I might have mentioned it before but I LOVE editing. I think it’s almost my favourite part of the whole production process. I really enjoy telling a story visually and even after 10 years I still get excited when I see an edit coming together.
When a story flows, the visuals help tell your narrative without being too shouty, the music enhances certain emotions and all of those elements working together creating a well rounded piece that just feels right when you watch it.
In my experience this feeling of ‘just right’ is achieved by the structure and tone, the pace, interviewees that come across genuinely on screen (if soundbites are part of your piece), the choice of music all working well together and not to forget the footage you’re working with being shot beautifully and with intention in the first place.
Speaking of intention, on some of my projects I do everything from the shoot right through the edit but on others I might just do the edit or I do a mix of directing and editing. However much I’m involved in it though I hate the phrase ‘We can always fix it on post.’ Maybe it’s just me but I find if you don’t shoot something with the edit in mind, so have a clear idea of what you would like to achieve and get across, you run the danger of ending up with lots of material that A) might not necessarily be very good and B) takes ages to look through. Both things I tend to avoid wherever possible.
Also when doing interviews I tend to already hear soundbites that I know can be cut together and will work well in the edit. I think my experience as an editor is invaluable when doing interviews and directing pieces to camera on shoots, as you have to really listen out for intonation and sentence structure in order to make the content work later on in the edit. So without further ado, here are the top 3 things I’ve learned and have found invaluable over the years:
KEEP YOUR PROJECTS ORGANISED
This is probably the most important thing and key in not losing your marbles, especially when working on big projects. Don’t underestimate the value of a well organised project – putting this extra work in at the beginning will save you a headache later on. I always make sure that everything is labelled clearly and consistently, that I’ve organised all assets in sub folders within a project folder (ie. footage, music, branding, images, exports etc). The same rule applies to any elements of your project within your editing software of choice. I always have a folder for sequences too and whenever I make a change to an edit I will have duplicated said sequence first so that I can easily go back to the previous version. After all, clients can be indecisive sometimes.
GET YOUR STORY STRAIGHT
Whenever I work on a new project, I start out by putting the narrative together. As tempting as it might be to look through all the lovely B-roll, it’s really important to get the structure of your piece right first. This doesn’t have to be linear (in the order it was shot in) you can pick and choose soundbites, cut back and forth between answers or interviewees, or maybe even let a comment settle with a sequence of footage cut to music. The beauty of editing is that you can try things out and discard them again if you don’t think they work. What I would recommend though, if the production timeline allows it, is letting your first cut settle for a day and then coming back to it to see if the structure still makes sense.
Well not literally, but having a backup of all your project assets (your raw footage being the most important one), the project files, which I recommend versioning occasionally so you can go back to previous versions easily, and any other materials that you have been given by the client is super important. Make sure that you have at least one but ideally two copies of everything on a separate hard drive or maybe even backed up online with a cloud provider. After all, hard drives or even whole computers can stop working without warning sometimes and you would really kick yourself if you didn’t have another copy of your work saved somewhere.