it's all about the art of storytelling

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The Future

This is an important and impressive piece of technology news in our video industry. (Cannot not share)


“It will allow smartphones to do real 4K resolutions in video mode without the kind of massive quality loss at low bitrates”

“H.265 supports up to 8K and in Japan trials are underway to broadcast digital 8K feeds to the home.”

I wonder if technology is going in the right direction by designing smaller and smaller elements for this overcrowding world… does it mean that we should also re-look into all other aspect of our lives by reducing the size? Even with the amount of time we spend on editing or working per say?

When the size is smaller, with the same amount of container, we can load more stuff.  So… when we spend less time in the editing suite, our mind will have more space to be creative?  That maybe a result of us spending more time with our live? What do you think?


Trailer Editing : The Art of Juxtaposition

I believe many people understand the functions of a Movie Trailer :

It has to be exciting, captivating, alluring, drawing, informing… the list goes on and on…

In short, it wanted your attention so that you will catch the movie!

The continuous winning formula in majority hollywood trailers that crowds our cinemas are those with template formulas of heart stopping sound effects punctuated with many fade ins and outs.

Personally, I find these trailers boring. They all look the same.

Recently, a very special trailer catch my eyes – The Cloud Atlas Extended Trailer.

This trailer defies the formula of short + sweet and instead goes all the way to a length of more than 5mins. The trailer literally brings you on a ride… in all directions and left you hanging for more.

It applies all the format of a good trailers: strong music, clever sound bites, showcase of big cast. However, i’m most impressed by its ability to tell a very complicated story in an “extended” short period of time.

And for the longest time, (with the exceedingly faster cuts employ these days) I am finally able to watch all the cuts clearly. I can see the cuts!

I shared excitedly with a friend about this trailer and  my view of its excellent editing. My friend ask : how do you gauge a good edit?

So I decide to take a closer look at this trailer, how did it manage to entice me even though i’m completely confused by its genre.

On first look, it makes no sense crossing from historical to romantic to sci-fi to action and then cris-crossing back and forth. It does seems like an overly complicated film.

Well, to start of, all good story telling has a strong theme as a back bone. (Even if it is only a trailer) This close to mini-short film trailer has a clever theme : EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED.

This seemingly ambiguous trailer has done a good job in helping you to connect them subconsciously. Each sound bites or visuals are cleverly juxtaposed with the next sound or visuals.

For example, the first act of the trailer shows an old man sitting by the bed side, reading. It seems that he was reading a book the young man picked up. But later, we saw him put down a letter. Cut to a woman reading a letter. Such parallel juxtaposition of two letters quickly link two sets of images set in different time and space together brilliantly. Somehow, a spell has casted on you. You know you are on the way to a magic world…

The editor helps to connects the dots for you by piecing the jigsaw puzzles and yet leaving some pieces empty, so that you can use your own imagination to fill them up.

We are living in a visual chaos millennium. Audiences can conjure their own visual stories way faster then previously. I believe it is more about what you show rather than how fast and how many you show.

A good editor is also a strong summarizer. We are constantly sieving through tones of footages and pick up those that are useful in telling the story.

If you want to train yourself as an editor, it maybe a good idea to start with editing a movie trailer. It forces you to only pick the most essential shots in order to tell the story (you want to tell).

But of course, this particular film has a unique story to begin with. There are 3 directors!!

Many people think that a good trailer is usually about understanding rhythm and pace. But I defer. It is a lot more than that. The art of juxtaposition will take you further.

If you like to understand the fundamental of what it means to be a good cut, this course maybe a right one of you to attend.

Continue to visit my training courses page for updates.

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Rhythm Editor

I have recently worked on a project that require me to make NO cuts at all. The director and myself was searching for the right word to credit me, in the end we decide to choose the word


Indeed, my job evolve into modifying the rhythm in an experimental short film that play with words – REMEMBER by Tan Pin Pin

Using visual thesaurus, the entire video is a one take choreography of word play. Pin opens up the possibilities of words trail with the word remember.

This seems to be an easy job, however, it turns out to be not such a breeze. We end up having multiples “rehearses” before recording the word dance and working on uncountable number of “takes”.

