Adobe Make the Cut Competition

Posted on May 14, 2017

TLDR; I edited the above music video for a competition. Enjoy.

So a little while back, Adobe announced an editing competition called Make the Cut, in which it challenged editors to put together their own cut of the Imagine Dragons music video for their new song Believer. They provided the song file, and all of the uncut video assets and let us make our own edit. It sounded like it’d be a fun challenge, give me a chance to flex my rusty editing muscles and didn’t hurt that they offered a nice cash prize.

I hadn’t even heard of Imagine Dragons before, but apparently they’re really popular, and I decided not to watch their official music video before attempting mine, as I didn’t want to influence my edit. I started the process by listening to the song a few times with the lyrics up to get a sense of the pace and story, as even in music videos I prefer to focus on storytelling, rather than just cool shots and lip-syncing. That is why I opted to use slower cuts and edit the video much like a short film, leaving time to breathe and take in what’s happening, rather than just assaulting the senses with quick flashes of imagery.

After I had done that, I went through all of the video footage and watched each clip, making notes if I saw something interesting or had an idea for a specific moment. The footage had a lot of clips of the lead singer and an older gentleman (who is actually Dolph Lundgren) boxing with each other. There was also some great footage of the band playing the song at various focal lengths and a couple of angles of the vocalist singing the song. Then there were a couple miscellaneous shots of him sketching in a notebook, as well as a young kid doing the same. It was clear that they were each meant to be the same person, so I decided to run with that as a through-line.

It seemed most obvious to me to make the lead singer the protagonist, as his vocals almost narrate the piece, and the footage seemed to skew that way. From there, I just began assembling the footage. The song became a guide for the pace and timing of the edits, and the rest started to fall into place. I just started with what was logical to me (the two approaching each other, challenging, and then beginning the spar). Our hero is outmatched and losing at first, but is determined and persists through the (PAIN!… I’ve listened to this song waaaaay too many times at this point).

As the song progresses, we introduce the child hero and start to lay the groundwork for the “reveal” at the end. Things start to heat up and our hero is being fueled and driven by the pain (much like a Saiyan!). He is eventually driven to a breaking point, where he goes into a frenzy and overpowers Dolph, unleashing his anger (basically goes Super Saiyan…). At this point, the speed of the cuts has progressed and becomes much faster here, as the song reaches its peak. Our hero is victorious! Now to wrap things up, we match cut to Dolph defeated on the floor, and we get our final “reveal” as we cut between the three ages of our hero.

The edit took about four sessions (maybe 4-5hrs per session) to complete, and I submitted it fairly early on. After I had finished mine, I checked out the official one and noticed it was much flashier and more VFX heavy than I was imagining. It turned out a lot of submissions were like that too.

After the competition closed, they selected 25 finalists to showcase on their YouTube channel for public voting to select a fan-favourite. I didn’t make the cut (haha… ha…) but still glad to have the opportunity to work the source material and make something cool. Most submissions selected had very “out there” effects, but there were some really interesting and creative ones very deserving of it. It’s cool to see what other people came up with and how they approached it differently. I found out afterwards that the criteria they used for rating the submissions leaned heavily on creativity/originality, so I probably wouldn’t have scored much for my standard story-focused edit, but again, it was great fun to put together so I don’t really mind.

And that’s the story behind this music video – it’s embedded above if you haven’t already watched it. I hope you enjoy.