Week 12: Video storytelling elements when editing

Photo by pikrepo


As video is a visual medium, what is seen on screen is of the utmost importance.

You can save uninteresting, badly lit, blurry, wrongly formatted footage or even a lack of footage by using editing elements to help tell your story. 

Opening Title

Adding an opening title introduces us to what we are about to view.  It can also add time if your video is too short.  An Opening Title does not have to be right at the beginning. You can start your video with footage and then a few seconds/minutes in (depending on the final duration) add the title. This technique is often used for movies and TV series. On TV it allows us to be reminded of where the last episode ended before we get into this episode.

An Opening Title can be on a plain or patterned background, over footage/stills or designed in Photoshop, After Effects or Motion etc.  It can be plain or moving text.  Just make sure you choose a font that suits your story.


Are the list of who did what on the film/TV show. These include Cast, Writer, Director, Producer, Camera, Cinematographer (DOP or DP), Editor, Music, Sound, Set Designer, Wardrobe etc.  When films first began most credits were screened at the opening of a movie. These days it’s just a few at the beginning. E.g. Lead actors, director (A film by is often used), writer, producer and DOP (Director of Photography).

All credits (including those already mentioned at the beginning of the film) appear at the end. They are usually scrolling credits – moving up on the screen. Plain white text on a black background.

Of course you can change that and do a style that you prefer. Last week we touched on having titles/credits that are done during the filming process. A danger here is that during the edit someone may no longer be on board or a new person is added to finalise things and you haven’t included them, so you have to re-shoot.

Text On Screen

Probably the most famous text on screen is the opening Super crawl on Star Wars. This crawl is coupled with the iconic Star Wars title logo and the instantly recognisable music.

It crawls at a slow enough speed that is able to be read by everyone. The spacing between letters, words and paragraphs makes it easy to read. Though the background is basically black, having distant stars on it (Space) sets up what the movie is about. The use of yellow makes the text easy to read and separates the text from the white stars.

NOTE: Don’t make the mistake of moving text so fast that it can’t be read. You might be a speed reader but many of the audience won’t be. If they can’t read it, they already feel left out and possibly negative about your film. If text is all bunched up, it’s very hard to read.

Text does not have to scrawl/crawl. It can be static. You can fade in/fade out or cross dissolve from one credit to another or use any other transition that suits. Text doesn’t have to be in a straight line or centred.

Please put all text (including opening title) in the Title Safe or Action Safe area. This is so that all text will be seen no matter what device it is screened on. Not all devices or TVs are exactly the same ratio. 

WATCH: How to find and use Title Safe in Premiere Pro

If you have problem footage (e.g. out of focus) or you were unable to capture the footage you needed, possibly due to weather conditions, you can use text on screen to say what you would have liked to show.

Split Screen

Sometimes using split screen can add to your story by showing 2 or more things at once. 

Another good use of Split Screen – If you’re editing in 16:9 landscape and you have some footage or a still image that has been shot in portrait, you can place the portrait footage on one side and text on the other. You can align it on either the Left or Right side.

NOTE: Do not try to make a portrait shot fit a landscape frame by stretching it.

Image from a very decent Premiere Bro tutorial


Are used to go from one shot to another. To blend so the edits don’t jar. They can also be used to create a style or a mood for your video. But be careful. Very showy transitions can distract from a good story. It suddenly becomes all about the wiz-bang transitions and not what you are trying to tell.

Cutting from one shot to another is usually the cleanest way to edit so that your story flows but if you feel your story would benefit from a transition, try and stick with the plain, trusted ones. e.g Fade In/Fade Out and Dissolve.

If you use a series of still images fading or dissolving to link them can help create a mood and rhythm.

Often at the start and end of a video there is a fade in and a fade out.

What’s a Subtitle?

Image by Charade (Stanley Donen), available wikimedia commons

It is text displayed on screen of the spoken dialogue or commentary in films, television programs, video games etc. Subtitles are usually displayed across the bottom of the screen and sync up with the timing of dialogue spoken in the action. They are used when the dialogue is not easy to understand (a heavy accent, bad recording of actual event in a documentary) or a translation of a foreign language.

They can also be viewed by those hard of hearing.

What is a Super?

Super is short for superimposed meaning Text that is superimposed over an image.

When establishing a new location, time and event you may see a super like this:

Westminster Abbey, 2 June 1953, Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II


House of Horrors, Salem, Massachusetts, 1692

NOTE: In a screenplay a SUPER may be called a LEGEND


Music is used to create mood, to heighten our emotions. In a horror video it serves to add tension. As legendary Aussie film scorer, Peter Best, said, “With the right horror music, you can make the peeling of a banana scary!”

Music can make us feel romance, fear, excitement, confusion, hope, serenity, wonder & mystery.
It can be used to fill in a lull in the footage or to announce what is coming next.

Under an opening title it can serve to get the audience ready for what they are about to experience and under the final credits it can either ease us out of the movie or remind us of a part of it.

If you have a series of images, cut them on the beat. This feels more natural. Think of it like marching or dancing to the beat. If it’s not on the beat, it’s all over the place! 

If you want your video to end when the music does – say with a crescendo – place the crescendo right at the end of your video and then pull the music back towards the beginning of the timeline.  Now place the opening music at the start and pull it toward the end. If it’s a fairly short video the 2 music clips will meet somewhere in the middle. Where they meet add an audio cross dissolve. Try and have the 2 music clips meet where it is not noticeable on screen and make sure it is long enough not to be too noticeable.

