Tips for Cutting Event Highlights

A Team NLE

Starting out as an editor, there are variety of projects you’ll be asked to cut that can help establish your editing style and workflow. These projects can range anywhere from weddings, testimonials, music videos, commercials, and much more. One particular type of video that you may come across in your career is the event highlight. For the sake of this article, we will focus on events such as conventions, parties and fashion shows. There are multiple ways to go about cutting an event highlight, but I will provide you with some tips that can help you on your next project. I found this interesting article by Vashi Nedomansky about cutting event highlights. He includes tips for cutting behind the scenes footage for music videos, which I found to ring true with how I would approach an edit of an event highlight. In this post, I will borrow some of his concepts, but place my own spin on it.

Be organized, ready to adapt, and know your footage and assets all around

This goes without saying, but you should always be organized no matter what project you are cutting. However, the way you would organize for an edit of an event highlight may be different than how you would edit for something like a music video or a wedding. Organization will be key because the last thing you want taking up your time is poor organization. It pays to have a strong bin structure, sequence structure, and project labeling scheme that will ensure success. Always be ready to adapt. In other words, you want to be ready to handle changes such as more footage, assets, or complete change in direction of how you are cutting the event highlight. Sometimes, you will encounter outside forces that can derail what your vision for the final edit was and you have to be prepared to adapt if you want to get finished in a timely manner. If you are organized and ready to adapt to changing circumstances, you will survive the project.

On top of being organized, you need to know your footage backwards and forwards. You will spend the most time with it and the last thing you want to run into is a client asking you for a particular shot and not being able to find it right away. Take time to screen your footage and develop a mental storyboard of what clips and assets will help best highlight the event. Depending on what NLE you are using, it helps to have a metadata/tagging system that will allow you to call up particular shots at a moment’s notice to quickly insert them in a segment. One technique that I have used when working with track based NLEs is the Pancake timeline method. I have my main sequence at the bottom, and a sequence of my best shots in the sequence above. I can drag or copy/paste shots from the top sequence to the bottom sequence to test out what works best. Overall, have a competent system of being able to call up shots at the drop of a hat.

Build the story with your dialogue first

In most event highlight videos, you will have interviews/soundbites involved in the piece. The last thing you want to do is randomly insert them and not have them amount to much. One of the things I do is watch, trim, and sequence my interviews based on importance and relevance. For example, if I have a event highlight at a car show, I would want to hear from the host/MC of the event first, rather than last, as they will help inform the viewer what is to be expected. Not only does determining the order of your interviews help you with the edit, it also helps establish the structure of the video. Things that are said or seen in an interview will help you determine what shots need to make it in, versus what shots are expendable. Cutting your interviews first will help establish a direction and the 3 act structure you need to tell a great story.

Craft the edit in a 3 act structure

This is said repeatedly amongst all editors, but it needs to be said again. Anything you cut has to tell a story. You can have a lot of great b-roll and soundbites, but you’ve already lost if they don’t build towards anything. Just like you would cut a wedding highlight by highlighting the preparation, the ceremony, and the reception, you have to approach your event highlight with a 3 act structure. You should have a strong intro, followed by a cohesive and informative middle, followed by an ending that leaves the viewer wanting more. The way I approach this 3 act structure is starting with strong visuals that contain a few soundbites underneath to help bring the viewer in. Next, I will show more strong visuals in the middle with relevant soundbites that capture the event as a whole. I try to end by using strong moments that will leave the viewer wanting more. In the midst of building this 3 act structure, I try to make sure that I have strong creative direction and pacing to bring it altogether.

Determine the creative direction/pacing and stick to it

It’s real easy in the midst of structuring your highlight to want to try a variety of transitions and effects. For this reason, after I have gone through my footage and chosen my best shots, I try to determine a creative direction that is suitable for the event at hand. This involves the use of music, transitions, and effects. Using the wrong song allows your viewer to interpret your highlight differently. Using too many over the top transitions or effects may show that you didn’t believe the footage could speak for itself. Overall, the creative direction you choose should be consistent and focused. It’s meant to enhance your video, not distract from it. By not having a consistent creative direction, it can effect the pacing of the finished product and possibly lead to more revisions.

