Jan Lourens Feat5

The Art of Action Editing Student Interview: Jan-Lourens van der Merwe

Today we have the pleasure of speaking with Jan-Lourens, a recent graduate of our full training course, The Art of Action Editing.

Jan-Lourens joined Film Editing Pro in March of 2016. Recently, he submitted his cut for review by our team of editors and we were extremely impressed.

We decided to spend some time talking with Jan-Lourens about his process, the techniques he used while editing and what he found helpful in the course.

Jan discusses everything from cutting music, to sound design choices, to recording ADR and adding visual effects.

Let’s get started by taking a look at Jan’s cut.

Final Edited Scene by Jan-Lourens

Here is the final edited scene as cut by Jan, after completing The Art of Action Editing.

Turn up your sound and check out the 1:54 piece below…

Pretty cool stuff.

Let’s get to know Jan-Lourens a bit more and dive into some of the technical details of the cut.

Meet the Editor

FEP:  Can you tell us a bit about yourself? Where are you from? What do you do for a living? What got you into editing?

JL:  I have a pretty heavy Afrikaans (that’s a language) name, so drawing from single name legends like Madonna or Cher, I introduce myself as Jan. So don’t worry about trying to figure out the pronunciation of my full name.

My mother told me that in my prepubescent years I refused to learn how to read. I thought why would I want to read a story if I could just watch one! So as any smart parent does, my mom used her superior intellect to trick me into reading. She bribed me with movies. She promised that if I learned how to read I could rent one movie for every book I read.

She gravely underestimated my love for moving pictures.

By the end of the first week I slammed three books down in front of her and said I’d be waiting in the car. She had to end the deal a few weeks later after I was slaying five books a week. So I’m not exaggerating when I say, I’ve never wanted to be involved in anything other than things involving frame rates.

“I’ve never wanted to be involved in anything other than things involving frame rates.”

My wife and I recently immigrated to Vancouver, Canada but I was born and raised in South Africa. There I finished my honours degree in Film and Television Production.

From my first year of studies I was involved in film by working on set of features and making my own short films for school. I finished my studies in December 2010 and started working full time in January 2011. Between then and now there was an ocean of music videos, corporates, pilots, TV shows, a kids DVD and a feature film.

FEP:  What inspired you to enroll in The Art of Action Editing? How did you like it? What did you learn?

JL: I love to keep learning, so after immigrating I had some time on my hands and when I saw the course it looked great and I knew I wanted some of that! It’s really affordable and you have the freedom do it at your own pace.

I really enjoyed the course. The lessons are thorough and on-point. I would without a doubt recommend it to an entry level or experienced editor or any curious mind. The principles are universal and are not restricted to only fight scenes.

“I really enjoyed the course. The lessons are thorough and on-point. I would without a doubt recommend it to an entry level or experienced editor or any curious mind. The principles are universal and are not restricted to only fight scenes.”

The biggest thing I took away from the course is the simulation of camera movement and shakes. The footage offers great moments that gave me the opportunity to really develop an understanding of how valuable it is. I’ve never noticed how much this effect is used but since the course I’ve been seeing it all the time!

Art of Action Editing - Student - Jan-Lourens

Screenshot of Jan’s finished fight scene cut

FEP:  You did an amazing job editing your fight scene in the course. Let’s talk about your cut a bit. The first thing I noticed when reviewing your cut was your music choice. It works really well in the piece. The peaks, valleys, starts and stops all occur at the right moments and greatly enhance the cut. Tell us a bit about how you created your music bed.

JL:  Music paints pictures in my head. Since I was young I would dream up music videos for my favourite bands. The older I got the more my understanding of the structure of music grew and the more detailed those ideas became. So you could say I’ve been training my ear to tell my eye what will work at what point for a very long time and vice versa.

One of the first things I did when I started to learn editing is, I took some of my favourite films and music and edited music videos out of them. When I started working full time, one of our company’s main focus areas was music videos, so I slotted in there perfectly. So it’s not that I used a super power-up or a special secret method, it’s just a skill I’ve cultivated over the years.