What is the best music to use? The answer is …. royalty and copyright free or Creative Commons licenced! Or make sure you have permission to use the music. You can also purchase music on the net that allows you to use it when and where you want. Most is not very pricey and on a professional job you add the cost to the client’s invoice!

NOTE: If you want to make the audience scared try using music that reminds us of our heart beats. One of the most famous is the theme to the movie Jaws. And it’s so menacing, like a huge hungry shark!

Listen to the first 40 secs:


Sound Effects add so much to a video. All films and TV Series have many added SFX. On the set of a Police Station, while the actors go about with the daily dramas many extras pretend to do things. In the edit SFX fill the empty sound space and make it sound real. They add ringing phones, coffee machines, outside street sounds, e.g. people calling out, dogs barking, cars travelling/braking/swerving, babies crying, planes flying overhead etc.

SFX can make a transition amazing. If you have a transition that shoves the last clip to the side to be replaced by the new clip try adding a “Whoosh” SFX exactly as the transition takes place. 


SFX that are done by a specialist Foley Artist. They watch the footage and make sounds to match what’s happening on screen. These sounds are recorded and edited in.

You can do your own simple foley. A waterfall can just be a hose pouring into a bucket. In a fight scene Hollywood makes the sound of a punch in the head by punching a cabbage. A bone breaking, is done by snapping a piece of celery.

The first few minutes of this Youtube video gives you a good idea of foley in action:

Colour Grading/Colour Correction

Good colour correction is an art that takes a lot of practise to get right. This is needed when skin tones are not right, or the colours in different shots do not match – this could be due to parts of the same scene being shot on different days/times. On a movie colour grading/correction is a job for a specialist.

But there are some quite simple things you can do to give a look or feel to all or part of your video.

If you’ve shot in colour and you want it in Black & White you can change it in Premier Pro. Or you can saturate washed out colour to make it pop! If it looks too flat, try upping the contrast.

A Vignette

A vignette is a border used to either focus the viewer on the action or to make it look like an old movie.

Watch to 2:40:

Using a Variety of Editing Tricks

In the following silent short video – The Rose – quite a few of the elements mentioned above help bring the video to life. Keep an eye out for the following…

  • Black & White – turning it into black & white immediately makes it appear old
  • Music – Appropriate music is used. Notice how music fits the action and mood
  • SFX – Heighten actions, adds tension, comedy
  • SFX – old movie projector. This lies underneath the opening title and the closing credits. It  gives the feeling that you are watching a genuine old movie. It serves to bring you into the story and to wrap it up
  • Vignette – makes it appear old
  • Title cards – All text is in the appropriate period style. With no spoken dialogue, adding silent movie style Caption Cards throughout helps to tell the story and add an authentic touch. The list of credits are not scrolling but instead are fade out/fade on stylised cards
  • Cutting/dropping out a few random frames (both video and audio) – makes it look and sound damaged with age
  • Adding Aged Footage Effect (scratches, jumping frames, hair in the gate) adds to the ageing effect

Filling the frame with Portrait Mode

Image from the same tutorial by Premiere Bro

You will have no doubt have seen on the TV news footage that has been sent in by viewers who were present when a newsworthy story took place. Unfortunately most of this footage has been shot by amateurs and it’s not always great. Plus most of the time it has been shot in portrait mode and our TVs are landscape. If portrait or old (more square) 4:3 footage is stretched to fill a 16:9 landscape screen, it looks terrible. Everything is widened and flattened. Never do this! Always keep the aspect ratio true.

So do what the TV stations do. They place the actual footage in the centre of the frame and use the same footage as a background.

How to do it

On the timeline directly below the portrait clip, place the exact same footage on another layer. Enlarge the lower piece of footage (keeping the aspect ratio true) until the sides of it fill the full screen. Now you are not left with black on either side.

On the background clip, drop the Opacity level – to darken it. Experiment a bit to get the best look. Now add Blur to it. Again experiment to see how much Blur works best. You may like to add drop shadows to the foreground clip as well. 

Image from the Premiere Bro tutorial

Shoot 10 -15 sec of video in portrait mode. Make sure there is some movement.

Bring the footage into editing software set for 16:9 Landscape. Now as described above, fill the entire frame with the video by having the portrait footage in the centre of frame and a background of the same footage filling the frame.

In the video he doesn’t change the Opacity level or add Drop Shadows. Try both of those to see what look you like best. 

Now add Music. Try a few different styles to see how the music changes the mood. Add SFX.

WATCH: Cinematic camera moves with a phone


Assessment #2 – Video Story 3-5 mins is due in 2 weeks

Please make sure it is a .mp4


  • A piece to camera
  • Voice Over
  • Closeup/s
  • Location shot
  • An interview would be great! This can be done with text on screen if you can’t organise being close to someone due to social distancing. If you have an issue with this we can discuss it. With rules changing so often if can be a bit confusing to work around.


  • Finished Video File – .mp4
  • Evaluation of the process and the finished product (200 words)
  • Script
  • Production Sheet – (that will be given to you and explained next week)
  • Research and other notes

All files submitted must include your name, class and assessment number in the file name.

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