For me, it is the first editing job that really engage my little experience in dance choreography. When I view the “performance” I was constantly giving suggestions on how we can make each word appear with more interesting rhythm. In dance choreography, especially improvisational dance choreography,  audience may not see a clear development to a define story.
“Although there is no single approach to creating a dance that has a clear sense of development, certain characteristics are common to many effective pieces of choreography. Those qualities are unity, continuity, transition, variety, and repetition.” Sandra Cerny Minton share this effectively in her article – How to make choreography more effective

I had attended dance choreography class with Ecnad, there is one thing that I learned in my dance class that I get a chance to apply here. It is call – PHRASING. Yes, there are phrases in dances too!

I was suggesting different phrases in this short film by manipulating the time and space of opening the words. We were conscious of changing the rhythm of how this piece of work developed over a short period of 6mins and 22secs.

If you are curious about contemporary dance after reading this post. This video speaks about the vocabulary of movements and body intelligence.

To get a quick understanding about dance phrases, this video below is good to watch.

REMEMBER is a commission work by Singapore National Library BoardSingapore Memory.

Pin Pin also made another short film, Yangtze Scribbler under the same programme. Which is also edited by me.

“All the characteristics of effective choreography—unity, continuity, transition, variety, and repetition—are organized to contribute to the development of a meaningful whole. All phrases in a work should be designed to form the integrated sections of your dance, and all the sections of the dance should be placed in a sequence that moves toward an appropriate conclusion. The development of a work should lead the audience logically from the beginning through the middle and on to the end of the dance.” – Sandra Cerny Minton.

I believe strongly that DANCE and EDITING are interconnected.

I am extremely fortunate to be given two opportunities to marry dance and film in my own work : U_R_NOT_ME and PRIMAL FEAR.

PRIMAL FEAR will be screening on 2 June 2012 with Singapore Arts Festival 2012.

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Psychology of Seeing

This is the book by Walter Murch – In the blink of an eye. I believe it is a MUST READ in all film editing class. I strongly recommend it.

It is also a compulsory question I will ask in class – do you know why “In the blink of an eye?”

Walter Murch (WM) explains very interestingly  in his book. Recently, I came across an interview of WM with a visual artist Josh Melnick. The conversation reveals the story behind “in the blink of an eye” with added dimension on the  psychology of seeing.

A little excerpt from the final paragraph of this article :

” It’s part of a general acceleration of the world that started in 1830. In 1830, give or take a few years, if you wanted to displace yourself or information, you had the same abilities and tools that somebody in 1830 BC had. You could run. You could walk. You could ride a horse. You could take a ship. Then, suddenly, the pace picked up. We invented the telegraph, and we invented trains. Then we found out how to manipulate time, and we invented sound recording and film recording. Then we invented automobiles and powered flight, and radio, television, computers, jet planes, rockets. You could write a history of the last 180 years as the obsessive devotion to manipulating time and space.”

In short, an editor’s job is one that influences how we all see space, time and therefore emotions.
If you like to know more about what we can learn from the psychology of seeing, attend my upcoming creative editing workshop in april.
Sign up early! Click here to find out more.


Walter Murch

Walter Murch is the most celebrated film editor in the movie industry. He has edited many award winning films who were directed by other celebrated directors.

The most fascinating thing is – Walter Murch is not merely a film editor, he is also a pioneer in the concept of sound design, a crafty technician, a translator for italian poetry and a philosopher.

His book “In the blink of an eye” is a must read for anyone who is keen in understanding more about both the art and the technical aspects of film editing.

I remembered myself watched in awe about the story of how he experimented with sound in the analogy era.

If you want to get a glimpse of why some editors are simply more outstanding than others? You should read this article he wrote for new york times in 1999 titled- A Digital Cinema of the Mind? Could be

His curiosity about how we see what we see and in what circumstances changes the way we see is awesome. I figure that is how one becomes good in their craft. isn’t it? Stay curious.

If you don’t have time to read, here are more videos of Walter Murch talking about mainly technical aspect of editing.

I had conducted many of my editing classes and workshops based on his philosophies. There are a couple of editing workshops in the upcoming months of 2012. Please check this website for more details.

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This question was raised by a fellow filmmaker friend recently. It has also been one of the thing that bugs me for a long time – How do we archive our digital videos?

I came from the traditional video making world where we always have a tape to archive to. When digital video making came along, i can’t help but wonder how are we going to ensure all the “01010101” stay long enough in the external hard disk? What will happen if we accidentally drop it or forget to eject the disk when power it down. Digital format has a much higher risk compare to the analog format.

Do you know that your hard disk can fail easily when it wasn’t spin enough? Even if we diligently bring it out for a ride, it has a limited life much shorter than the tapes.

