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Your first video edit

Martin Johnson - Saturday, December 14, 2013

This is the first post in a series that follows my three earlier posts on check list for your first video shoot. I'm assuming you know your way around whatever NLE you're using and you're now ready to start editing the footage you've shot.  (NLE - Non-linear editing. This describes programs such as Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, etc. Linear editing refers to editing using video-tape or film where the edits were normally done in order.)

Non Linear Editing has done to film editing what word processing did to writing. You can cut and paste and move images around in any order, all the while knowing that your original footage is untouched. Plus you can do it on devices as small as a Smartphone. Compared to editing on a Moviola or a Steenbeck (Google the words), life is a lot easier now.

1. Get organised

In the days of film editing, it was essential to be organised. You needed to have all your film logged and know which reels contained what footage. Usually an assistant editor would spool off the shots to be used in the sequence you were going to edit that day and put these in film bins - large canvas bags that sat alongside the editor. Each length of film was labelled with the scene number, take number, etc.

Those days are gone, although most NLE's still use 'bin' for the folder into which you put your various shots.

As you ingest or digitise your footage, give each clip a meaningful name. It should not only make sense to you, it should also be understood by another editor. Scene 1, Take 1, etc is one way. If you have a lot of footage, this can take some time. (I'm about to ingest footage for 4 x 30 minute training videos, which will probably take me two days). Give each 'bin' a name that describes the clips that are in it. Organise it in the same way as you do folders on your hard drive.

Spending the time to get organised at this part of the process will save you a lot of time and frustration down the track.

2. Look at all possible takes

Whilst it's tempting to quickly label a take and then ingest it all, taking the time to look at it again and trimming the in and out points at this stage does a couple of things. Firstly, it's like reading your 'dictionary' again. (See my earlier post on why Why shooting video is like compiling a dictionary

Secondly, it's a great way of 'getting the footage into your head' again as you start to edit. I find that as I go through the footage, a structure often emerges. That might be because I have already written an outline of the finished video, but looking at your footage as its being ingested can give you further inspiration. Sometimes when I am away from the screen doing something else, a better structure will come to mind from having just done the ingest.

3. Find a good starting point

You need to start somewhere - often I'll start editing a scene or sequence that I know will end up half-way through the finished video, but I'll pick either an easy scene or sometimes a hard one, just to get my head into the editing space. You may want to start at the beginning with your opening shot and then build from there, but I like to start as soon as I have all the footage ingested on my hard drives. That way the 'dictionary' in my head hasn't started to fade away (pushing the metaphors here, sorry).


In my next post, the basics of editing.


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