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This course shows how to build a polished documentary using Apple Final Cut Pro X and a few essential editing techniques. Author Diana Weynand demonstrates documentary editing in a real-world project, breaking down the process into a series of manageable steps and milestones. After reviewing existing footage, explore how to build and define a narrative, assemble rough cuts, and create motion graphics. Then see how to adjust B-roll shots, incorporate color correction and audio mixing techniques, and export the final movie.
This course is part of a series that looks at documentary editing from the point of view of 3 different editors in 3 different editing applications. For more insight on editing documentary projects, take a look at Documentary Editing with Avid Media Composer and Documentary Editing with Premiere Pro.
By the time you've combined an assortment of shots and people, you'll no doubt end up with a few rough edges. Those might include jarring video cuts of location changes, people moving within the frame, and even text clips that cut in and out. But it's amazing how effective a simple transition can smooth those rough edges, even when switching from one audio source to another. Transitions can even bring a little style to your documentary as well. As a little guide I've created some markers that identify places that we might want to look at in terms of adding transitions to help. And you can take a closer look at those in the Timeline Index.
We'll, obviously, want to do some finessing around the opening title, perhaps fade in and out on one of the lower thirds, but at the middle of the project, where we actually change gears from our Earthtrine Farms to the farmers market, there's a place and an opportunity there that we can apply a transition that might create a little bit of a style. Let's start at the beginning of the project. I'm going to zoom in a little to that. This is our open, and when we play the end of this opening title, the text just cuts out.
For the style of this piece that's a little abrupt. So to add a transition to fade out, we can select the Out Point and just press Command+T, the shortcut. Now what happens when you add a transition to a connected clip is that Final Cut Pro creates that storyline bar, and that's what it does, it's nothing you did, it just adds it whenever you add a transition. Now, when we transition out of the title, then we have a straight cut between these two background clips, and that feels a little jarring.
So go ahead and select that Edit Point and press Command+T, and again you get the storyline. (BD Dautch: My name is BD Dautch.) Now, if we wanted to, we could continue this sort of nice, smooth feeling by adding a transition into BD and then that completes the feeling of going smoothly, from dissolving from one clip to another to another and then we're in the story.
Let's take a look at how this feels. (BD Dautch: My name is BD Dautch.) So now you might have noticed that the audio background from this clip dropped out abruptly. In the next movie we're going to fix that by extending it. But for now let's focus on transitions applied to the visuals. Let's jump down to the lower third for BD. If we play the beginning of his clip, watch how the lower third cuts in and out.
(BD Dautch: ...and we sell mostly at the farmers market, and also we sell to caterers...) Now, for the style of this piece, that's a little abrupt, so we want to fade in and out. To do that at one pass, you select the clip and press Command+T. Now, the default for the transitions is 1 second. Let's see if that makes this a little bit too slow. (BD Dautch: ...and we sell mostly at the farmers market and also we sell to caterers, schools...) So because we are on BD for a while, that might be okay. But if we scroll down to the next lower third, which is John Downey, we're not on his lower third all that long, so we might want to change the default duration.
So if you find you want to apply shorter transitions on a consistent basis, you can go into Final Cut Pro Preferences, and make sure you're on the Editing tab. And then in this case, we want half a second, so let's type 0.50, which would be a half second. Now when we select the clip in the Timeline and press Command+T, we get 15 frame, or depending on your frame rate, could be 12 frame transition rate. [00:0:58.35] (John Downey: ...and in about 1983 BD came through the back door.) So you have to adjust your transition rate based on the style you're using and also the length that you have on that clip.
Now, here's another place where we're going right in the middle here, we're going from the Earthtrine Farm to the farmers market. And this is an opportunity to actually bring another kind of transition in. So let's open our Transitions browser, and there are different things we could do, Dissolves, Lights, Movements. In Lights, there's something called Lens Flare. Let's go ahead and select the Edit Point, double-click Lens Flare, and see if that might be a nice way to sort of get our focus onto this new section.
There might be some fiddling you could do with the music to get that just right, but it does add something to the piece, it sort of takes your attention and says, focus now, we're going someplace else. So just to be clear, I'm not suggesting you use transitions in place of making good editing decisions, but documentary footage can include a wide range of quality and textures in both video and audio clips. Through no fault of your own, you could end up with what looks like a myriad of editing sins, so it's good to keep in mind the different way those sins can be erased.
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