How to plan for your video edit
Planning your post-production is as important as the video shoot itself. Here are a few rules when preparing for your post-production edit.
Before you step into an edit suite:
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, it is all about hard drive space and that's cheap.
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.
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 ProRes, H264, Uncompressed, 4K .mp4, AAC, and .mp3 formats into one segment. The process also can get time consuming which means cost.
When 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 or she determines 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 and other production paperwork.
If filming an unscripted on-camera interview segment, listen closely.
As you are listening to your interviewees you will hear the story come to life. You should be thinking about what the first shot or spoken segment should be, or if you need b-roll or graphics, or even to ask the question again. Log the comments and list the b-roll needed. For instance, if the interviewee 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.
If you know you will not have b-roll or graphics and can only use interview footage, then please shoot with at least two cameras so the editor can cut between the two separate angles.
Looking at a talking head for any longer than 1 minute can really slow the pace of a video and can make it boring no matter how engaging your interviewee is.
Don't forget the soundtrack.
Background music is a fundamental part of video production. The right music can set the tone for the entire piece, and help 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 at an audio studio later or directly in the edit, but it helps to have an idea, even if rough.
After you enter the edit suite:
Have a chat with your editor. Whether it's you or a hired professional.
Gather your graphics, footage, music, scripts, and notes and give them to the editor. Then have a chat. What do you want to accomplish? Do you want a finished piece or rough cut for review? When do you need it? What file formats are required? What is the current schedule including due dates? Yes even if you are editing this yourself, think about what it is you want to accomplish.
The first hours are very slow, but very important.
The first hours of editing are all about setting up the project and workflow. The editor should be setting up his or her workstation for the project, importing footage onto drives, organizing project folders, creating backups and then reviewing all elements so as to understand the full scope of the project. The benefit of all that time you spent with logs, time codes and notes during the shoot will become clear at this stage.
After the rough cut, it is time for graphic production and cutaway selection.
Here is where an experienced storyteller shines. Adding graphics, and cutaways will help clarify ideas and highlight narratives that your story will tell. I usually start the production of graphics as I work on the first cut.
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.