How to Start…
I’ve been tasked with pulling back the curtain a little on the first day of a project from an editor’s perspective. I hope that this helps to somewhat demystify our process a bit and shed some light on what it is we do in post, as it’s often the most overlooked part of the process – in fact, I think I may have been asked to write this so that the boss knows what it is I do all day.
The first – and possibly the most important – thing that needs to be done before starting any video editing is research. With any luck there will be a fully written brief that will explain who the client is, what sort of video that they’re looking for, who the audience is, and all that jazz. Maybe even some example videos of what sort of thing to aim for if I’m very lucky. It’s so important to make sure that we’re all pulling in the same direction from the very start so that there are as few surprises as possible. Next I’ll check through any notes made by the director or cameraperson from the day of shooting – this will give me an idea of what camera settings I’ll be working with, whether everything went smoothly on the day, or if there’s anything specific that was shot that either should or shouldn’t be included.
Once the footage has been handed over to me, I’ll start transferring all the data onto our external hard-drive and our back-up drive. I can’t stress enough how essential it is to back everything up. Computers can be temperamental so it’s crucial to mitigate any potential risks to a project by having multiple copies of everything. While everything is transferring, I just have to sit back for a bit and watch the progress bars fill up to 100% – exciting stuff! – and it’s a prime opportunity to talk at length to everyone in the office about how hard I’m working and how difficult my job is – an absolutely vital part of any day of video editing.
Once I have everything that I need to get started then I’ll set up my project. It’s boring to talk about, but having the right file and project structure for every project is imperative. This means creating folders for audio/graphic assets, exports, autosaves, etc. Your project has to be meticulously organised so that if it gets picked up by another editor half way through, they will know exactly where everything is that they need and at what stage the project is towards completion.
The next steps really depend on what type of video we’re making. I may need to synchronise multiple cameras and audio tracks, export interview clips for the client to listen through, or if it’s a project without a pre-planned storyboard (like on an event video, for example) then I’ll get started on creating a shot selection of all the best looking shots and start to plan out in my head the best way to get different types of shots to work together to tell a story.
It’s not easy to explain the process between here and having a finished first draft because there’s such a wide difference in the type of videos that we can deliver. Suffice to say that there’s much button-pushing, problem solving and lots of internal back and forth before we deliver our first draft. Because we work with Adobe’s edit suite for the most part, there also tends to be a sizeable amount of troubleshooting if the software decides to stop behaving. A lot of this stage involves ironing out any issues and making the edits as seamless as possible. A good video should be like a swan – completely graceful to look at, but paddling furiously behind the scenes.
When we’re ready to deliver a first draft to the client it’s important to be clear with them about what stage the project is in and what is left to be done to get it to the finished stage. We have to remember that not all of our clients are familiar with video production and so may be spooked by the fact that the music track has an audible watermark before being licensed, or that the image won’t yet be colour graded and so is likely to appear dull and faded.
“The first day of video editing is all about understanding the footage we’re about to work with. It’s really important to grasp the full scope of what we have to edit because you never know what could be useful later on.
While watching the footage the video begins to take shape in our head and that is the first step. At the end of the day it’s all about helping the video take its own personal shape” says Video Editor Ryan Booth.
This is all a very general run-down and, like I keep saying, every project is different. Some videos won’t have a first draft ready until after a few days of work, while others are complete and signed off within half a day. Adapting to new challenges and finding new ways of bringing everything together is what keeps the work interesting and makes us keep pushing ourselves.