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Old September 17th, 2005, 06:15 PM   #1
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Time to edit my doc...how?

O.K. Well, I'm not as clueless as the title might lead you to believe. Let me tell you something about my project. I have been travelling and shooting for 12 weeks. This is going to me a mix of personal narrative and traditional documentary, with some nice artistic montages intermixed. It will be a little dash of John Jost, some Bill Brown, and absolutely NO Ken Burns.

So I have many, many hours of material that I will go through and index. What I'm asking is: what are the various means that some of you employ to organize material.

For instance, I was thinking of laying the whole movie out in storyboard form with colour coded notecards. That way, before I capture anything to disk, I have the movie basically edited.

What do the rest of you do? And for any geniuses like Godard or Von Sternberg who edit in their heads as they shoot, well, stay quiet.

Thanks for your help,

DJ Kinney
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Old September 17th, 2005, 07:22 PM   #2
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I was gonna suggest make sure you use spell check.. but I guess this isn't about MS Word .DOC files.. :)

I have done about four 35-40 minute doc's for corporate america.. My approach is a bit different since I'm just on the corp payroll and have about 4TB of space available at any given time.. So I just capture everything complete tapes..

Then I just work with the materials and the notes to took during shooting.. Albeit it has always sounded as if story boarding could make it easier..
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Old September 17th, 2005, 09:20 PM   #3
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You don't mention the topic or theme of your documentary. If it's not clear when you start, it'll be tough to edit.

My suggestion is decide what story you PLAN to tell. Sit down, sketch it out. At the very least, a linnear narrative about the documentary. Make sure it's interesting or engaging. Not just "My trip to Africa First I went here , then here, then here, then came home..." but more like "My trip to Afica, and how I discovered I was mortal..." because there's this whole sequence when you got sick, or some such thing. Yeah, it's a doc, but it still has a beginning middle and end.

Sometimes, you can work backwards. You KNOW you have the perfect final shot. The perfect TAG for the end of the film... You know what the whole thing is working up to... GREAT. Put that at the bottom of your outline, jump up to the top and figure out where it should start, find the key point in the middle and fill in the blanks.

Try editing in sections. Could be acts, could be sequences. Then store them away in your bins. Rearrange your sequences to see how they flow. Is your story necessarily chronological, or does it have a different structure? Is it told in flashbacks???

All these questions can be answered sitting at your breakfasat table drinking coffee with a pen and pad. Whatever. The point is, have some idea of structure before you begin to edit. There are MANY approaches, all of them valid. The form and approach that arrises naturally from your reasoning will be the most organic to you. It will be how YOU tell the tale.

Your NLE and storage limitations will dicate your capture strategy. If you've got room, grab it all and sort it out. I cut on Avid which is GREAT for long-form. All sorts of ways to sort and order bins. You can open numerous sequences... it's just really efficient when it comes to long form. Ask those with your NLE what their workflow is for organizing media.

Edit LONG, cut short. Throw the stuff on the timeline. Get it built. Then take an axe to it... cut and cut again. Keep the talking head to a minimum, use all the b-roll you can.

When you're done, don't look at it for a few days. Then come back and cut it some more.

Have fun
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Old September 17th, 2005, 11:16 PM   #4
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What is it about Ken Burns' style you dislike?
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Old September 18th, 2005, 01:11 AM   #5
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Documentaries can be tricky beasts. The story you start out with, is very often not the story you end up shooting in the real world.

However out of that reality, the story you tell is somewhat within your control.

I would go through all of your footage and pick out "the perfect shots." Those shots that either though luck or skill, have somehow nailed it. The perfect interview quote with the old lady, that shot where the sun hit hit the water just right. That shot where big-foot ran across your frame.

Place all of these "perfect shots" into your time line, then figure out how to connect them narratively with the rest of the less than perfect footage you have. Graphics and V.O. and (ken burns moving photos too :) ) can serve the same function. Go out and re-shoot some connecting scenes if necessary.

Mix, match, fold, spindle and mutilate until your story pops out.

For narrative work, most decisions are made in the script. For documentaries most decisions are made in the editing room. Leave a lot of time for post production. I also agree with Richard about leaving it alone for a couple of days then come back to it. It's very easy to lose your perspective.
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Old September 18th, 2005, 01:25 AM   #6
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I like to convert each tape to a DVD with the timecode stamped into the upper corner. It may not save you much time if it's a solo project, but it makes team projects much more flexible. I pay this kid to come in and create the DVDs, so it's worth it.

One nice benefit, you can work almost anywhere where there's a DVD player and have all your footage readily available. I've had quite a few fun "editing" sessions at several bars in New York City. And it also makes it easier to view and retrieve your footage later on down the road, when you get closer to the final edit, and need to find that perfect 3 seconds of audio/video to complete your masterpiece.

