Is Fan Video Editing an Art?

In short – yes. But allow me to prove my point.

By ‘fan video editing’ I mean the editing of those videos which feature scenes from one or more (but usually one) TV series or movie while a background music is playing. Youtube is full of such videos mostly for teenage TV series. Making a good fan music video (FMV) depends on how well you have matched the video (the scenes from the TV series) with the audio (the background song). In the production process there are a lot of things to be considered and how an editor is going to go about them depends on their artistic vision. Hence fan video editing is an art.

Basically there are two types of fan vids – the ones in which the feeling of the song is represented by what is happening in the scenes chosen or the ones where the feeling of the song is represented by editing effects such as speed of scene change, colouring, transitions etc. Usually editing to slow songs goes with the first editing style while editing to fast songs goes better with the second one.

An example of fast editing

Slower editing

Slow editing

An example of bad editing – nothing matches anything

Any editing to this song would be slow but this is bad because it has too man repetitive scenes

Here is an inexhaustive list of all the things a FMV editor has to think about:

Song-wise

The Tempo

If the song is fast then the editing should be fast two i.e with a lot of action happening in the scenes of choice or with a fast editing of a lot of uneventful scenes. Fast editing means a lot of effects – lightening, colouring, transitions, overlaps etc. A song could have fast beat but slower vocals or the other way round which would result in two quite different types of editing. Within a song there are parts when the beat is at the front while the vocals step back and the other way round – the editing should be adjusted to that and follow the beat when it is at the front and then follow the tempo of the vocals when they are at the front despite their rhythm being different (which it usually is).

The Emotional Impact

The most emotionally impactful parts of the song fit better with close-ups of the lead actors, mass scenes (ex. fights) or key moments from the film than with simply fast editing (a lot of scenes changing). The difficult part is when there aren’t enough close-ups or the close-ups are not expressive enough. And then you have to thin of how the scene where these close-ups were taken from would fit in the general emotional message of the song.

Video-wise

Which Scenes

When selecting scenes for the FMV you could line them in order of appearance i.e you could start with scenes from episode 1 and go chronologically to the last episode (to narrate a story) or you could not do that. The difference is quite big because if you don’t want to be led by the chronology of the story you have no other choice but to rely entirely on the lead of your emotions and how you feel about the song and the video source (TV series, movie, etc.) which is messier but produces better results.

How Many

For editing to the fast parts of the song you don’t necessarily have to include a large number of scenes. Instead you could use the same scene but shot from various angles or sides if the source material allows it. Ultimately the video should match the intensity of the song which could be achieved by including a lot of scenes in the video part or by adding effects to otherwise a small number of scenes. The camera work – steady or shaking or spinning camera – could also contribute to successful pairing of the video and audio. Additionally, the effect of shaking camera could be “artificially” created with the video editing software.

My favourite approach to video selection is to include scenes where the movements of the actors follow the “movement” of the song. In a way the characters dance /move to the rhythm pf the song. But source material rarely allows it. A fair amount of such editing style could be seen in the video below.

The important thing is that the overall sentiment of the video matches the sentiment of the audio. It is difficult to make an emotionally impactful MV of action movie to a ballad song. Your only option is to use the non-action scenes (the ones where people talk important things) but they are more often than not insufficient for editing to a whole song. You have a whole song to edit to not just a few seconds and that’s problem number 1. I have so many videos edited with holes – I have edited the first 30 secs and then there’s a gap of 40 secs where I have no idea what to put and then there’s the chorus which is perfectly edited.

Another key point in editing is to match the video effects to this sentiment. For example romantic videos could be coloured in pink, yellow or light purple. More “serious” videos could be party discoloured i.e they would appear more black and white (but not completely black and white). If you make a FMV out of different movies this usually means that each of the movies you use has its own colour palette and since your final products should have one consistant colour palette that means a lot of colour adjustments should be made.

What I am trying to say is that FMV editing is not a mechanical task, it’s not a question of how much patience you have to deal with Sony Vegas. It’s about creating a whole new product and the only thing to guide you through this chaos of things you have to think about is your feel about the audio and the video. Bottomline: we have a audio-visual product created with the emotions of the editor as a guide. How is that not a form of art?

Notice how in the original “All the things she said” video the beginning there’s a lot of action (as so is the song) but here for the fastest part of the beginning we have the same scene where two girls sit and look at each other. Normally that would feel totally mismatched but not here. Why?  Because a) it’s an emotional moment and b) because of the effects added.

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