Vishnu Vijayan on Cutting Psycho-Thriller Short Film “X” in a Compelling Way

By in Timeline Tuesday, Video Editing

“X” is a Tamil language short film. It is a psychological thriller, which makes this short more compelling in a way. It tells a story about how life can get more complicated or unforgivable after an incident which will completely change everything – forever.

I had several interests in other aspects of film making, but when I began to edit short films, I decided to become a film editor. I started to edit with Premiere Pro in 2010, but ever since I moved to Avid Media Composer, my editorial process completely changed, every day it was very interesting working on Avid.

It started as a crowd funded project with a small budget and small crew on board. It’s my third time collaborating with director Manojkumar. We started to work together in 2013. When I read the script, I knew that this was going to be very challenging for me since I was also in charge of doing VFX and sound design for this project.

Official Poster of “X”

Director Manojkumar and Cinematographer Abishek on location


Manojkumar is more specific when it comes to pre-production. When I was called to be a part of the storyboard discussion, along with the assistant directors, I was given full freedom to come up with ideas on editorial, VFX and the sound design process. Before we started the shoot, we planned lot of things about the overall tone and visuals of the film. Cinematographer Abishek shot the film on Canon 5D Mark III.

Almost the entire story takes place at night. So, all the scenes were shot primarily on low light. We decided to shoot important scenes with dialog first and later we focused on the scenes involving VFX. The production wrapped in 4 days.

Lead actor from the film Vivek Prasanna

Vishnu Vijayan at the edit bay

Post Production

As soon as I got the rushes, I AMA linked all the footages. I usually stick with DNxHD 115 but since this short film was shot on 5D, I wanted to try cutting in higher quality. So I transcoded all the footage to DNxHD 175 X and it turned out to work great on my Mac Mini.

Full timeline of the 'X' short film

No matter which project I’m working on, I always ended up using all of the 24 audio tracks on Avid.

As an editor, I felt that my role on this project was more prominent. The story is more elaborate and more dramatic with some chilling horror moments which was a great challenge to cut for this film. When the director visited my edit bay, he was very excited about the rough cut. Soon as we locked the cut, and I started working on Sound and VFX.


Sound Design

After I read the script, I knew that this film had to do more with sound because of horror scenes. So I started to create a unique sound effects library for this project. I had an idea of designing sound based on vocals and air. After recording some sounds, I used a lot of AudioSuite filters in Media Composer including D-Verb, EQ 7, Lo-Fi, Pitch II, Time Compression Expansion, and more.

There were about 80 VFX shots, which were completed on After Effects. After the final cut was locked, I started working on the trailer cut.

Timeline with pre edited sound effects for trailer cut

Trailer Cut

Since I knew all the shots and all the dialog, I left the video track empty. I started to build a rough timeline for the trailer cut with a basic structure of sound effects alone. I know this is weird but when it comes to trailer editing, I first work roughly on the sound effects alone.

Full timeline of ‘X’ trailer cut

This is the finished timeline of the trailer cut. You can see I used more sound effects, horror ambients, and less music. I don’t want to reveal too many details about the story. The director and I initially decided that the overall mood of the trailer should be either thrilling or suspenseful in a way. I selected a few shots from some scenes and mostly avoided all the horror scenes.

The short film “X” was released on YouTube on April 14, 2017.

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I am a filmmaker and editor from Kerala living in Chennai, India. I currently own a small home based independent post-production studio “Vijun Studios”. Find me on Twitter @iamvishnuv