“We’ll fix it in post” – that is a statement never before made by anyone who actually works in post production. As the technology for filmmaking continues to advance, production just keeps throwing more and more of their work into the edit suite rather than doing it the right way in the field in the first place.
Nevertheless, if you got stuck with a lousy Director of Photography who doesn’t know the importance of keeping the talent’s body, head, and eyes in the same relative position in the frame between shots, this great little trick from Jay Lippman can really help you improve their footage and make your editing look a whole lot better.
Let’s talk about eye trace, and see how this simple, practical trick can make your editing more enjoyable.
In his book, “In The Blink Of An Eye”, Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Jarhead) discusses what he has identified as the 6 rules of editing.
- Eye Trace
- 2D Plane of Screen
- 3D Space of Action
Sadly, the current state of modern editing has thrown out rules 1,2,4,5, & 6 and most videos, shows, and films are cut only to a rhythm since it is the easiest way to edit and holds the audiences attention.
However, understanding emotion, story, and a sense of place can really take your editing to the next level.
Whenever you insert a cut into your footage, you’ve redirected the attention of the viewer and often times that can be displacing and jarring. Imagine how you’d feel if someone instantly transported you to the other side of a room in the middle of a conversation – it’d take you a second to figure out where you are and what just happened.
It’s our job as editors to minimize the audiences confusion and focus their attention toward the story and action, showing them what they need to know when they need to know it.
Murch’s 6 rules are ordered by importance, and once you’ve got emotion, story, and rhythm covered, it is time to move on to spatial relations.
Eye Trace is simply keeping the character’s eyes at the same level between cuts. When we talk to each other in real life, we look into the eyes of the person we’re addressing. This is a natural instinct and something that is deeply ingrained into the human mind. On film, if the person we’re looking at is constantly jumping around in the image between cuts, then we’re actively working to locate their eyes again and again which makes the edit feel jarring instead of smooth.
Therefore, by manipulating the frame positioning of the characters in post (since the DP couldn’t seem to manage it on shoot day), we make it easier for the audience to pay attention and enjoy the program.
Grid Effect In Resolve
DaVinci Resolve doesn’t have a built-in grid overlay in the timeline viewer window, so you have to apply a grid effect to an adjustment layer to create this overlay.
Go to the Effects Library, and drag an Adjustment Clip onto the highest video track on your timeline.
Now, go to Open FX / Resolve FX Generate, and drag and drop the Grid effect onto the adjustment clip.
You have now created a grid overlay.
From here the process is really just scaling and repositioning your footage so the talents eyes are always on the same line of the grid.
Even when the subject is in profile or their back is to the camera, it still helps to keep the position of their eyes in the same relative area. This means that the audience won’t have to readjust their eyes to find them again in the next shot.
Once you give it a try, you’ll see how much smoother your edits can be.
In general, Directors of Photography should always keep Eye Trace in mind when they’re framing their shots. This simple rule makes watching an edited scene much easier, and it isn’t that hard just to keep everyone’s eyes on the same line.
[source: Jay Lippman]
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