How to Series: Preparing for the post-production edit.

If you have been following my How To Series on Pre-Production  (Part 1 and Part 2), you might also want to review a few rules when preparing for your post-production edit. Follow these few rules BEFORE you step into an edit suite.

1. Shoot more than one take.


Mistakes happen. Mistakes happen A LOT on a video or film set. When working fast and furious, you may miss that stray sound on audio, or the weird twitch in the actor’s eye or that exterior shot of a building entrance with a ‘Closed’ sign in the window.


I recommend working on a 3:1 ratio, (3 takes for 1 useable shot or, if you are shooting an hour long format, then you should have about 3 hours of footage to edit from). If shooting on film, it gets expensive, but today, its all about hard drive space and that’s cheap. If you have to… buy another hard drive or card.


2. Shoot at minimum 3 seconds preroll (before “action”) and 3 seconds post roll (after “cut”).


Please, please, please… give your editor a minimum of 3 seconds of pre and post roll. Yes, even if the actor looks stupid just standing there. And even if the main subject has left frame.


There are many reasons for this, including making sure you are actually recording something, (older tech needed some time to get everything moving and heads to hit tape and newer tech needs  “loading” time so drives are recording).


Also, if the editor needs to add a dissolve or other transition to the footage. Most transitions can work within 3 seconds. But hey, drives are cheap. If you want to give your editor 5 seconds, that’s okay.


3. Shoot your main action with one frame rate, file format and audio bitrate.


Having different file formats and trying to edit them together can be done but you won’t like the results. Especially if you want to compress the video for online or DVD distribution. Take it from someone who has struggled with trying to edit tape, HD, DVCAM, .mp4, AAC, mp3 different formats into one segment. It will get time consuming which will cost more money.


4. If filming a scripted segment with on-camera talent,  mark your takes as the good, the bad, and the ugly.


Or A, B, C, or whatever. Do this after every take. If you want to spend your budget on an editor looking at all of your footage and he/she determining the best take, then ignore this suggestion. However, the best workflow is to have the selects logged and marked for the editor to load. She then assembles the first edit with all the A (good takes) and then the director can choose from other takes after. Click here for an edit log template among other production paperwork.


5. If filming an unscripted on-camera interview segment, do the same.


Mark the good comments and reactions you think will bring the piece together. You should be putting the interviews in sequence as you listen to them. As you are listening you will hear the story unfold and know what you will need for b-roll and for your edit, BEFORE you come into the edit suite.


6. If you don’t have a script, on-camera talent, nor narration, only a bunch of on-camera interviews, shoot a lot of b-roll or storyboard some graphics.


One minute of someone talking is more than enough. Our short attention spans need to look at something else. If the guy says, “We make the widget with this special sauce” then as a viewer (and editor) I want to look at a widget being made or a bottle of special sauce. Take notes during the interview and determine what you need for b-roll.


If you can only use interview footage then please shoot with at least two cameras so the editor can cut between the two separate angles.


7. Don’t forget the soundtrack.


Music really helps move a video segment along. It also determines pacing and even helps with transitions of  time or subject matter. Please come prepared with an idea of what type of music is needed.  It doesn’t need to be a finished soundtrack,  you may choose to do  that in a sweetening session later or even in the edit, but it helps to have an idea, even if rough.


8. Give the editor some room to create.


An editor will watch for continuity, pacing, and narrative flow. Will set timings, suggest transitions, and cut scenes together that may or may not be exactly as scripted.  Use her experience and technical skills and collaborate with her.


So go on out and shoot all that beautiful footage, but don’t forget these must haves. Even if you edit the piece yourself, you will be thankful you followed these few pointers.

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