As you can see on the screenshot I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. It’s all about the skill that anyone can cultivate.

The course offers a lot of creative freedom so as I got to know the footage I started hearing music in my head that got me pumped. All I had to do is find it and BAM! Bass drop on Dan’s punch.

Art of Action Editing - Student Jan-Lourens - Music Editing

Detail view of the music tracks

FEP:  Throughout the cut, it sounds like you recorded some new lines with the thugs cursing at Dan and Erika yelling. Can you talk a bit about why you chose to add them, how you recorded them and what you did to help them blend well with the scene?

JL:  It all comes back to character. I wanted to use every opportunity I had to squeeze some more juice out of the characters.

Would a thug be quiet and throw methodical punches or would he act on instinct which includes crudeness? Dan’s character is the one that focuses on his actions, his breathing and his surroundings, that’s why every time he takes a hit it’s because he was caught off guard. The thugs on the other hand make noise and just throw punches hoping they land one.

No matter how small it might seem, everything in a scene should support a character’s essence and by making use of those opportunities you can add more depth to a character. For instance, we have a character called Mouth. His name almost gives you everything you need to know, so in support of his character most of the thug vocals I added are his.

“No matter how small it might seem, everything in a scene should support a character’s essence and by making use of those opportunities you can add more depth to a character.”

For the thugs’ vocals I found sound effects online but for Erica I recorded a friend using my cell phone. Phones these days are such useful tools that many of us don’t utilize. Obviously it’s not applicable to every situation, especially not big budget stuff, but if you understand how to adapt your surroundings, like throwing mattresses and blankets against the walls of your pantry, you have a makeshift place to record a line or two if you don’t have a budget or time for something more ‘professional’.

This is guerrilla filmmaking at its best but that also means trial and error comes with the territory. In this case there were enough layers of sound effects to mask the shortcomings of my recording and with some manipulation of the track itself, I made something usable.

I just used the pitch shifter effect and seeing as Erica’s voice is never really properly established it wasn’t difficult to get it to a point where it sounded believable. I also added a police siren and a dog barking in the opening shot to establish an element of danger.

FEP:  There is some good use of time manipulation in the slow-down while Dan is on the ground around 00:45. How did you manipulate your picture, music and sound design to enter and exit the slowdown?

JL:  I used Premiere Pro’s native Speed/Duration option in combination with a nifty little time/frame manipulation plugin called Twixtor by RE:Vision. To answer the rest of the question would be to answer what was said in the course.

FEP:  It looks like you added some lens flare effects in a few areas of the cut. Can you talk a bit about how you created them?

JL:  Red Giant has a huge variety of tools and plugins that editors are poorer without. It’s on the pricey side for a freelancer but man does it have the ability to add some spunk to an edit. It has resurrected many of my epic fails in the past.

In this case I used the plugin Knoll Light Factory. It’s super convenient seeing as it’s in Premiere itself and I don’t have to use other means outside of Premiere that can become quite cumbersome.

The customization is epic and it has a huge variety of great presets if you want to be quick about it. I didn’t want to use too many because flares can become unnatural and gimmicky fairly quickly if you don’t have an understanding of the nature of flares.

I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve learned to find a balance.

Creating lens flares with Knoll Light Factory by Red Giant

Creating lens flares with Knoll Light Factory by Red Giant

FEP:  You crafted a very cool flash-back / dream sequence when Dan is hit with the bottle. Can you tell us a bit about how you manipulated the picture and audio to create that moment in the cut?

JL:  First off, my motivation for why I did it was because of the creative freedom one is given in the course, I wanted to use the opportunity to create something that both looked cool and added to the characters.

Included in the footage that’s required for the course there is footage that never comes up in the lessons. As an editor, when there’s an opportunity to create something cool with extra or seemingly useless footage, it’s a blast!

I also wanted to capitalize on that moment to speak of Dan’s motivation for fighting in the first place.

