Week 7 Reading log
The editor is really the second director. pp.408
- Rabiger, M. (2004) Directing the Documentary, London: Focal Press. 29: Post-Production begins
- Kerrigan, S. & McIntyre, P. (2010) The ‘creative treatment of actuality’: Rationalizing and reconceptualizing the notion of creativity for documentary practice, Journal of Media Practice, 11:2, 111-130
This week was a brief workshop on getting to terms with Adobe’s ‘Premiere Pro’. This was not too difficult for me as I have used this programme for some years and am capable when it comes to editing using it. This week was a good time to storyboard and get shot-lists done.
Directing the Documentary – Postproduction begins
This chapter should address the importance of postproduction, the role of the editor and the importance of preparation.
Editing: Role and responsibilities
Rabiger begins by relating the difference between big and low-budget documentaries editing. Big budget films have the luxury to edit from the start of shooting so the film is edited while more is being shot but for low-budget documentary films as mine is, cutting the film together will all be done once all the scenes have been shot. There is a risk here that errors in the shooting are only revealed after shooting is wrapped, and thus there is no way to rectify these problems.
Rabiger stresses the importance of an editor to the technical and creative process. Editing is the final place for a project to alter before it is released and this can cause conflict if the director and editor do not understand each other’s visions. Films can be made or lost in the edit. “The good editor is articulate, patient, highly organized, willing to experiment endlessly, and diplomatic about trying to get his or her own way” pp.408.
This section is quite interesting as I have never thought about it before. Rabiger says how editors can see the true potential of a cinematic piece as their ‘eyes are fresh’ to the footage, they see the film with an “unobligated and unprejudiced eye” pp.408. I have always edited films I have directed in the past. The closest I’ve come to not having total control of my own creative vision is when I have been working with one other co-editor. This documentary I am directing and editing myself so I am still not giving up directorial power, but this idea is scary to me going into more filmmaking. I like having the power!
I am working in a team for this exercise so not all of the decisions in the edit will be down to me. This is something I shall have to get used to going further into film production, as Rabiger says, “the editor is really the second director” pp.408.
Coming straight after my inability to give up creative power, this is quite fitting! This section is an important one for me in particular as it addresses the obsessive director who watches the editors every action. Luckily I am in a small group of only 4, including me, and have good editing experience. I shall allow my team to input as I am aware my ideas are not always going to be the best, having a group of people on the edit will allow for four times the original ideas. Rabiger also discusses the nature of editing scrutinisation. “every scene, shot and even cut is scrutinised, questioned, weighed and balanced” pp.408. I feel this will only be exacerbated by having 4 group members all over the same film, but I’m glad to get a variety of input to my film.
This chapter now seems aimed at me. “Often the real reason is a fear of sharing control and the conviction that no unified film will be possible” pp.409. This is important to note and as I have said above in partnership I am excited to have outside input and to give control slightly to those in my group as their filmic experience has differed from mine and thus they will have different ideas to me. Rabiger has an interesting idea here, that the editor is the first proxy between director and audience.
This section highlights the importance of giving up creative power and allowing a fresh-eyed editor to make his or her mark on a piece of work, an intermediary between the director and audience. I am in a small group so I cannot simply hand over editing to someone else, however I shall be open to all of my group’s ideas for the edit as I was for filming the documentary.
Editing: Process and procedures
This sections opening is a sales pitch for ‘Avid’, a video editing software, however I am already versed in Adobe’s Premiere Pro CC and that is the software on the computers I am editing my documentary film on. As Rabiger says, Premiere Pro CC is ‘backed by a large company’ and is modestly priced to suit its low-end consumer market.
From my own experience, I would also recommend Premiere Pro for a few reasons:
- There are plenty of online guides that make it easier for a beginner to learn how to edit
- It has the functionality to be used by those starting to edit but also those well versed in editing
- It is in the Adobe product line so works well with other Adobe products such as ‘Illustrator’, ‘Photoshop’ and ‘After effects’
For non-linear editing (NLE) I am happy to use Adobe’s Premiere Pro.
A Postproduction Overview
This section is very detailed in its description of the post-production process. To try and summarise would be difficult without overtly plagiarising the entire thing.
The section discusses the stages of the editing process and warns of possible complications such as the difference between PAL (phase alternating line) and NTSC (National Television System Committee). Since I am filming on one type of camera there shouldn’t be a format complication. From here straight to viewing.
