LET’S MAKE A TRADE: Video Essay

♪ I’ve got the (editing) skills you’ve got the looks
Let’s make lots of money
You’ve got the brawn I’ve got the (editing) skills
Let’s make lots of money ♪

Melody’s Pet Shop Boys

Ds106. Hmm. I have a hunch something very exciting is going to happen in the Ds106 market! This week, I started off by making a video essay on the 1983 film, Trading Places! This movie is on our loft TV all the time. My mom even named her car Winthorpe after a character in the movie, yet somehow we don’t own this movie and I had to rent it.

I chose this film because it has a lot of symmetry and contrasting elements (the firm in the movie is even named, “Duke & Duke”), and I was sure that it would have a lot of interesting camera and editing work. I would’ve won that bet; it was hard to zero in on any one scene because there were so many good ones.

I decided to highlight the scene where Randolph and Mortimer go to the jail to pick up Valentine. I wasn’t able to download the clip directly, so I used a screen recorder to get the scenes I wanted. I then imported my clips to After Effects and started cutting up the clips based on the script I had written. I then recorded my analysis and imported that into AE.

Next is the fun part- playing around with keyframes! (I’m thankful to have taken Motion Design). I sped up frames, freezed frames, scaled frames, and reversed frames to achieve the timing that I wanted. Keyframes make it easier to time dialogue to a clip; I didn’t have to worry too much about how my analysis would sync up with the scenes because I could always “hit pause” on the action. This is a tedious process though, because it involves a lot of scrubbing through sections of audio and visuals, and you can only look at a small section at a time because AE has trouble rendering sound with clips while editing. Pre-rendering a piece sometimes helps, but not always.

For some final details, I added text and music to the beginning and end of my essay.

Video Essay:

I learned so much while doing this essay, and even before that when I was researching video editing and deciding on a movie. I took a film class why back when, but I had forgotten a lot of the key concepts that Ebert brings up in his article, How the Read a Movie, or in watching Tony Zhou’s videos.

When you’re watching a movie, you hardly even notice the subtle details of editing, but when you freeze frames and pick apart details, you start to notice the conscious decisions that were made post shooting. I never even noticed how symmetrical frames are in Trading Places until I watched it with a critical eye, or how important the chair props are! Where a character sits really does say a lot about that character.

I know one thing though: I certainly wouldn’t want to trade places with anyone, and I wouldn’t get into a stranger’s car- not even for a whole bottle of whiskey and a box of cigars!

This Post Has 6 Comments

    1. Thank you! I’m really glad I took a class where I learned how to edit video, or else I’d be in agony city right about now, lol

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