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Old September 27th, 2008, 06:01 AM   #1
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Deployed Soldier needs editing advice

I took alot of advice from these fourms and would like some more. I have been shooting on HDD since I deployed to Afghanistan and now that its time for post production I am at a stand still. Since the script is written each day I do not have a script or storyboard. I shoot and get ideas from there. I recently purchased Adobe Premiere CS3 and began to edit my documentary. I am learning the program as I go so im am very much still new to this. I have a few questions.

When editing the film, what the best way to edit it? Should I try to edit it on one timeline or save different sequences and merge them together when its complete?

If I have an interview thats one hr long and I asked them 20 questions should I bother chopping that into 20 parts or just cut and add in as I need from my bin?

Should I be asking other questions?

I am completly lost in some ways and any or all information would be great.

Thanks, Chris Feder
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Old September 27th, 2008, 06:16 AM   #2
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Hey Chris,

It is really your option as the program is very flexible. I've done fairly simple edits on 80 minute unbroken multi-cam recording of hockey games and got the job done, although long clips in long sequences do seem to really slow down system performance. Some people have reported that long sequences are more prone to crash.

I think most people would break a more complex project like yours down into multiple subclips, though. At least for me, it is much easier to find a subclip in the Project Panel by title (eg "Interview Cpl Gutz, Q14 Your Greatest Fear") than it is to scroll the timeline to find that spot, even using clip markers.

I really like being able to nest one sequence into another. It makes it very easy to rearrange my program without losing applied effects, etc. and conversely, not slow things down by skipping some processor intense effects like color correction until the final, master sequence is together.

Be safe.
Pete Bauer
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Old September 27th, 2008, 07:10 AM   #3
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There are documentary makers who hopefully will put up a better bank of expertise than I can even dream about, however, here's a starter.

Documentaries compared to controlled action dramas can become overshot to the extreme, especially when oral histories are involved. Distilling all this footage down to a watchable running time is a task which requires some organisational discipline unless you have eidetic memory and know your material down to the last word and nuance.

There is such a process referred to as a "paper edit". To do this you first need log your footage in writing or a word doc or excel spreadsheet on a computer and then to transcribe your interview wordstuff into written form. It is long and arduous doing it by hand. Notebook computers make it a bit easier. There may even be voice dictation softwares which do it better now and might even transcribe a voice recording. Cut and paste on a computer beats doing it with scissors and clag glue.

I guess you would have evolved a common train of questions and memory recall cues when interviewing. If so, then each of your interviews will have somewhat of a common course.

You may well already have the basis of at least one longer form story or some incidents which are a common experience across several or many of your informants.

Once you have your transcripts, complete with their tape numbers and timecode start and end points written down, you can cut and paste bits and pieces of each of the interviews where common accounts are related and either pick the best or use several to bounce a story back and forth between several.

Where you find such a convergence, it might be helpful to go back to a pair or even more of those informants for a reshoot or follow-up and have them bounce the common experience of an event back off each other. Otherwise shoot a cutaway of the location or find some archival vision, photos or document which backs up the moment.

This might sometimes be best by a later visit to a location or a relic (vehicle, shipwreck, landmark etc.,) after time has passed and the location might be a lot safer.

It gets better when there is a little bit of difference between recollections and people begin to correct each other - "No. I think it came over this way" - "Yeah you're right, that truck over there is where the tree was." - stuff like that.

Human interaction storytelling is more interesting than dry solo accounts which often-times come over as stilted or qualified when people take time to get it right rather than follow the flow.

If you go one-on-one, then obviously in your situation, you have some understanding through common experience of a lot of the environment you live and work under. Try not to let the camera become an unintended shield against your own engagement with the interviewee.

Compared to the last time I tried on something like this, there are now word processing softwares which might even include thesaurus functions or routines where you can search for a given word to see if you have used it too much and should substitute another (synonym) which means the same.

It may be you can use this function to identify keywords you can use as edit points or transitions to another event.

Once you have your document all cut and pasted together on paper or assembled in text in your notebook, you then have an organisational template for your assembly edit in Premiere.

Take notice of better advice than mine when it comes along here.


You may likely never have seen it or even heard of it. - There was a documentary which was created by a producer-editor sending out MiniDV cams with some deployees to Iraq. They kept personal video diaries and shot background footage. She then had to assemble and edit all this footage down to a feature length documentary and a very compelling collective account, it was.

As a hint of how workaholic this process can be - a feature documentary shot in 1989 - 1991 ended up with about 25 hours of material being shot and becoming part of a historical A/V archive. The feature documentary was condensed down to 2 television hours of running time.

The editor ended up bringing someone else in to make the recut decisions of the something like 2 hours 30 minutes that he had because sometimes, living close to the subject puts your face up against the trees and you no longer see the forest or something like that - I'm not good at remembering clever quotes.

Good luck with your project.

Last edited by Bob Hart; September 27th, 2008 at 07:40 AM. Reason: error
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Old September 27th, 2008, 08:40 AM   #4
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Christopher... Although I've never done what you're doing, I'd have to say that Bob is right. You need to plot the course of the story you want to tell and then cut the material in such a way to both steer that course and make it compelling. Although it seems simple, I'd be willing to bet that it's not.

As to the mechanics, Pete is dead right that PP will bog down and even crash with large projects. I'm currently working on a project of motor racing that will end up being about four hours long. It's cut together from three cameras on track and up to three in-car cameras. PP hates this so much that simply playing the timeline will cause crashes. I took one of the 16 races and moved it to its own project and everything's good again. Big individual projects will drag PP to its knees.

Going back to Bob's thoughts, you probably want to edit segments based upon the individual story arcs and then knit the whole thing together at the end. PP is incredibly flexible in this regard. How you do it is up to your own personal preference. There really isn't a wrong way to do it.

I will echo Pete's admonition to stay safe. And thanks to you and all the troops fighting for freedom.
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Old September 27th, 2008, 09:02 AM   #5
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Hi Chris,

You've got some great replies, and I'll try to add to them.

In the editing process, as Pete suggested, make some additional Bins to organize your subclips for media around logical concepts whether it's for geographical content, people, places, or things - it's your call. Keep in mind Premiere is stupid, you can put media in more than one bin, it just a pointer, so it doesn't take up more space on the drive. If a photo, clip or whatever needs to be in two or three places because it might be in any of those places in your show put it there so jogs your memory.

Structure your bins in ways that make sense. Back in the 5th grade your teacher tried to get you to outline your essays. Now you know why. It works. Your structure should have a beginning, middle and end. As simple as that sounds, it's tough as nails to get right. Engaging the audience, with your first visual, your first premise - "Why you should stay here and watch me?" is your first contract to make then fulfill.

Make those bins work for you. Get your subclips into the bins with other pertinent media

You can have an outline based on opening, body, closing, even opening 1st part, 2d part 3d part, body 1st part, 2d part, 3d part, closing should it get to be a larger show to make the pieces smaller.

Your interview looks to be fairly large. My guess is that with it you have to handle it in chunks with visual overlays some segues, and most disheartening, you'll have to drop a lot of it. Just remember, if the focus of the show isn't in what the subject is saying, move on.

While you may not have a script, you surely must have some central focus, an idea that you are and your subjects are tackling. Make sure that you keep notes on that idea and support that idea with all visuals, even the most causal of visuals to establish time, location, culture, people, anything that helps to convey a notion of that. It'll help to flavor your story.

Good luck!

Mike Gunter
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