It is important that the crew, director and editor all see the raw dailies. This helps all learn from their mistakes. This is also a good opportunity to sit back and try and view the footage as a first time viewer. Any little slight issues you have noticed and maybe tried to overlook, see now, as these will be the big segments of the film that stand out to an audience.
I definitely understand Rabiger here. From the filming I have been doing so far, I can see that I need to have more ambient audio. Not only does this give the shots more presence, but it gives me more options for cutting around and using the backing audio from one shot into another, creating and audio-bridge. This was only revealed to me in post on reviewing the dailies. To attempt to rectify this I have since gone back to the locations and re-shot scenes or simply recorded ambient sound audio. Upon coming to edit my film, ‘the more footage the better’ as my A-level film teacher always said.
A lot of this section is seemingly quite obvious for example taking notes and reactions. However, this is somewhat new to me. Having directed, shot and edited all of my films before, having a group of peoples input will be an interesting new experience for me. An aspect I really hate from filming may arise as quite popular, or visa-versa a shot filmed by someone else they might like but the rest of the group isn’t so fond. This is an important section to put in by Rabiger as it addresses another final aspect to filmmaking before the film is released that most audiences would not consider.
Preparing the footage
Rabiger ends this chapter by noting the importance of Logging dailies, making transcripts and selecting transcripts.
The first of these logging dailies is a tedious job but an important one. In professional shoots, there is a clapperboard with the take number on it and the camera location from the floor plan, however for my documentary, as we are recording real life, we do not have this luxury. There are shots I want to get that I have talked more about in my post on storyboards and shot lists, but logging the dailies for me while be looking at each shot and labelling what it is of. E.g:
- LS Woman with headphones – 0:00:15
- CU Busker playing the piano – 0:00:42
- MCU of the main Busking interviewee – 0:14:37
and so on. This process will make editing a whole lot easier as the panic to find ‘that shot with the busker who was playing that piano’ will be logged with the type of shot, Close-up (CU), what the shot is of and the shots duration, in this case 42 seconds (0:00:42). In old footage on reels the time stamps had to follow on from the last so the section above would look like:
- 01:00:00 LS Woman with headphones
- 01:00:15 CU Busker playing the piano
- 01:00:57 MCU of the main busking interviewee
and so on. Nowadays, with all footage being digital, this is not necessary but the process of logging dailies is essential to a swift editing process.
This is another tedious means to make the editing process faster. A transcript is a list of all that was said in an interview by the interviewee and the interviewer. Writing down everything that was said is a boring task that takes forever, but it is seminal when coming to cut the interview into sections. For example for the practise interview I did with Sam about his first days at Sussex, I did not use a transcript and simply remembered when I had asked each question. This was a brief interview and finding the correct order to give the film a better flow was not hard, but even still if the interview had been transcribed I could have created a paper edit of the interview and read it allowed to see the flow. This would have saved me a lot of time when it came to putting the interview together. For an interview that is much longer as they can be in professional films, it would be impossibly slow to edit the footage without a transcript or paper edit.
It is also important to do as trends in an interviewees speech may arise. For instance, if they discussed the same topic at two separate points in their interview, then this would be seen with a transcription and a paper edit could put them together. Then one could see where this section would best be suited in the film as a whole. This could happen without a transcription just by watching the interview over and over again in the editing software, but that would take an age! Much faster to dedicate a short time to transcribing the interviews and then making a paper edit.
The next chapter will discuss the paper edit in detail
I shall give up my compulsion for power in the editing process, watch and label all the dailies and make a paper edit for my interviews and entire film. I have obviously edited before and each time I have found issues in my editing, perfect. In editing you should make each mistake once. I hope I have learnt from every bad decision I have made in editing and I intend not to make any this time around. There are a lot of aspects of this film that are more professional than films I have worked on before, such as the paper edit and so on, and I am excited and a little nervous to do things how they are done in the industry.
Editing is usually my favourite part of filmmaking. It is less stressful than the filming and pre-production idea making and its done inside where its warm. All jokes aside, The edit is where the film comes together. All the filmed scenes and b-roll is combined to make the actual film that will be seen by an audience. Getting all aspects of the edit correct may be difficult as sections can often be long and tenuous, like transcribing and logging dailies, but so far I have transcribed all the interviews I have done and logged all the footage I have filmed so far. This will hopefully make the editing process a swift and painless endevor and not a mad rush at the end. (But isn’t there always a mad rush to finish a film?)