Listen to This

Pacing is so important when editing a story, whether it be narrative or non-narrative, short or feature. Even if the content you produce is only a 2-3 minute video strictly for the web, it's important to pay attention to the ebb and flow of the narrative.

There are plenty of analytics out there that show viewership for online videos will decrease significantly if the video is longer than 3 or 4 minutes. Producers of online video content have very little time to capture an audience's attention and to tell their stories. The inclination, then, is to throw down a music bed under all of your footage, remove all nat sound, edit all of your b-roll to the tempo of that underscore, slap a title on it and upload it to the web. What you have created with this approach is a highlight reel, not a story.

I'm not saying this type of video doesn't have its place on the web. Far from it. I've edited many highlight reels that have been uploaded to websites and social media channels. However, for the purposes of this post, I'm talking strictly about storytelling. And a properly paced story is more than just quick edits set to music.

A well-paced story has to have its ups and downs. It has to be allowed to breathe. You don't want to rush it; nor do you want to drag it out. You want to stretch out certain sections for emotional resonance or suspense. And you want to speed things up to communicate things like the passing of time, comedic beats, or high-energy. But it's not only the way in which you cut the footage together that creates pacing. Sound plays a significant role as well.

When going out on assignment to capture b-roll for a project, it can be easy to neglect audio. "Why do I need to worry about audio?" you might ask yourself. "I'll just be using this footage to cover an interview or VO. Or I'll have a musical underscore."

Even if you know that the footage you plan to shoot will be strictly for b-roll, it's still important to capture nat sound while on location. There's something about nat sound in a finished video that helps to communicate immediacy. It puts the viewer there, in the moment. It makes the story feel present, as if it's happening right then and there. Visuals only tell part of the story, but visuals combined with nat sound create more of an immersive experience.

And that audio can be utilized to great effect in the pacing of your story. You can use it as a lead-in to a particular scene. You can let it linger to help create a mood for your viewer. You can introduce audio while still on black to create suspense. Next time you're in post-production, don't be so quick to lay down that music bed throughout the entire video. There's so much that can be done through nat sound that will help you create a richer, fuller story with variations in pacing and tone.