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Old October 1st, 2008, 12:40 AM   #1
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Really basic question about editing workflow

I'm an absolute newbie at this and need some practical tips about workflow during the editing process. I'm putting together a short doc/promo and have filmed and digitized all of my interviews. At this point, what is the most efficient way to proceed in terms of locating choice quotes and editing 60 minutes of interviews down to 3 minutes?

For example: do you keep a physical log of sound bites and topics and where they're located? Or do you set markers at interesting points? Or do you go ahead and chop the footage into subclips?

I'm familiar with basic editing techniques. I'm also putting together a short film. Obviously, piecing together scenes is much different than intercutting interview footage. I'd love some advice from Those Who've Gone Before. And if anyone knows of links or resources specifically for this topic, that would be much appreciated as well. Thanks!
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Old October 1st, 2008, 01:23 AM   #2
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Well this is definately a basic question, and it may be too basic for you to get any answer. To me it seems that you are asking for assistance with general workflow rather than technical workflow. For general workflow, what works for you is what works best for you. You will have to find that out on your own. Technical workflow, for example how to get the highest quality footage from your camera to a DVD, is another story.

To attempt to answer your question, you will need to think of the purpose of the interview, and remove all parts that do not go towards fulfilling that purpose. That should get rid of at least 50% of your footage. It's hard to tell a story in 3 minutes, but you will get the hang of it!

-JS
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Old October 1st, 2008, 02:02 AM   #3
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"Find your own path, padawan," is a totally acceptable answer. Sometimes workflow is a matter of personal style (as with writing) and sometimes a particular process seems to develop as a de facto standard. Even knowing which bucket this falls into is helpful to some degree.

Thanks for the fast response.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 03:30 AM   #4
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Hi Justin

There are many ways but here's what I do.

Before I start shooting I will have worked out what the film is all about. I will have kept this in mind during the shooting process. But hopefully there will have been a few surprises and I will have got stuff during the shoot which I hadn't anticipated. Either way, some of the material is going to be stronger than other parts and the way in which you put it all together to tell the story will determine the success of the film.

When I first started doing this kind of thing (not so long ago) I asked the same question that you are asking. And I read somewhere that you should write it all down, assemble your film on paper and then do the edit.

All I can say is that this approach definitely doesn't work for me. I like to work with the material directly.

I therefore view my material and make subclips as I am viewing it. In fact I always view it when I digitise it in order to start getting my head around it. So when I am making subclips I am seeing it for the second time and have already been able to start to think about it.

In the editing software that I use (Avid Liquid) I can dump copies of the subclips onto a desktop and can then move them around, select the good and discard the bad, play them in their own window, sort out what might work with what, make up overlapping strings of subclips that I can then preview as a sequence. And when I have got this roughly into shape I send them to the timeline and work on them in detail.

I don't have experience of other editing software so I don't know how this might work for you but if you can't do that I suppose you can play around with your subclips in their rack and then take them to the timeline.

This may or may not be a helpful analogy. I did a course in building stone walling once and then built a curving stone wall, ten metres long that rose as it curved. The stone I used was extremely irregular (west of Scotland).

It was the same kind of process as editing a documentary. Lots of bits of irregular stone lying around that had to be selected and placed in relation to each to produce a smooth three dimensional curve. In order to select the right stone at the right time you had to lay them out so that you could see them all properly. And you had to turn them around and get a good look at them too. Same as looking at your subclips.

When I got it right it seemed like the pieces of stone and the wall were so well locked together that they had been there forever. And a film edit feels the same when it's works out good.

Maybe you should do a course in building stone walls ;-)
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Last edited by Richard Gooderick; October 1st, 2008 at 04:02 AM.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 09:15 AM   #5
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I'm a bit old school. I watch the tape, and select the soundbites I want, notating timecode and verbal in and out points. then those are what I digitize. Left over from my days in TV news using 3/4" tape, and then later transitioning to digital when a 9 GB drive cost $3,000 so space was precious.

That way I have already separeated the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, and don't get bogged down with unnecessary files.

That's what works for me, ymmv. ;-)

( I liken it to decided which NLE to use. you have to find the one what works they way you think, or at least close to it, and go from there. This is a very individual choice.)
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Old October 1st, 2008, 10:25 AM   #6
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I'm doing the same thing, of course.

I tried to do it "like the pros do" by transcribing everything and editing on paper. This lead to headaches and two months of lost work - I just couldn't work that way.

I'm making more progress just going in, watching the stuff, and cutting, cutting, cutting, assembling it like a jigsaw - or more appropriately, like a house of cards, adding, moving, and deleting things as I get closer to the end product that I want to see.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 03:39 PM   #7
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Wow! You guys rock! This is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for.

Richard, I really love the wall analogy. That's actually quite helpful. And the workflow seems to be the same with Final Cut, so your process fits, too. But one of your key points, "Before I start shooting I will have worked out what the film is all about" - um, yeah. Kind of forgot that part halfway through. I went from "here's what I want" to "what the hell just happened to the light!" All part of the learning process.

Bill, thanks for the old school approach. A DP I worked with suggested something similar for digitizing. But I found I just didn't have the patience or the confidence to pull discreet clips off the tape. Inevitably I just dump it all and sort through it later. (And if I run out of room, I go spend another couple of hundred for another TERABYTE - isn't that amazing? $3k for 9G vs $200 for 1T. I watched it happen and I'm still blown away.)

