Editing and Workflow for DSLR’s – The First Steps

In the Field
Depending on how you are working in the field and what you are shooting, your workflow and the way you organize and manage your media will vary somewhat. If you have a crew and are shooting a scripted video, then you will probably have a computer and technician on site, downloading media as it is shot, backing it up and checking it for focus.

If you’re working solo or with just one other person, which is how I have been working for the past 3 ½ months on my project, Opening Our Eyes,

Gail at the Kopila Valley Primary School, Surkhet, Nepal

then you don’t have the manpower to work that way. I downloaded all my footage, audio and stills at the end of the day. I rarely had the time or even the battery power on my computer (electricity was scarce at times) to look at what I had shot but I did do spot checks occasionally.

Regardless of how you work in the field,

Children at the Kopila Valley Primary School

it is essential to create redundant backups of all your content. I backed everything up to two portable external hard drives, after downloading the media to my laptop via card readers. There’s a nice software application called ShotPut Pro that lets you make up to 3 copies to different drives at a time, which speeds things up quite a bit. For the most part, I had organized my media by destination and subject with each folder containing the contents of a card. Whenever I shot an interview, I put a fresh card in the camera so that the content was automatically sorted out from the b-roll. Some shooters I’ve talked to who are used to shooting tape, archive each tape or card by making a disk image (DMG) of each which can be mounted on the computer, emulating the original card.


Back in the Editing Suite

The first thing I did when I returned from my 99-day journey, was to make two backups of all my material. After my media was backed up, I started to organize it. Everything had already been separated as far as destination and subject, but I needed to separate the stills from the video and the interviews from the b-roll – if any cards contained both. I also needed to match up the interview video footage with the audio files that had been captured by a separate recording device.

After getting all my media organized and sorted by destination, subject and file type, I renamed the files and added any relevant metadata – copyright and creator info etc. This can be done in Adobe Bridge. You can also look at the video files in Bridge to preview before transcoding them. Another way to preview your video files is by using QuickTime player. Because the files coming out of these hybrid cameras are compressed H.264 files, they do not play smoothly in Final Cut Pro, so they need to be transcoded into a codec like Apple Pro Res, before editing them. This can be done in Apple Compressor which comes with the Final Cut Pro Suite or MPEG Streamclip which is a free application.

You can choose to preview your video files first using Adobe Bridge or QuickTime player or another software tool, and then make a folder of “selects” and transcode just those files before importing them into FCP, or you can transcode everything and then import everything into Final Cut Pro.

After I organized my assets (stills, video and audio), I chose to transcode ALL my video files and import everything into Final Cut Pro. That way, not only could I preview everything smoothly, but I could also start adding information to the clips and organize them into bins within FCP. And with everything transcoded, I won’t have to leave FCP if I wanted to look at content that hadn’t been previously marked “selects”.

Getting to the Fun Part

Organizing, sorting, logging and transcoding is tedious work but it’s essential in order to be able to find things quickly when you need them, when you start laying down your storyline and want to keep focused. There’s nothing worse than having to break your train of thought while you’re editing and have to leave the program to find assets or prep them. Organizing is key – it’s not fun, but a necessary step in the process.

I will continue to slog through this initial process this week, in order to get through some of my content so that I can put together a sample for the PhotoCine News Expo that I’ve been asked to speak at this month. I have way too much material to go through everything, so I’ve decided to tackle the content from two of my subjects, which will make the task more manageable. It will also provide me with the reward of working on the “fun part” of editing by crafting a short story before moving on to daunting task of assembling the entire documentary. Check out this quick sample that I put together within 24 hours after getting off the plane. http://www.vimeo.com/14645594

Little by little things will come together and I’ll keep you posted as I go along.

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One thought on “Editing and Workflow for DSLR’s – The First Steps

  1. Aaron September 26, 2010 / 4:02 am

    Thanks for sharing some great info. Don’t have a Canon 5D yet but it’s on my wish list!
    Aaron

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