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Fast vs. Slow: Video Editing Pacing Tips

This quick edit tip is all about speed of your cuts. Whether you’re cutting fast…or you’re cutting slow. Remember: keep the pace appropriate — too fast and you’ll lose people, too slow and you’ll bore them.

Check out this short video where we’ll tell you a couple of our best pacing practices…

As a general rule, it’s better to cut a scene too fast than too slow. There’s nothing worse than boring your audience. That said, confusing people by playing a scene too fast is a close second.

So what does this mean for us as editors? Let’s dig into the topic a little bit.

As an editor, you should be aware that in general, the pace is picking up. Attention spans are getting shorter every day. People have become used to fast-cutting. According to a study conducted at Cornell University, the average shot length has decreased from 12 seconds in 1930 to only about 2.5 seconds as of today.

This means that viewers can process information much more quickly.

Our internal tempo and our ability to absorb information have both massively increased. There’s obviously still a time and place for slower shots but on AVERAGE, things have gotten a bit quicker.

Now, let’s say you’re working on a short promo that’s 30 seconds or less.

An example of a slower paced video, broken down in non-linear editing software
Here’s an example of our promo with slower pacing

Because you’re trying to show as much information as possible, often you’ll want to remove most of the dead space. But, the second you get into longer pieces like full trailers, short films, features and docs, it becomes about knowing when to compress and tighten, vs. letting the cut breathe so the viewer can feel an emotion or contemplate an event.

A promotional video is edited to make it faster paced
And another shot after it’s been tightened up

Remember pacing isn’t always related to the actual timing of your cutting. In fact, it’s often more related to how quickly you deliver plot points and story information.

As a general rule, you’ll want to make the audience think. Part of maintaining interest and creating engagement is letting your viewer connect some of the pieces for themselves. By leaving a few lingering questions and bits of unresolution in the edit, you’ll keep the audience on their toes and constantly thinking, which will give the illusion of a quicker pace throughout the film.


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