Ten TV Commercial Editing Tips and Tricks
So, you’ve made it through the long process of producing your commercial and have now arrived at the final stage of creating a finished product – the editing. Smooth sailing from here on out, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Great editing can make your commercial stand out from the crowd (and it’s a BIG crowd!) and keep your clients coming back for more. But not to worry, YANGAROO’s got your back. We’ve sat down with a few senior members of our video production team to lay out some tips and tricks to make sure you’re getting the most out of the editing process.
You may think that a commercial is all about the visual, and don’t get us wrong it’s a huge component, but it’s not the only sense you’ve got to worry about. Sound is a major factor in the overall experience you’re trying to deliver to your audience and terribly mixed sound can take a viewer completely out of the commercial, even if the visual component is on point. Overall, keep the audio balanced. For example, if voice-over is present or talent is speaking, ensure that it’s loud enough to hear over any background sound but not too loud that it drowns everything else out. Background music should also be at an even level throughout the spot to prevent taking the audience on an unnecessary audio rollercoaster. The sound should enhance the experience for the viewer, not take them out of it.
Speaking of background music, the choice here is imperative; you should aim for music that complements the product and overall theme of the commercial. For example, if the commercial is selling a mattress, you should want to use relaxing, calming music to match the nature of the product. A mattress commercial blasting rock music might miss the mark and send the wrong message to the audience.
You’ve heard that timing is everything and in editing, this is no exception. Most commercials are kept to 15 or 30 seconds so time is of the essence here. Use your shots wisely, which also means not cramming in all the footage received. Use only what makes sense to move the commercial’s message along and ensure to keep all shots up on screen for the appropriate amount of time. Is there text on the screen? Can you read everything clearly before the next shot appears? Is the commercial fast-paced or slow? These questions should all be considered when pacing the commercial correctly.
According to our experts, this is a common mistake a lot of editors make. Dead frames can be either black frames left in-between shots or still frames left on the timeline that don’t belong. This is often easily overlooked and can result in a commercial appearing unprofessional; make sure that all shots are transitioned properly (which we’ll get to in our next tip) and that all dead frames have been removed to produce a more polished look.
The less noticeable a transition the better; they should be smooth and carry the viewer from one scene to another as seamless as possible. Remember, we want to avoid taking the viewer out of the viewing experience and nothing does that faster than a bad jump-cut or an awkward transition. Less is more – a simple transition can keep the flow of the commercial consistent and since we only have a short time frame to work with, it’s best to use that time sensibly.
Most commercials contain some on-screen text to help the viewer understand the details of the product or service being offered so it’s important to be able to read that information easily. Is the text too small or too large? Can you read the text clearly against the background? Only add what is necessary and again, keep it concise and to the point. Our experts also recommend keeping all text inside of the title-safe grid (graphic below), which ensures that when played on a broadcast TV screen, all text remains visible. This grid is a toggle on/off option in most editing software and is a great tool to rely on to prevent unnecessary placement errors.
By now we’re all used to doing things digitally, but there are some essential editing practices that have fallen to the wayside with the rise of digital media – colour correction being one of them. Colour correction, or colour grading, ensures that various attributes, such as RBG, luma, and chroma levels, are up to broadcast standards – too dark and the colours will appear crushed, too light and the colours will appear washed out. Click here for a link to a great resource that delves deeper into the practical aspects of these levels.
If this is all too technical, not to worry, our experts recommend applying a broadcast-safe colour filter (most up-to-date editing software should have one) to your commercial to ensure that all levels are up to snuff automatically.
Frame rate is a common editing aspect that can cause major visual issues if not handled properly. Since there are many frame rates to choose from, our experts recommend editing the footage in the same frame-rate it was received to avoid choppy playback and problematic interlacing (unintentional lines on the screen). Once editing is complete, convert the video to the preferred frame rate of the vendor. In case you’re still unsure about how to do this correctly, you can always provide your finished commercial to our video team in its native frame rate and we will do the conversion for you to guarantee no visual issues arise.
Composition refers to the overall arrangement of a commercial’s components; pay close attention to where graphics and text are placed on the screen. Is the screen too crowded or too sparse? Do the graphics look flat? Does the spot have dimension? Make sure that important parts stand out while less significant aspects take a back seat. Placement matters, so identify the stars of the show and put them front and center.
And just like everything else in life, it’s all about balance. Though some editing aspects may be weighted more than others, it’s the balanced culmination of all that makes editing suave and seamless. By being mindful of the above factors, you can learn to blend together both creative and technical elements to make one truly great commercial.
- Senior members of YANGAROO's video production team