By Bart Weiss
As editors, we tend to get into habits. We do the same thing we have done many times before which is often good but, sometimes, the habits are not good habits. Then, we need to revisit, correct, or re-strategize the task at hand. Over the years, I have discovered many students who learned editing on their own, and they may not have picked up best practices. In any piece of software, there are many ways to edit, and the way you do it might be ok for you, for now, but once you get into larger projects and get into time restraints you might want to change your approach or methods.
I know changing habits is not easy.
And I know everyone loves lists, so here we go.
(#1) Watch the dailies! Back in the old days of shooting film, this was obvious, but now directors just keep the camera rolling, so there is so much, well, stuff. But in order to edit, you need to know what you have. Watching all the dailies is critical to judging performance on takes. But it also puts those images into your subconscious. So, when thinking about a reaction, you can remember that you once saw it watching the dailies. Skimming through the dailies can be easy in FCPX and also in the new Cut Page of Resolve. (Reference my article in the previous issue of StudentFilmmakers Magazine.)
(#2) Make notes, create metadata! In the old days, we have a notebook where were wrote all the directors’ and editors’ notes down. Now, much of that could be added to the browser. Adding data on top of the clips, like using keywords and favorites in FCPX, or creating sub clips in other software can help your head get into thinking about the structure of the film.
Time you spend adding metadata to clips (which is admittedly a pain), frees your creativity later.
(#3) Assemble before tweaking. Start by making an assemblage. Yeah, I know you know that, but do you do it? No. Most novice or student editors are in a hurry to get to it and start tightly trimming the scene at the start. Why? Because, “I am right here, I’ll just trim a bit here and do a bit there,” and after an hour, you have four shots cut. The process here is to build and assemble the film mostly in master shot with only a smidge of trimming.
At this point, we are looking to see if the film works. Is the structure sound? Do I need to have some flashbacks or parallel action? At this point, it is a good idea to project your assemblage.
(#4) Don’t treat your timeline like your messy room. Don’t use your timeline as your big pile of stuff. I often see novices or students just bringing lots of shots in the timeline, and especially a ton of stuff at the end. Often, they will forget and wonder why the export is three times as long as the film. If you had added metadata and labeled your dailies in the first place, you mark and find what you might want later can. Instead of just tossing clips in the timeline, be careful in the browser to precisely mark what you want to put in and where you want and really want it the first time.
(#5) Keyboard commands. You know that you need to know more but, every time you reach for that mouse you are slowing down. When you use keyboard commands, you will feel more confident as an editor.
(#6) Cut down on your use of the bloody blade. Many people were taught to trim by blading the shot, then, deleting the unwanted media. Learn how to Ripple and Roll. These functions are on all editing systems. They will save you time and make your editing more precise. Once you master Ripple and Roll, you can learn to Slip and Slide.
(#7) Wait for the grade. Don’t start color grading until you have locked picture. Yeah, I know this is the fun part, but that shot might not be in the final film. Now go back and log your footage. (Boy, do I sound like an old grouch.)
(#8) Use the EQ. So, after you locked picture and now you are color grading – but, just like every show needs to be graded, every piece of audio needs to be EQ’s or finessed. You will be surprised what some EQ can do for you.
(#9) Back up. Do I even have to mention this? Yes, so many novices and students are willing to lose their hard work because they would not spend money and time to back up their media.
(#10) Have fun. You cannot control the world, but you can when you edit. You can find a nuisance that was not in the original material, or you can make the mediocre sing. It is all in the power of your imagination and your knowledge of the techniques and tools of editing.