How I Tell a Story Through Film Editing
As I've been deep in the throws of editing recently, I've been thinking about my editing process more and thought it could be fun to share a little behind the scenes. Many people I encounter don't know the first thing about video editing, so I hope this sheds a little light on something that may seem intimidating. This won't be a technical guide, because there are plenty of those out there on video editing softwares if you're really interested in learning. This will be more about storytelling and how I choose to lay out a story in film.
1. Choose a Beginning, Middle & End
In short, editing is putting together and arranging film footage into a coherent story. Editing is something special because it's a huge part of the way the story is told. Don't get me wrong, the planning, shot lists and script are a huge part of the story as well, but editing is what really brings the whole production together. So the first thing I do when I sit down with an empty timeline and a whole lot of footage is think of the beginning, middle and end. What do I want each of these to be? Most times, I'll already have a good idea from all the planning. However, footage may turn out differently than you originally thought, so sometimes things change.
2. Sort Through the Footage
The next step is to actually go through the footage. Starting with the interview, I will pull clips and make notes about the footage. I'll decide between takes and denote which sections I think will be a fit good for certain parts. I'll then subclip the BRoll, which means I will section out the good parts of the footage that I actually want to use, so I don't have to keep sorting through any shaky or out-of-focus footage again. This is the most time-consuming and tedious task for me, because I'm ususally ready to just jump in to Step 3!
3. Lay Out the Story
Once I have all of the footage sorted and categorized, I will then start laying out my story using the interview clips. The audio is the backbone of the story, and the BRoll supplements what is being said, so I lay interview clips out loosely and leave room to intercut Broll in between.
4. Find Music
When I have a good structure from the interview, I'll start looking for music. This can be so hard!! Sometimes I can find something right off the bat (or I've already found the perfect song before editing), but a lot of times, it takes time to find the perfect song that complements the story and encapsulates the brand. Many times, I'll have two or three different songs and play around with them during editing.
After the song is chosen, I'll start from the beginning and start pulling in BRoll clips to intercut with the interview. At this point, I have a loose timeline and a loose story with visuals. It's time to start evaluating if the story is working the way it currently is. During this phase, I'll move chunks of footage around and try out different clips, while slowly condensing down and chipping away. It's not an exact science, you kinda just have to have a feel for timing and that is why this part takes the longest. It's a lot of experimenting until things just work. If I have different music choices, I'll also play around with those during this phase of editing. Even though this phase can be frustrating at times, this is still probably my favorite part, because I love when you can feel the film starting to fall into place and everything comes together.
6. Tighten Up the Story
Ok after the experimentation phase, I've got a good draft to work with. From here, it's now all about tightening up. What can be tossed that doesn't add anything to the story? Is there an extra "um" at the beginning of this interview clip? Does this shot really need to be here? Can I cut out that extra rambling sentence in the middle? I'll also start editing the clips to music or timing of the film. To give context, many times the length of the film can be cut as much as half during this phase. There's a delicate balance, because you don't want the edit so tight that it doesn't breathe at all, but you also don't want the viewer to get bored if it's too long-winded.
7. Final Touches
Once I have a tight edit, now time for sound editing, and last but not least, color correction! Sound editing involves smoothing transitions between clips, ensuring all the audio is the same level, and mixing voiceover with music. I have a style for color correcting, but I also color correct footage according to the feel of the brand (i.e. light & airy, dark and moody, etc.). Color correction is super fun to play around with and can also have a huge impact on how you feel when viewing a film.
This goes without saying, but I watch the film several, several times during editing. Once I can watch it through completely without stopping to make any changes, it's time to send off to the client. This is what I call the First Draft. The first draft goes off to the client and then we'll go through a couple rounds of revisions, which lead to the final film. It's an exciting time to send off the first draft to the client, because this is the first time they get to see their brand come to life in the film!
As it may seem, editing can be fairly involved, but every step is essential to curating and telling a great story through film. I hope this gives you a better idea of my process and what your Branded Film goes through before it arrives in your inbox all ready to go :) I'd love to answer any more questions you may have, so feel free to leave a comment!