Brian, the funny thing is I was literally working on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday (a short sanity break). So very appropriate analogy. I can totally wrap my head around that.

You guys are great. I kept wondering "Am I doing something wrong? Is it really this complicated? Should I have made better notes?" I guess the answer is no, yes, and no. The editing room was sort of a "black box" to me (or was), but now I have an all-new respect for documentarians.

Thanks a ton! This is perfect!
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Old October 1st, 2008, 07:01 PM   #8
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As others have noted, finding what works for you is a bit of trial and error. But ALL of these approaches have one thing in common.

A script.

Yes, its a documentary - but I use the term loosely. Think 'guideline' or 'template' or "I want/THINK this film is about XYZ" Take a few moments to simply write down the arc of the film.

I want to introduce the problem HERE. I want to introduce the characters HERE. I want to show how they deal with it HERE. I want to introduce the complications HERE, and then the big FINISH goes here. - All of this might take up no more space than this paragraph.

THEN when you sit down to edit, you will have something to look FOR as well as something to look AT. "I'm looking for all the shots that show her in her natural work setting" - and put them in THIS folder/Bin. "Now, where are all the shots where they are arguing about what to buy?" - They go "HERE" . "What about shots of the factory, and the process??? Put them in my b-roll folder..."

You see, you're organizing your footage (laying out your stones)- whether you do it on paper by looking at the transcripts/timecode - or you do it while shuttling through the footage while logging and captureing. You will KNOW what you are trying to accomplish. It will give your Butt Time Units more relevance. Stay observant enough to follow the timeline wherever it might lead you of course.

There is the doc you write, the doc you shoot, and the doc you edit.

Have fun.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 07:39 PM   #9
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lol - "BTU". I'm a writer by trade, so that's something I can relate to. Thanks.
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Old October 1st, 2008, 08:03 PM   #10
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Lots of great books out there worth a read. "Directing the Documentary" by Michael Rabiger is really good. I saw one in the bookstore today "Shut Up and Shoot" I think it was called, a kind of nuts and bolts book - looked good. Also one that was mostly interviews OF Doc Filmmakers - getting their personal approaches - always worth a look see.

Some people (myself) like to do a 'radio cut' - put the talking heads down on the timeline, effectively telling the story - without b-roll - first. I also like to 'bookend' the piece if I can. Maybe I've got a really terrific opening and closeing shot. I put them on the timeline and start 'filling in' between them. Sure, I might decide to change them later, but again at least you are starting with SOMETHING to aim at.

As I writer, you understand "Don't get it right, get it written" - which means get it done so you can START the rewrite, the edit. Same principle, different medium. Its all story-telling.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 11:52 AM   #11
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When trying to put a huge chaos into order, use a fractal approach like nature does.

First create a small version of what you are trying to achieve, for example, a very very short doc with just a couple clips which nevertheless tells your story. It might be analogous to the trailer of a film which tells the entire story in an extremely abbreviated manner.

Now, in a fractal manner, you just need to expand each of those very small clips into its own section. Each small clip is like a chapter heading, and now you need to expand each chapter heading into a full blown chapter.

And after you have finished one book, you can fractally grow the book into a series, and then grow the series into a collection, and then grow the collections into a library, etc.

In this manner, highly complex systems are grown from self-similar subsets, through fractal progression.
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Old October 5th, 2008, 09:36 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin Whitney View Post
Wow! You guys rock! This is exactly the kind of feedback I'm looking for.

Richard, I really love the wall analogy. That's actually quite helpful. And the workflow seems to be the same with Final Cut, so your process fits, too. But one of your key points, "Before I start shooting I will have worked out what the film is all about" - um, yeah. Kind of forgot that part halfway through. I went from "here's what I want" to "what the hell just happened to the light!" All part of the learning process.

Bill, thanks for the old school approach. A DP I worked with suggested something similar for digitizing. But I found I just didn't have the patience or the confidence to pull discreet clips off the tape. Inevitably I just dump it all and sort through it later. (And if I run out of room, I go spend another couple of hundred for another TERABYTE - isn't that amazing? $3k for 9G vs $200 for 1T. I watched it happen and I'm still blown away.)

Brian, the funny thing is I was literally working on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday (a short sanity break). So very appropriate analogy. I can totally wrap my head around that.

You guys are great. I kept wondering "Am I doing something wrong? Is it really this complicated? Should I have made better notes?" I guess the answer is no, yes, and no. The editing room was sort of a "black box" to me (or was), but now I have an all-new respect for documentarians.

Thanks a ton! This is perfect!
While I may not have much to contribute at this point, I want to say that youre not alone in this little journey. Im right there at about the same point. Im gearing up to do my first documentary (Im in pre-production now) and I have only a very vague idea of how Im going to put it all together to get a cohesive and appropriately flowing process. Im getting some practical experience putting together some training films for my organization and Im finding even a small 10 minute movie is sometimes complicated, but I hope thats my inexperience rather than just the way things are. :-). I use Magix Movie Edit Pro 14 and I love it. It seems to work quite well and be very flexible. Its also not too much of a drain on my editing computer (Toshiba laptop for now). Finding what works for you is the best advice anyone can give and I also liked the wall analogy..very appropriate. Im a staunch independent and I typically go with what works for me more than for anything else. Good luck to you.

Steve
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