Editing Primitives

For our purposes, one scene has roughly one location and the characters are not traveling significantly in space or time during these cuts.

Editing Within The Same Scene

Editing within the same scene is fundamental to filmmaking, but not theater. Using edits to emphasize moments, to clarify environments, to... to have any significant meaning of their own; this only came to pass when editing started to get used frequently within a single scene, even if it was not technically necessary for coverage.

360 Video will have fewer edits than filmmaking. This is not because audiences are unprepared for fast edits. It's because the audience will editing by moving their head, and many of the motivations for editing are 'covered' in this regard.

In other words, unlike changing a location, for editing within a scene, we must really have a strong reason to do so. We must understand what this reason is, and be confident in the edit. If we just want to edit because it feels like we have held on the same clip for too long, or some other weak reason, then editing is unlikely to help.1

Don't Edit: Let the audience do it

If your motivation to edit is to clarify the environment, to demonstrate character positions, to showcase a scene, to switch focus between nearby characters; or other such edit that can be accomplished by the audience simply moving their heads, then it's best to let the audience move their heads.

Don't Edit: consider the architecture of an environment

Let's take a boring square room for example. Editing inside of this room is very difficult, because no matter where we put the camera, the room is mostly the same. The geometry has not changed location (barring rotation of the camera), it's merely changed relative size.

If there is nothing we want to emphasize that involves the relative size of objects, then we probably should avoid editing from positions in a room with a simple geometry.

Thus, the following examples may all be considered counter-examples. Examinations of specific instances where editing with a scene can work.

Edit For The Blocking

This is the big one. Use 360 camera's perspective distortion to emphasize characters and their relationships to one another via blocking. Blocking, of course, includes the camera position; not just characters.

What about an empty field? Can we edit? If we consider the architecture, then probably not - camera position has almost no effect on the perception of the scene, just relative sizes and distances of objects. Thus, edits may play like jump cuts. In classic film theory, these edits would be violating the "30-degree rule": A rule established as it is uncomfortable to watch an edit where there was not enough significant visual change. This rule, or at least guidance stemming from its underlying concept, is still applicable in 360 video.

Camera position still has a lot of effect on the perception of the characters. We have lots of freedom to play with perspective distortion - relative size. Say we have a character marching forwards tirelessly while another complains about slogging through the mud. We can cut from a middle shot that treats both characters equally to one that shows the complaining characters as smaller and further away than the pertinacious one. This could emphasize a piece of dialogue.

Even in a small round room where camera position makes small visual changes to the perception of the room, we can get away with inter-scene edits if we are using the edit for blocking purposes. The focus of the story and edit, at that point, must be on the characters.

We can also get away with using jump cuts if, of course, we are intentionally using jump cuts.

Assemble an Environment

Let's take the classic sitcom apartment for example. We may have one scene looking at a sofa, one near the corner of the room (where characters "pull away" to chat), one on the other side of an open-plan kitchen counter, and another by the entrance looking down the hallway.

Just like we can edit with patterns while changing between locations, we can establish these camera positions, and their orientations, for the audience, and assemble a version of the 3-dimensional environment. We create a model of the world, and how they are linked to each other in space. Once this is established, we have more freedom cutting between them, and may not need to follow characters from one to another after relationships have been established.

Consider this as 360 video version of a 3-camera sitcom.

While we consistently return to familiar locations, we also need to remember to stay on top of orientations. See the section on building a map.

Cut On Entrance/Exit

Using the entrance and/or exit of a character to visually motivate a cut is a simple and easy way to edit. The audience watches a character transition through a threshold, editing to the other half (the other room) of this transition at the moment of crossing is an easy way to bridge two shots together.

Aside from the obvious continuity, this becomes highly useful when initially assembling an environment. Tracking the characters initially establishes the camera position's relationships to each other.

Using Audio

Cut Through Audio

This editing principle for film holds true for 360 as well. If a sound is continuous through edits, then it must be that the visuals are continuous as well. There is nothing new about this tool, but it's important to note how, well, important it is for continuous cuts in 360 video.

This is one of the few tools an editor can use to smooth a jarring edit, and in 360, every edit has the potential to be jarring.

Bridge the Cut with Audio

Similarly, bridging a cut - what's called an L-cut - is and will be fundamental to 360 video editing. We can cut the audio a moment before the video. The audience now wonders what the sound is, and the edit answers the question for them. Their experience is 'satisfactory' because we gave them the question and then answered it. A jarring edit, otherwise, will leave the audience wondering where they are now, and quickly trying to determine it. This will have them feel "behind" the story, which we don't want. We want the audience to feel on top of the storytelling structures, not confused by them.

This technique can be used to provide context. Consider the cut at 0:22 of Episode 2 of Invisible, there is a sound effect transitioning the cut, and the voice-over stays to provide context and clue the audience in about the subject in the next scene.

Audio as Cue

If we want to cut to an aside, a close-up, or other such emphasis; it can be difficult in 360. Using an audio beat to emphasize a certain type of cut can (perhaps cheesily) be used to create consistency. If we do a certain audio cue (a Seinfeld bass line, perhaps), whenever we cut to a certain location or utilize a certain type of cut (like a "close-up"), we can clue an audience who was not visually prepared for the edit as to what is happening. XYZ noise could always mean we are back at headquarters, ready for new orders.

Similarly, different locations all could have their own diegetic or non-diegetic soundscape associated with them. A kitchen, for example, one can easily imagine the sounds of busy prep-work, and an office building may be filled with the sounds of typing and other such noises.


  1. Not only will editing hurt, but such a scenario is indicative of other problems with a scene; ones that editing can't fix. Editing may have held the function of a crutch. For example, in a boring, dialogue-heavy exposition scene, editing can maintain interest. 360 video removes this crutch, as a cut is a greater commitment for the creator, and one must go back to working the dialogue or the scene differently.