Editing is one of the most fundamental processes of filmmaking. Many call it the last rewrite of a film in which the film truly comes together. So how do you create a movie without normal post-production editing? Through in-camera editing of course. In-camera editing may seem like a disadvantageous technique. However, the popularity of the one take look found in acclaimed films like Birdman and 1917 have made many wonder, what is in-camera editing?

What is in Camera Editing in Film and Photography? 

First, let’s define in-camera editing

In-camera editing can be a rather confusing term. What is in camera editing exactly? Before we take a look at its uses in filmmaking, let’s take a look at the in camera editing definition. 


What is in-camera editing?

In-camera editing is the technique of editing while you are shooting by shooting in a precise sequence of the final cut. Normal video editing is the process of taking all of the footage from a shoot and arranging them during post-production. 

In-camera editing, however, creates the sequence of the final cut by shooting in a precise order and at a precise length for every shot. Ultimately, in-camera editing results in a final cut of a video once shooting has finished.

What is in camera editing used for?

  • Shooting events
  • Creating the ‘one-take’ look
  • Faster turnaround times
  • Camera cutting

What is in Camera Editing Used For?

Shooting to edit vs. in-camera editing

The term “in-camera editing” is a bit of a misnomer since there is no actual editing involved. This is where shooting to edit differs from in-camera editing. Let’s take a look at a few key differences between the two. 

Sequence of shooting

The most basic difference between in-camera editing and shooting to edit is the sequence in which shots are taken. In-camera editing inherently requires shots to be taken in the chronological order of the story since they cannot be rearranged later.

Shooting to edit, on the other hand, allows you to shoot in whatever sequence you want. In post-production editing, these shots can be rearranged or edited into the correct order.

Room for error

In-camera editing has little room for error. In many ways, normal editing allows filmmakers to fix mistakes in a shot through cutting. In-camera editing does not have this luxury. 

Every shot needs to be an exact length. Any transitions like match cuts also have to be extremely precise since the frame cannot be adjusted later on. Creative edits and transitions like the ones in the video below are much harder to pull off in-camera as you will need to be more precise on first takes. 

Creative Camera Cutting Examples & Editing Techniques for Your Next Shoot  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Traditional editing is a bit more forgiving and allows you to create these transitions with any shot you take. 

Pre-production and post-production time

The differences in technique between in-camera editing and traditional editing result in varying lengths of time for pre-production and post-production. Because in-camera editing has such little room for error, it requires more planning during pre-production.

However because all of the editing is done at the time of shooting, it does not require nearly as much time in post-production as traditional editing. 

How to Edit in Camera

In-camera photo editing

In addition to cinematography and filmmaking, in camera editing can also refer to photography. In photography, photographers often shoot in RAW to give them complete control over the image in post production. However, some photographers opt for in camera photo editing which means they determine aspects like color temperature, white balance, exposure, shadows, and more as they shoot. 

While this may sound tempting as a means of saving time, there is not much of an advantage to in camera photo editing. For the sake of practical and actionable tips on in-camera editing, let's focus on filmmaking where it can provide a lot more value. 

In Camera Editing Example in Film

When to use in-camera editing 

Now that we’ve taken a look at the differences between in-camera editing and shooting for more traditional editing, you might be wondering “What is in-camera useful for?” 

The truth is, there are only a few circumstances in which in-camera editing is a better tool than normal editing. That being said, what it is effective at, normal editing is not. 

The ‘One-take’ Look

The one-take look arguably originated in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films Rope (1948) in which the entire film appears to be taken in one continuous shot. This look was recently made popular in films like Birdman (2014) and 1917 (2019). The one-take look was achieved in all of these films through in-camera editing. 

Shots were taken at precise lengths and would cut behind various foreground elements to create the illusion of one shot. Take a look at this in camera editing example in 1917 in the video below. 

1917's  •  In camera editing example


A very different type of shoot that in-camera editing is useful for is shooting live events. Events are already happening in a chronological order. Capturing them with in-camera editing is a lot less painful than using in-camera editing for narrative film. 

In-camera editing also yields a much faster turnaround time which many clients appreciate when it comes to event videography. 

 In Vamera Cutting

How to use in-camera editing

Let’s say you do want to utilize in-camera editing to achieve a similar one-take effect found in 1917. How do you start? The key is preparation. 

Create a shot list

Creating a shot list is absolutely imperative when it comes to in-camera editing. This step allows you to visualize the shots before actually shooting. It will also allow you to list them in the precise order you will be taking them during principal photography so that no mistakes will be made. 

Using StudioBinder’s free shotlisting app will help you prepare and stay organized for in-camera editing.

How to Make a Shot List  •  Subscribe on YouTube

Rehearsals for in-camera editing is important for both your talent and your camera crew. Camera operators and actors must be completely choreographers for precise timing and positioning of a shot. Just take a look at the arduous rehearsals that took place in preparation of 1917.

1917 (2019) "Rehearsal and Performance" Featurette


Shooting is the most high pressure part of in-camera editing since there is no traditional editing that can fix your mistakes. But if you’ve gone above and beyond during your pre-production and rehearsals, shooting should go smoothly. 

Up Next

Organizing a Post Production Workflow

If you are intrigued by in-camera editing because the idea of normal editing and post-production overwhelms you, then check out our next article. Post-production can be overwhelming, but it is also one of the most fundamental aspects of filmmaking. Rather than avoiding it, master it by learning how to organize your post-production workflow to edit like a pro. 

Up Next: Post Production Workflow →
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