Top 10 Tips for making post a lot easier
By now pretty much everything you might need to know about shooting on DSLRs has been covered by at least ten sites online, there are handbooks, guides, workshops, blogs, endless resources for what you should and shouldn’t be doing. What I don’t see anywhere are any properly useful tips for dealing with your post. So here’s my top ten tips for making life in the edit a whole lot less painful.
- Shoot for the edit. This sounds so simple but you will curse and shout t your screen if you don’t always do this. Photographers live in the moment, with the image they see in front of them pretty close to how the finished product will be. In film the shoot is but one part of the whole process. The edit is actually just as important, if not more so. Cover yourself with establishing shots, cutaways, and always, always, always, always leave the camera running three seconds longer than you think is necessary. It’s amazing how many times interviewees will give you gold once you’ve called cut. Leave the camera running. I always use bin ends in my edits, shots that are complete accidents at the end of takes. Bear this in mind. More info about shooting for the edit here.
- Get the audio right. Video is surprisingly easy to fix in post. Audio’s nearly impossible to fix in post. Even if you’re in a massive hurry set your audio up before your camera. Not the other way round. It just makes sure you’re clean through the headphones. Bad audio kills any good visuals. Why do you think the majority of DSLR videos are set to music? Learn to love your Zoom H4N or get used to regularly checking the levels on your 5D. Make it a priority, whatever you do.
- Sync Clap. No matter how amazing Pluraleyes is there are times when it simply doesn’t get it right. You can save yourself an almighty amount of hassle by doing clapping in front of the camera as a reference for the video and audio. Better yet, use a clapperboard that id’s the shot and speak the info on the board on camera. Syncing audio is a ball ache.
- Make copies of your source footage. Always keep a spare copy of your source footage on a drive somewhere safe. Files become corrupt and one of the problems with tapeless acquisition is that you are at the mercy of digital media. Make it a habit and it’s less annoying. Believe me, when shit goes bad, you’ll only have yourself to blame.
- Transcoding. If you’re using Premiere CS5, congrats you’re good to go out of the box. I’ve cut projects natively in Final Cut Pro using H264 (without needing to render), believe me it’s possible, but it’s sketchy. For Final Cut Pro users out of preference use the E1 plugin. MPEG Streamclip shifts the gamma and gives you an incorrect file, too dark. But be careful with the E1 plugin because occasionally it will import only part of the clip. Solve this by setting an in and out point in the log and transfer window. No more problems. Other solutions include Magic Bullet Grinder (decent but you have to pay for it) and 5DtoRGB. High quality for visual FX work but takes forever to do the transcode.
- Thumbnail view. Non-Linear editing programmes normally allow you to switch the browser (where you keep your clips) to a thumbnail view rather than a list view. It’s much much easier to see what you’re editing with, than working from a list where all the files have nearly identical names. MVI_1000 etc. just gets confusing. Thumbnails are invaluable when working with tapeless formats.
- Rough cuts are your friend. Throw clips in the timeline in the rough order they’re meant to go in, then start to refine the sequence. One of the best things to do is make a sequence called ‘selects’, go through your clips and pull out clips you like, throwing them down in the ‘selects’ timeline. This will now become your source for the skeleton of your edit. Pulling clips randomly out of the browser is never usually that fast or efficient.
- Be organised. Projects are like houses. The better organised they are the easier they are to manage. Make folders for ‘footage capture’, ‘cutaways’, ‘audio’, ‘images’, ‘gfx’, ‘sequences’ and ‘music’ then start organising your footage. Go through every clip once, marking points that you like with markers. I cannot stress how important it is to run a tight ship when you edit. Projects can get out of hand really quickly.
- Learn the keyboard shortcuts. Editing is mechanical but it’s also evaluative. The more time you spend watching and evaluating your edit the better it will be. The mechanical side of editing is always getting in the way of that. The faster you can crank through the mechanics of the process the better your edit will be because you can simply try more things and spend more time watching the flow of the cut. V. important.
- Park your edits – make new ones, regularly. It’s a very good idea to make multiple copies of your edit as it progresses. When working with clients each time I send a copy for approval I park that version of the edit. When I receive notes from the client I duplicate the sequence and make the amends to that sequence. When you do the amends you will normally be given timecodes to work from. Do the amends in reverse order, working with the ones that refer to the latest timecode first. When you change things earlier in the sequence it will render the timecodes further on inaccurate. Simple. it’s also good to park your edits and give yourself an hour away from the cut once in a while. You can quickly lose perspective when editing and that’s bad.
Don’t forget, editing is a craft and you will never ever be 100% happy. If you are then you’re not doing it right.