Ultimately he’s protecting Erica and he’s reminded of that. She’s also the one that snaps him out of his incoherent state which adds more relevance to her character. By helping Dan in the fight, she in turn shares in the victory, making her a key part of the story’s resolution and not just a victim of circumstance.

For the shots of the cityscapes, I used the film flashes that are part of the actual footage which served as awesome transitions. I also used Dutch tilts to portray the characters’ confusion.

With the shots of Dan and Erica I slowed the footage down by 20% and dropped the saturation.

The one lens flare I used in the sequence is an overlay video from Rampant Design. They have awesome effects and video overlays that can significantly enhance your picture.

I also added extra grain on all the shots to make it more distorted because when you’ve been hit over the head with something that made you kinda pass out, I doubt you’re going to have crystal clear images bopping around in your head.

I used effects on every piece of sound in there. Nothing could sound like it would in reality because that’s not where Dan is at, that’s not what he would be hearing. The biggest component was adding reverb.

Dan is dazed and confused and his memories are jumbled and distant, so the sound had to support that.

“I used effects on every piece of sound in there. Nothing could sound like it would in reality because that’s not where Dan is at, that’s not what he would be hearing. The biggest component was adding reverb.

Dan is dazed and confused and his memories are jumbled and distant, so the sound had to support that.”

Art of Action Editing - Student - Jan-Lourens - Sound Design and Effects

Crafting a simulated flashback with audio effects and filters

The tone starts off silent but builds up to Dan being snapped back into reality by Erica calling to him. Her voice starts off soft and distant, but as he starts regaining consciousness he hears her more clearly, indicating he’s returning to reality. I also muffled the characters’ vocals by using the Lowpass effect that eliminates frequencies above the specified Cutoff frequency which in this case was high frequencies.

One can sometimes hear a heartbeat when your ears are blocked so seeing as this guy took a big one to the head I added his heartbeat that starts off calm but rises as he returns to reality and becoming aware of the danger. The music is completely cut when Dan exits reality but as he comes-to, the final piece of the music starts off very soft and gradually rises.

Gradually becoming aware of something can add extra impact to the moment that it’s building up to, so my aim was when we arrive at the ‘foot-to-the-face’ moment one would go:

“Oh daaaaamn! That guy got knocked the hell out!”

FEP:  Is there anything else you’d like to mention about your editing process? Any tips or suggestions for other editors?

JL:  All the best advice is in the course’s lessons.

Every nugget of wisdom editors need is there, so I don’t want to repeat it and attempt to look all fancy and wise, but I can share from my experience.

No one is born a great painter, musician or editor.

The people that are great at what they do are that way because they persevered through the dark night of the soul and they’ve been doing it for a long time. All the greats started off useless, but they didn’t stay that way.

“No one is born a great painter, musician or editor. The people that are great at what they do are that way because they persevered…”

If you’re feeling useless, it’s okay, you’ll get past the ‘maybe I should have listened to my school counsellor and become a professional goat herder’ phase.

Just never stop fighting.

If you’re still in the opening credits of life, practice editing by cutting a cool anime or movie with some music.

For me, the most important thing to remember is, editing isn’t about being able to use all the keyboard shortcuts or being the foremost authority on every single technical aspect, it’s about understanding story. Two books every storyteller needs to read irrespective of position, post or part; ‘Save The Cat’ by Blake Snyder and ‘Story’ by Robert McKee.

FEP:  Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, Jan-Lourens! Do you have a website or contact method you’d like to leave for people who want to get in touch with you for work or otherwise?

JL:  Thanks for a great course and I’m glad you enjoyed my cut enough to have me slap some sentences together that will hopefully be helpful.

The fastest way to get hold of me would be by email:

88janlourens@gmail.com

and by connecting with me on LinkedIn:

https://ca.linkedin.com/in/jan-lourens-van-der-merwe-48678417

Wrap Up

Thanks so much for joining us today! I hope you enjoyed this interview with recent Film Editing Pro graduate, Jan-Lourens van der Merwe.

If you’re interested in learning more about our professional video editing courses, sign up on the right to receive our 50 Editing Tips and be added to our newsletter.