Rhythm as an Editor

I don’t usually get asked, “How did you become a video editor?” very often. Which, I guess hasn’t really created scenarios where I have had to do a deep dive internally and really understand how I got to be in the editor’s chair I am sitting in today.

Recently, without being asked, I have been thinking a lot about my path to becoming a video editor and where that started. I think for most, it’s an organic interest in television or film that (hopefully) leads to an apprenticeship, but for me, it started with Turntablism.

Turntablism is defined as, “art of manipulating sounds and creating new music, sound effects, mixes and other creative sounds and beats, typically by using two or more turntables and a cross fader-equipped DJ mixer.” Let’s focus on that word “manipulating.” “Skratching,” for me, was the dominant method of manipulating sounds on the turntable. Moving the vinyl record back and forth at different speeds, velocities with the goal to produce a rhythmic sound that is pleasing to the ears. The sounds aren’t as melodic as a piano or a guitar (however, still surprising), so the rhythm and the pacing of what you create is paramount, otherwise it’s just noise. Kind of like video editing!

When I am editing, I am “skratching” video files, I am usually “scrubbing back and forth” in order to “drop” the “sample” on top of a music bed/track. All of this while being mindful of rhythm, pacing and flow and trying to create something pleasing for the ears and eyes. If you are out of sync, or your pacing is off with a skratch, it’s not going to sound suitable and you’ll probably lose the interest of your audience. With any video, you have to keep things fresh for your viewer, hold their attention and tap into their emotions. When I hear a nice skratch combo, I can’t help but get excited and just want to see what the DJ will do next! When I watch a heartfelt video/film, I will get teary-eyed and probably engage in conversation about the feature. With any video edit, your choice of elements— video, sound, vfx— all have to work together for it to be a solid viewing experience, otherwise, it’s just a video.

I consider myself to be a self-taught video editor. I have gone through different on-board trainings for news stations and production houses, but I can’t say I have ever had an apprenticeship. It took me nine years of editing to realize where it all started. While they are two different worlds, the methods of execution for both video editing and skratching are quite similar.

It’s all about the rhythm.