production differ from those required of editing?

LS: When I’m directing, I’m thinking about editing and sometimes run the edit in my mind while I’m shooting, then when I actually start editing, I have to be objective. I always show the edit to someone who wasn’t part of the process in any way. I’ve even shown cuts to Facebook users who don’t know me. It’s easier to be objective when I’m not the director. The skillset as a director is having a vision and being passionate enough to see it through to the end. The skillset as an editor is to be an objective storyteller.

NYFA: Both in your work with Spike Lee and other filmmakers, what is an essential lesson you’ve learned in your career as an editor that you continue to apply to your work today?

LS: Nothing is too precious. If it’s not working, then cut it out. Some directors have to live with the footage for a certain amount of time before they’re ready to reshape the movie. The editor has to be sensitive to that process and the director has to trust the editor because they both should be trying make the best movie the footage will allow.

NYFA: You’ve worked with both traditional film editing and digital film editing. What are the main differences/advantages/disadvantages you’ve found in making the transition to digital?

LS: I had no problems going digital, but I’m glad I learned on film because shooting film is expensive and it really forces you consider what’s essential to the story. Syncing the footage took way longer in traditional film editing. Syncing digitally is super easy, screening digital dailies takes longer because much more is shot. On the flip side of that, I love the fact that anybody can pick up a camera or cell phone and go make a movie. Sometimes when I’m watching the news and someone records some incident on their cell otherwise we would’ve never seen. Very empowering.

NYFA: What film editors and/or filmmakers do you personally look up to, past and present?

LS: I am thankful to the filmmakers who took the time to train me, Kevin Lee (not related to Spike), Rudy Gaskins, Tula Goenka, Barry Brown, Sam Pollard, and Spike Lee. I respect many people, but it’s different when someone takes the time to get to know you and teach you.

NYFA: In teaching digital editing at NYFA, what do you think is the most crucial element or theory for students to understand about the editing process?

LS: I think it’s important to start with something you are passionate about. Passion goes a long way. I think we’re all experts at something. I love it when a student invites me into a world they are passionate about. Most teachers like learning knew things.

NYFA: It’s often said there are three distinct phases in creating a film: writing the script, filming the script, and then editing the footage. How would you define the role of an editor and how central is the editor in shaping the final tone and feeling of a movie?

LS: No audience wants to see your dailies. They only want to see a story that’s gone through the editing process. That tells you how important an editor is to the filmmaking process. There’s something magical about editing. Along with the director or producer, we select the best performance, shape the story, then pace it. If the audience is talking about the editing then we have not done our jobs well. They should be talking about the characters and the story.

NYFA: What is the best way to learn the craft and what tools should every aspiring editor be familiar with?

LS: Working as an assistant editor to a nurturing editor is the best way to learn the craft. Learn Avid, FCP and Premiere Pro, Protools but remember those are only tools to show people the art of storytelling that comes from your soul.

NYFA: Do you have any parting advice for students and individuals seeking a career in editing?

LS: Live your life to the fullest and at the end of the day you may have something to say.

How To Use Dissolves

Nice dissolve from Spaceballs

No, that’s not a low resolution photo. It’s a dissolve from Spaceballs!

What are dissolves?

A dissolve is a classic editing technique used to transition between shots, typically shots that bridge two scenes together. As opposed to a straight cut from one shot to another, a dissolve involves the gradual transition from the first image to the next. When an image dissolves into view from a black screen, it is called a Fade In, and when an image dissolves into blackness, it is called a Fade Out.

Dissolves were traditionally created by superimposing two separate images with an optical printer. With modern nonlinear editing, the effect can be overlaid onto any two shots with simple software.

How should you dissolve?

A dissolve has two visual components, two tools an editor has to create the dissolve: the images involved, and the length of the dissolve. The length of a dissolve is typically no more than a second or two, but can be much longer if the shots run long enough to allow it. A slow dissolve is an artistic choice and usually has some meaning behind the somewhat rare decision to use it.

While any two images can technically be connected by a dissolve, there is usually a purpose to using it rather than a straight cut. A good editor will know when a dissolve is appropriate:

When should you dissolve?

Dissolves are often used to show the passage of time. While the end of a scene can cut directly to the beginning of the next, typically a dissolve will be a clue to the audience that, like the real-time, gradual transition, some time has passed by.

What is being dissolved is a visual choice by the director, another tool in her or his large array of filmmaking techniques. A match or graphic dissolve is no different than a match cut—the specific images are being connected by some narrative or thematic throughline. When a dissolve is used, it is typically adding a certain weight or resonance to this throughline. For instance, a gradual dissolve from a mother reading an Army telegram to a scene of her son’s funeral. Time has passed between his burial and when she first heard the news of her son’s death, but the dissolve allows the audience some time to figure out what the mother is reading before they actually see the funeral. Once the funeral has faded fully into the next shot and scene, the audience has not only discerned what they are seeing, but, in a small way, has shared the mother’s tragic realization.

Again, the length of the dissolve comes into play as an artistic tool of the director and/or editor. A short transition, maybe a second long, gets the point across and focuses more on the shock of the mother’s letter and the son’s passing. A longer transition becomes more about watching the mother’s facial reaction and following her internal dialogue not just through the scene, but also into the implied emotions in the time up to the funeral.

A specific type of match dissolve is a dissolve between faces. Dissolving from one face to another can have a narrative significance concerning the characters, or they can transition between two images of the same character, allowing the audience to see the change of emotion and context. One of the most famous examples of this comes at the end of Saving Private Ryan, when the story transitions from World War II to several decades later. While the dissolve from Matt Damon’s face to another actor portraying his older self was done using state-of-the-art computers, the technique is still the same one used since the Silent Era.

Dissolves can be used within a scene, for instance, a character pacing around the house to show the passage of time and their boredom during this time, or to show a character’s gradual cleaning of a garage. This is an in-scene montage. Dissolves can be used in traditional montages as well, in lieu of cuts, morphing from scene to scene in rapid succession.

Who uses dissolves?

Dissolves were very popular in classic cinema, but have since fallen out of favor by most modern editors. One reason for this is the influence of the French New Wave on emerging filmmakers, expanding the use of jump cuts. Jump cuts can be visually jarring, and it took a generation who had grown up on movies to be savvy enough to follow the transitions without complaint.

Likewise, as each generation grows up on faster paced and more innovative visual styles, movies have generally sped up in tone and movement. The slower transition of dissolves between scenes can look lethargic and antiquated, though if executed the right way they are usually accepted by an audience with no problem.

Even television sitcoms as recent as a few years ago would use dissolves that have since been replaced by jump cuts and rapid pan swipes. Early episodes of Seinfeld, a show that revolutionized three-camera sitcoms with its lightning pace, that use dissolves can make the scene feel like it’s from an entirely different show.

However, it’s the director’s and editor’s prerogative to use dissolves, and there is still a place for them in movies and television. For an artist and visual storyteller, going with your gut can never hurt, and if a dissolve feels right, it probably is. After all, everything is cyclical, and dissolves will probably be back in style sooner or later. You might even seem ahead of the curve.