It’s meant to be a highlight, not a showing of the entire event

This is something you will run into… not only while editing, but also when dealing with clients. The point of an event highlight video is to showcase the best parts of the event, not to show the entire thing. It is your job as the editor to make sure that this is communicated constantly. If you were a viewer watching this video, would you be willing to sit through a video showing the entire event? Not likely. The event highlight is meant to give the viewer a taste of what the event was about, as well as to serve as an enticement to attend. That’s why Sportscenter has highlights of games because the viewers want to see the best and relevant parts of any sport. Very rarely will someone want to sit through an entire game and see every action that was made. Above all else, it’s very important that you remember this tip.

Here’s an example of a Macy’s fashion show highlight video I cut for a society/entertainment show:

These tips are meant to help guide you through the editing process, and make you aware of some of the things you may encounter. Not all event highlight videos are cut the same way, but if you remember some of these tips, they can help you in the long run.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Royalty Free Music

Using Overlay Transitions as Alpha Transitions in FCP 7


Final Cut Pro 7 or Final Cut Pro legacy as it’s known in certain circles brought some new features to it that were quite groundbreaking. The feature I found to be the most interesting to use was the Alpha Transition. The Alpha Transition wipe is a transition that combines a clip that either has or doesn’t have transparency with its alpha matte and a wipe matte. In this graphic below, you can see the user interface for this transition.


In this tutorial, online editing training company GeniusDV explains how to utilize this transition.

I’m going to explain to how to take transitions that are either in the Pro Res codec or different codec and use them with the Alpha Transition wipe.

Using Alpha Transitions from Luca Visual FX

Plugin and motion graphic developer, Luca Visual FX has a collection of alpha transitions that are encoded out in the Pro Res 4444 codec. Due to this encoding, it’s really easy to use this with the Alpha Transition wipe.

Import one of the LVFX transitions into your project browser. Apply the Alpha Transition wipe to the edit point of your clips. Drop the LVFX transition in the drop well labeled Clip. Render the transition and see the result.

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Due to the fact that these transitions were encoded in Pro Res 4444 and have built in transparency, we didn’t need to use the Clip Alpha Matte drop well. The Alpha Transition works best when using the Pro Res codecs. Since these transitions have wipe point built in, we also didn’t need to use the Wipe Matte either. You have this luxury with Luca’s transitions but you may not have this luxury off the bat if you were using transitions from other sources.

Turning Overlay Transitions into Alpha Clips in After Effects.

Now if you have overlay transitions from other sources and you have access to a Mac and the Pro Res codecs, you can use After Effects to convert them into Pro Res for use in the Alpha Transition Wipe.

I have an overlay transition that has embedded transparency and a wipe matte. I’m going place my transition in its own composition and do the same for the wipe matte.

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Once you’ve done that, it’s time to setup the render queue for these clips.

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With both my clip compositions in the render queue, I will set it up so that these become Pro Res clips. Here are the options you should be mindful of.

-If you want your transition clip to maintain its transparency, set it up to be Pro Res 4444 with RGB+Alpha. If you want your transition clip to not maintain transparency, render it at Pro Res 422 or Pro Res 422 LT and leave it at RGB. You will have to duplicate the composition in the render queue and set that to either of those Pro Res flavors but change it to Alpha.

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For the wipe matte, you can choose to render it out at Pro Res 4444 or the other flavors of Pro Res. Just make sure to leave it RGB. After you are done rendering out the clips, bring them into Final Cut Pro and place them in their appropriate drop wells. (the transition clip in the clip drop well and the wipe matte clip in the wipe matte drop well)

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You will now see your overlay transition working as part of the Alpha Transition Wipe with which you can manipulate the timing and other parameters.

As you can see when using overlay transitions, you can easily change their codec and use them with the Alpha Transition Wipe.

I’m the NLE Ninja with AudioMicro asking you to stay creative.

Royalty Free Music