VMAs 2011: Best Editing

11 Aug

In many ways the editor is more important to music videos than any other form of short film. Editing is, in essence, the rhythm of cinema and the way a video is pieced together to accompany a song can make or break the final product. It’s not simply the act of arranging cuts according to the beats of the music, but rather an artistic process that ideally adds to the larger experience of the video. A good music video editor is conscious of the musical rhythm and responds to it, but doesn’t take orders from it.

This year’s crop of nominees includes a wild variety of editing styles, from the fairly conventional to the visionary. Relative newcomers are named alongside seasoned professionals, like last year’s two-time consecutive winner Jarrett Fijal (“E.T.”). There are films on this list that take editing and put it front and center as the main attraction, sometimes to almost dangerous results. These craftspeople are at the height of their discipline and even they occasionally induce epileptic seizures we all know it’s for a good cause.

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30 Seconds to Mars: “Hurricane”

Editing by Jared Leto, Frank Snider, Michael Bryson, Stefanie Visser & Daniel Carberry

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This particular music video, the longest nominee in any category, is bonkers. The members of 30 Seconds to Mars are chased around a deserted Manhattan by a weird band of leather-bound gimps, filling up thirteen minutes and three chapters of eerie video madness. As far as editing is concerned, this is a pretty impressive work. Peppered throughout are moments of sudden and unexpected rapid editing, flashes of mysterious images that unsettle the tone of the film. They become increasingly frequent as the tension ratchets up toward the end, interrupting our already confused mental state for more brief flickers of bondage and sexual peril. The censorship added in to make the video MTV-readymight even help things aesthetically, as the bright red forbidden letters over offending images strike us dramatically further into chaos.

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Adele: “Rolling in the Deep”

Editing by Art Jones at Work

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“Rolling in the Deep” and its video depend on a relentless drive, rhythmic and determined. The sustained sense of longing and pain is rapped out by an unwavering rhythm section, pushing Adele into her magnificent vocal displays. The editing in the video is all about this intensity, sending the visuals forward along with the music. Cuts are often slightly ahead of the deliberate downbeats, thereby keeping our eyes in the rush of the music and pushing everything even more vehemently forward. This dramatic force tosses us around a surreal house of longing, between six rooms that serve as symbolic articulations of loss. Artfully jolting between broken plates and mysterious martial artists, “Rolling in the Deep” is a fantastically edited and relentless.

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Manchester Orchestra: “Simple Math”

Editing by Daniels

If you’ve read yesterday’s Special Effects round-up then you know that I cannot stand this video. Yet again I find myself compelled to say nice things about the basic technique of the craftspeople. The editing in “Simple Math” is quite good, and necessarily so. The rift of time itself that occurs in this video could not exist effectively without exceptional editing between past and present and everything in between. Unfortunately the overall concept still gets in the way, and the editing is not nearly creative enough to make up for the uninspired conventionality. Manchester Orchestra may have produced the most effectively executed bad video in recent memory, and for that I commend them.

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Kanye West (featuring Rihanna and Kid Cudi): “All of the Lights”

Editing by Hadaya Turner

Any homage to the opening credits of Gaspar Noé’s “Enter the Void” should be almost automatically qualified for editing praise. Kanye’s “All of the Lights” doesn’t disappoint. In many ways the video simply is the art of music video editing, with its two long passages of flashing lights and colorful lyrics. The seizure-inducing sequences contrast nicely with the black and white opening, and the central sequence is folded perfectly into the aesthetic insanity of the Noé-esque credits. The constant barrage of color, light and sound transports us to another plane of reality. Moreover, the remarkable contrast between this visual milieu and the “ghetto university” of the song only heightens the potency and gives this video extraordinary strength.

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Katy Perry (featuring Kanye West): “E.T.”

Editing by Jarrett Fijal

It seems intuitive that music video editing would mostly cooperate with tempo. Longer takes would fit with more lyrical sustained passages, while a quickly rhythmic section would be accompanied by more rapid cutting. In “E.T.” that rationale is followed pretty consistently for most of the video. A series of rapidly edited natural images interrupt when the underlying tempos shoot up, lending an even more otherworldly air to this already extra-terrestrial video. Yet it is in the end that things become interesting. The last passage of the song is as high octane as it gets but the takes get longer. It’s a bit of a music video coup de grace, closing with crazy musical drive beneath a sustained and peaceful image.

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Summing up:

All of the work in this category is pretty impressive and all of these fantastic editors were crucial to the success of these videos. Yet when I compare the nominees one seems to rise above the rest. These videos consistently feature high level editing that complete their stylistic concepts, but none have as much ambition as “All of the Lights.” Successfully and coherently combining flashing credit sequences, black and white video and bold music is no small feat, and I hope Hadaya Turner takes home the prize.

Verdict: “All of the Lights”

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