Editing is so simple in theory - it is just taking video clips, chopping them up and putting them into the order that you want. Just the same as writing a letter in Word, which is why anyone can do it just by getting some software on their laptop!
Okay, so apologies for being facetious, but it is how video and film editing is often seen – and much like playing the violin sounds easy when you describe it, most people sound truly terrible when they try, but do start to get better after a few years…
Film and video editing is a very different beast to public belief, as are the professional editors who make it happen, depending upon the sort of programs that are being cut. But we all have things in common, because good editing is based on being able to understand and see a story through the eyes of both a viewer and a director, to build a program from hundreds of small pieces like a wildly complicated puzzle, to combine both image and sound to tell it authentically, to transition between images with the artistic sensibility of a painter, to feel a soundtrack like a musician, and have a perfect sense of theatrical timing to make the perfect cut at the precise frame where it needs to sit to become invisible.
So how do CLAi fit into this picture? We have a number of extremely experienced, and extremely good, editors in our talent pool that we bring in-house in addition to Chris – who has over 20 years cutting documentaries, films, commercials, corporate programs of all types and scale, and many non-profit and arts videos and films. His expertise runs from 35mm film editing on a flat bed steenbeck with film snippets hanging around him like some crazy wallpaper that has to have every frame memorized to running the most recent avid, premiere, final cut and resolve software in one of our five supercharged edit bays.
We edit in two ways, following the traditional ways (because they tend to work well) – with an offline edit and then an online edit. An offline edit is essentially a rough cut for approval, and is about getting the story right and tying together the soundtrack and the imagery. It is a relatively slow process in many cases as, say, a documentary might have 50 or 60 hours of footage that has to be reduced to just 90 minutes. Doing so means many interim cuts have to be made to the mass of material, initially to build the basic story and then to keep refining it to an essence that is interesting and entertaining, while hitting the story that you want to tell.
This is a really difficult process, often done by the producer/director or handed off to a junior as the hours would be expensive to give to an experienced editor. Sometimes this works, but often the real cost of the hours spent is way higher than bringing in an outsider. The reason this happens is simple – anyone who has been on the shoots and is highly involved in the production tends to look for the story that they wanted to tell. Unfortunately on a documentary style production (which can easily be a corporate or arts video, not just a documentary film) all that matters when you start to edit is what is actually in the can, regardless of the story that you intended to tell. So a good offline editor is able to come on to a project, look through the footage and tell the best story that is actually there and useable. In many ways this is the same as trying to edit a program together from a transcript – half of the cuts you make based just on the words don’t work because the image or the speech pattern don’t make any sense.
Once the offline edit is complete then we go into the second edit phase, the online edit. Traditionally this has meant taking low quality video copies and moving to full quality video, copying over pages of timecodes, and then building the program again. Then the editor adds the final titles, fine tunes all of the edit points, mixes the soundtrack and voice, adds visual effects and wipes/dissolves, and generally builds the program in a finished form before handing it over to the colorist and audio sweetening team to finish the beast off, prior to mastering.
When CLAi do an online edit we kind of do the same thing, but we usually handle the color grading and the sound sweetening, as well as the mastering, at the same time. If we also handle the offline editing on one of our very powerful systems we are able to take the original footage at full size and the original codec so that nothing has to be rendered out to proxy videos or downsized in other ways, then work with this throughout the process.
Taking this to the final color grading step means that we have to finish the work on the footage in DaVinci Resolve. With the latest version the video and audio editing in Resolve has become as good as any of the other few edit systems, so we will probably do all of the editing in this software. If we use another system, or you do the editing yourself on another software (always a good reason to buy Chris a coffee and chat before you even start to shoot, so we can suggest the best way of handling footage and post for your specific project) then we will do the editing part of the project in that same software, then have to take the time to move the project across to DaVinci before grading… but more about this on the grading page.
Offline edit, online edit, finished edit (the same as online but including grading, audio sweetening and mastering) – CLAi can provide whatever you need for editing any type of project, and do so quickly, accurately and economically… and we are more than happy to consult on your project as post supervisors when we can do the most good and save you budget and time – before you start to shoot!