Editing: Editing from Start to Finish, Part 1 of 4

If you’ve been dragging your heels getting started with video editing because you think it’s just too complicated, have we got an article for you. Four articles, actually! Over the next four months, we’ll be breaking down a typical video project and covering a step by step explanation of the process a well-organized videographer might follow to produce a quality program.

This month, in Part 1, we’ll deal with the preparation before the edit, logging scenes and capturing video. In Part 2, we’ll cover ordering clips, trimming and pace. In Part 3, we’ll tackle adding titles and graphics. And finally, in Part 4, we’ll discuss adding music, special effects, editing and sweetening your sound track. When done, you should have a good overview of everything you need to know about how editing works in a modern, computer driven edit bay.

Defining the Project

The example project we will follow is a simple family history video. We’ll be combining photos and live video clips with music and graphics into an easy-to-watch production for family who’ll be gathering for a 30th wedding anniversary. Our goal is to create a video that will be shown at the party and eventually used to make VHS or DVD copies for family members who can’t attend.

Prep It

Step one is to review what we need in order to create our video. For our project, our assets include a box of family photos, some old 8mm films and some more modern home movies on Hi8 and VHS videotape. We also have home cassette recordings of Aunt Martha playing the piano. We even have some songs on CD and Mini DV tape from the very recent past.

Get Organized

Organization for any video project starts with the script, even for projects that rely on archival material and stock footage. Without some kind of script, it’s hard to break down the shooting process into manageable steps. A clear script also helps you prepare your storyboard.

Storyboards don’t have to be complicated, but they are the best way to organize your video on paper in preparation for logging and capturing. Whereas your script will indicate what you’re saying to the audience, your storyboard should show where each scene or still fits into the overall flow of your project. When you review your storyboard, you can consider elements such as program themes, pacing, fonts and color pallets, and make note of where you need music and special effects.

Pre-production (as this phase is called) is also the time to organize your other program assets. Take the time to make sure you label every tape with a unique name. Open your editing software and set your preferred storage locations for clip capture, audio and render files, establish your frame rate and compression settings and preview parameters. This is also the time to establish the structure of your project files, bins and folders with names or number codes that connect them to the project. Finally, you’ll want to make sure you have enough drive space for the length of project you’re planning. We’d recommend about 30GB of space for an hour-long program, although that all depends on how efficient you are during the logging and subsequent capture phase.


Transfer It!

For our project, we’ll need to scan paper photos into our computer. We’ll also need to convert analog video and audio tapes to a digital format. Often, the easiest way to accomplish this is to dub analog sources, like old VHS tapes, onto digital videotape using a DV camcorder. Many DV camcorders accept analog input via S-video or RCA video (composite) and audio jacks. Although the conversion process takes as long as it takes to playback your tapes (otherwise known as “real time”), the digital conversion process is easy and high quality. As a bonus, you’ve just backed up your aging tape archive. (Don’t throw away the originals!)

This process also works for music. Take the audio outputs of your cassette player or turntable, attach them to the audio inputs of your digital camcorder and make a digital tape copy. The result will be black video with a digital soundtrack, ready to import into your editor like any other DV source material. Film is much, much trickier and is another article entirely. Remember to allow plenty of time for transferring if you have to send your old home movie film out to a photo processor to have dubbed.

Wrapping Things Up

Our goal so far has been to organize our work, then capture and store the fundamental source media for our project. Next Month, in Part 2 we’ll cover moving our newly captured digital assets onto the timeline, trimming and balancing the timeline elements in a way that gives our program the proper pacing.

Bill Davis writes, shoots, edits and does voiceover work for a variety of corporate and industrial clients.

[Sidebar: Copyright Concerns]

Our fictional video features music by “Aunt Martha” performing her own compositions on the piano. This would clearly be free of copyright concerns. Copyright-protected commercial music used for family-style home video projects isn’t much of a problem. All producers should be aware, however, that the use of any element protected by copyright without explicit permission of the copyright holder is a violation of the law and can make your project ineligible for entry into video judging contests. The use of commercially available “buyout” music is always a safer choice if you ever plan to use your project for any public or commercial purpose.

Editing: Editing from Start to Finish, Part 2 of 4

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