When it's all done, one person can go back to the main editing bay, and splice everything together.
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Old September 18th, 2005, 01:54 PM   #7
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Here is my usual process:

1. Load everything.
2. Push it all onto the timeline.
3. Watch thru it once, cutting out clearly useless material, foot shots, overly bad exposures, etc. I don't try to edit for story or making short clips, only to eliminate the crap. This becomes my "b-line"
4. At the same time, I move any "great" shots or clips onto a second track, which I will call the "A-line"
5. Save this timeline sort and get away for a day or two. This can prove useful later, so don't lose the project at this point,. You may want to come back to it in the future.
6. Watch just the stuff on the "A" track and see what story pops out.
7. Then I start building the actual "assembly edit", putting things in some kind of sequence to tell the story I want to tell. I am also starting to throw things away at this point (or demote them back to the b-line).
8. I then tighten the clips some to bring the story out, but maybe not 100%.
9. I use the "b-line" clips once the main story is assembled and I have used as much of the A-line as I think is appropriate to the story at hand.
10. Then I start the real editing, tweaking, etc.


Sounds hard, but it is really pretty efficient. I suppose you could even do a sort to more tracks (C, d?) depending on your project and how organized it is coming in..
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Old September 18th, 2005, 11:41 PM   #8
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I just finished my first feature doc that is going on a college tour in a few weeks (just showed at USC) and starting pre-production on another. The key is to log everything extensively and capture the selects with plenty o cards if you want. Then create an editing script and start cutting. Plan on one MAJOR re-edit and several other tweak edits.

You need to pull out the story and develop your characters, choose shots BASED ON THOSE CRITERIA! Do not choose the stuff that looks best, is well lit, shot by a pro, etc. etc. etc. I dont know how many f notes. Then, watch back thru your selects. After you have watched everything, develop the story in your mind and work it out on paper, you could useamazing shots got left out of my doc but the story is clear and the characters developed...



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Old September 18th, 2005, 11:50 PM   #9
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Ash is right. I just reread my post and I was not clear. When I choose "great" shots for the "A line", it is based upon them having a good story element. Not necessarily for the story I planned, but just a good story element. A lot of times that means good interview comments, lots of emotion, something unexpected, etc. They may get dumped later, but the emotional and unexpected is often where the story gets interesting.

But I don't like logging at the detail level too early, I think it constrains my workflow, imagination, and flexibility too much.
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Old September 20th, 2005, 01:09 PM   #10
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Weird my post got some parts chopped out...

The key is to log everything extensively and capture the selects with plenty of detailed information. You can use cards if you want. Then create an editing script and start cutting. Plan on one MAJOR re-edit and several other tweak edits.

You need to pull out the story and develop your characters, choose shots BASED ON THOSE CRITERIA! Do not choose the stuff that looks best, is well lit, shot by a pro, etc. etc. etc. I dont know how many gorgeous shots I have sitting in the project bins that are unused in the timeline.

Watch back thru your selects. After you have watched everything, develop the story in your mind and work it out on paper, and edit to that story. It may also to be helpful to write out some ideas for how you want to develop the characters. Is a guy funny? Like to eat all the time? Negative? etc. Then be sure to use clips that fall in line with their character.



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Old September 20th, 2005, 02:07 PM   #11
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I do a mix of both methods. I do it Ash-style, meaning, I develop a story, but I also look at my shots and separate the good ones. It IS a shame to leave good stuff unused but I think it's more important to make a good piece than to try to stick good stuff in there just 'cause you have it. Just like how you may have a nice formal suit but you don't wear it to the ball park.
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Old September 20th, 2005, 02:38 PM   #12
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Lots of good insights into different people's workflows. You can learn a lot from this.

I might point out, that most of this workflow is applicable regardless of the length of the project. I think it's in cutting docs, where the media management of an NLE can make or break your workflow. The ability to sort in any concieveable fashion, Bins with clips, subclips and folders and sub folders, create multiple sequneces, have them open at the same time... these are things that really come in handy when your wading through lots of archival and b-roll footage.
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Old September 26th, 2005, 06:53 AM   #13
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Adding...

I remember a quote that I cannot attribute. When asked how a famous sculpter did his masterpieces, he replied that he removed all the pieces that weren't the statue.

I used to log like Bob, but with 24 tapes and 250GB free, I had to be selective this time. So, the first cut was in logging only that which was interesting, usable, and on topic. Now, I have broken the parts into a logical design and created individual sequences for each. That would match your index in your cards. It breaks it into less daunting chunks too. To use another metaphor, "how do you eat an elephant? One fork full at a time."
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Old September 26th, 2005, 10:30 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by George Ellis
I remember a quote that I cannot attribute. When asked how a famous sculpter did his masterpieces, he replied that he removed all the pieces that weren't the statue.
Yes! The way I heard it, it was Michelangelo, regarding one of the horses he sculpted. He was reputed to have said that he removes everything that was not the horse.

Maybe Oscar can shed some light on this?
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Old September 27th, 2005, 01:35 PM   #15
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One thing I have found useful, if you can find someone to sit through it, and if you are willing to show... have someone disconnected watch as much of your raw footage as possible. It may be boring, but you might be surprised at what they react to. Call it a pre-edit test-screening.

I had a friend come over at see some of my doc footage, and I was surprised at the subtle shots, quotes, and other elements that he reacted to. It was mostly stuff I would have thrown out if it had just been me. Now I have come to appreciate how telling those things were about the character subject of the doc.
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