Behind the Scenes of an Edit

“Behind the Scenes of an Edit” peels back the mysterious curtain of video editing and provides a high-level overview of the work that goes in to your video content once it leaves the camera. If you’ve ever been curious about the post-production process, or conversely you haven’t, but you thoroughly love animated GIF’s then I highly suggest you keep reading.

(As an aside, I’d like to dedicate the inspiration for this article to my family, an amazing group of East Coasters who love the fact that I work in the film industry, but often ask ‘So what exactly do you do for a living again?”)

Step 1: Organizing Footage

The very first step is to meticulously organize your footage on to a hard drive and create multipe on-site and off-site backups. This protects you data from any unintended hardware malfunctions or accidental deletion. I find the magic number of backups to request from your production is three; one copy stored on-site, one copy stored off-site and one copy for the client.

Step 2: Transcoding Footage

Similar to the way we talk, video files come in all different types of languages. Although any particular language works well for communication, sometimes you need a translator to make sure everyone is speaking the same dialect. This is called transcoding – a process where you ‘convert’ all of the footage so that it conforms to one universal standard.

Step 3: Paper Editing

A paper edit is a text volume that lays out the essential “script” of your video. Typically the producer or director takes a close look at all of the footage and thinks about where the story is, what elements to focus on, important points in the story arc and other related narrative choices. From here they construct a general outline that highlights the order of events, what is primarily looked at, what characters or interview clips take precedence, and what footage you want to extend these things.

Step 4: Logging & Assembly

Video logging is a process in which video footage is watched and labeled according to its content. Loggers go through the video material, labeling it according to its contents with metadata. This data is then available during editing, making the editing more efficient.

Assembly edit
Assembly is the first stage of the editing process. Using the paper edit as a road map, the footage from your shoot is organized into scenes (usually be an assistant editor). Then, all scenes are assembled roughly, with the editor’s choice on takes.

Step 5: Revisions and Picture Lock

The assembled video is reviewed internally and scenes/dialogue are removed in order to get the film to an appropriate length and/or based on what works and doesn’t work. Graphic sequences, music and story-critical sound effects are added as well. At this stage, the video is considered to be a ‘rough cut’ and approximately 65% complete. The client is looped in to the revision process to provide feedback on the edit.

Once multiple sets of revisions have been made and all changes to the edit have been approved, a video is considered to be in picture lock. It is then sent to subsequent stages in the process, such as compositing and audio mixing.

Step 6: Compositing and Visual Effects

After picture lock is obtained a VFX editor (or team) adds in CGI elements, removes green screens, composites shots and other stunning visual effects. Think of this stage as the practiced ‘slight of hand’ in a magic trick, where the editor creates the illusion of reality for your viewers.

Step 7: Audio Post-Production

 Audio post production is the general term for all stages of production happening during the completion of a master audio track. It involves, sound design, sound editing, audio mixing, and the addition of effects. Basically we make the video sound really good, and ensure the levels are properly set to adhere to broadcast and digital guidelines.

Step 8: Colour Correction & Grading

Colour correction is the when an editor matches the multiple video clips in an editto a standard that would be an accurate portrayal of how it would look if viewed from the human eye. It’s about balancing out your colors, making the whites actually appear white, and the blacks actually appear black, and that everything in between is nice and even.

Color grading is taking what you have done in color correction one step further, by altering an image for aesthetic and communicative purposes. So once everything is looking nice and normal in your video, you are now empowered with the ability to further enhance your story by manipulating colors to create a new visual tone.

Step 9: Delivery, Captioning and Archiving

High five! Your video is now complete. There are just a few final things to take care of. Once the video is finalized and ready to deliver, the editor exports the content in a multitude of formats suited for your needs (high resolution, digital, mobile, etc.) and closed captions are generated. Once delivered, the project is marked for archiving.

The editor collects all of the files and projects, and does a final pass at consolidating media, organizing timelines and labeling all media. The files are then backed up to on-site and offsite data archives and logged in the library system for future reference.