EFAP is the (free) film school that keeps giving.
I re-watched their video on the Marvel symphonic universe as I was laying in and playing with temp tracks last month as I get closer and closer to picture lock.
Blessed without a day job I’ve had hours upon hours to sit with my movie and polish the cut. The days blend together. I think I was sick a few weeks ago. Or was that last week? My birthday was a month ago and I’m not sure what I did that day or night.
I still don’t have a title so it’s called Dinner Party. Still untitled. It’s a rough assembly of the first 32 minutes.
Watching rough cuts, especially that first one, is never really pleasant. Mostly I was dreading it, dreading that it would be bad or stupid or terrible or a waste. That’s self-doubt of course, but the fear is real. Sometimes what you make is not good.
Some of it works really well, some of it needs work. I’m relieved. It’s going to be OK. With a lot of work, it might be better than OK or perhaps good or very good or excellent or even great. I won’t know until we put in the work.
In music, everything from a sonata to a symphony uses changes in tempo as a basic part of its form. Typically, a four-movement sonata will change not only its musical themes in each movement, but also its temo in each movement and sometimes even within each movement.
Similarly, if a picture is edited in the same tempo for its entire length, it will feel much longer.
It doesn’t matter if five cuts per minute or five cuts every ten minutes are being used. If the same pace is maintained throughout, it will start to feel slower and slower.
I prefer to do the screening in my apartment because then people will actually sit there and watch without distraction–it’s hard to sit through a short film when you’re home alone and your phone is beckoning to distract you (at least it is for me).
I thought it was going to take about an hour — 15 minutes to watch it and 45 minutes to discuss, but we ended up talking for about 2 hours. The feedback was really great and it allowed me to see things that were in front of me but had become invisible through repetition. And there were a couple of beats that I loved but everyone said that they should be cut. It’s heartbreaking because I really loved those parts, but they just didn’t work for the story.
And there were some notes that I will not be using. I think you shouldn’t take everything, otherwise people will feel too much responsibility when they give a note, because they know you will take it.
And sometimes there are secret reasons for doing something and you just have to trust your gut that they are for the best. Feedback should make the work stronger and make you a better editor. I wonder if mastery of editing would mean that your instincts are so refined that all feedback would be superflous.
Who needs film school when you have Every Frame is a Painting? This couldn’t have come at a better time for me, as I’m getting into the exciting but difficult part of editing The Deadline.
Then I discovered that you can render previews of the footage. Basically, it’s the same as rendering an export, but you’re having Premiere render video to be used within the project. It doesn’t change the underlying source files, but it means that you can work with and edit much smaller preview files and get smoother playback in the monitor.
Here’s how you do it:
You can render any part of a sequence that falls under a red render line. You can also define a section of the sequence you want to render by setting In and Out points.
Render a preview file for a section of a sequence setting In and Out points:
1. Set In and Out points to mark the area you want to preview.
2. Choose Sequence, and select one of the following:
Render Effects In to Out Renders the sections of the video tracks lying within the In and Out points containing a red render line. Alternatively, press Enter.
Render In to Out Renders the sections of the video tracks lying within the In and Out points containing either a red render line or a yellow render line.
Render Audio Renders a preview file for the sections of the audio tracks lying within the work area.
Note: You can set Premiere Pro to render the audio tracks whenever you render the video tracks. For more information, see Render audio when rendering video.
The rendering time depends on your system resources and the complexity of the segment.
These options are not available if the work area is enabled.
To maximize the quality of motion in rendered preview files, check the Maximum Render Quality option in Sequence Settings. For more information, see Settings.
The process is a lot like film editing, without the visual element of course. The episode basically turns out to be a how-to on how to edit a radio story and it’s comforting to know that it’s not an easy process. They start with a very rough cut, go through it and figure out where it “drifts,” and then making subsequent re-edits to improve the story until it’s working and interesting throughout.
It’s also comforting to know that this is more or less the approach I take when I edit video — whenever I get feedback (or give myself feedback), I look for the places in a script or the video where the action stalls. I really like the term drift though, because it’s more descriptive of the audience’s experience. Stalling is about the work, drifting is about the audience.
And they go into one technique that they use to keep people interested and moving forward, especially before a commercial break. They call it a “promote forward.”
