As we see the scene playing out in our head and get a read for the emotional material of the scene, we start identifying shots we will need to make the scene work. Those shots should be noted on a list with the framing we wish to use and the subject(s) of the shot. This is our first step in preparing visualization. However, our plan must develop beyond that in a more sophisticated plan. Our visualization must take into consideration how each shot will transition into each other.
This brings up the discussion of Coverage vs. Shooting Ratio. Getting coverage means shooting enough material from different angles to provide the editor with sufficient redundant material to cut the scene together. Shooting more than one angle on the same action gives the editor a choice to make when assembling your picture. If you only shoot one angle, the editor has no choice but to use that angle. In many cases, there is no way of knowing precisely which combination of angles will work best until they are put together in post production. You want to give your editor flexibility by providing options.
On the other hand, for practical reasons, we cannot shoot everything. We cannot shoot the entire scene from every angle. There isn’t enough time in the day for it. You will wear out your crew and your actors. Performances will not stay fresh at four takes on eight angles. There is also no need to do that and it is a waste of time. A director must be able to identify what shot they will need for each part of the scene. Where that shot starts and where it ends, what shot runs into it and what shot runs out of it. To do this, you must know how every single shot transition in advance.
I was once engaged to work as an editor on an independent feature film. I was asked by a first time director to be there on set with him to “make sure everything was going to cut together.” I was deeply disturbed by this request and gave a great deal of thought to the problem. The problem was that as an editor, I am not responsible for creating the materials. The director must have a plan and come up with a road map in pre-production and follow through on that plan in production. As an editor, I should be able to look at the materials and read the director’s intent – I should be able to see the plan that the director created just by viewing the footage.
Thelma Schoonmaker has won three Academy Awards for Editing – for “Raging Bull”, “The Aviator”, and “The Departed”. Although enormously talented, she is also very self-effacing. She once said that she did not deserve an award for “Raging Bull”, she simply put it together “the way that Marty shot it”, referring to the director, Martin Scorsese. This is the relationship between director and editor. The director puts together a plan for every shot and transition and creates that material in production. The editor then reads the material and puts it together the way that the director intended.