April 08, 2016

Two Simple Film Editing Techniques to Achieve Fluidity

By Robert Hardy 3 min read

Mastering the art of editing is tricky, and when you edit two or more shots together, but something just feels "off," it can be nerve-wracking trying to figure out how exactly to make those shots seamlessly flow together. In a new excerpt from his in-depth online editing course, Inside the Edit, our friend Paddy Bird shares two of his best film editing techniques for creating fluidity. Check him out:

I highly recommend watching his tutorials. Here are the two techniques that Paddy outlines in the lesson.


In traditional editing parlance, rolling simply refers to J and L cuts, where you use the rolling trim tool in your NLE to shorten or extend the video track (or audio) irrespective of the attached sync. The idea is to make your video and audio cuts happen separately. One of the big reasons that rolling can help you achieve a sense of fluidity in your editing is that it can feel jarring to the viewer when both the video and the audio are cut at the same time. This can draw attention to the editing itself and distract your audience from the story, which is something that you want to avoid at all costs. However, when you separate and roll your audio and video, it essentially tricks the brain into associating the two clips with one another, therefore gelling them together.

One thing to note with rolling — and this is one of the primary things that separates it from the next technique — is that your sequence will stay the same length when you use the Roll tool.


Paddy's second recommended film editing technique here is one that you've probably seen thousands of times. It's called "underlaying," and in essence, it means pulling the audio and video from one clip beneath another. Simple enough, right? Unlike rolling, where the sequence stays the same length when you underlay two clips, you actually shorten the sequence. One of the most practical applications of underlaying is when you need to gel together an establishing shot of a location and some sort of interior shot. Think of the countless times you've seen a wide exterior shot of a skyscraper, then heard the voice of a character (or the hustle and bustle of a busy office) right before it cuts to an interior shot. That, my friends, is underlaying, and it can be tremendously useful for connecting disparate shots.

There are two additional benefits besides gelling shots together that you can achieve with underlaying.

  • You can trim time away time from sequences in a way that actually heightens the craft, rather than diminishing it. This is great for broadcast editors who need to hit precise times with their content without cutting away too much good stuff.
  • Underlaying can also help you hide unusable footage that has good audio. Just slip the audio beneath a related shot and cut to the new shot once the footage becomes usable again.

So there you have it. Two film editing techniques that can help you achieve fluidity. These work regardless of whether you're cutting narratives, documentaries, commercials, corporate films, or anything else. Now go forth and make your edits seamless and fluid.

This article originally appeared on Robert's site, The Filmmaker's Process

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