When I was taught film editing at University, the first thing the tutors went over was ‘the process.’ Editing in the professional film/TV environment follows a fairly specific pattern that maximises workflow and time spent, with each stage saved as a carefully labelled separate edit – one with matched video and audio, the next with basic cutaways added in and so on. It’s a good system that means video can be edited quickly, and changes can be made from any point. I’m glad I learned it.
However, I always found it somewhat difficult to stick to. The system works when you have a clear idea of how a video should go – which in the professional would already be mostly agreed upon by the director/producer. But when I am the producer, as is the case in well, all the projects I’ve done, even if I plan out the way the video should go, those plans frequently fall apart as soon as I start looking at the clips.
In addition, once I have a good idea I tend to take it exclusively and work on it even when I should be working on the video as a whole. I chop and change clips around the timeline, and usually end up with a dumping ground of clips at the end of the project. It’s not a clean way of working. It’s messy. In the professional world it would doubtless take far too long. But as I do have the time to work through my ideas, I think it allows me to came up with the best ideas for the specific video.
This recent promotional video that I edited for Willow Wood Hospice is a good example. The clips needed to follow the voice overs, as well as link them together. I also had far more material to work with than needed. Logically, the first thing to do should have been to sort through the clips for the most important ones, and to some extent, I did this, identifying the most important clips that I needed – at the beginning, end, and in the linking sections. But rather than organise the rest of the video in this way, much of the rest came down simply to what clip and length of clip ‘felt right.’
There is a downside to this style of working – the way I was taught also meant that you could return easily to any previous version of your work if you needed to re-edit. I’ve had problems with this in audio work and recording – you think I would have learned! It’s important to save multiple versions, or make notes on what you have done. But it’s important to mess around, and not always stay closely to what you know will work – there are always several ways of putting a video or film together, and it does come down to what ‘feels right’.