The use of the term “forward” struck me because I just read a book called “Backward and Forwards: A Technical Manual for Reading Plays” by David Ball. The book is fascinating on a lot of levels. As a reader, I learned that my understanding of Hamlet as a brooding man of inaction is entirely wrong and that he doesn’t actually contemplate suicide, he only feigns to be depressed and crazy in order to convince Polonius et al. that he is.
I don’t know if there’s a “right” interpretation, but I had never thought of that one.
The book is intended for theater creators, mainly directors, but it also serves as a technical guidebook for play-writing or screenwriting without falling prey to the “paint by numbers” approach of most of the dreck written about screenwriting.
One of the theses of the book is that a good play (or dramatic writing of any form) uses forwards throughout to keep the reader moving. Ball summarizes it:
A forward is any of a myriad of devices, techniques, tricks, maneuvers, manipulations, appetizers, tantalizers, teasers, that make an audience eager for what’s coming up. If you miss a script’s forwards, you miss the playwright’s most distinctive, gripping tool. What stripper does not know that the promise of nudity more excites an audience than does nudity itself?
There is a solution however–a company in Spain, Cinemartin, sells a plugin called Plin.
Once you download and install it, it adds a menu item under File in Adobe Premiere and you can now export to ProRes.
A few things about it:
Working with completely improvised dialogue was probably similar to editing a documentary. The story has to be assembled and rewritten from what was captured.
Adobe Premiere’s sync function works well about 75% of the time. It’s more convenient to use than Red Giant’s PluralEyes but not as reliable.
I always back everything up to multiple devices and at least once to the cloud. If a fire or robbery happens, I’ll only lose a day of work. Same if DropBox or Google Drive loses everything.
Part 1 – Surveying the footage
For each episode, I opened up my outline on a 2nd screen and created sequences in Adobe Premiere for each of the story beats.
Then I went through the footage, cutting clips and filing them away on the sequence related to their beat. This was easier on some episodes than others. As I watched, the story changed and I rewrote the outline and reorganized the sequences, sometimes 7 or 8 times, until I got to the end of the unlogged footage and had everything sorted into a beat sequence.
This was the most mentally exhausting part of the editing because it’s slow, it involves a lot of “writing” and it because at this point I was watching footage that was slow and having to watch it for very specific issues of content, then decide where to put it, and then possibly rewrite everything based on what I was seeing.
When I was done, I had six or seven sequences in Premiere, one for each beat of the story.
Part 2 – Putting together the beats
Once I had the raw footage sorted into beats, I would work through the individual story beat and massage that. These sequences would have anywhere from 30 seconds (for an intro or outro beat) to 15 minutes of material.
I would comb through them and start to piece together a rough story for the beat, moving any material that I didn’t like or didn’t want to use to a “discards pile” sequence so that I could go back to it later without searching through one of the raw clips.
This took a long time as well, and it also triggered some rewriting of the beats. Occasionally it would spawn new beats as I realized that more than 1 major thing was going on in the sequence.
At the end of this part, my beat sequences would still be rough, but they would have a few minutes of the best clips for a given beat and a lot of discarded clips that I left on the timeline (just in case) but separated from the good footage.
Part 3 – Rough Assembly
The next step was to drop the various beats into a master editing sequence, which would eventually become the rough cut. This first assembly would clock in at a more manageable 15 to 25 minutes, depending on the episode.
Then I would start to watch the rough assembly, making bigger cuts as I went through it, and sometimes rewriting the story beats again. Sometimes one beat would have a good transition to another beat, so I would want to get the good transition lined up. Or sometimes the story just played out differently than I imagined, and the order had to be re-arranged.
This part was more fun than the previous part, but still involved a lot of writing work.
After I had the story solidly in place, I would go through the sequence over and over, cutting away the fat and the things that didn’t work. I cut beat repetition (when the same joke or story beat or tactic was used again without any variance in emotion, tactic, tone, physicality, etc.). I cut extra space at the beginning and end of clips. I cut out frivolous words or false starts to sentences (although I left some of these in). And I cut anything that just didn’t work or seem to fit the story.
After doing this for a while (hard to say how many hours this part took, somewhere in the range of 3 to 8), I would export a rough cut.
Part 4 – Getting feedback