I did a little research about what the experts are doing. It looks like we have yet to conclude a clear path. It is worth a better understanding to help us prepare for our future.

Digital Rebellion gives an excellent writeup about all the options you can find right now – Backup Options for Filmmakers.

Larry Jordan wrote a number of articles that discuss about archiving. He gives very good recommendation about the best (lossless) codec you may export for keeping.

I will read Pick the right format | Refreshing hard disk storage | Quick note on Archiving

There is one format that many people has raise – LTO. Linear Tape Open. It has yet been fully adopted by filmmakers. However, it is now a widely used format in other industries that need to store tones of digital datas. The biggest downside to LTO for filmmaking or videomaking is the inability to provide random access. It is a TAPE basically, you need to roll it to the exact place where you “keep” the data. Slow transfer speed is another deterrent. Currently, we can find 1.5TB LTO tape in the market. The good news is, we may have 70TB in the future. Read this article here.

I am no guru on latest digital technologies. Please feel free to correct me if there is any mis-information.

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Silence (John Cage)

It’s the new year.

I presume most people had a blast or was indulged in some kind of celebration for the past weeks. Music and sound are inevitable companion when we celebrate. Music and sound are also inevitable in filmmaking or video making. I remembered a senior filmmaker friend once told me this: “without sound, you don’t have half of the film”. I quote this in almost every of the editing class that I had conducted.

Today, I will like to talk about a musician. He is not particularly known in the filmmaking arena. He is an avant garde musician – John Cage.

John Cage is also a well know music theorist. I find his take on sound, especially silence, is one fascinating theory with so much possibilities. And that is definitely one of the essence about the art of editing – looking for possibilities.

John Cage becomes a centenarian in 2012.

You can watch him talks about silence

And watch his most celebrated performance title 4’33”

After all these viewing, you can continue to read his fascinating autobiography (its a thesis!)

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Vertical Cinema (Maya Deren)

Maya Deren is most well regard for the avant garde films (with a strong sense of movement) she made in the 1940s and 1950s. She is recognized to be one of the pioneer in dance films. Undeniably, her films show a clear desire to tell stories through moves. I have become a fan quickly the first time I watched her first film Meshes of the Afternoon. Editing of Meshes is one that showcase an editor who understands rhythm innately. The original film was edited without sound. It was a silent film made by Maya and her first husband Alexander Hammid . Many years later, a score was created by Maya’s third husband, Teiji Ito. The clever use of juxtaposition between different shots create a magical world without using any special effects. A truly brilliant edit. Both sound and visual.

So what is vertical cinema?

Maya was also a film theorist. There was a record of an extensive discourse about Poetry and the Film: A Symposium (1953) between Maya and few other renounced artist, one of them is Arthur Miller. Here, she spoke about her theory on vertical cinema.  “The distinction of poetry is its construction (what I mean by “a poetic structure”), and the poetic construct arises from the fact, if you will, that it is a “vertical” investigation of a situation, in that it probes the ramifications of the moment, and is concerned with its qualities and its depth, so that you have poetry concerned in a sense not with what is occuring, but with what it feels like or what it means.” 

Many contemporary filmmakers and artist are influenced by Maya’s style. Barbara Hammer (an experimental filmmaker) speaks about how she adopt maya’s vertical cinema in her work.

Recently, a student ask a question about the rules and regulations for cutting a rhythmic video. The best answer can be taken from Maya’s quote: ” Whatever the technique, it must serve the form as a whole, it must be appropriate to the theme and to the logic of its development, rather than display of method designed to impress other movie makers.”

You can read about Maya’s film theory from her book.


Intuition over Instinct (Rhythm in Editing)

I have recent designed and delivered a film editing workshop based on Karen Pearlman’s book Cutting Rhythms: Shaping the Film Edit.

I have to admit that it is a new discovery for me to vocalized intuition (intuitive rhythm) in editing. Her concept that “Intuition is not Instinct , it can be learned” is excellent. In the process of designing this workshop, I get a chance to discover how I have acquired my own intuition in editing throughout the years.

Karen Pearlman discusses the role and importance of Intuition over instinct in the creative process here.

You can watch more of Karen Pearlman’s interview on some of the topics regarding understanding rhythm and pace in film editing from AFTRS Screen Culture blog.

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Crying Girl (Short Film)

A student film I edited more than a decade ago.

The crying girl in this film is now a mother of three.

Look out for the end credit. A definite showcase of rebelliousness. So good to be young.

Check my work page for more updates in near future.